you can feel as prepared as possible and will probably will be over prepared. i didn't use half of the stuff that i packed or that was recommended. because at the end of the day, you're just trying to put one foot in front of the other... just trying to climb one more step up or one more step down. there's a place where you descend after Dead Woman's Pass, called 3,000 steps... yep, all the way down the mountain you just spent all day painstakingly climbing.
you have a lot of time to think when you're hiking 8 hours a day... and not just meandering through the mountains hiking, but strenuous-i-don't-know-if-i-can-make-it hiking. you start the morning being cold and by the end the day, you're sweating like a banshee then back again to being cold. at times i felt that i was stopping more to take off/put on layers than stopping because i couldn't breath or go up/down one more step... [spoiler alert: i took every step.]
the Incan spirit is alive and well in the Andes Mountains and i felt it every breathtaking step of the way. open your mind and heart and let them speak to you. i left more than a relic on the trail. i left my soul. my heart. my grudges. my heartaches. my regrets. my past. my pain. my loneliness. my spirit. i gave everything i had inside me to the Incan Trail, so when i got to the Sun Gate, i just let go. let go of it all. all of the worry. the mistakes. the stress. the fears. the what if's. the what could be's and could have been's. it all went away. i will never be the same person again. it was like a 3-day intense therapy session free of charge from the Incas. so for that, i'm eternally grateful and i will spend the rest of my life living the lessons they taught me.
do i recommend it? should it be on your bucket list? heck yeah! but no matter how well you train, nothing will prepare you for the journey you will take. words and pictures will not even come close to capturing the moment that will live inside your heart forever. your family and friends will not fully understand what you went through, even if they are there with you... simply because the journey is your own.
...but while i have your attention. i do have some suggestions about the trek. hey, it's just not an emotional journey, you have to be physically present too. the llama's are not going to give you a ride.
1. invest in a good, quality, warm sleeping bag. if you spend money on one thing, a sleeping bag is it. sleeping warm is one of the best parts of your night.
2. good, broken-in hiking boots... ok, spend money on these two things.
3. two trekking poles. i felt like a right twat for only having one. you need two.
4. when they tell you that the porters can carry 13 lbs of your stuff, let them. you'll need your pack to be light as possible. the porters are the hardest working people you will ever meet. they are so kind and so thoughtful... and so fast up and down the mountain. tip them well! i was constantly amazed by them and only wished the hardest working people would get paid the most in this world, but i guess that's a different blog.
5. dress in many layers (including hats and gloves) you go through so many different climate changes. at one point i was in my lightest layer, but i had on my gloves and a hat because it was cold and windy. you just never know what could happen.
6. they feed you well 3 times a day... the Chef was amazing. you will not go hungry.
7. i bought 3 different kinds of water purification systems. didn't open a one. they will boil water for you... that is all you need. us Americans get so caught up in so many uneccessary luxuries.
8. bring toilet paper... but don't throw it in the toilet, throw it away. (it's a Peruvian thing)
9. you will stink more than you ever have or thought you could... get over it.
10. let go... of everything and everyone holding you back from being happy- from being you.