For many travellers to Peru, Cusco is seen as the quasi-“basecamp” for adventures to Machu Picchu, whether by bus and train or on the famous Inca Trail. Cusco, at an elevation around 3400 m above sea level, is a place to acclimatize to the altitude, especially if hiking in the Andes is imminent. But this historic capital of the Inca empire should be seen as a destination in its own right, and there’s plenty of things to see, do, and learn within the city and in its immediate surrounding area – so much so, that even after spending 5 days there, I still hadn’t seen everything.
They said Day One would be the easy day, the warm-up day for the ascents into high altitude and the climbing of old-world stone steps. It was true, the six hour walk that first day was nothing harder than a simple stroll in the woods, one that would not give an adequate picture of the hard days to come, but what was easiest was the views, views certainly not hard on the eyes. For the first time in my life, as I took in the sights and sounds of the Andean jungle, of the clouds forming a blanket over the green mountains, this thought crossed my mind: “If this was the last thing I ever saw, I would be happy.” Check out my Flickr page for more photos from the Inca Trail.
This was originally part of the The Inca Trail: How to Command and Conquer the Famous Hike post, but for the sake of brevity, I decided to turn it into a separate post. I often get asked what I packed when I did the four day Inca Trail. I will premise this by saying I did hire a porter for the trek, and checked the majority of my belongings not necessary for the trek at my hostel in Cusco. So, in terms of what you should have on your person, and what you should bring in your duffel bag that the porter carries for you, the following is my essential packing list for surviving and conquering the Inca Trail.
The truth is, I’ve never been much of an athletic outdoorsman. At the ripe old age of 22, the longest hike I’d ever been on lasted 4 hours, and I had gone camping precisely twice. I’m not sure what part of my mind thought that joining a couple of my friends on the Peruvian portion of their South American adventure, specifically with the goal of doing the famous 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, would be a good idea (Spoiler alert: it was).