I have been wanting to walk the inca trail for a very long time but usually I don't enjoy being part of a tour group. As it is compulsory to be part of a group when on the trail I chose g adventures because it looked to be good value for money and a small group size.
I was so happy that we went with this company. The level of service was mindblowing and I learnt so much about the inca culture from our passionate guide, Johan. I would have missed out on so much information if I were able to do the trail independently.
Our group of 16 were fantastic company and we were accompanied by 23 porters and 2 cooks. The porters complete a superhuman job by basically running along the trail carrying 25kg each and making it to our next destination.
When the group arrived at lunch or camp food would be cooked and an eating tent set up. We were greeted with cool drinks and individual washbasins to prepare for a meal. Lunch and dinner were 2-3 courses and always started with a delicious soup. Breakfast was served warm. On the third day at lunch our chefs made managed to freshly prepare a cake with icing - incredible! Every morning the porters wake you with hot cocoa leaf tea and a warmed wash basin. We were very spoilt.
The company provides a thin foam mat for sleeping and offers for hire sleeping bags (US$10), inflatable mats (US$10) and hiking poles (US$6 each). The mat and bag are included in the baggage weigh the porters can carrying and take up about 3kg of the 6kg allowance, so packing light is necessary. My only complaint of the trip is that the mat shown to us in cusco prior to hiring the mats on the trail was not entirely representative and didn't do a great job of staying inflated - it was much better than sleeping on a foam mat though. Please hire/take 2 hiking poles - they help out so much especially on the long section of downhill of the second day.
The trail itself is very manageable for anybody who is reasonably fit. Our group had two couples in their 60s and they managed fine by just taking it slowly. The first day is relatively easy and only involves a few hours of walking with a few uphill stretches. The second day is definitely the hardest with 4-5 hours of unrelenting uphill climbing at a high altitude - it is quite hard to catch your breath. This is followed for unrelenting downhill for about 2 hours - the walking poles will save your knees on this section. The third day is the most beautiful day - several ruins are visited and the scenery dramatically changes through the day from cloud forrest to jungle. It is a long day though with about 12 hours of walking. The final day is very exciting and involves a very early start to wait in a line until the trail opens at 5:30am. The walk is very pretty and is not particularly hard. I was expecting much worse when I heard about a section called 'the gringo killer'! This actually isn't too bad and involves a very steep section of stairs which is almost a vertical climb which, steep as it is, only lasts for a few minutes. The view from the sun gate is very rewarding and the opportunity to explore machu picchu is worth every step of the trail.
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