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It’s been said that visiting Machu Picchu in Peru is the trip of a lifetime.

Perhaps what should be added is that preparing for the trip can feel like a lifetime of planning. I’ll readily admit I had little knowledge of what would be involved when I eagerly said “sure, let’s do it” over one too many glasses of wine at a friends cabin earlier this year. But that initial euphoria of actually planning and booking the trip somehow got lost amidst busy family lives, work travel, the death of my Mom and client commitments. It wasn’t until the serendipity of an unplanned synchronized opening in our schedules met the opportunity of unexpected trekking tour group availability, that the trip became real. It was then Machu Picchu or bust. We depart next week. It’s yet to be seen if we bust.

The traveling crew to Peru is a group of three women. Our friendship was solidified on the ice, when we first ventured into recreational league hockey in our mid 40s, forming a team called the Stanley Cupcakes. Over the years we’ve traveled to tournaments, done Vegas and Hawaii, and now having all solidly blown out the candles on our 50th birthday cakes, we’re still playing hockey together, but ready for the next travel adventure.

We’ve done all the classic preparation; read books, scoured the internet, canvassed friends who have trekked there, and watched videos. But according to one of the girls, the video was probably a bad idea, since now we really know what we’re getting into. Sometimes being blindly naïve can be an advantage when the task is a little daunting. We’ve shopped – a lot. Several had decent outdoor apparel, but two purchased new hiking boots and rain gear, and we’ve all amassed more techie shirts, fleece, socks, and pants with an inconceivable number of pockets and wearing combos as Capri’s and shorts. With temperatures forecast to hit sub-zero at night in our tents, but approach 20 during the day if we’re lucky, and the prospect of rain at any time, the clothing acquisition has had a multi-layered theme for sure.

“Our private Facebook group boasts 17 participants for 3 trekkers, further evidence that witnessing preparations is far more exciting then actually going for some.”

Much to the amusement of our private Facebook group that boasts 17 participants for three trekkers, further evidence that witnessing the preparation is far more exciting then actually going for some, we have shared daily photos of shopping hauls, local hikes to break in gear, and other nifty finds. Who knew the GoGirl device, boasting the ability to help you pee like a boy could provoke such discussion?

We’ve scheduled inoculations for tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, and typhoid. One of the more comical moments for me was when my 16 year old daughter asked of the typhoid pills in the fridge, “Is that what you take when you get old?” It was hardly the endorsement for our adventure that my ageless body had been seeking.

The preparation for being at significant altitude has also been on our minds. It would seem that cocoa leaves, both chewed and sipped, would be in order, but we’ve all fulfilled the prescriptions for altitude medications, then fretted over the online research about side effects and reactions.

We’ve hunted down Peru currency and secured AirBNB accommodations, the latter resulting in some interesting language translations. We’ve mused about the “leave no trace” policy while on the Inca Trail, the temporary toilet tents at camp, and the socially demoralizing prospect of poop and scoop. At least one travel companion is known to sleep with two pillows, so the prospect of none while sleeping on a camp roll out at sub zero temperatures should either provide amusement or chaos.

The socially demoralizing prospect of poop and scoop looms, as we ponder the true meaning of “leave no trace.”

Then there’s been the training. Despite most people planning a year in advance for this type of trip, our training in earnest only started the six weeks prior to departure, given the circumstances of our booking. So the Facebook group and our families have been subjected to our training missions, which have ranged from the Grouse Grind, to gentle strolls with the dog and shopping wearing hiking boots.

I’ll readily admit I have the reputation as the “carry on queen” having honed my skills for business travel to the fine art of only bringing what you need and never letting the bag leave your sight. The suggestion to my other travel companions that we travel carry on was met with looks of disbelief, laughter and well, more laughter. But my trial pack indicates it is possible. Oh yes, the trial packing has also been part of the planning too.

Somewhere in our mass of literature reading about the trek and the Inca history in Peru, we stumbled onto a tip about salsa dancing in Cusco. So that too has become part of the planning mission – what to wear on our celebration night out, and more importantly for the carry on queen, how to fit any additional required footwear into the bag. We do know how to have a good time.

We’ve endured nights in tents with pounding rain and crying toddlers while camping as young mom. Really how hard can this be?

The successful completion of the mission to Machu Picchu rests on the fact that three women in their 50s have to hike four days at altitude, sleep in tents and go without showers. We’ve all raised kids and been around stinky teenagers. Collectively we backpacked Europe and Australia in our 20s, and slept in some pretty questionable accommodations. And we’ve endured nights in tents with pounding rain with crying toddlers while camping as young moms. Really how hard can this be?

Watch for part 2 after we return…

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