Now that I’m sitting on a beach in Playa Blanca, Colombia in 34 degrees, I can finally bring myself to write about our time in Peru on tour with G Adventures. Starting with our Inca trail experience… strap yourself in for this one.
For some reason, before Georgi and I left the UK back in October 2017, we thought it would be a great idea to book an organised tour through STA Travel with G Adventures. We booked onto the Andean Discovery (north to south) totalling 20 days, taking you from Lima in Per, to La Paz in Bolivia, which includes the 4 day Inca trail to Machu Picchu. (I will be writing about the overall tour soon, stay tuned.)
Before I start I need to point out that we are not the trekking type, and I’m sure you’ll gather that by the end of this. Why we thought this was a good idea we still have no idea, but we booked it and got through it, just. The trek involves 3 nights of camping and 4 days of hiking, 43 kilometres of pretty much an up hill struggle, before you reach the famous “sun gate” at Machu Picchu; the picture on everyone’s Facebook or Instagram and on every postcard in Peru.
Day 1 (11km, 5.5hours)
Now day 1 is where we realised we got it so wrong, it was definitely a tame taster of what was to come. You start along a river and head uphill, I was shattered within the first 30 mins and debated an early exit but carried on through the pain.
My calf’s didn’t realise what had hit them. Please remember that most people train before this trek, me and G have been laying on beaches and drinking beers for the last 10 months with no fitness in sight lol.
After a serious incline, making sure we didn’t get kicked off the side of a mountain by a horse or donkey running downhill past you carrying all sorts of shit, you reach the first view of an incredible Inca site. To be fair, what we didn’t know was it was going to be one of the few things we saw on the trek.
Now barring in mind it was dry season with a 2% chance of rain, we had the worst luck ever. It poured down from the end of day 1 until the start of day 3, and then for the whole of day 4! Absolute nightmare.
Day 2 (12km, 7 hours)
Tears, tantrums, suicide watch…. how else can I describe day 2? After a sleepless night in the tent, bloody torrential rain, we were up bright and early (around 6am) to embark on the uphill section described by our guide as the “fuck section”.
This is due to the fact that that is all you hear people saying whilst completing it, he was so right. Ascending up to 4200m above sea level, in crazy rain, with slippery surfaces all around and cramping muscles…. it’s a recipe for disaster.
Poor girls, they were just taking it in turns up the hill to have a tactical cry. G, Caitlin, Phoebe all having their turn before Penny went and fell off the side of a mountain! Luckily Phoebe was on standby with a helpful hiking pole to pull her back to safety.
When you finally reach the summit of “Dead Woman’s Pass” you can physically see the wind shooting over the top. It was enough to force some people to turn around and quit! Surely when you get to the top you would carry on, but a number of older American lads called it a day. The pure thought of walking face first into that wind downhill for 3 hours was too much to endure.
It was so cold in this top section I honestly thought my stump was going to fall off! We had to stop multiple times so I could put my hands in my mouth or Georgi’s, just for some heat! P.s I’d highly recommend gloves if you’re thinking of doing this stupid activity lol.
There’s so much more that happened, but I can’t fit it all in, one day I’ll jot it down in full. For now just realise this was a day from hell, where visibility was low, rain was high and pain was through the roof.
Day 3 (16km, 9 hours)
Ahhhhh what a relief it was to wake up to no rain.
The longest day of trekking but it was well worth it. I was feeling good and arrived first to the most incredible Inca site with Tine, Phil and Caitlin not too far behind. What an amazing place, I’m just going to let the pics do the talking.
We even got the amazing site of a double rainbow across the valley.
The worst part of the day was G twisting her ankle, putting her about an hour behind the pace, but her and Penny seemed to enjoy themselves and made it to the Inca site to join in with the group pics. One of the best views I’ve ever experienced, well that and a warm shower once it was all over.
Day 4 (5km, 1.5 hours)
I don’t think I’m going to be able to capture everyone’s emotions in this section. After another night of pouring rain, we had a 3am wake up call to get through the final check point and move onto the “Sun Gate”. It was pouring with rain, so hard!
The trail was one big slippery puddle after another in the pitch black. We had to shout instructions such as “step up”, “step down” to the person behind. Even with our head torches on it was a dangerous trek, with sheer drops to your right hand side, one slip and you wouldn’t even be seen falling. I have some crazy footage that hopefully will be in an outtake video soon.
Once you make it up the “gringo killer”, a vertical wall that you have to climb using your hands, you reach the “magical” Sun Gate…. Well….. we had ZERO visibility. We were basically in a big fucking cloud.
Everyone’s faces dropped and the realisation sunk in that we had just trekked for 4 days to not even see Machu Picchu at the end of it. To say moral dropped was an understatement.
We then embarked on the hour downhill trek to Machu Picchu knowing we weren’t going to be able to see anything.
Our close group that had endured the worst 4 days had just hit its panicle of disappointment, so we did the only thing we thought could sort our sorrows out. We didn’t tour Machu Picchu (what was the point), we got the first bus down into the town and got royally boozed up at 8am!
It was shit, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, not when you can get a very scenic train up to Machu Picchu for 1% of the cost lol.
I always want to finish a blog on a high, and the only consistent high we had was the food and the team behind the scenes for the whole 4 days.
We had 2 chefs and a team of 24 porters looking after 12 of us. These guys were heroes.
They run ahead with all your gear and set up camp, set up your tents, distribute your stuff and get the food ready. We had breakfast, a three course lunch and three course dinner every day as well as afternoon tea at 5pm with snacks.
All the ingredients were carried by the porters from the start, which must have weighed a ton! They even took everyone’s preferences, allergies and dietary requirements on board. On our last night the chef even baked us a cake at 3600m above sea level with no oven. Just crazy skills and the tastiest memory I’ll take from the 4 days.
When you think of “all the gear no idea” types, we weren’t even that, we were definitely “no gear, no idea” haha. I wore a cheap pair of trainers I’ve had on me since the start of our journey, G had a higher quality Nike pair (you know what girls are like with their gym wear these days). We have been on the road for a while, so we weren’t going to invest in hiking boots just for 4 days. We had also heard off other people who have previously done the trek, that trainers are doable. To be fair mine went in the bin after, but they did the job!
Considering it was dry season we only took good quality rain ponchos. If we knew what was to come we would have definitely taken proper rain coats. Now we didn’t take any altitude sickness tablets, but we also didn’t enjoy the cocoa leaves, so we stuck to the cocoa sweets and they seemed to do the trick. Whilst on our whole 20 day tour we had adjusted our bodies to the altitude slowly by stopping at higher towns, including 4 days in Cusco before going on the trek. This is a must! We saw so many people dropping out on day 2 when they couldn’t take the altitude once over 4000m above sea level.
Clothes wise, the tactic we all used was to layer up. Start with shorts and a base layer top and layer up so you wear the majority of your clothes. Don’t worry if you think you’ll stink after 4 days, everyone does! (Take some baby wipes, they’ll sort you out). You can take your own day backpack on the trek, but they recommend to only take up to 7% of your body weight. I recommend packing as light as you possibly can!
Take toilet roll, do not forget this haha! There are holes in the ground occasionally, but if you need to go, then you’ll be squatting behind a rock of your choice. The porters that are with you for the whole 4 days can only carry a certain amount of weight. This means you can only give them 6kg of weight to carry per person. They carry 20 or 25kg each, they’re super human, it’s just insane to watch!
Now if you rent the sleeping bag and air mattress, like we did they take up 3.5kg of weight. I can’t recommend this enough, or you will freeze to death! So you only actually have 2.5kg left of space to pack in your duffle bag which is provided by G Adventures. To hire the sleeping bag, air mattress and 2 hiking poles costs 110 Soles (around £22pp), which for 4 days isn’t bad and well worth every penny.
I have to say our guide Paolo and his assistant JP were very decent, and you could tell they’ve done this a million times. They always briefed the group on the upcoming days events and how everything would unfold. One of the guides would always be at the back of the group to support the stragglers (usually me and G, we’re just not made for it) and ensure we don’t fall off the side of a mountain. These guides are only with you for the trek, they are not the guides who starts with you in Lima (if you’re doing the whole 20 day tour). These are specific Inca trail guides, I think G adventures call them their Inca Warriors.
What to bring / what we took
What Georgi took:
2 sports bras
1 vest top
2 long sleeve tops
1 rain poncho
2 pairs of gym leggings
1 thick pair of leggings
First aid kit
What Georgi wish she took:
What Sam took:
2 pairs of shorts
1 pair of trackie bottoms
1 base layer (Under Armour)
1 rain poncho
What sam wish he took
Would we do it again, hell no.
Will we ever hike again, absolutely not.
Will we camp again, gonna say no.
Will we ever book a holiday to a cold country, nah…. not for us!
But we did meet a lovely bunch of people and we’ll definitely try our best to stay in touch. You all know where we are if you ever want a beer!