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The Biggest Mistake I Made Before Hiking to Machu Picchu


By Kathryn McLamb, POPSUGAR

[post_ads]Can I confess something to you? I am addicted to adventure. No matter the day, my mind thirsts for adventure the way some yearn for their first cup of coffee. So when I had the opportunity to hike the four-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu not too long ago, as you can imagine, the thought of this trek made me high on thrill.
Little did I know this adventure would unfortunately be one of the worst experiences of my life due to some unforeseen circumstances. Let's just say I brought home an unwanted souvenir from the trip: a parasite.

Would I make the trek again? Yes! Machu Picchu is an incredible place to discover in person, not to mention it is one of the new seven wonders of the world. But would I change a few things before making the trek again? Absolutely.

If trekking along the 26-mile Inca Trail is in your future or if the thought has ever crept into your mind, make sure you take into consideration the valuable eight lessons I learned from my experience.



1

Consult with your doctor before your trip.

The biggest mistake I made was not consulting with my doctor about travel medicine before taking off to Peru. The only medication I packed in my backpack were ibuprofen pills and Pepto-Bismol tablets. BIG mistake!

As luck would have it, I became severely sick the first night of the hike. At the time, I wasn't sure if I had caught food poisoning or some sort of virus. All I knew was I had never experienced this level of sickness before, and it was miserable, to say the least. Not only were there no private bathrooms along the hike, but none of the public stalls had toilet paper. I only had the one roll I'd remembered to take from our hotel before we embarked on the trail, and by the time we were reintroduced to civilization at the end of the trek, I kid you not, I was down to my last square. To top it all off, there were no showers along the trail, which made me feel even worse.

Looking back, I still don't know how I was able to finish the hike. But then again, what choice did I have? Not only did my sickness last all throughout my time in Peru and during the 10-hour flight back to the US, but I also did not fully recover until several weeks after returning home. Because we could not pinpoint the cause of my sickness, my doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist, who finally proclaimed I had been infected by a parasite.

And to think this entire experience could have been avoided had I been proactive and consulted with my doctor before the hike, instead of the other way around.



2

Bring the proper sun protection.

While I didn't think to consult with my doctor before hiking to Machu Picchu, I did remember to bring sunscreen. Yeah for small victories! Yet, not quite so yeah. As soon as the sun's powerful rays started beaming on my shoulders, I realized I should have packed sunscreen with a much higher SPF protection.

Unfortunately, my shoulders became sunburned within the first couple hours of hiking, which made carrying my backpack extra painful at times.

In addition to a high SPF, I would highly recommend bringing a bandana, a hat, and sunglasses. Since you'll encounter various types of weather along the trail, these three items will come in handy.

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3

Buy a water bladder for your backpack.

When hiking the Inca Trail, you'll come across so much natural beauty. However, the one thing you won't come across are water stations. The only time to refill your containers will be when your group stops for meals.

Therefore, having a water bladder in your backpack is a necessity when making this hike. Not only is it crucial for you to stay hydrated during these four days, but you also wouldn't believe how quickly you can chug through two liters of water.



4

Don't forget a rain cover for your backpack.

For the first three days of the hike, Mother Nature granted us with beautiful weather. Yet on our last day when we were just a few miles shy of Machu Picchu, the clouds decided it was time to have a good cry. Water poured from the sky, and we instantly became soaked. While many backpacks come with rain covers, mine did not.

So on top of already feeling extremely weak due to the fact I was still severely sick, I was just minutes away from having all my belongings drenched, which would have led to my backpack becoming even heavier to carry. Thankfully, our group leader had an empty white trash bag I was able to magically transform into a rain cover.



5

Invest in the right equipment, for you.

Investing in a good-quality backpack is extremely important, not only for your back but also for your stability. Luckily, there are countless options, so quality doesn't have to come at such a significant price tag. However, be sure to choose a backpack that is right for you.

I would highly recommend going to a sports store and properly getting fitted. Not only can the staff answer any questions you might have, but they can also teach you how to properly pack your bag. I never thought there was a right way to pack, but believe me, packing properly makes all of the difference!

And don't forget boots! Finding the right hiking boots is just as important. Yes, this can be another pricey item, but trust me, the investment is worth it. With proper boots, your feet will have the support they need to keep you balanced. Remember, you will be hiking at least 26 miles, so you will want a boot that is comfortable.


 

6

Pack layers.

Three words: layers, layers, layers!

Because you will be hiking to a peak of 13,000 feet above sea level, there is no doubt you will experience extreme fluctuations in weather. One minute, it will be hot, and then out of nowhere the temperatures will switch to cold. There was one instance where I even had to bring out my gloves. So, yes — layers are a must!


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7

Don't rely on your phone.

Raise your hand if you rely on your phone to live a double life as your camera?
Me, too.

But I am here to tell you not to do this! Please. I did, and somehow the majority of photos I snapped throughout these four days got deleted. To make matters even worse, because there was no cell service, the pictures were never backed up in the mysterious cloud. So, poof.

As if being sick wasn't enough, when I realized all the moments I had captured suddenly vanished, I couldn't help but start thinking maybe this trip just wasn't meant to be. Yet this could have been avoided had I relied less on my phone.

So please, learn from my mistake and make sure to bring a regular camera that requires a physical memory card.



8

Give yourself a few days to adjust to the elevation.

The majority of hiking groups meet in Cusco, Peru, before beginning their journey, so this will most likely be the city you will fly into. However, this area is at a much higher elevation, and your body will need time to become acclimated.

Some locals advised us to chew on coca leaves or drink coca tea to combat any altitude sickness. Be aware though that if you're not used to these leaves, as we were not, they can upset your stomach.

To be on the safe side, I recommend arriving into Cusco at least a few days before your hike so you can properly adjust. Take these days to leisurely explore the beautiful streets of this historic city and embrace the wonderful Peruvian culture.

Just remember to allow yourself plenty of time to rest up for what should be a remarkable journey. Hopefully, by taking these tips into consideration, you will have a much more positive adventure than what I experienced!



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