A Girly Girl’s Survival Guide to Trekking the Inca Trail
There are girls who can rough it, I mean really really rough it. They go days without washing their hair, wearing the same shirt with no makeup on—and still manage to look cute. Then there’s me. I like my warm bed and warm shower and electricity. I love electricity. Without the comforts of modern day society, I look a hot mess.
As much as I love camping, hiking and trekking, I have to admit I’m a relatively high maintenance chick. What can I say? I love my showers. I shower in the morning before work and at night before bed. Years ago, my idea of camping was in a cabin in front of a fireplace. Things have changed since then. I can now “rough” it, tent it and trek it—but I’ve found ways to make it a bit more comfortable for myself. Even when there are no showers around.
Here’s how I survived 4 days trekking and camping in Peru:
1.) Get Fit. I worked out religiously the 4 months leading up to the hike. You should hike, exercise, lift weights, strengthen your legs. You are not going to enjoy the Inka Trail if you are not in shape. There’s no way around it. Exercise is your best friend in preparation for this trek.
2.) If you’re going to trek the Inka Trail, go with a reputable company. One that treats their porters well. You do not want to do this hike with just any trekking company. Do your research. Scour TripAdvisor for trip reports and reviews. Don’t try to save money by going with cheaper companies with bad reviews. Remember: you will be hiking at high altitudes, for several hours, for four days. The company you choose will cook your meals, boil your water, and if you get sick they’ll nurse you back to health too. Don’t choose cheaper if it means you’re sacrificing safety. After reading a million reviews on different trek companies, I chose to go with Llama Path Expeditions and did not regret it.
**While our group was hiking on the trail, we saw several porters from different companies zoom by. Some of them were hiking in little more than flip flops. A good company (like Llama Path) supplies their porters with quality equipment to safeguard their health and safety. Sure, they’re pricier than others, but I like to think the extra cost ensures their employees are safe and treated fairly.
The porters getting ready for our 4 day expedition.
The guys in action.
3.) Take your time to acclimate to the altitude. This is something I failed to do. I got violently sick on the trail. Looking back, if I had taken a few extra days in Cuzco–I think it would have made a difference. I would not have been miserable on Day2 of the hike. I allowed myself only 2 nights in Cuzco, when I should have probably planned for 4. As a result, I was not in the best condition to hike Machu Picchu on the first day of our trek. I only started to feel like myself on Day3.
TOP TIP: There’s no way to tell if altitude sickness will affect you. They say that if it affected you before, it doesn’t mean you’ll get it again. You can take medicine to prevent it, but they say the only tried and tested method is to give yourself time to acclimate.
Cuzco: My first night. Isn’t she beautiful? I should have stayed here longer before the hike!
Drinking coca tea supposedly helps with altitude sickness. I drank lots and lots of coca tea, but still got sick. 🙁
A fantastic picture of me puking my brains out. On Day2 of our hike, I was throwing up every 5 minutes. It was a barf-hike-barf-hike kind of day.
Day 3: All smiles! Finally feeling better!
4.) Baby Wipes! Lots and lots and lots of them. I used them to give myself a bath everyday. Figure about 1 pack per day. I also shopped on Amazon for these heavy duty ones (bigger and thicker). I saved those for right before bed. I have the hardest time falling asleep when I’m dirty.
Side Story: On the night of Day2, I was at my sickest. I could barely get up. While everyone else was celebrating conquering the hardest part of the trek, I was in my tent wishing for my cat, warm bed and clean toilet so I can throw up in peace. When our guide asked me if I wanted to turn back and be carried by the porters on a stretcher, I told him “I swear I’ll feel better if I could just shower. Please? Please find a way I can shower”. He obliged! I got a wash basin with warm water and a towel. I gave myself a “bath” and got a great night’s sleep that the following day, I was all better!
Day3: Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, thanks to a great night’s sleep!
5.) Get yourself a PStyle aka a female urination device. Sold here in different colors. Don’t laugh! It saved me a couple of times. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the bathrooms (if you can call them that) on the Inka trail were so so shitty (pun intended). Maybe the altitude was making everyone miss. I’m talking #1 and #2. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. You can’t even squat down for fear that your ladybits accidentally touch something. Some bathrooms even had flies (BARF). My Pstyle saved me a few trips to those bathrooms. I could go just like any guy could: standing up.
6.) Hire a Porter. There’s no shame in it. Most companies will have the porters carry your camping equipment (tent) and the cooking equipment (for your meals). You are expected to carry your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and personal things (clothes, shoes, etc). I didn’t. I paid extra for a porter to carry my things. It was worth every single dollar. The only thing I had to carry during the hike was my camera, water and snacks. I can assure you that if I didn’t hire a porter, I probably would not have made the entire hike.
Top Tip: Bring cash to tip at the end of the hike. These guys truly deserve it.
7.) Bring fresh clothes and get camera ready for Day 3! Alright, days 1 and 2 were picture-worthy too, of course. But the scenery on Day 3 was to die for. I think it was my favorite day of the trek! I even liked it better than the day we arrived at Machu Picchu. It was a short day of hiking on Day 3, and we arrived camp with still a lot of daylight left.
Wiñay Wayna in all its splendor.
Lots of photo ops on Day 3!
Top Tip (an important one too!): There was a VERY VERY cold shower at the camp on Day 3 of the hike. I was so ready for one, that I took the plunge. Bring flip flops and some soap/shampoo if you want to avail of this shower. It was refreshing and so worth it!
8.) On Day 4: You can be as cliche with the pictures when you get to the Sun Gate! You deserve it! This is it, you’ve made it! Get an early start, put on some lipstick, snap a ton of pictures and marvel at the majesty of Machu Picchu. There is nowhere else in the world quite like it.
Top Tip: I have now mastered the art of curling my hair without heat using this method. I wish I did back then. I would have had fabulous hair in pics. If you have time, start practicing now, so you can use it when you trek!
I hope you have a wonderful time on the Inka Trail!