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10 Thoughts you have on the Inca Trail 

Conquering the Inca Trail is on many people's wanderlist - and for good reason too. Spending four days away from civilisation as you hike through one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world is an absolutely incredible experience. Yet, incredible as it may be, it's also exceptionally challenging, here are 10 thoughts to help prepare you for your Inca adventure.

1. I'm Going on the Inca Trail!

You need to book the Inca Trail early as there are only so many people allowed to hike the trail at one time. This will probably mean that there's a long wait between booking the trip and actually taking your first step on the trail. Nonetheless, you'll be feeling a lot of excitement as the adventure approaches.

2. What Am I Doing Here?

We've been going for an hour and I'm already exhausted. My shoulders hurt, my bag is heavy. We've stopped for a drink but only for five minutes... there are four more days of this?! My group consisted of four thirty-something friends, a thirty-something couple, a middle-aged couple and me. I was glad to see the middle-aged couple because I thought I would be able to stay ahead of them, no problem. How wrong I was, they put me to shame! They filled their hike chatting about different trails and mountains that they had conquered. I stayed silent gasping for air most of the time!

3. Really Should Have Stopped Smoking...

I spoke to a lot of people in the run up to doing the Inca Trail. Nearly all of their advice involved preparing me for the treacherous hike to the top of Dead Woman's Pass on day two of the trip. I thought I would be completely fine until day two... I didn't realise that I would be struggling so much from the very beginning. The majority of the Inca Trail is at high altitude and gets higher and higher as you go. My advice: do not stop smoking on the morning you start the Inca Trail.

4. Oooh Nice View!

It wasn't long before I realised that I needed to stop complaining (inside my head, of course, on the outside I was appearing tough and enjoying the ride) for a moment and take some time to enjoy the view. Seriously, it was most spectacular - snow capped peaks in the distance, wild laamas mooching around, fluffy clouds sailing by and here I was standing in the Andes mountain range in Peru, South America.... who am I kidding, I've only stopped to appreciate the view so I can catch my breath without disclosing my true fitness level (or lack of) to the rest of the group! 

5. Why Is There No Air?

It turns out that the people were right. Day two and hiking to the top of Dead Woman's Pass (4215m/13,828ft) was truly horrific. Quite possibly the worst experience of my life. I don't know whether it was the almost vertical ascent or the lack of air (most likely my general fitness was definitely a major contributing factor) but every step I took seemed to be harder than the last. I can see why they named it 'Dead Woman's Pass' as I was certainly a dead woman by the time I reached the top. Fortunately, I had lots of coca leaves to help but the splitting headache which I carried with me only seemed to make things worse. When I finally made it to the top I was ready for a helicopter search and rescue evacuation... turns out they don't offer that service.

6. It's Time to Wake Up Already?

I don't need a lot of sleep. I'm the type of person who can survive on very few hours sleep and still continue to function as normal. That was until I found myself on the Inca Trail. As the only 'solo-traveller' on our trek, I had a tent to myself and managed to fall asleep very quickly each night. Most mornings, we were awake before dawn as the sherpas (and all-round superheroes) had coca tea prepared to give us the energy for the first walk of the day. The days were long and the mornings were cold yet they seemed to come quicker and quicker each night! Still, if we didn't move so early, we'd have had to walk later and that would have been no fun.

7. There's Machu Picchu!

Waking up at 3am on the final day felt like the easiest thing in the world knowing that in a matter of hours it would all be over and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu would be welcoming our weary bodies (or my weary body at least). Standing at the sungate looking down over the old city was absolutely incredible. For once, I just wanted to stand, stare and take in the sight which lay before me, this time not making an excuse to catch my breath! As the sun rose from behind the mountains, it was incredible to see what we had been aiming for. Nothing could have prepared me for such a welcome sight. And the excitement of using a real bathroom for the first time in four days! What a treat!

8. OK, So This Was Totally Worth It

Arriving at Machu Picchu and seeing the postcard-perfect view was a total relief, a little overwhelming and one of the greatest life moments I've ever had. A rush of emotions: tired, excited, proud, in awe... there's not really enough words to describe exactly what I was feeling. After checking in our bags and sorting out tickets, we were free to roam around the site. It was amazing to hear all about the history of the place and to literally stand in the footsteps of the ancient Inca people.

9. You Can Take a Train Here?!

As I was walking around Machu Picchu, there was one thing that really stood out to me. Bearing in mind, I hadn't showered for four days, there was a very strong smell of perfume in the air, a lovely floral/fruity scent that seemed to linger. As I began to pay more attention, I realised that the people were shiny and happy, their clothes seemed freshly pressed and they had a spring in their step. I couldn't quite work out why I was trudging around, smelly, exhausted and grubby. I asked our guide why these people seemed so fresh-faced and full of beans. It turns out that actually, to get to Machu Picchu, you don't have to hike the Inca Trail. You can take a train and then a bus with absolutely zero effort involved! I couldn't believe I was only finding this out now!! Nonetheless, with this new found information, I still would choose to hike the Inca Trail all over again!

10. Where Am I Going To Next?

Hiking, conquering and ultimately suriving the Inca Trail was an experience that will stay with me forever. Despite being in a complete dire state of fitness - mentally and physically, I managed to keep up with some fairly expert hikers. I didn't need to be attached to the emergency oxygen tank and I didn't cry when things got tough! I persevered, pushed myself to the absolute limit and had my photo with Machu Picchu in the background!! 

I'm now one of those people who enjoys hiking and I look forward to planning the next adventure.

Since completing the Inca Trail, I've climbed further mountains in Antarctica, Egypt, Lebanon and have plans to scale Kilimanjaro and to make it to Everest's Basecamp.

Even though this was a truly challenging adventure, I do recommend that everyone gives it a go. I was in the worst physical shape but it helped to inspire me to get fitter and healthier, which is definitely not such a bad thing. I'm now one of those people who works out several times a week in the hope that I'll be a little more prepared for when I face my next mountain expedition! On the flipside, if I can survive as a totally unfit person then anyone can do this. No excuses!

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To read more about my Inca Adventure, click here!

For photographs visit the Inca Trail Gallery.

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