Need to Know: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The pinnacle of our South America travels lead up to the New Wonder of the World – Machu Picchu. A 4 day trek, following in the footsteps of Inca Kings, was a great way to say goodbye to Peru. The Inca Trail is known as the most popular route because the 4 days of trekking leads you directly to Machu Picchu. On the way you will explore ancient settlements, Incan ruins and come up close with nature.

Need to Know_

Click image above to visit my Travel Pinterest Board

The History
The Inca Trail was used as a route of pilgrimage by the Kings (Incas) in the 15th century. This ‘royal road’ was only for religious and ceremonial purposes, making this an extremely spiritual place for those who walk in their footsteps today. Along the route, the Incas would conduct rituals to honour the mountains, the river and the earth. Machu Picchu was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and work continues to excavate and study the site.

The Logistics
In the run up to the trek I was bamboozled with the logistics! Do I need to carry all my belongings with me? If not, where do I leave my rucksack? How much do I carry? What’s the right footwear… the list could go on. Luckily, we had Manuel from G-Adventures to sort us all out!

You are given a duffel bag to put the clothing you would like to take with you, your sleeping bag and air mattress. The grand total is 6kg in your duffel bag. The sleeping bag and air mattress can be hired from G-adventures with a weight of 1kg each. We decided to just hire the sleeping bag so we had 5kg each for clothing and additional snacks. Worth noting that the tents do come with a roll mat already but the air filled one would give you extra comfort. The duffel bag is carried by the porters and you can carry your own small rucksack with all the necessities for a hike. The rest of your belongings are locked away with everyone elses in the hotel and you return to the same hotel at the end of your hike. Makes sense?

Inca Trail Start

Footwear was even debated within our team and it is honestly so difficult to say what is the best. I wore my Asolo Mountaineering hiking boots and didn’t regret it. They provided ankle support, they had great grip, were waterproof but naturally are heavier than trainers. We were fortunate with the weather throughout the hike with it only raining on an evening. A few of the team did slip in trainers walking down the many steps you will encounter, so if you prefer a lightweight shoe maybe go for trail running shoes.

The porters are absolute legends! Quite honestly, I feel it would be impossible to do the hike without their support. Between them they carry your tent, duffel bags and food for the whole trip. In 2002, Peruvian Government introduced Porters Laws meaning that the porters now have a minimum wage of 43 soles (approx. £7.50). Also, they can now only carry a maximum weight of 20kg on the Inca Trail. This is why you are limited to 6kg duffel bags to respect these new much needed laws that avoids overloading the porters.

The Journey
Day 1 was approximately 5 hours of trekking beginning at the floor of the Sacred Valley. You will explore ancient Incan sites along the way. It was incredible to see how forward thinking the Inca’s were with how they built their homes, stone paths and stored food for up to 20 years! The first day you stuck together as a group for the impressive explanations from your guide.

Inca ruins 1

Day 2 of the trek fell on my 26th birthday which was the most perfect day! Even though we were trekking for 11 hours, I knew I wouldn’t moan one bit as it was my Birthday after all. We were woken by porters with hot water bowls and ‘Happy Birthday’ was sang to me and even a gift snuck in the rucksack. This day we were able to walk at our own speed which for me meant steady and for the mister meant speedy. However, I had my new found friend Emmy by my side the whole day. Considering we were walking at altitude, we never stopped talking all day! ! We climbed up to the highest point of 4215 metres to Dead Woman’s Pass (Warmiwanusca in Quechua language).  This naturally occurring high point, when seen from the valley below resembles a woman’s body. I must admit hearing Duncan and Nathan shouting our names, waving and dancing, gave us the motivation to get ourselves to the top – the most rewarding moment of the hike! After endless up hill, we headed down the never ending downhill steps to the tunes of Take That and Spice Girls!

Dead womans pass

After a well deserved feast that evening, I was greeted by the chef with an epic Birthday Cake to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the team. This had been organised, without my knowledge, the first day of the Peru on a Shoestring tour, by Manuel! I still have no idea how they managed to steam a birthday cake in the middle of nowhere… but it was delicious and a perfect end to the day!

Day 3 leads to Choquequirao known as the Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu. This other lost city, that is believed to have been created around the same time as Machu Picchu, is actually bigger and more tranquil due to less people. Only 30% of this site has actually been restored. The views of the mountains, the detail in the ruins and the terraces are simply awe-inspiring. You can feel the excitement building, as you get closer and closer to the end goal!

Inca ruins 3

Day 4 is an early one, waking at 3am in order to be the first group at the checkpoint that opens at 5.30am. With a small breakfast making me feel more like a human, we set off with sore feet, aching legs and knees. At the Sun Gate you get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu, a surreal moment that made most people a little emotional. What we had been trekking for was around the corner! Be aware that as you enter Machu Picchu there will be many people who have arrived on a bus… now as frustrated you could get by this, don’t let it ruin your experience. There is plenty of room for everyone and your stinky clothes, red faces and smelly feet will keep them away!

Side note: Before setting off on our round the world trip, my nephew expressed an interest in all the places we were going. We would sit on Google Images and search for pictures of Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu etc. He spotted a picture of Machu Picchu with a Llama and was transfixed by it and said I had to take the same picture! You never guess who wanted to join us in our postcard picture… take a look for yourself!

41326717_10216746520606167_9167296102024609792_n

At Machu Picchu you have a guided tour and nearly 4 hours to explore in total! It was magical, surreal, awe-inspiring and even spiritual. Considering how many people are within the grounds, it is a tranquil and serene experience. You can take your time and really soak up your surroundings, breathe in fresh mountain air and reflect on your past three days trekking.

Booking in Advance
If this sounds like something you would love to do, be aware that you need to book approximately 6 months in advance. Due to Peruvian law, there is now a limit on how many people can walk the Inca Trail a day. There is a total of 500 people allowed, with 300 of them being the porters and 200 hikers. We booked through STA Travel with G-Adventures on the Peru on a Shoestring Tour. With G-Adventures you can be reassured in the knowledge that the tour guide will be knowledgeable, funny and patient. The food will be divine and the tents and equipment will stand up to the elements.

Read my Planning: Peru on a Shoestring Tour here.

41388415_954307194770917_1175900747871551488_n

 

I would like to dedicate this blog to our new found friends, Emmy and Nathan who had the most romantic engagement I have witnessed at Machu Picchu! It was a pleasure to be a part of your special moment, and we wish you a lifetime of happiness!

 

Go the Distance in Peru,

Chloe

Advertisements

Highway to Hell: Death Road, Bolivia

Looking for an adrenaline thrilled experience while in Bolivia, then look no further, Death Road may be for you!

Now, I have never been fearful of heights, I have skydived for charity and love a good rollercoaster but this pushed me well out of my comfort zone! Reflecting on the experience, I think the fact there are no harnesses and the fact you are responsible for your own safety, is the reason I was so nervous!

highway to hell death road la paz bolivia.png

Click above image to visit my Pinterest Travel Board

We started the day with breakfast at Little Italy and met fellow thrill seekers who were also a tad nervous. We had a detailed safety briefing and were given time to get used to our new 2 wheeled friends. As tradition goes we splashed 96% alcohol on the bike and the ground as an offering the mother earth (Pachamama). I asked mother earth to keep us all safe and even took a swig of the alcohol for ultimate effect.

death road alcohol

We were let loose single file down windy, fast, but smooth-ish roads as our first test of our mountain biking skills. The group was full of confident and speedy bikers but I held my own (well my brakes) and took it steady! The leader did sympathise with the fact that little people do feel the wind more. I appreciated the sentiment!

death road first par

Then it was time to tackle Death Road itself! I haven’t been this nervous in a long time… I was actually silent in the minivan thinking of excuses to get out of it. The Death Road itself is actually called Yungas Road and it was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan war prisoners. Nowadays, this 56 km road has been dubbed the ‘worlds most dangerous road’. Each year this road claims the lives of 300 motorists and 20 cyclists on average. You see cross markings from where vehicles have fallen and believe me you see a lot of these along the track.

death road biking crosses

The Old Road is the only road in Bolivia where people drive on the left hand side. This is so they are actually closer to the edge so they can judge how close they are! Cyclists have to follow this rule too… great for the Brits until you realise how steep the drop is!
Our adventure started in the clouds at 4700 metres . The winds helped us fly down to 1100 meters, but my motto was ‘Slow and steady wins the race’. However, I always arrived last at every check point! I was kind of glad about this as I really needed to concentrate on not killing myself so being alone with the elements suited me. I also didn’t want to live up to Duncan’s new nickname for me … ‘Calamity Chloe’.

death road bolivia

Although I escaped with no injuries just 20 insect bites (random!), other fellow bikers slipped off their bikes and one even flew over the handle bars! This was actually caught on the go-pro but will be put in the safe hands of his friends haha!

Now Death Road definitely doesn’t need to be anymore nerve-wrecking than it is, so please choose a reputable company so you can feel safe! There are over 300 companies offering Death Road tours with only a handful of them being legit companies. The gold standard is Gravity with pristine bikes and additional perks such as a relax at a cabin and visit to an animal refuge. Barracuda Biking (who we picked) use the year old Gravity bikes and are a cheaper but just as safe option with a private pool to reward you at the end.

death road team photo

Thank you to Barracuda Biking for your patience, kindness and motivating words throughout the day. All pictures featured on this blog were taken by Barracuda and sent across within 2 days… how great is that! We both still wear our free t-shirt to remind us of our adrenaline filled day!

Be sure to check out their 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor!

Go the distance on Death Road,

Chloe

How to Save for Round the World Travel

Saving has never been my strong suit, mainly because I have always thought I don’t earn enough to even save and my spare money usually got spent on gifts for other people! So when we made the decision we were going travelling and we plucked the £10,000 each figure out the air… we had something to aim for. This meant serious cut backs and I hope to explain in some kind of organised way how we cut back and made more money in the run up to our Round the World Trip.

How to Save for RTW Travel (2)

Firstly, I would start with figuring out what big items you can sell. You’re not going to need your car while you are travelling the world. It’s best to work out how much a similar car, with similar mileage and condition is selling for on AutoTrader for a good estimate. Minus this chunk of money off your total and you will know what you have left to find (£7500 in my case).

Minimise your outgoings

What’s your housing situation? If you are in rented accommodation, could you downsize or move back home with your parents? This is what I did and honestly, without my mum and dad hosting me rent free I don’t think this would have been possible. Actually, they deserve a big shout, I love you both to pieces! If you have a mortgage and spare rooms, why not rent out a room for an addition £250-£300 a month that can go into your savings.  This could also be a source of income to top up your funds while you are travelling too.

Take a good look at your bank account. What outgoings do you have? I stopped paying the gym especially as I didn’t go anyway and moved to home workouts – good old Joe Wicks helped me out! I realised I was paying insurance for random items I didn’t own anymore, so cancelled them too.

beware of little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship

The weekly food shop can cost a crazy amount and this is something we really cut back on. We wrote out the food shopping list for the exact meals we wanted to cook (using up whatever was in the cupboards first). We did not deviate from this list and really shopped around for the best buy. Aldi and Lidl are often the cheapest, but Home Bargains fresh food section had even better buys. We even tried going to the Butchers and a Green Grocers and although the quality was better and less plastic packaging, it was still more expensive. We are both meat lovers but it can be expensive, so we have found more veggie and vegan recipes to minimise the cost. Swapping chicken breasts for chicken thighs is also a good saving too.

Socialising! Nights out became nights in. For some this might be a struggle but when you have such a big goal to aim for and you know what amazing adventures lie ahead, missing a piss-up in town your not really too bothered about. We still went to big occasions, like weddings and christenings but I drove and didn’t drink and spent less than usual on gifts. Our friends were more than understanding and we had great nights in with board games and a bottle of wine!

The Maths

So you know you have say £7500 left to find and you have minimised your outgoings. Do some simple maths and divide your total by how many months you have before you leave… say 12 months. You then know what you have to put away each month (in this example £625). Now you have minimised your outgoings, work out each month what your essential payments are (direct debits, fuel, food) and minus that from your income. Be realistic and set aside money for any occasions that month and try to get the £625 covered from your wages. For some people this might not be possible so you can top up the savings with what you sell that month and extra earnings (see below!)

spend what is left after saving

Sell, Sell, Sell

You can’t take everything and the kitchen sink with you. You have a backpack and that’s all so it’s time for a major clear out. I have sold all my house furniture to friends or on Gumtree. I have sold all the clothes I’m not taking with me on eBay (apart from a small box of favourite clothes!). Our families and friends have also given us items they were going to throw away or give to charity shops for us to sell too! Although it is time consuming and some things may sell for a measly 99p, every penny really does count. A month before we go, anything that had struggled to sell online we will put on a car boot!

‘I need a dollar, dollar, dollar is all I need’

Time to get your thinking cap on, and brainstorm ideas about how to make more money! Do you have any hidden talents? Are you really creative? Are you a budding entrepreneur? For me I taught myself how to make Handmade Soy Wax Candles and upcycled any jar I could find. I set up a little Facebook group with all my local friends and sold to them. I was honest about where the funds were going and people were more than happy to support us. I have known people do a ‘charity’ event, sell their artwork, upcycle and sell items… what could you do?

Re-occurring income

As I mentioned with the renting out your home, having a reoccurring income while you’re away will really help if your savings just don’t go as far as you intended. I have begun this blog and I am gradually learning ways to monetise it for additional income (happy to hear any tips!). I’m also fortunate to have a social marketing business that can be built while I travel the world (just need WiFi which may be a struggle at times!). It is important to have multiple income streams set up prior to leaving home. These will give you flexibility, more choices and help sustain you for longer than the year, if you so wish!

For more information on social marketing contact me via my social media platforms 

£10,000 sounds like a lot but by breaking it down, keeping track every month and being super committed to the cause, what may seem impossible can become possible.

Go the Distance,

Chloe.

Unplugging from the world with a Digital Detox

Recently I have had an increased awareness of the reliance I have on the Internet, in so many parts of my life. Now… as an online entrepreneur I recognise the huge benefit’s of the information era. Without it this blog wouldn’t reach a global audience, nor could I run a part-time online business around my full-time job, and I wouldn’t be able to connect with my international friends … the list can continue on and on.

However, I have a feeling that the technology revolution is being abused by using it for literally everything! Let’s think… how many times have you said or done the following in the last two weeks.

  • ‘Oh I don’t know… I’ll just Google it’
  • Scrolling mindlessly through Facebook
  • Watching cat videos for a quick giggle
  • ‘I wonder how many likes I’ve got’
  • Spying on celebrities lives
  • Pinning every home DIY idea on Pinterest
  • The list of unhealthy habits can continue

So the first step is awareness, the second is doing something about it! As we had a holiday to Fuerteventura booked I thought this would be the perfect time to do a digital detox, escape from being constantly connected in order to break the habit and create a healthy relationship to WiFi.

unplugging from the world with a digital detox.png

As I arrived at Manchester airport, the aeroplane mode was switched on and stayed on for a whole 7 days. I guess I best tell you what I found.

The time. How many of us go to look at our phone purely for the time? But then get distracted by the numerous notifications on our home screen, which you just ‘have’ to read. To then 10 minutes later forget you only actually meant to check the time. The old school invention of the watch… literally is timeless. Putting my beautiful Olivia Burton watch on this holiday (a gift from my best friend Hannah) helped me not reach for my smart phone when all I needed was the time.

Often there are times on holiday when you simply are doing nothing. This is a rarity in our hectic corporate lives where there is a need to be doing something every second of every day in order to get everything done, in the limited 24 hours a day we have. So I found the time I was most likely to pick up my phone was in times of nothing-ness (I don’t want to use the word boredom as that word has negative connotations which are holiday was not). My replacement for surfing the internet was reading. I took away with me two books The Compassionate Mind and Personality Plus which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes I chose not to read and instead engaged in simple deep breathing mindfulness exercises to appreciate my surroundings.

 

With tired eyes on the plane journeys the mister leant me his Beatz headphones to listen to the audio books I had downloaded on my iPod (and to drown out the sound of screaming children). In 8 hours of travelling I listened to ‘How to stop worrying and start living‘ by Dale Carnegie and an inspiration talk by Nick Vujicic named ‘No arms no legs’ all without opening my eyes. Great time leverage there!

I was listening to a Ted Talk by Tania Mulry named ‘Need a digital detox?‘ who said it’s been discovered that the feeling you get when you feel your phone vibrating in your pocket and it’s not even there is the same feeling amputee’s get when they lose a limb. The Phantom Limb Syndrome we experience shows how we see our phones as an extension to our body!

Since returning the UK and plugging back into the world, I have questioned myself much more and noticed the technology addiction all around me. There is genuinely nothing worse than looking around in a restaurant to see a family of four at the table with children being kept quiet with over stimulating iPad apps and the parents sat staring mindlessly at the phone probably posting about the ‘incredible time’ there having not talking to one another.

493251092

I have always been known as the ‘difficult to get hold of’ person with phrases such as ‘what’s the point in having a phone if you don’t answer it’ being thrown at me. But I like it that way… I tend not to drop everything in that instant moment to pick up a call as I value the task I’m doing more. If it’s an emergency a text will follow to say ‘ring me asap’ to which I can prioritise that over my task. Often people are offended if you don’t reply instantly when you are ‘Online’ or ‘Active’ however, these streams are used for my business and I’m technically working.

I worry about people behind closed doors. Your own lives and your 800 Facebook ‘friends’ lives look so perfect only highlighting the best bits. However, this gives a distorted view of what life is like, after all without the occasional low you wouldn’t notice the highs. Although I definitely do not want to be exposed to negative moaning status’ I just worry about those who are having a rainy day when everyone else is enjoying the sunshine. We can often feel so alone, like digital hermits, holding out for so many ‘Likes’ to increase your confidence and self-esteem – it can be so dangerous to our mental health. I find it interesting that even Steve Jobs set strict limits on his children’s gadget time. The creator himself obviously see’s the hidden dangers too.

So what can you do to get the most out of technology without it taking over your life:

  • Use social media to organise seeing your friends and family in person – embrace face to face, belly to belly connections
  • Take the time to appreciate the small moments around you
  • Turn off your notifications so you’re not constantly interrupted – Multi-tasking is a myth!
  • Have a purpose for your phone visit – get in and get out!
  • Set limits for checking in with your social media streams so you don’t get trapped scrolling for hours.
  • Leave your phone in your handbag, another room or leave it behind – give it a go!
  • Wear your watch so you don’t have extra temptations when looking at your phone purely for the time.
  • Try a filter free one shot only instagram picture
  • Unplug an hour before bedtime to help you get a better nights sleep
  • Use aeroplane mode when you need time to focus
  • Create a self-care ideas list to work your way through when your bored
  • When you are posting and commenting add value to people’s lives

‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you’ – Anne Lamott

Go the Distance

Chloe