Steve Butterfield

I did the Inca trail in 2017 with my two walking friends Tom and Brian. It was a remarkable experience.

If you are considering doing the trail, there are a few points to consider:

The highest point is at about 4000 metres. At this height some people can suffer from altitude sickness so your normal holiday insurance will not cover you. You will need to get specialist insurance that will enable you to be recovered from the mountains should you need assistance.

I sought advice from my doctor about the altitude sickness and he recommended taking the necessary medication. (I would advise you to at least ask your doctors advice).

We stayed in Cusco for 3 days prior to doing the trail to acclimatise ourselves to a higher altitude than we were used to. Cusco is at 3300 m.

The Trail is now highly regulated and passes are issued and you have to be accompanied by an approved guide. You pass is stamped at the start and at the finish.

There is a wide range of temperatures during the day, so when on the trail you will need to have clothing for the very cold mornings followed by very hot late morning and afternoons. My packing list is below. I would urge you to seek as much advice as you can before undertaking the trial.

We should have had 2 other people in our group (who we didn’t know) but they decided not to do the trail just prior to starting. So it was just us 3, plus our guide and our Sherpas who carried absolutely everything we need on their backs. We just had to carry our own clothes and sleeping bag and washing stuff etc. The porters were amazing running along the trail, setting up the tents and tent where we ate,  a table and chairs, gas for the stove and everything else you can imagine that we needed (not toilets). All the food was carried by them and the meals were fantastic.

Bear in mind you are in the Andes on a mountain side with very few if any home comforts. Toilets and washing facilities are less than basic and it is extremely uncomfortable. However, waking up in the morning looking out on the Andes mountains is an experience not to be forgotten easily.

It is not a long trial, covering about 24 miles in 4 days, but is very steeply up and very steeply down ,so if like me you suffer with bad knees then some training for the ups and downs on a rocky footpath would be worthwhile.

On the last day of the trail we had to get up very early to allow the porters to catch a train back to their homes. We waited for the gate to open for the final leg to Machu Picchu.

Once open, we followed the path in the dark heading for the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu. Our aim was to get there just as the sunrise was shining on Machu Picchu. There were a lot of other walkers.

One very kind American walker said; “excuse me sir, I hope you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” When I told him, he said  he admired us for completing it as he had found it very tough and he was at least 20 years younger. I have to admit that I didn’t find the steep inclines and descents easy, but we completed it.

Along the way we met other groups and we met the same group time and time again. It is a pleasure to experience this on these types of walks. The Coast to Coast was exactly the same.

So as we descended from the sun gate and approached Machu Picchu we met those day visitors who had travelled by train and by bus to get there. As expected it was extremely busy. Also, extremely hot.

The guides were operating a one way route around the site and it was very well controlled. They were also very particular about walking poles metal ends being covered to protect the path and stones. It was incredibly hot and I was incredibly tired so I just hid from the heat. Brian explored the site and thoroughly enjoyed it.

When the time came to leave I had my passport stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp.

We caught the bus and then the train back to Cusco and civilisation.

It had been a remarkable experience.

After a day or so in Cusco we flew back to Lima, spent a day there (viewing the Paddington statue amongst other things) before flying back home.