Monday, 2 June 2014

Hiking Machu Picchu (For Dummies)

When you're on a long trip you'll tend to meet a lot of different types of travellers. There are the foodies, party animals, hippies, culture seekers and thrill seekers.

In this part of the world though, there is one group that stands out among the rest – the hikers and trekkers.

Machu Picchu

They're everywhere, decked out in their khaki trekking pants, hiking boots and fleece jackets. Many even bring their own walking poles.

There's a good reason they're so prevalent, of course, there's a great deal of good hiking to be done in Latin America. There seems to be as many volcanoes as towns, there's lost cities, large mountains and lush valleys.

The biggest prize of all for hikers around here though – and possibly anywhere – is Machu Picchu. The Incan city high in the mountains of Peru has been the ultimate destination for hikers almost since European eyes first laid eyes on it over 100 years ago. The four to five day trek through the Inca Trail has been described by most that have done it as being among the greatest experiences of their life.

But, its so much walking.

While I've been wanting to visit the ruins of Machu Piicchu for many years, the idea of walking for 12 hours a day to get there has never been the most exciting prospect. I always kind of assumed I would do it anyway as I suffer from a severe case of FOMO (feat of missing out). If something is supposed to be amazing I want in.

I just really didn't want to hike.

As it turned out though, I took advantage of my own laziness and managed to have a great experience at the same time.
While I didn't do the Inca Trail - I did go zip lining!

To be able to walk the Inca Trail, you have to book a tour weeks or even months in advance as it is genuinely that popular and limited to just 500 people per day. With my lack of ability to plan, I didn't know when I would be making it to Cusco to start the trail, therefore I couldn't book anything. Shame huh?

As I got closer to Peru I learned about other hikes and treks one could do on the way to Machu Picchu. I settled on the “Jungle Trail” offered by dozens of agencies in the former Incan capital of Cusco. With mountain biking, rafting and zip lining – and more importantly just one day walking more than 3 hours - the khaki crowd doing the “proper” trail would certainly not approve, but that didn't bother me at all. We stayed in hostels, ate in restaurants and got driven around in vans. This was the trek for me.
One of the many great views walking through the Andes

That isn't to say we did no walking at all, it just wasn't all we did unlike those doing the Inca Trail. The time they spent walking we spent having fun, getting to know our tour mates and having a beer. Every step we took uphill in the Andes while we were walking reminded me that I had made the right decision.
Machu Picchu

While I respect that for some people the history and difficulty of the Inca Trail is what makes it the most satisfying, for myself (and a surprising amount of people we encountered along the way) Machu Picchu was a big enough prize as it was, and getting there was just half the fun.

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