“A Martini Explorer” of Machu Picchu – Part I

Bridget & Jo, Machu Picchu, July 2014
I learned the term "martini explorer" from the book Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams. It's a euphemism for a person who thinks they're a tough traveler, but prefers a certain level of comfort and luxury. I've done quite a bit of travel in my day, but I have never considered myself a martini explorer. However, my experience trekking the Inca Trail  in Peru with my college buddy, Bridget, did turn out to have a bit more comfort and service than we anticipated. I think it had something to do with the 14 porters and 1 head cook to help 7 hikers plus a guide.
Dead Woman's Pass, elevation 13,891 ft
Dead Woman's Pass, elevation 13,891 ft
This once-in-a-lifetime trip was concocted a few years back when Bridget and I were in the midst of a reflective  conversation. The topic of our respective bucket lists came up. Much to our surprise, we both said how we wanted to visit Machu Picchu. Then one of us excitedly replied, "let's do it for our 50th birthdays!".  Fast forward three years to July 2014 where we found ourselves on a plane from Boston to Lima, Peru. Planning the Trip:  We planned our adventure with Andean Treks based near Boston, MA. We worked with a U. S. company to make it easier in case we needed to contact them by phone. We were very happy with Andean Treks as were our trek mates who hailed from the likes of WA, TX and NM. Andean Treks took care of everything except booking our flight from the U.S. to Lima.  (It's important to plan this trip at least 8 months in advance because you need a special permit if you're going to hike the Inca Trail.  Additionally, you need to arrange to have a variety of vaccinations as recommended by the CDC.) Reading Material:  If you're reader like I am, I highly recommend reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams before you go, and buying a travel guidebook to take with you like the Moon Handbooks: Cusco & Machu Picchu by Ross Wehner & Renee Del Gaudio. Upon your return, I also recommend your reading The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie. The latter one is quite a tome, but fascinating. Many of the places will resonate especially since you will have just visited them. Funny Anecdote:  In planning for this trip, I knew at least three people who had all visited Machu Picchu. Some who had gone recently. I had erroneously assumed that ALL of these folks had hiked the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu, a 4-day journey, because they were like-minded, athletically-inclined, adventurous types like myself. So in getting ready for my trip,  I figured that if Ceila, Lois, and Elizabeth had done the hike, I certainly could do it too, without a lot of extra training. It was only when the trip was three weeks away that I realized that NONE of these three people had actually done the hike. They all had taken the train to visit Machu Picchu. My husband still laughs about this. Needless to say, I do recommend getting physically fit. The more fit, the more enjoyable the trek will be.
My gear for Machu Picchu
Packing List:  The trekking company that you select will inevitably send you a packing list. One of the most important things that I brought were hiking poles. My knees are weak from years of long distance running and the trail steps can be steep, especially after it has rained. The poles were particularly useful when going downhill on the trail.  Here is what I brought with me on the trek. (I stored other things at my hotel, Rumi Punku,  for free):
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 parka shell
  • 1 pull-over fleece
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 long underwear top & bottom
  • 4 pairs of wool socks
  • Baseball hat & wool hat
  • Gloves
  • 2 T-shirts
  • Rain poncho
  • Swimsuit
  • A Nalgene water bottle + a platypus water bladder
  • A few stuff sacks
  • Head lamp
  • A small, quick-dry towel
  • Essential toiletries
  • A small mirror
  • Sunglasses/glasses
  • A small day pack
  • Collapsible hiking poles
  • Bug spray
  • Hiking boots, sneakers, flip-flops
  • Snacks for the trail
  • Down sleeping bag & small pillow
*What I wish I had brought: a treat for my trekking group and the porters, some sort of sleep aid (Bendryl), and Starbucks Instant Coffee. A bit of string would have been handy to hang a clothesline in the tent, and some prunes for obvious reasons. Some of my trek mates brought a small box of wine from Target. Apparently some Targets in the U.S. sell  small box wines. After our toughest day of hiking, passing the box wine around is still one of my most pleasant memories of camaraderie.
"Like Hong Kong or Beirut, Cusco is an in-between city where cultures have collided."  from Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams.
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Cusco:  Cusco is a glorious city at 11,150 feet. It has a mixture of architecture from the Incas and the Spanish Golden Age.  I could have stayed a few weeks in this city alone as it is so beautiful. It has a lovely main plaza (Plaza De Armas) as well as cathedrals, museums, markets, restaurants, and the stone fortress, Sacsayhuaman.  Bridget and I spent two days in Cusco pre-and post-trek to acclimatize and rest, and we were thankful we did so. Hotel Rumi Punku was a perfect mid-range hotel with impeccably clean rooms, friendly staff, and a delicious complimentary breakfast.
Hotel Rumi Punku, Cusco
Hotel Rumi Punku, Cusco
At the entrance of Sacsayhuaman.
                  Read more about the actual trek in my upcoming post, "A Martini Explorer" of Machu Picchu - Part 2.      

4 thoughts on ““A Martini Explorer” of Machu Picchu – Part I

  1. Hi Jo – I am Nicole’s mom. We are here in Cusco right now. We stayed overnight in Machu Picchu and did a couple of hikes. ( of course in the ruins). I am so impressed that you did the full trek. I told my husband that I thought you did as we saw people on the trails. What a wonderful achievement. Can’t wait for part 2!

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