Inca Trail - Lessons Learned

"The first part of today is nice and easy," our guide told us on Day 3.  "The trail will be mostly flat."

LIES! 

A flat section of the Inca Trail is like a filling Lean Cuisine.  It doesn't exist. 

As I walked on Day 3, discovering the true meaning of Peruvian "flat", I thought about other lessons learned along the trail.  From me to you, in no particular order:

THINGS I WAS GLAD TO HAVE WITH ME

  • 3 Liter Camelbak 
  • My "good" camera - A DSLR is definitely bulky, but it was worth lugging along.
  • Quality hiking shoes, wool socks, & moleskin - Because blisters are miserable.  
  • A pair of flip flops - for tired feet at the end of the day...ahhh glorious.
  • Baseball hat - Hides 4 days of not showering and keeps the hood of your raincoat out of your eyes. 
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp - for early morning starts & walking to the bathroom in the dark.
  • Pepto Bismol & CiPro - My stomach never fails to revolt.  This helps.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet Paper - The Inca Trail is BYOTP
  • Chewing gum
  • Large plastic bags - to separate what smells in your bag from what doesn't (yet).
  • Soles - small denominations for tips, storing your bag at MP, and some grub after the trek.

Packing up my gear before heading out for Day 2!

THINGS I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT

  • Regular sized mosquito spray & sunscreen - I made the mistake of bringing the repellant & sunscreen I needed for my entire 3 weeks abroad with me on the trail.  I should have just brought a small little travel size and replenished locally if needed.
  • Four "sets" of clothes - I did wear all 4 sets and I definitely needed a fleece + a raincoat.  But I could have gotten by with:
    • 4 underwear/sportsbras/wool socks
    • 4 quick shirts
    • 2 pairs of pants (instead of 4)
    • 2 long sleeved layering pieces (instead of 4)
    • 1 fleece
    • 1 raincoat

Our guide was so generous and shared one of his hiking poles with me.  What a Godsend!

HIKING POLES ARE NOT OPTIONAL

I had a list of reasons why I didn't bring hiking poles (added expense...another thing to carry...I'm strong enough to do without...) but in the clarity that hindsight brings, I assure you that they are necessary.  As I carried my gear down 3,000 steep stairs steps, I desperately wanted the hiking poles.  The poles are like a free-standing railing that give you stability on tricky terrain and relieve the strain on your knees.  Upon Tom's recommendation (We met Tom in RMNP.  He helped us summit Hallett Peak.  You can read about it here, it's a neat story), I am going to purchase these Black Diamond poles, which collapse for easy storing in your bag.  I have many-a-rugged hike ahead of me  and now I know how much will need them!  

ENJOY EVERY MINUTE

The trail can take a lot of your concentration and energy at times, so don't forget to look up and take in your surroundings!  It's such an incredible view and you never know when the clouds will come and take it away!  Take heaps of pictures too because when you get home, you will find that you don't have nearly enough! :)