Adventure Travel In Peru – Hiking The Inca Trail To Machu Picchu

After months of planning and over a year of dreaming about it, I finally got on a bus from Arequipa to go to Cusco to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. My friend Milana from Los Angeles, who I used to hike and mtn. bike with, and Karen, her longtime friend, were meeting me in Cusco. We were supposed to be there a couple of days early so they could acclimatize but Milana’s flight from Lima was cancelled so she arrived about noon the day before our tour started. I had already met Karen the day before and we had gotten to know each other a bit as we did some sightseeing and hiking together near Cusco.

When Milana arrived, we went to eat at a restaurant just off the plaza and she had ceviche to eat, it is raw fish marinated in lime juice. Either the ceviche or the lack of time to acclimatize to the 11,000 foot altitude in Cusco, or both, got her off to a bad start. She woke up sick the next morning for the start of our four day trek. We had signed up for a group tour, expecting up to 12 people, so we were delighted when the mini bus picked us up in that morning to find only two other people on the tour! An almost private tour for the group price. It didn’t seem like such a small group by the time we added a cook and eight porters to our guide, Carlos, making a total of 15 people. However most of the time we were trekking it was just the six of us, the porters were either packing up camp behind us or rushing on ahead to get ready for us. The service was great but personally the morning tea in our tents when they woke us, the dining tent for all three meals (although it felt really good at dinner time due to the cold) and the fancy menu, etc. was something I would have given up for a cheaper price. They definitely don’t subscribe to the ultra light hiking idea with a cast iron stove and 20 lb. LP gas tank!

One of the things that surprised me on the first day was to see people actually living along the trail, and riding bicycles back and forth. On the second morning there were women and children with burros going up the trail to set up stands to serve breakfast, sell candy, snacks, bottled water and even Gatorade! By the afternoon, that was all behind us as we headed up to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,770 feet, the highest point on the trail. The scenery had changed from lush rain forest in the morning to sparse vegetation and rocks by the pass, along with being much cooler. When we stopped early in the afternoon at our campsite for the evening, I couldn’t just sit and wait for dinner, I went on ahead to the next pass, exploring side trails along the way. Solid clouds beyond the summit ruined my hopes for a spectacular sunset but it was an enjoyable time anyway.

On day three we got into the high jungle, thousands of more steps, and actually into some of the ancient ruins. Also a seemingly endless variety of orchids and other flowers. One thing we didn’t see was any wild animals, just a few birds. It also seemed like the farther we went, the more tourists there were. The first day we hardly saw anyone else, so I’m not sure where they all came from. By that evening we were back in civilization, with the option of a restaurant, hot shower and cold beer, which many were enjoying.

The final morning we were up early to be the first ones on the trail, hoping to get pictures of Machu Picchu before there were any people there. They actually opened the checkpoint a few minutes early and we were started off in the dark, on the last couple of hours of the trail, arriving at Machu Picchu just after sunrise. For me, one of the highlights of the trip was hiking up Huayna Picchu, the high peak behind the ruins in all the standard Machu Picchu pictures. There was a wonderful trail, steep and rugged, up to the peak, where the views were fabulous! I saw a less used trail going down the backside and followed that a ways but finally had to turn around to meet the others and catch the bus into Aquas Calientes. Only when I got back to the checkpoint at the start of the trail did I find out that it was a loop trail and I could have continued on around the mountain. There was no time to soak in the hot springs, as we got to Aquas Calientes a bit late and then found out that we had to leave early to walk to the train that would take us back to Cusco, because of the landslide that had covered the tracks on the edge of town. A final surprise was that evening when the train stopped a couple of hours before Cusco and the conductor said that was the end of the ride. We never did find out why but ended up having to take a taxi the rest of the way to Cusco, fortunately arriving with no problems.

The trip was great, Machu Picchu was unbelievable and something that pictures can’t do justice to. Never the less, I did take about 400 photos, trying to capture the grander to relive later. I am looking forward to returning to the area to hike from Cusco to Choquequirao, sometimes called the sister city to Machu Picchu, and then on to Machu Picchu. This hike is much less common and allows for exploring on your own.

Hiking The Logan Turnpike Trail

One of the many access to the Appalachian Trail is the Logan Turnpike that provides this access at Testnatee Gap. Most of the hike on this pathway parallels Towns Creek after following a turnpike to the gap. The trail was named after Frank Logan in 1997 who was one of the most influential people in North Georgia. Logan discovered gold in White County in North Georgia where he later on paved the way for growth in many market places on this area after the war. The trail is about 2 miles and marked by blue blazes.

The road was built in 1821 and was travelled mostly by merchants transporting food and produce to Testnatee Gap’s southern area. It was also used to be known as the Union Turnpike and used to be part of a longer stretch of road from Athens Tennessee. However, most travelers passed the Federal Highway for safety and travel time reasons since the Blue Ridge Mountains made the journey longer on the turnpike.

Starting from a historical marker which is nearby the old toll keeper’s house on the road, the path continues to the trailhead. The trail sets off at a junction of the country road and Forest Service property line. The path is entirely within the Raven Cliffs Wilderness that leads out of Union Country to the south. Following an upgraded portion of an old abandoned roadbed for the first mile the path continues to parallel the Towns Creek. The trail is easy to manage until you reach an underdeveloped footpath that makes the hike strenuous. At this point, the trail approaches the Appalachian Trail which affords a spectacular view of a drainage basin cove.

The path hugs the Towns creek bank as it continues to end the steep traverse while approaching the forest with small streams. On the lower slopes, small springs of water appear at the Logan Turnpike. Clear water flows downstream where some wet crossings are expected. At this point, cross to the west side that makes the start of Town Creek. As you move forward this trail, you will come across moss-covered rocks and still on a stream bed. Extending to 2 miles due south from the trailhead, the trail ends at Testnatee Gap. And just a bit of trivia, Testnatee is a Cherokee word for turkey. The Tesnatee Gap is also the northern access point for Logan Turnpike while the southern access is our start point at Kellum Valley where the trailhead is located.

Hiking in Thrace, Greece

The region around the city of Xanthi in north-east Greece is the perfect place for a hiking holiday. There are a number of interesting paths and trails that link up with longer-distance routes that cross more than one country.

The mountain village of Livaditis, around 50km from Xanthi, in the west of Thrace, is the epicentre of much hiking activity. There are a number of signposted hiking paths, all of which connect to the E6 hiking trail. There is a stunning waterfall here, as well as some fantastic mountain views. In the village of Evrimanthos, the lush greenery crowds around as you walk and mushrooms are a real local delicacy, highly prized. The Chaintous forest and the area of Arkoudorema (bear stream) are an area not to be missed by anyone enamoured of unspoiled nature.

High atop the Rodopi Mountains, peaks of which are nearly 2000m high, the virgin forest of Frakto is one of the most unspoiled forested areas in Greece – if you hike in this region then be sure to leave it as you found it as this is a precious habitat and one that no one wants to lose.

If mountain climbing is your thing then you may enjoy hiking up Mount Falakro, 2232 m high, or Mount Paggaio. The multicultural highlands of Xanthi provide Koula’s peaks, which can be hiked in around six hours. Climbing can be done year-round as long as you are properly prepared. Snow shoe tours are available in various locations during the winter, though these should probably only be undertaken by those in peak fitness.

Winding its way through the region, the Kosinthos river provides many pleasant strolls through the landscape of Thrace. There are old stone bridges, watermills, the one at Halil is one of the few that still exists, age-old villages and half-forgotten locations. Journeying through this area can be like stepping back in time to a simpler age.

The Nestor River and its Delta are the focus of much of the eco and outward-bound activity in the area and have been for some decades. People have quietly been coming here to hike, bike, kayak, birdwatch, mountain climb, rappel or ride horses for years, but the area still retains a simple and uncrowded feel that allows you to enjoy the beautiful countryside of the land of Orpheus. Delightful spots from which to enjoy the varied eco outdoors pursuits include Galani, Komnina, Kromniko, Livadero, Stavroupolis, and Toxotes, magical corners of this area just waiting to be discovered. Where the river meets the sea in Xanthi is extremely picturesque and a unique and interesting area of habitat is found in the area of Abdera where there are lakes, lagoons and valuable wetlands beloved of a whole range of birds and other wildlife.

The magical area of Thrace is filled with fairytale scenes and fantastical scenery to explore. This is the perfect place to hike your way into a story book and make some fantastic memories along the way.

The Tranquil Hiking Trails of Istria

While much of the Istrian coastline is built up and in thrall to the mass tourism industry, inland this section of Croatia could be an entirely different world. There are a wealth of unspoiled historic towns and villages and trails winding around and between them that will enthral even the most reluctant of walkers.

Starting in Brtonigla-Verteneglio one pleasant hiking trail is that of St. Zenon. This route will take you towards the Zmergo hill, from the summit of which the views of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves and all the way down to the sea are stunning. After seeing the water supply structure atop the hill, the trail will take you to the Škarline Nature Park – a scenic but little known area with charming small lakes, and a small canyon carved by a stream on its way to join up with the Mirna River. You can then return to your start point on a different route, completing this circular route. This trail is easy, relaxing and well sign-posted. The round trip will usually take around two hours.

Another lovely route for hiking or biking is the Parensana trail which follows the route of the old railway that ran between Porec and Trieste. This beautiful trail winds through serene and picturesque landscapes of vineyards, olive groves, verdant hills and valleys and historic, mediaeval towns. Signs will tell you about the former railway as you make your journey.

A short walk from the town of Visnjan will take you past many fascinating historic sites before passing out of town through the Venetian Lion Gate and traversing the local wine-growing region to the village of Barat before returning to town.

From Vizinada you can walk or ride the St. Tomo’s circular trail through lush, green woodland. This trail is around 4.7 kilometres long, after which you should climb the hill of St. Tomo itself. Ascending the 299 metres will give you astonishingly lovely 360 degree views out over hills, valleys, hamlets, churches, the Mirna river valley and to the west, the sea.

The area around Pazin has many scenic and relaxing walks. There is a pleasing walk that takes in the waterfall, Sopot and the highest hill in the region, Perunkovac. It follows a route called the St. Simeon Trail. Another hiking trail of 12 km links Beram and Pazin with a circular route. Perhaps best of the trails in the vicinity of Pazin is the hiking trail from Pazin to Grdoselo and Zelengrad. This breathtaking circular trail of 16 km has some sublime views of Pazin valley and mountains around and the ruined mediaeval town of Zelengrad is fascinating.

Those who seek sublime views would enjoy the mountain trail from the old town of Buzet to Raspadalica, at 556 m above sea level. Though perhaps the most amazing views of the region are to be found in and around the Ucka Nature Park. Take the trail along the edge of Vela Draga, a spectacular canyon, or hike to the freshwater spring of Korita from where you will have some astounding views of the Ucka Mountain Range. Finally, the short Plas Educational Trail which passes over the slopes of the peak ridge of the range should no be missed.

Of course there are many more tranquil trails to choose from in Istria. This may well be a good area to consider when you are planning your next hiking holiday.

How to Pack Light for Hiking Trips

Hiking is all about fun, thrill, and excitement. All it requires is good stamina, a bit of patience, and a lot of energy.

Hiking with a lighter backpack can make your venture far more comfortable. You'll be able to hike better and for a longer period. With a heavy backpack, you'll soon feel tired and your back, knees, and feet will start aching and you lose all your stamina in no time. You won't be able to enjoy the adventure.

A lightweight backpack is important for efficiency and enjoyment. So, it is important to pack everything intelligently. When you are on the trail, your backpack will carry everything you'll need to sustain yourself in the wilderness.

Here are 10 tips that can help you lighten the load but still carry everything you need.

1. Examine current gear

Check every piece of your gear. Try to weigh them first. This will give you an idea of ​​the weight of your load. You will be able to better decide which items to keep in the bag and which ones to skip.

2. Lightest equipment in bag

Select the lightest equipment for your bag. Choose the lightest sleeping bag, backpack, and shelter per your budget.

3. Keep yourself light

In summers, you can't predict how the weather will treat you. It can be hot … or it can be too hot. Wear light clothes and soft boots on your hike as they'll make you feel more comfortable.

4. Only select what you need

"Pack everything you think you will need, then get rid of half of it."

This is the most important tip. Pack only what you need, not what might be useful. For example, a laptop is a luxury and not a must-have to take on a hike, skip it. Don't carry things just because you think they can come in handy. From experience, most of the time those "handy" items are never used; but you end up carrying them all the way.

5. Consume the heaviest food first

Food and snacks take a significant amount of space and weight. Carrying them for a long hike will make you tired. To lighten your load, eat the heaviest and freshest items first.

6. Try light options for liquids

Try to take juices and other liquids in powder form. Carrying the liquid bottles will add a significant amount of weight. For soaps, you can go for dry, thin, paper soaps and other dehydrated alternatives. If you're taking water bottles, place them in the side pockets of your backpack.

7. Survival skills

If you're experienced, you'll get to know how "survival" skills help you overcome many situations with minimal equipment or supplies. This reduces your backpack load. And if you are not experienced, don't worry! Head out and explore! From small to big, each challenge will impart upon you the tactics you'll need to deal with any difficult situations as expertise is acquired through experience. The more you hike, the more experience you gain, and the more innovative you become. The more experience you have, the more exacting you become on carrying the right "stuff".

8. Don't hang extra stuff

Always try to avoid hanging extra items from the outside of your pack. They will continue to move from one side to another while you hike. This can shake off your balance, can make unwanted noise, and can catch on tree branches or brush.

9. Distribute weight

* Start packing the hip belt and shoulder strap pockets first. These pockets are always easily accessible and great place to put small, important items that you'll need throughout the day.
* You can put a few energy bars and snacks in a hip pocket as it's important to have lots of small meals throughout the day.
* You can put your sunglasses, camera, lip balm, or sun block in your shoulder strap pouch.

10. Use common sense to pack

Have common sense of what you need to carry. You'll see, this is a process that is mastered as you gain experience. Make a list of all the items that you think will be useful during the hike. Try to take along multipurpose items.

Before, during, and after every trip, take the time to learn about your packing habits and get to know what items you used. Taking the time to analyze what you packed and if it was useful will help to reduce the amount of unnecessary weight and help you become practical on your next outing.

A lightweight backpack plays a very important role for a successful and revitalized hiking adventure. Carrying light loads and minimum amount of gear makes your bag much easier haul and less time-consuming to pack.