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Trip to Peru to go to Cusco, Sacred Valley, and eventually hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Posted by on September 19, 2011

It’s now September and I just realized that it’s been almost 2 years since I did the trip to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and hiking the Inca Trail to get to the ultimate destination: Machu Picchu, one of the world wonders today. I figure that this would be the best time to explain how I got that amazing picture of myself in front of Machu Picchu. Well, it all started before the trip even began. I had to contact a tourist agency that would help me in figuring out how to do the trail itself as the Peruvian government does not allow single travelers to hike on it. By Peruvian law, you have to be with a licensed guide at all times during the hike. For me, it was worth doing a vacation package as the agency could figure out everything of what I was going to do. Sure, I could have gone by myself to Cusco and bargain shop for the best deal by doing comparison shopping and save quite a bit of money but in my opinion, I would have also wasted valuable time. I realized that it would be better to go out and experience the place rather than hole myself up in various tourist agencies finding out what to do and how to do it. Also, I was told after this trip that the government only allows a certain number of hikers on the Inca Trail so it was probably more important to book months in advance with a tour group. Finding out when to go is another consideration as well since April to October is considered to be the dry season while the months of June through August are the high season times. I found out that September and October were the best months to go as it’s not high season but dry (hiking in the rain just plain sucks).

But finding a tourist agency and when to do it wasn’t just it. I also found out that it was far better to train yourself in preparation for that Inca Trail hike. That way you’re not lagging behind in pain. Being in shape does help as I would later find out since I saw so many out-of-shape-fat people were out there; it also helps in fighting off altitude sickness (but this depends as I would also find out in a painful way). I had a training regiment for weeks of various hiking days, lifting weights, and cardio workouts in preparation for this trip. I didn’t want to be dragging ass and find out that I couldn’t do it all – which I heard has happened to various tourists deciding that they would drop out of the hike entirely. Here’s another tip for those wanting to do the Inca Trail – take it easy when you get to Cusco. I chose an 8 day package rather than jump into the hike itself. The altitude will kill you if you don’t. Do some side trips to build yourself to the final prize.

Also, one more thing on the Inca Trail – buy a good backpack, good boots, and maybe some additional clothes. It’s going to be your body doing all the carrying so make sure you enjoy the time. Of course, you could pay a porter to carry all of your gear for a fee but that’s up to you. Being stubborn about it, I decided way in advance that I wanted to carry all of my gear with the exception of being the tent and food. That’s the stuff the porters can carry so that way I got the most of my hike – I wanted to suffer from it and gain the great experience that came along with that still is a part of me today.

And once the day finally came for me to take off after all that training for weeks, I was gone, flying off to Lima initially and then taking another plane to go into the mountains of Andes where Cusco, the closest big city to Machu Picchu was. Once I got out of the airport, I was met by a guide who took me to my hotel to get settled in as this would be my home for the next week or so.

sight outside my hotel door, Cusco, Peru

The sight outside my hotel door - I remember the hotel staff telling me that there is a dig going on behind the hotel.

Peruvian woman with llamas, Peru

Peruvian woman with llamas

After putting stuff away, I had a meeting with another guide who went over safety precautions (especially about altitude sickness), gave me a map, and described more in-detail about my schedule of what I was going to do. Once all the bases were covered, I was off and running again to meet up with another guide and his bus, filled with other tourists, as this was going to be a bus tour around Cusco which happened to be various historical sites within the city itself which I thought it was great as the guide could explain a lot of things such as the historical background of certain places such as Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun) and the Cathedral of Cusco. Pictures were not allowed inside for the cathedral and I’m not sure what I would gain for showing the inside of big boulders of a stone temple. Still, the cathedral was neat to look at since it overlooked the main plaza.

Basilica Cathedral, Cusco main plaza, Peru

Basilica Cathedral - this faces the main plaza of Cusco in the midst of some colonial-style buildings

We went to various other places but in my opinion, the cathedral was the highlight especially inside with its relics. Saqsayhuaman was also another interesting site to go to with its huge boulders out in the middle of nowhere which some say was supposed to be a smaller version of Machu Picchu or some kind of satellite site for it.

Saqsayhuaman - place of big rocks and boulders, Peru

Saqsayhuaman - place of big rocks and boulders

And to top it off at the end of the night, I went out for some alpaca steak. Alpaca is like a llama so as I ate the meat, it tasted like beef but gamey, much like venison – easy to eat but not much fat at all. I would recommend it, no doubt about it!

Alpaca steak, Cusco, Peru

Here's what Alpaca steak looks like - served with hot chocolate