The Inca Trail in Peru
Hiking along the Inca Trail was easily the highlight of my trip to Peru. Before going, I’d questioned the purpose of travelling to other countries to hike – surely mountains are the same everywhere, I’d thought – and yet, there I was. And it was so worth it. There may be mountains every country, but that’s not to say they’re all the same. The mountains in Peru held a specific, literally breath-taking beauty.
This brings me to altitude. The mountains are high and that means you need to acclimatize before you attempt anything intense. Spend a few days in Cusco, getting your lungs used to the thinner oxygen. Only after that should you attempt the hiking trails, unless you feel like several days of gasping dizziness.
But even after you acclimatize, the hike will be harder than would have been at a lower level. When I think back, I remember feeling far more unfit than I would normally feel. My friends and I would walk for a few minutes, and then have to stop just to breathe. That sounds painful, but it really just gave us an opportunity to marvel at the landscape.
The mountains were so sharp and varied! The colours were so bold! The air was so crisp! Truly, the Inca trail is a destination for a reason. And perhaps the best part of the hike was the unexpected luxury. We went with a hiking guide group, and they treated us amazingly. We’d wake up to steaming sweet chamomile tea being handed through the tent flaps. Oh, and they set up your tents (and even a toilet tent) for you. They also cook all your meals and serve it king-style in a dining tent. The food is good and is always, always followed by tea. I was actually told that drinking cold water after eating, up a mountain, could led to deadly gas. Hmmm. As a tea enthusiast I wasn’t complaining, anyway.
Certainly, there were specific sights and moments along the hike that stood out to me. But I would rather you discovered them for yourself. For the moment, I simply want to impress what a wonder the experience was. It was stunning and memorable, and I would recommend it to anyone.