The Journey to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Like most things in our lives, I have heard the journey to Machu Picchu is as rewarding as the ancient, Inca ruins hidden up in the clouds. It’s also a journey that starts not in Ollantaytambo (the start of the Inca Trail) or even Lima, but the moment you decide to venture on the 46 km trek.

Following the 11km hike we tackled this spring.

In exactly 30 days, our trek to Machu Picchu will officially start (bright and early – we meet our guiding company at 5:30 am). The journey itself started months ago though, when a friend asked a few of us if we wanted to go to Peru with her.

At first, I was hesitant because my travel budget is rather low and my future income somewhat uncertain. Ultimately, FOMO (fear of missing out) won out when she dangled the possibility the runs may close to visitors soon, and another friend assured me Peru is quite affordable. So, I agreed and on March 16 we booked our trek for September 14.

The Bread Crumbs Guide blog also went a long way to helping make my mind up. I wanted to do this. If anything, I wanted the challenge of traversing 46km on foot while climbing 12,000 foot passes to see if I could do. The ruins and beauty of the Andes were going to be gravy.

So, the planning and training began. Several of my friends have also hiked the Inca Trail, so I was happy to have their advice to balance the abundance of information online of what to do and what to bring.

The hardest part about the trek (so I’ve been told and read) is the altitude. I imagine it’s a little like running a 5 km race and only being able to get partial breaths for the whole thing, except you’re climbing stairs for 14km. While I know several people who trained by doing stairs, I’ve opted out of stairs. Here is how I’ve been training.

Boot camp (30 minutes at least 3x per week) – I have been going to the Buff Mom Bootcamp for several years, but with travel preventing me from getting to the 60-minute classes, I have been doing the home workouts (Buff Mom TV). These are 30 minute, full-body workouts which help make sure my upper body is also strong and ready to carry my pack. My instructor knows women who have trained for the Inca Trail just with the Buff Mom TV, so I’m trusting her advice this will work.

Running along the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal makes running at least enjoyable.

Running (1-3x per week for 20 minutes) – My goal is to be able to run 5km without stopping up the hills at our farm by September. I am not a runner, so this has taken discipline but living next to the Rideau Canal in Ottawa this summer certainly made it easier. Unfortunately, an injury in June forced me to slow down, so I’m stuck at week 6 in the Couch to 5K app right now. I’m still committed to hit 5km by September 5.

The Escarpment at Glen Eden near Milton on an evening hike after work this month.

Hiking (every other week) – Training for the Inca Trail was the perfect excuse to make exercise and hiking a part of my routine this summer. Between walking in Ottawa, hiking in Gatineau and the Bruce Trail and regular, short hikes with my pack and poles, I haven’t spent this much time outside in a summer since I was a lifeguard in high school. It’s awesome! Combined with an 11km hike in Algonquin Park this spring and hopefully 15km on the Bruce Trail this Labour Day, and I should be ready!

Breaking in my boots on a (cold) spring hike at Saugeen Valley Conservation park. One thing is certain, I won’t blend in with my surroundings!

Short of the physical preparations, we have also been finalizing our itinerary, arranging for any needed vaccines (and altitude sickness pills) and planning our packing list, which I will share closer to our trip. Clothing tip: Icebreaker. I have fallen in love with it since discovering it, not just for hiking but literally, everyday – running, farming, casual wear and riding (my motorcycle).

I am also trying to learn some Spanish, so I can feel more confident and try to learn a little about agriculture. I have been using Duolingo and so far, I know how to say “I’m eating an apple” (Yo comes un manzana) and buenos dias and buenos noches 

Does anyone else have suggestions for apps to learn a language, especially one you can practice with while driving? Have you been to Matchu Pichhu? What did you do to prepare or do you have any suggestions for us in the final month before we depart?

7 thoughts on “The Journey to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

  1. E Abs

    I hiked the Trial and it was an amazing experience. For training I did hiking in RMNP which was close to where I lived at the time and still the altitude really got to me. When they offer you cocoa tea, drink it. Every time. Totally tastes like ass but if you put enough sugar in it… I would recommend having a couple of days prior to your hike to tour around Cusco to start acclimating. There are so many things to see in the area and had I not met my husband my plan was on returning to Peru to study corn and potato cultivation. When the Peruvian ladies offer you bags of “puff corn” buy it. It’s so so good!

    You are going to have a remarkable, life changing experience. I just can’t wait to go back.

    1. I can’t wait!! We are heading to Cusco for 3 days before we leave so hopefully that will help. I’m worried about the altitude, but there won’t be much we can do about it if it hits me so I am just trying to prepare best we can and avoid alcohol.

  2. Dawn

    Definitely bring your Diamox if it’s your first time at altitude. Bring double layered socks (one thin and slippery, one warm for when the midnight foot numbness sets in!) I wish I had brought dry shampoo, but honestly baby wipes and a good bandana are fine too!

    1. I think I could’ve trained more with my backpack perhaps so I was more used to carrying a full pack. I don’t know if it would’ve made a lot of difference physically though. The rain and altitude made it difficult and more training wouldn’t have combatted either of those challenges. I do think it’s as much a mental journey as anything. I thought I would be sore and exhausted at night and I wasn’t and you stop so often on the trail that you get to rest. If you’re really competitive and want to be first, then a heavy training regimen would be good, but if you’re goal is to complete it, then what I did suffices.

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