“The Inca trail had been a substantial source of intrigue for me since I first heard of the ancient pilgrim path. A trip to Peru had always been penciled-in at the top of my wish-list. It had patiently waited for a time when my adventure sensibilities had matured and I had further developed my cultural and natural daring and confidence. There it remained while those under it were gradually crossed off and removed from the list. In 2008, when I decided to examine the possibilities for visiting Machu Picchu and hiking the ancient Inca trail, I was delighted if not mildly surprised to discover that many adventurers were making the trek. It seemed safe, quite well-organized and growing exponentially in acclaim. One question lay before me; what will it take to make this dream expedition a reality?
In recent years, the popularity of the trail has risen to such a level that Peruvian authorities have had to restrict the number of hikers permitted. The trail is little more than a narrow clearing of dirt and slippery wet Inca constructed stone paths and ladder-like staircases. The one-way, one lane trail often offers insufficient room for passing. Excessive traffic could cause complications.
Treacherous hiking conditions also pose safety issues. Permits for entry to the trail can only be acquired from an accredited tour company and can only be used in the presence of a licensed guide. Ramiro, our guide, has a five-year university degree to meet his requirements. The wait for the handful of highly sought after permits was five months for us. Proof of passport and a Western Union wire-transfer later, we were booked. I felt like a child, anxiously unable to sleep on Christmas Eve, anticipating what would be found under the tree in the morning. Only I would have to manage my boyhood excitement and butterfly stomach for a full five months before I could cross the Inca trail off my list.”