June 2019 was a milestone month for Jarrett and me. Jarrett had just achieved a major career milestone and I had achieved my best fitness level in years. We had dreamed about returning to Peru after our 2012 honeymoon there, particularly to do the famous Inca Trail. So in May 2019, we finally made the decision to return to Peru to hike the trail. But we ran into a problem… the Inca Trail was limited by the Peruvian government to protect the historic site. As a result, passes had to be reserved almost a year in advance. With only a month to go before our scheduled trip, Jarrett and I were relieved to find that there were plenty of alternatives, some of which seemed even more exciting to us than the traditional Inca Trail.
We knew we wanted to hike with the support of a team, but we also wanted to make sure we traveled with a team of individuals who were well paid and supported on the journey. After making sure we had narrowed our list to a few ethical tour guide groups, we looked at prices, journeys, perks, and availability. That is how we chose Llama Path, a company that provides tour guides, porters, and support staff to help small groups of hikers complete the Inca Trail and other trails to Macchu Picchu.
The Chosen Path
We chose to embark on the Salkantay-Santa Theresa trek, What attracted us to this trail was the promise of seeing both snow-capped mountains and jungle hot springs throughout a five-day, four-night journey. Us native Texans don’t get a lot of exposure to these types of sites, which made for a promising adventure. Plus, with all the ups and downs the journey offered, we made sure we’d get in a good workout!
The following is an outline of the itinerary for the Salkantay – Santa Theresa Trek, as posted on the Llama Path website:
What the Tour Company Provided
Because we were travelling into Cusco, we wanted to limit what we had to pack with us on the plane. It’s been a while since we took this trip, so I’m going to rely on the pamphlet which Llama Path provided to us last year. They took care of providing the following for all group members, as outlined in their trip packet:
- Professional English Speaking Tour Guide
- Mules to carry cooking and camping equipment and 7kg of your personal items.
- Pick-up from Plaza Regocijo.
- Transportation by bus to Challa-cancha.
- Return transportation by train and bus to Cusco.
- Water (excluding the first 4 hours of the trek when you need to bring your own).
- 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Afternoon Snacks and 4 Dinners, with accommodations for vegetarians or others with different dietary restrictions.
- Dining tent with tables and chairs.
- 4 man tent for every 2 trekkers.
- 3 star hotel for final night.
- Sleeping mattress.
- Oxygen bottle.
- First aid kit.
- Entrance to Machu Picchu.
- Return bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes.
What the Tour Company Did Not Provide
- Sleeping Bag (Can be rented, but Jarrett and I chose to take our own sleeping bags for particularly cold climates.)
- Breakfast on Day 1 and lunch and dinner on Day 5 (They did take us somewhere local with very good food, but we had to pay separately for that.)
- Entrance to Huayna Picchu Mountain (Passes are limited and specifically assigned to individuals named in the passes.)
- Tips. (So take cash with you. There is an ATM you can use in Aguas Calientes and plenty in Cusco.)
- Travel Insurance – you are strongly recommended to take out travel insurance for the duration of your trip. (Anything can happen, so this sounds like a good idea.)
What You Should Take
The following is a list of items Llama Path says you should take, as well as what Jarrett and I recommend. You can take some of these items with you on the plane, but if you forget them or decide that it’s too much hassle, you can wait until you get to Peru.
- Original Passport.
- Student card (if you are a student and want to qualify for the discount).
- Walking boots.
- Waterproof jacket / rain poncho.
- Warm jacket.
- Hat and gloves.
- Comfortable Trousers.
- Sun hat.
- Sun cream (factor 35 or higher).
- Insect repellent.
- Toiletries and hand sanitize.
- Personal medication.
- Camera and film.
- Torch (flashlight) with spare batteries.
- Walking sticks (you can also rent these from Llama Path)
Llama Path offers both private and group rates for the journey. Jarrett and I enjoy meeting new people, so we chose to be part of a group. The price, at the time, was $695 per person, but this was in 2019 so prices may have changed. We didn’t qualify for the student discount and made sure we paid the deposit of $325 through PayPal.
On the evening prior to our departure, we were briefed on the itinerary and had the opportunity to ask questions. It gave us a last chance to change our minds on smaller details or find out if we needed to make a quick run for something we may have forgotten. This is also where group members pay for the balance left on their trip fees and rent anything that they might want to rent. For example, I realized I would need walking sticks for going downhill, and I rented them. I am really glad to have made that decision…
After leaving the briefing, Jarrett and I headed out to downtown Cusco to buy a few small things we hadn’t thought about, such as a microfiber towel and a small mirror. We then walked home and readied ourselves for the next day…