Friday, 31 August 2012 4:40 PM
When you're about to embark on a trip of a lifetime to climb the Inca Trial, you want to be prepared. Trekking to the ancient site of Machu Picchu, high up in the Andes, isn't a walk in the park, so here are some tips on what to bring on your adventure.
This is perhaps the most important thing you can take with you on your Inca Trail tour. The trek is 43 km long and winds through cloud forest and over steep Andean mountains, which means you need strong, durable boots or shoes that will help you complete the hike.
It is wise to get ones that offer ankle support, as the uneven ground and sometimes near-sheer sides you have to climb means you may fall over or lose your balance, which could cause damage to your ankles. Also look for ones that have good grip - the old Inca stones have been walked upon a lot since the 15th century and have worn down, so can often be slippery.
There are no fitness requirements to be able to walk the Inca Trail, and no matter how little you go to the gym, you are allowed to embark on the expedition. However, everyone may find it helpful to use trekking poles during the hike.
The trek will involve climbing steep hillsides on occasion - after all, you will reach a height of 4,200 m at one point in the walk - so having a pole for you to lean your weight on will certainly help a lot. These also reduce the strain on your knees, so you don't endure any pain during your trek and improve the chance that you will make it to the end without causing yourself any damage.
You can bring professional hiking poles with you, or you'll be able to find shops selling wooden poles in several sizes at the beginning of the trek should you want one that you can discard at the end of the trek.
Whether you are used to doing a lot of exercise or not, the Inca Trail is likely to take it out of you. Not only will you be walking consistently for four days, you will be tackling steep climbs and at a height where the air is a lot thinner. For these reasons, it is imperative that you bring water bottles that you can refill regularly.
Not only will having plenty of water keep you hydrated - especially during the drier months between June and August - but it is also essential to keep replenished to avoid altitude sickness. In addition, drinking plenty can alleviate symptoms if you have the illness, including nausea and feelings of weakness.
Sports bottles, hydration packs (which are useful for keeping in your bag as you can drink whenever you need to through a straw) and plastic bottles are all useful to bring.
When completing the Inca Trail, you will be camping at night. Therefore, it is important to be prepared for evenings in the dark. Bringing a torch will enable you to find your way from the main tent - where you will eat, drink and chat with your fellow travel companions - to your own tent.
It will also be helpful when you begin your early morning walk on the last day of your trek. You will set off while it is still dark and hike along the mountain edge so you can reach Machu Picchu to see the magnificent ancient site lit up by the sun as it rises in the sky.
Having a head torch, in particular, will certainly make the final stretch of your hike easier - so you can have your hands free to use your trekking poles and be able to find your way over the steep slopes without any trouble at all.