How Our Crew Prepares To Climb The Andes To Machu Picchu

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune

This June, The Adventure Tribune crew will embark on an adventure to Peru, where we’ll backpack up the Andes Mountains through ancient Incan ruins to Machu Picchu. Then, we’ll descend into the desert oasis of Huacachina to experience the World Cup of Sandboarding (and dabble in sandboarding ourselves).

Machu Picchu has held the Number One spot on my bucket list since I learned about it in fifth grade history class. The idea that I can explore ancient ruins that had once been completely swallowed by the jungle continues to fill me with this feeling of mystery and adventure.

Instead of taking a train to the base of the ancient city, we decided to spend five days climbing to it as a way to experience the brilliance and solitude of Peruvian natural wonders. We’ll also have the opportunity to explore more Inca ruins on our ascent.

So, how did we plan and organize this epic adventure, you might ask? Great question, and thanks for asking.

Flights and Hostels

We’re flying to Los Angeles, where we’ll board our AeroMexico flights. This airline received quality reviews and their price range fit our budget (we’re not luxury travelers). Once in the country, we’ll take a flight from Lima to Cusco and back using a domestic Peruvian airline with low prices (as long as we only bring carry-ons, which we plan to do).

In terms of room and board, we elected to stay in hostels throughout our time in Peru. Despite the bad reputation that hostels gained from the horror film, Hostel, we’ve had nothing but quality experiences in hostels throughout Europe and Central America.

In fact, I would argue that staying in a hostel is the only way to go for this type of adventure. Sure, hostels might not receive five-star ratings with room service and golden silverware, but I’m not traveling to Peru to spend 12 hours per day in my room. I’m here to see the country.

Hostels provide inexpensive sleeping quarters. You may share a room with some other people that you don’t know, which can lead to meeting more adventurers from other parts of the world, and to adventures that you didn’t have in your itinerary. Most hostels feature kitchens where you can prepare your own meals, further saving you money.

Our hostel in Lima is stations in the old Spanish colonial section of the city. Our hostel in Cusco lies in the old town section as well. When we stay in Huacachina, we’ll rest in an open-air hostel next to the oasis’ lake.

Permits and Visas

Once our flights and hostels were booked, we had the skeleton map of our trip planned. Now, we needed to file all the proper paperwork to make sure we could legally gain access to everything we wanted to accomplish. Luckily for us, Peru made that easy enough.

First, we ensured that our passports were updated. Then, we checked to see if we needed a special visa to enter the country. At this point, Peru only requires a visa if you plan to spend more than 180 days in the country; we don’t.

The Peruvian government does require special permits to climb certain trails to Machu Picchu, though. Since they only grant a few hundred permits per day, most of these permits have been gobbled by tour groups, so we’re climbing to Machu Picchu with a small band of Peruvians who operate a backpacking guide company; this company was able to secure permits for us, along with permits to climb above Machu Picchu to Huayna Picchu (that’s where all the cool pictures come from).

Altitude Training

Machu Picchu sits at about 8,000 feet above sea level, and Cusco tops that at 11,000 feet. In order to train our bodies to thrive at that oxygen-depravity, we’re training to adjust to high altitude.

In Oregon, which sits at basically sea level, hiking through the snow to the top of Mount Hood brings us above Machu Picchu’s elevation. In Denver, climbing a few 14,000-foot peaks before embarking on our Peruvian journey will give us an advantage as well.

We’ve been running frequently, hiking often, and hydrating in order to continue to prepare ourselves in the best way possible to enter a layer of the atmosphere that our bodies are unfamiliar with. We also plan to bring bottled oxygen with us on our journey (yes, bottled oxygen).

Doctor Visits and Vaccines

Prior to climbing up the Andes Mountains, we’ve visited our doctors for routine physicals to make sure that our bodies are in able condition to spend that much time in a foreign country’s wilderness.
We’ve also visited travel doctors to make sure that we’re updated on our vaccines that we may need to preserve our health in a foreign country.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the area west of the Andes, including Cusco, doesn’t require any obscure disease immunizations; if we were traveling to the Amazon side of the mountain range, that would be a different story. Certain diseases, like malaria and yellow fever, are present in the Amazon section of the country.

Gear Accumulation

In order to make the most out of our adventure to Peru, we’ve acquired certain pieces of travel gear that will enhance our capacity to capture as much of Peru as we can.

We’ve invested in some bottles of oxygen to limit altitude sickness. We’ve also acquired iodine pills that will sanitize our fresh water sources.

We’ll bring no luggage other than our backpacks. Each pack must be large enough to fit all of our needs when climbing up the Andes, yet small enough to fit on a plane as a carry-on. In terms of clothing, we’re bringing light rain gear, warm-weather clothes, hiking boots, and flip-flops. And warm clothes to sleep in while on the trail, of course.

Some fun, lightweight travel gear that will accompany us as well comes courtesy of Sea To Summit. We'll use their Ultra-Sil Dry DayPack to carry our necessities when exploring cities for the day. On the trail, we'll use their ultralight Aeros Pillow and Large Pocket Towel.

We’re also bringing some fun toys with us. I plan to carry a deflated soccer ball and a pump; you never know when a soccer game might break out. We have a few DSLR cameras (for photography), a video stabilizer (documentary coming soon), and an iPad (for typing down our thoughts). We’ll also bring some Peruvian-to-American plug adapters, as Peruvian electrical outlets output about twice the voltage as the standard U.S. electronic item can handle.

Spanish Practice

Another major aspect of the adventure comes from encounters with Peruvians themselves. It will be difficult to genuinely interact with people in Peru without a little Spanish language refreshment.

Though I know Spanish well, I don’t use it often enough or know it well enough to pass for a Spaniard; therefore, I need to brush up on my nouns and verbs before entering a Spanish-speaking country.

In my travels, I’ve found that locals are much more receptive to foreigners when I make an educated attempt to speak their language. It demonstrates respect and makes strides in erasing the “ignorant American” stereotype that’s too often true, and often precedes me.

In Conclusion

We plan to write updates about our preparation for this adventure, and we’ll write articles, post photos, and videos like crazy upon our return. Until then, be sure to follow Adventure Tribune social media accounts for updates.


Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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