Usually, when people decide to hike to Machu Picchu, they take the well-known, Inca trail. Did you know that you had to obtain a permit before being able to hike this trail? You have to book these permits months in advance because they only allow 500 people per day to be on the trail (this includes guides, porters, cooks, and others – not just the tourists).
So those who plan to see Machu Picchu last minute (like me) may be bummed to find out that they have to wait months before they can go on their trip. Fear Not, for I have some good news. There are other trails you can walk if you feel like hiking to Machu Picchu. I hiked the Lares Trek and I was not disappointed at all!
We first got picked up at our hotels and got driven to Pisac Inca citadel. The view from here was amazing. We were literally up in the clouds.
We then got driven to a nearby market where we bought gifts for the children that we would encounter in the villages during the hike. After buying the gifts, we were taken to the starting point of the hike. Our group was a large group (12 people) and I was grateful for this because a large group = a mix of fitness levels. I would consider myself fit, but with the steep paths and the high altitudes, I was having a little trouble catching up with the fast walkers. Who am I kidding? I was struggling to catch up to the fast walkers! Thankfully, there were a couple of others in the same boat as me, so I was able to walk alongside them at a pace comfortable for me. Since we had a large group, we had 2 guides: Julian was leading the way and Percy came behind with us slow walkers 😛
If I could describe the Lares Trek in three words, it would be: challenging, beautiful, and enlightening.
There was an emergency horse with us in case anyone had trouble during the hike. Percy offered myself and the other two to ride on the horse many times, but we were determined to hike the full trek without any help *cue eye of the tiger song*. Be prepared to come across varying temperatures. While hiking, it can go from being hot to cold in hours. It is recommended to dress in layers so you can add/remove items as appropriate during the hike. The nights were VERY cold! On the second day, we went as high as 4700m above sea level and then went back down hundreds of metres in the same day. This caused a lot of us to have major headaches due to the altitude differences. I felt like my eyes were going to pop out! You should definitely take Tylenol with you during the trip. The others in the group mentioned how there’s a pill they bought in Peru that was effective in treating altitude sickness, but I forgot the name. Another thing I found helpful was rolling up about 10 coca leaves together, chewing it, and then letting it sit behind the cheek in the buccal mucosa area while hiking. On the 3rd day, the hike ended with a swim in Lares Hot Springs, which was just what my sore muscles needed 🙂
Though it was a bit challenging for me, it was worth it because of the beautiful views. So many mountains! It was also cool how it would be just us 14 and no one else in sight until we reached the campsite in the villages. Sometimes when we took breaks, it would just be us in silence admiring the scenic views. Very peaceful. We had gorgeous views of mountains, lakes, glaciers, valleys, lamas and alpacas. During the nights, if you looked up at the sky, it was full of bright stars. We also saw the milky way. Below are a few pictures taken during the hike:
During the hike, we had no access to internet, wifi, electricity, and toilets! This was not something I was used to. We used flashlights to guide us in the dark. There was no whatsapping, snapchatting, or instagramming. It was actually nice to be disconnected from the world for a couple of days. I think everyone should do that at least once and see how good it feels. The days felt longer and you also felt more connected to nature. And the hardest of all, you had to do your business in a hole dug in the ground (lol). We came across some villages, where the people lived a lifestyle very similar to that of the Inca people. It was eye opening to see how different people’s lives were up in the mountains. Right now as I’m sitting on my bed with my laptop, drinking hot lemon tea to get rid of my cold, there’s a woman high up in the mountains, in the cold, watching over a group of alpacas. On the third night, we stayed in a hotel and was connected to everything again. I remember turning on the tv in the room, and the first thing I saw was how Brad and Angelina broke up. Of course the divorce is sad news… but it was funny to me because 1. I realized by being disconnected, it felt as if life was on pause, yet there was so much happening around the world in those 2.5 days that we were unaware of and 2. to think how life is so different in different parts of the world. To some, Brangelina breaking up is newsworthy, while to others, they couldn’t care less about celebrities’ lives and are doing their own thing while being disconnected to the media.
On the 4th day, we woke up early to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was b r e a t h t a k i n g. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, there was civilization here. The area is built with stones and clay. If only it was possible to time travel to the past and see how life was like back then at Machu Picchu…
A few recommendations that I would have for this trek is to prepare for it at least a month in advance. My Goodlife cardio classes clearly weren’t enough. I think the tour company recommends walking 15km a day leading up to the hike (which I didn’t do as well [oops]). I would also suggest walking uphill or doing the stair climbers at the gym. The other recommendation would be to get used to the altitude, because altitude sickness is real guys- there was one person in our group that had projectile vomit on the second night! There was a couple of times where I tripped because I was feeling dizzy. There were 4 of us in the group that took the short cut on the 3rd day because we wanted to feel better in time for day 4 (Machu Picchu). You should come to Cusco at least 2-3 days before the hike and maybe practice getting used to the altitude by hiking to the areas nearby like the Rainbow mountains.
The company that I did my hike with was Sam Travel Peru. We did the Lares Trek 4d/3n. The detailed itinerary can be found on their website. The owner is a really nice, honest, and trustworthy man. His team of workers are hard working, friendly, and just overall good people. The guides (Percy and Julian) were knowledgeable and made sure all of us were comfortable during the hike. We were provided with plentiful delicious, warm meals. We got to try Peruvian dishes during these meals, which was a bonus. They also picked us up from the airport to the hotel on our first day, which was a stress reliever. Sam Travel Peru and the other tourists in our group made this hiking trip 100% an enjoyable experience 🙂