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21 replies
Who's been to Machu Picchu lately?
lilison
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My husband and I hope to go to Machu Picchu summer of 2005. We would like to hike the mountain and I am looking for some advice.

Which guides are good?
How much for a porter?
I heard of porters who make your tent and prepare your food, is this true?
What kind of food to you bring?

MeredithBlueEyes
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www.andeantravelweb…. is a useful resource detailing various guiding companies and what they provide. It is now illegal to hike the Inca Trail on your own, so you’ll be going in a group led by 1-2 guides and several porters. There were 8 people in my trekking group. No matter what company you choose, you can expect that your tents will be set up and your food will be cooked for you. The only food you’ll need to bring is snacks.

There are probably 100 companies to choose from, but quality can vary highly. I went with Andean Life and paid $235 for the 4-day hike. I had a very good experience with them — the food was tasty, the guide was knowledgeable and the customer service was great. I also heard good things about Inca Explorers, United Mice, Qente and SAS, all of whom charge similar prices. You can pay less, but you get what you pay for. The main difference I noticed was in camp sites. The cheaper companies tended to camp further off the trail or in less scenic areas. On the last morning, when we began at 5:30, other groups who had to camp further down the trail began at 2. I don’t think I would have enjoyed hiking over jagged staircases in the pitch dark! The cheaper companies also don’t treat their porters as well. I was apalled at the heavy loads some of them were carrying and deeply thankful that my company seemed to have reasonable expectations.

Prices for porters seem to vary highly. If you want to carry nothing but a water bottle and a camera, you can reserve a whole porter and pay $70/day. If you’re willing to carry a daypack and a sleeping bag, you can hire half a porter for $35. I ended up hiring a porter for en route for the two hardest days and paid $20/day, but other travelers were less lucky with the price/availability of porters on the trail.

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We went late September 2003 with SAS. We were satisfied with our gear and the food was incredible. They set up snacks and drinks at various points on the trail. I carried along a bunch of powerbars and never ate them. When we arrived at camp, it was already set up. They usually started tearing it down while we ate breakfast. Additionally, myself and another tourist celebrated a birthday on the trail and somehow the chef managed to come up with a cake.

Meredith is correct; you get what you paid for. If you have time to spare, you can wait and book when you get to Cuzco, but if you’re on a tight time schedule, you might want to book ahead.

I forget how much the porter cost, but it was money well spent for me. I’ve had some knee problems in the past and there is no way I could’ve completed the trail carrying my own pack. Pack light and be prepared to stink. You still need to carry a day pack, and you will go through micro climates. I think it was Day 2, we changed clothes twice in a 30 minute period! And don’t forget hats and sunscreen—I fried the tops of my ears.

I think the most important thing is to acclimatize before you begin your trip. I was very happy that we arrived in Cuzco via Arequipa and Lake Titicaca (one of our favorite parts of the trip) and had spent some time at altitude. Unless you’re a marathoner who lives at a high elevation, the altitude is BRUTAL! Take it seriously!

Have a safe and fun trip.

GoingtoEurope
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I just have a question for those who’ve been. Did you book in advance, seems like most of the companies you can find on the web are filling up. If there is a limit to the number of people who can do this stuff, there’s probably a good chance the spots will fill up before july right?

MeredithBlueEyes
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When I was there in July, the wait to go with the most highly recommended companies was 2 weeks. I think I booked about 2 months in advance, which was probably a bit more than necessary. I usually hate the idea of making reservations, but it didn’t put too much of a kink in my travel plans because Cuzco is so well connected to Bolivia and the rest of Peru.

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We traveled at the end of September and had booked in advance. We arrived in Cuzco a little earlier than expected and we were able to move our departure date up by one day. Our group was a mix of folks who had pre-booked and those who had walked up a few days before departure.

alexg456
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I hiked the Inca Trail over this past Thanksgiving. I pretty much agree with all of the above. I went with SAS, and everything was very professional and well planned. We ate like kings too. Prices seem to have gone up this year (SAS charges $295), but I personally think it is still a darn good deal, considering what’s involved, even if it sounds like too much for 4 days.

Also, not every company has daily departures. For example, Andean Life doesn’t depart on Sundays, which appears to be the day with fewest departures (I originally planned to go with Andean Life, but had to switch to SAS, because we needed to depart on Sunday). This basically means that if you do depart on Sunday, you will have less people to share the trails with, which is a really good thing. Obviously, you may need to reserve even earlier for Sunday departure slots as they are more limited than for any other days.

TheVoiceInMyHead
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I need to know this from people who have done the Machu Picchu trail.

I suffer from Vertigo. I cannot stand the sight of height. Many times I cna control myself and go on. But many other times I just cannot move for a while or need the feel to hang both my hands at something (for example in a narrow and really really tall staircase where i can see how high i am, I may need to cling with both hand to the rail.

It is something I have from birth and a neurological instinct I have no control over. Would you suggest doing the trail if this were your situation?

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While I can’t really answer your vertigo questions, I don’t remember any place along the trail being particularly scary.

Unfortunately I’m not a good salesman for the Inca Trail/Macchu Picchu; it just didn’t have the "Wow" factor for me. I really wrestled with the fact that it was perhaps the first place I’ve been to that I haven’t absolutely raved about. I nearly caused a riot at LP Thorntree when I posted my thoughts/concerns.

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Well, my first instinct to answer your question is "No". I would not recommend doing it in your situation. Even though, there are really no "close to the edge of a cliff" situations, the trail in many places is narrow enough that if you lose control, you can just slide down the hill. And speaking about stairs, there are lots and lots steps on the trail and, obviously, no rails. The way you describe it, I’d say it would be a major risk for you.

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First of all, Voice, I commend you for being realistic about your own shortcomings.

Personally, I haven’t made it down to Peru, but I have a lot of experience hiking at high altitude, which can be a very winding and dizzying experience. Knowing that the Inca Trail passes above 10,000 feet, I wouldn’t recommend the hike.

However, I wouldn’t let that stop you from going to Peru. You can still take the tourist train to Machu Picchu and have much of the day to spend up there. Walking around ruins perched at 9,000 feet with a daypack and snapping pictures is a lot easier than trekking for 3-4 days at that altitude with a full pack on your back. And Peru, which is very near the top of my list of must-see places, has much more to see, and you can still easily kill 2 or 3 weeks in the country.

However,

MeredithBlueEyes
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I think you could do it. Heights aren’t my favorite thing, but I don’t remember any part of the trail being so narrow that it really frightened me. You are hiking along cliffsides and there aren’t always handholds, but you can always move over to the opposite edge of the trail so that you have a few feet between you and the edge. Does that sound like a situation you could work with?

We were all encouraged to take the hike at our own pace and not to worry about keeping up with our group. The trail is impossible to lose and our guide was great about keeping an eye out for the stragglers. If you needed to go slowly and stop often to collect yourself, I don’t think it would be a problem.

Have you ever looked into some therapy for your problem? There are some really great treatments for getting over phobias and many of them don’t take long to complete. I’m sure the incentive of the Inca Trail would help you get through them!

TheVoiceInMyHead
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Thank you all for the advice! I was pretty determined in doing it anyways but just wanted to know what I had to face.

I found myself in many situations where height was involved (like climbing the CN Tower in Toronto, the tallest freestanding structure in the world, using the stairs and being hable to see the full height of the tower while climbing), and this has not stopped me even if it has cost me more effort than to my adventure companion.
But this time I will be alone so I am rather know what it is going to be like before actually feeling scared!

About Vertigo, I am not a phycologist/psychiatrist of any sort but for what I uderstand and was told by a few doctor friends, it is not really a phobia, it is not classified as such, as it could be something like claustrophobia (fear of enclosed, narrow spaces). It is pretty much a very natural instict many persons feel, as we were not "naturally born" to climb very up. I have heard of a few parents "treating" their children by throwing them down in empty space while doing bunjee jumping or skydiving. Some were even "cured" this way, but I am very sure this is not something I really want to do to myself. In the end, I seem to suffer from vertigo only when climbing very tall staircases. For the rest, I should be fine.

For what I hear from you, there are places where I will definetely encounter some problems and I guess I will maybe think twice and have a look at some pictures before actually signing up for it.
I am not an experienced trekker really, but I do have a number of months at hand before I will be going there. As the Alps are not far from where I live, I will practice there before attempting to go up.
I know it is going to be a lot shorter in altitude than the Andes, but I guess I will have to be content with the 3000 meters I can find here.

As for Peru’, I am determined in going anyway, problably not this summer. Some of you told me the best season is May-Septmber so I am thinking about next summer. Hope that is enough to get experienced enough and in shape to do it. Any further advices would be highly welcomed!

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Would I be considered crazy to attempt Machu Picchu in December? The only window of opportunity I have to visit Peru for a while is this December (9th-25th). Although I’ll be based out of Lima for the first week and last week of my trip (at a friend’s house), we hope to explore Cusco and Machu Picchu.

~Kolby

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Kolby,

I was rained and snowed on even though I went during the "dry" season. Had I known what was coming, I would have had better equipment like zip-off waterproof trousers, shoes with a better grip and lots of extra pants for changing into once I was in the nice dry tent. But even with all of the water, the trip was absolutely worth it. You know that from reading my travelogue Smile You do miss out on some views, but the mist and fog makes the ruins seem even more atmospheric and mysterious. It’s very very hard for me to imagine anyone regretting taking an opportunity to hike the Inca Trail. I’d go for it.

The Thorn Tree at the Lonely Planet has some really useful posts. I’d definitely check it out.

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Thanks, Meredith. And thanks for sharing andeantravelweb.com with us – that’s a spectacular resource!

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Kahunna –

I did Inca Trail in late November and got very lucky with weather. However, that said, I would have been extremely disappointed if when I got to Machu Picchu it were all covered in clouds.

If you feel like taking a trip to South America in December, consider Ecuador. December is one of the best months ("dry season!&quotWink for doing hiking/climbing in Ecuador’s central mountain regions. That’s where I’m planning to go on pretty much exact dates as you put it.

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Maybe next time, Alex. I’ve already bought my tickets to Peru.

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Kahunna, you live in SoCal, right? Can I ask how you’re flying down to Lima and how much you paid in airfare?

I’m going this time next year! Woo hoo!

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I went to Machu Picchu at january this year, and I did the Inka Trail. I was lucky, I did it at the end of january and they closed the trail on februray.
As it was low seasson, it costed me only 95 (Im student and from south america, so that helped too), and I reserved it when I got there (3 days before). The food was great, the porters carried everything (except our personal stuff) and the guid was great too. She has her own travel agency, heres her msn/mail: irma_cusco@hotmail.com maybe she will be able to help you.
The Pacha Mama helped us, it didnt rained at all

good luck
Lio

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Homeskillet,

I bought my RT ticket for about $550 from Orbitz. I shoud have bought the ticket a few months ago when it was around $500, but oh well. I will be traveling from LAX to SJO (6 hr layover! ) to LIM. Recently my plans changed a bit so I added another week to my trip (making it 3) so I can see Bolivia as well as Peru, so there were a few fees tagged on by Orbitz.

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Thanks for the airfare head’s up, Kahunna.

I’m hoping to do a three-week trip to Peru sometime next summer (probably about this time of the year). With The Inca Trail, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca lines, and even Lima, there’s 3 weeks gone right there. I’d love to add on Bolivia…or Ecuador…or the Amazon…or Iguassu Falls….God, there’s so much amazing stuff to see in South America that three weeks in Peru doesn’t even scratch the surface. I’ve already been to Brazil, I spent 10 days there and never even left Rio de Janeiro!

Have a great trip.