Woohoo cheers to my first blog post ever!!! (patting myself on the back). For the inaugural post, I’m going to share my recent adventure to the great country of Peru.
Trip duration: 1/22/15 to 2/1/2015
Route: Dallas => Lima => Cusco; Cusco => Lima => Dallas
Flying Method: Miles (award flights booked in early October ’14 for January ’15 departure)
- American Airlines AAdvantage: 50,000 miles (DFW-LIM roundtrip on economy via AA) – miles earned via Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select (sign-on bonus of 50K miles upon meeting minimum spending requirement)
- British Airways Avios: 9,000 points (LIM-CUZ roundtrip on economy via LAN) – points transferred from Chase Sapphire Preferred (sign-on bonus of 40K points upon meeting minimum spending requirement)
At a bookclub back in October, when a friend nonchalantly asked if anyone was interested in hiking the Inca Trail, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Going to Machu Picchu had been on my bucket list for quite some time, and I wasn’t about to let this chance slip by. The following week, we booked our flights and reserved our spots with Peru Treks for a 4 day / 3 night hiking excursion to the Inca Trail. January could not come fast enough!!!
No visa was required for U.S. citizens visiting Peru. Upon arrival into Lima at 1:30am after a 9 hour flight, my travel companion and I quickly checked into the Sheraton in downtown Lima (across from the city hall) using Starwood points. We managed to get about 3, 4 hours of shut eye and left around 8:30am (yes the same day) to get on a domestic flight to Cusco.
I was in awe when the visual of the valley came into view
We got into Cusco 2 and a half days before our hike so we could get acclimated to the altitude (the highest point on the Inca Trail is around 4,200M. Cusco’s elevation is around 3,400M). I found a reasonably priced bed & breakfast and booked a total of 3 nights there through airbnb. The first day in the city was somewhat uneventful as we tried to take it easy so our bodies could get adjusted. We found ourselves huffing and puffing with only a little bit of walking due to the high altitude, however after a while it did get better. We checked in at Peru Treks and the lady there walked us through the details and prepped us on what to expect on the hike. We also signed up for a day tour to the Sacred Valley for the following day.
Yes that is indeed a face on the left side of the mountain
Fast forward to “THE” day of our Inca Trail departure. We got up at the crack of down and waited in front of our B&B at 5am, only to get picked up an hour later (uhhhh can’t you just tell us to be ready by 6). Anywayz at least we didn’t get left behind. On the bus we were acquainted with our tour guide David and learned that there were a total of 16 hikers in the group (the maximum # of people allowed by Peru Treks). Holy moly who would’ve though the tail end of the hiking season (also the raining season) would still attract so many people.
Side note: The government of Peru only allows about 500 permits per month for people to go on the Inca Trail. This includes all the guides, porters and hikers (so around 200 permits would get allocated to the hikers). During the dry season in June/July, the permits get sold out very quickly. It’s recommended to book the hike 6 months in advance.
The hike on the first day in hindsight was the shortest and perhaps the easiest out of the 4 days. However being that I did not know what to expect, and with lots of steep incline as well as the drizzling rain, I didn’t really enjoy the 1st day as much as I should. This was also my very first time camping (how else to do it but on the Inca Trail, right). Sleeping in a tent wasn’t that bad if my legs weren’t achy, clothes weren’t damp and it wasn’t pouring hard outside.
We had the luxury of having the porters carry the essential equipment (tents, tables, chairs, cookware, propane tanks (yeah huh), etc on the trail, and even had a chef preparing meals for us 3 times a day plus tea time. I said luxury since it’s not everyday you go camping and have people carry all that and cook for you. However, this is actually a standard accommodation for folks hiking the Inca Trail. I’d have to say the meals were my favorite part of the trip. We even got a delicious cake for dessert on our last night.
To spare you from the grueling details on the trip (i.e. no showering for 3 days, the disgusting outhouses, waking up at 3am on the last day to get in line at the checkpoint, mooning the porter, mice scandal, llama drama, etc), I’ll just go straight to the pictures.
After a very humbling experience on the Inca Trail and a renewed sense of gratitude, we returned to civilization and the group spent a couple of hours in Aguas Calientes (where I pampered myself with a (mediocre) massage only because I was in desperate need of a shower). We then caught a train/bus back to Cusco that night. Believe it or not, after all the physical and mental tortures, I’d do the hike all over again in a heart beat. It was that good (or I’m just that weird). Well, okay so I really would like to go back and finish hiking Wayna Picchu. =)
We returned to Lima the next day and had a good day and a half exploring the Mira Flores area (hotel booked via Club Carlson points at the Radisson). It’s a pretty (and expensive) coastal area alongside the Atlantic Ocean. I finally got to try the much anticipated ceviche and pisco sour (national drink of Peru) and they did not disappoint. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to try the local cuisine: cuy (guinea pig). It looks too cute to eat anyway.
It was such a fun and adventurous trip all in all. My friend and I survived each other’s company for one; secondly we utilized miles and points which saved over $2,000/person in airfare and hotel cost; best of all, we were able to say: “I survived the Inca Trail”. Cheers!
If you have any questions or comments please drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you.