Machu Pichu BLUES

11:34 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Hello! My 2011 winter beach resort vacation has turned into a 10 day stay at hostels and 4 day's camping and hiking my way up Machu Pichu in Peru.

I have my wonderful boyfriend and his 7 friends to thank for raining on my "bikini and umbrella drink" winter routine.

I am in need of an internal frame PINK hiking back pack. I also need words of advice for my treturous trekk.

God Help me.

3:10 a.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey Leah,

You'll regret the funky pink chickpack within hours of putting it on believe me. I reckon go for something more like this;

A 20-25lt daypack's fine if your main gear is being taken ahead like on typical tour kinda deals. If you need a larger pack maybe look at the 55lt Osprey Ariel. In the daypack throw in a light rain jacket, hydration gear, trail snacks, camera, medical stuff (electrolytes!!), etc.... Depending on the ground you're covering maybe look at a trekking pole too. I use BD poles but there's heaps on this site to look at.

Packs like these are good all round comfy units that you can use on trail, around town or wherever.

Good luck with it, you'll have a great time for sure.

5:16 a.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks Paully,

I'll be traveling approx. 2 months and the men have informed me I'm not taking more than just a backpack. I'm not so sure they understand the measure of packing I'll need to do for a 2 months journey. Silly men.

However, I figured the pink pack was gonna be kicker... so I'll take your advice and find one that's more suitable for my excursion. Also, I will be getting a trekking pole. We have hired a guide for our hiking bit, and also an extra two porters. I know the guys don't think we'll need it, but I'm in a lot better cardio shape than their weight lifting physiques. I'll probably run circles around them.

I'm actually quite feminine, if you couldn't tell from the love of pink i pocess. I've never hiked a mountain for more than just a casual 2-3 hours on a day trip, and I've never ever ever slept out in the wild in a tent. I've always been fortunate enough to have a camp trailer or motorhome. SOOOO, this will be quite a stretch for me.

Any other recommendations from anyone so I learn to love the sport and not die?

8:42 a.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Just find out from the guide what you're expected to carry, take that list with you to a packfitter and have them help you select a pack of proper size and fit.

Easy hikes are made a chore by an ill-fitting pack. A challenging hike would be outright hellish.

11:36 a.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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It has been my experience gym rats and others who don’t regularly run or cycle up steep steep hills will find their self–assessed cardio conditioning way over rated. Machu Pichu will take you up fairly high, providing a greater challenge than just schlepping a pack down the trail. Regardless that you think you will perform better than your fellow hikers, best hit the hills for your own self preservation and conditioning, before you leave on your trip.

The advice to take only a pack on your hike is good advice if that is what everyone else is doing. The lighter the better too. You should go on a trial camping trip before your trip to Peru, so you can gain a better appreciation for the advice others have already given you.

Your first post mentions fourteen days of activity, yet a subsequent post mentions the trip is two months long. What is the full itinerary?

7:58 p.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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if you're hiking and camping out four days, you will need a larger pack. get one designed for women. the gregory jade or deva backpacks, and the deuter aircontact 60 for women, are good. get something in advance, try it on, and make sure it fits right and is comfortable.

other things i would strongly consider taking along:

-a few pair of good socks, something made of a merino wool blend like smartwool, darn tough, or bridgedale socks.

-merino is also excellent for long underwear, like a lightweight shirt.

-polyester fleece pants and zip up jacket to keep you warm

-a good wind/rain shell that will fit if you are wearing a long undershirt and fleece underneath. wind/rain pants are also good to bring if you have them.

-lightweight gloves and a hat

-sturdy boots that are broken in - don't get something brand new right before the trip, make sure they fit and don't blister your feet.

-a water bladder like a camelbak or platypus - very helpful while hiking.

10:31 p.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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It's hard to imaging feeling the BLUES over a visit to Machu Pichu ...but maybe that's just me :). Anyway, good luck with your planning, and hope you enjoy your trip after all! :)

I totally agree with Whomeworry's advice ... definitely take a "trial hike" beforehand to make sure your pack fits properly (in actual use, not in the store or your living room), to make sure you don't discover some key item you've forgotten to pack, etc, etc. This'll surely reduce your stress level on the "real" trip, because you'll have already proven to yourself that you have at least the basics in place.

1:34 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't mean to sound rude, but you don't sound like much of an adventure traveler. If you are, my apologies, if not, get a good guidebook, like the Rough Guide (about $10). Insight and Lonely Planet publish good guides as well. Lonely Planet is good if you are traveling on a budget.

My guess is you're going to Lima, then Cuzco, then Machu Picchu. I was there a long time ago, before it turned into a tourist destination. I'm sure it's very different now.

Do you speak Spanish? If not, learn some basic Spanish. Don't expect anyone to speak English once you are out of the city. In fact, don't expect your porters to speak Spanish. They might, but probably speak Quechua, an Indian language. Learn a few phrases of Quechua, even if it's just "hello" or simple greetings. Things could be different, but I doubt it. I do know that there are Internet cafes and all that, so maybe English is more widespread, but a friend of mine was there in the mid 80's and her porters spoke only Quechua.

When are you going? Machu Picchu isn't all that high, but it is around 8K. Work on your aerobics before going. Get a good pair of trail runners or light boots. That's all you will need for footwear. Get a gear list from whomever your guiding company is. You can buy anything made of wool once you get there. Trekking poles are a good idea. Make sure they collapse short enough to take on the plane.

5:48 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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The first 14 days are planned... the guys think we can "wing it" across South and Central America! I informed them recently that in order to enter any of their countries, a return or forwarding ticket must be purchased. Thus, we're in for a little more planning.

6:04 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Tom, No that wasn't rude. I am definitely NOT and adventure traveler. I'm pretty much a girly girl. While I love the outdoors and nature, unfortunately I've never experienced living in it so I'll know what to expect.

I took 4 years of spanish classes, so I think I'm ok there. Good advice on the other language, I'll definitely look into some translations that may help.

I am really in pretty good shape, I run 4-5 times a week; up hills, down hills, straights, curves, stadium stairs... you get the picture. I will indeed take your advice and step up my game to be on the safe side. I suppose one can never be in too good of shape.

I am in the process of researching some quality all weather foot wear. With so many places and suggestions on brands, it may take me a while. However, I will be sure to get them atleast a month in advance to ensure they'll be well broken in for the hike.

I did get a list of supplies from the travel guide and am working on getting everything I'll need. And, as inconvenient as it may be... I'll pack my bags and go for few trial hikes.

Great advice from every one! Thanks!

8:45 p.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Ugh, got all 47 vaccinations today... I won't die of anything unless I get hit by a bus! Ok, it was more like 6 vaccinations...

3:26 a.m. on October 1, 2010 (EDT)
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If you are concerned about the water, take along something like Aqua Mira,which are water purification tablets. This stuff-

Also, when in doubt, drink Coke. But I have to say, for all the talk about don't drink the water, when I lived in Bolivia, I drank the water, ate the food from street vendors, never got sick. I wouldn't recommend it all the time, but as long as you're eating cooked food, you should be good.

You should be good as far as fitness. You aren't going that high. If you were up on the Alto, I'd take it easy, but sounds like you won't be. I used to live at 11.5K and that takes some getting used to.

Don't take too much. The golden rule is lay out all your stuff, put half of it back in the closet. Do that 2 or 3 times. I met some girly girls who were backpacking around the world. It can be done.

12:04 a.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I can't believe no one suggested a new boyfriend.

10:03 a.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I think many of us would rather see the Inca Trail than YASB (Yet another sandy beach). =)

5:14 a.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Good heavens... I don't think I can put half of half of half of what I want and need in my bags. I'm definitely trying though.

5:16 a.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Many of you probably would rather see YASB than the Inca trail. I'd just rather beach it and take the train to the top. Maybe... I'll let you all know what the outcome is. I've looked at some pretty amazing sights about the Inca Trail and Machu Pichu, I've read some incredible stories about them, however, I've also read some pretty aweful experiences as well.

9:21 a.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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I just went a year around the Sub-Continent and S.E Asia with everything in a 30ltr daypack. Admittedly, 3 months was surfing in boardies and a rashy and maybe a t-shirt or two for special occasions.

Lay all your gear out, halve it then halve it again and you're right to go. Roll, don't fold. An ex of mine, on her first b/pack trip, packed the full hair and make-up kit, a dozen outfits and six pairs of shoes deal til she caught on that I wasn't playing the packhorse game. We were a week into a 8 week trip when I get back to the hotel and there she is in tears boxing up all her "absolute necessities" to send home. Months after our return she said it was one of the most liberating things she'd ever done.

I travel a lot and really like to read up on where I'm going beforehand. I get a real appreciation of my surroundings and at least have a head start to talk with locals. At times I've asked simple things like directions to a little known attraction and then been invited for dinner with families or to talk with some old boys just because of the interest I've shown in them and their culture and they are then proud to tell me all about it.

I love the surf and big mountains equally, but I also love getting off the well worn path and seeing the things you can only experience by doing just that.

8:56 p.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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When I went to Machu Picchu, we did take the train. It was a day trip from Cuzco. I think there is a hotel there now, but not when I was there. The train was a little train called a ferrocarril, kind of like a big streetcar as I recall. A friend on mine did a hike on the Inca Trail and she's a girly girl, so I'm sure you'll be fine.

Beaches are all over the planet; there's only one Machu Picchu.

4:59 a.m. on November 12, 2010 (EST)
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Also, I will be getting a trekking pole.  

Hi Leah,

  I was recently informed that I'd be doing Machu Picchu soon as well.  I did some reading online and apparently metal-tipped walking poles are not allowed on the trail, so you might want to keep that in mind.

  Myself, I am looking into rain gear.  I am not sure when in 2011 you are making this trip, but if it is in January you may want to look into rain gear as well!

3:27 p.m. on November 12, 2010 (EST)
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I was there at Easter, so yes, the weather will be different. A light poncho should work. I'd take along a light synthetic shirt that will dry quickly. Cotton stays wet and if it gets cold, is useless to keep you warm.

5:08 a.m. on December 29, 2010 (EST)
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I just had to chime in here since I just came back from Machu Picchu a few weeks ago during rainy season.  I did the 4-day hike on the Inca Trail and it was a totally amazing experience!  The highest altitude you'll reach on the Inca Trail is the Dead Woman's Pass at 4215 meters.  That's a little over 13,800 feet for us Americans. :P  Day 2 of the trek is definitely the most difficult as you will be gaining the most elevation that day.

A decent backpack is of course recommended but your porters are going to be carrying the majority of the stuff for you.  I went with a tour company called Intrepid which I found out was actually an Australian company.  Our guide and the porters were super awesome and I couldn't recommend Intrepid enough.  The porters carry your tents, food, etc.  They provided us with a duffle bag which the porters would carry 6kg of our gear (i.e., change of clothes and sleeping bag).  I'm almost certain that's standard practice because a friend of mine hiked the Inca Trail earlier this year with a different tour group (GAP) and they gave her a 6kg limit for her duffle bag as well.

Basically, you're going to need your backpack to carry water, snacks, rain jacket, jacket, personal affects (like prescription medication), etc. 

That said, I have absolutely no recommendation for you as far as backpacks go.  Hahaha.  I don't know enough about them to offer you any good advice.  Sorry. :P  Most of the hikes I do are about 6 hours long so my Camelbak is good enough for that. :P  I actually did use my Camelbak for the Inca Trail but I left the 3L bladder at home and instead brought two Nalgene bottles with me.  The porters will provide boiled water for you and I didn't think it'd be a good idea to put boiled water in my hydration bladder.  In retrospect, the water was never piping hot when they gave it to us, it was always cooled down to room temperature by the time they gave it to us so taking my bladder with me would've been okay.

As mentioned above, I assume you'll be in Cusco at some point prior to making the trek so that will give you some time to acclimate to the high altitude.  I live in Hawaii, which is of course at sea level so I wasn't used to the altitude when I got to Cusco.  Lima is at sea level, so hanging around Lima isn't going to do you any good as far as acclimating to high altitude.  I run and hike a lot in Hawaii but there was no way for me to "train" for the altitude.  That said, if you're in decent shape cardio-wise, you'll be fine.  The main thing is to remember to take really deep breaths. :)

All the shirts I brought with me on the hike were Patagonia shirts.  2 Capilene 1 shirts (one short sleeve, one long sleeve), 1 Capilene 2 shirt (short sleeve), and 1 Capilene 3 shirt (long sleeve).  I also brought a Patagonia Rain Shadow jacket which came in quite handy as it rained quite a bit during the hike and a The North Face microfleece for when it got cold (which is relative...again, I live in Hawaii).  Of course there are no shower facilities on the trail, so depending on your personal tastes, you may not even need to change clothes...though you should probably at least change your socks and undergarments.

Anyway, I could go on and on about the trail and what I brought, et cetera, et cetera, but I've already written way more than what I thought I was going to write.  You've probably already started your trip anyway, so you might not even read this in time!  Haha. 

Oh, one last thing.  You *can* use metal hiking poles on the trail.  In fact, our guide said that was recommended instead of buying wooden poles from a vendor in one of the small towns near the start of the trail.  I can't remember for sure off hand, but I think he said it was better to use the metal ones for ecological reasons....which is ironic, I guess.  I guess people are cutting down too many trees and what not.  Once you get INTO Machu Picchu, however, you're not *supposed* to use hiking poles because they don't want the poles ruining the ruins.  For people who obviously need poles because of physical disability or whatever, though, they will make an exception.

4:33 a.m. on January 10, 2011 (EST)
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I just got back from MP and found out that apparently a lot of the rules that you read about concerning MP and the Inca Trail are just... mere suggestions.  Case in point the metal-tipped hiking poles.  Also the bringing in of disposable water bottles, or food into MP.  Or smoking in MP.


However I would advise rain gear (at the very least a poncho and Gore-Tex lined shoes) for not only the Inca Trail hike and MP, but Cusco as well!


Ziplocs and/or waterproof bags for your dry clothes and important documents.  Spray your backpack down with Nikwax or similar if you can't fit it under your poncho.  Expect that things will get wet anyway.


Altitude sickness strikes unexpectedly.  Best case scenario is to spend a few days in Cusco before the trek.  Or, pre-medicate with Diamox.


What nworbled said about the porters is true.  But you may still want at least a backpack with a waist strap to take the strain off your shoulders.

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