Travel tips Leigh Barnes, Inca Trail

Published on March 26th, 2014 | by Leigh Barnes


Exceptional reasons to go to South America right now

Read time: a bit over 3 minutes

Whether you’re teeing up to tackle the Inca Trail, or exploring the Americas in general – here’s some stuff I learned whilst I was exploring the delights of this amazingly ridiculous collection of countries with Geckos last year.

There’s so much awesome stuff going on in South America that it’s impossible to condense it all into one post, but these are just some of my highlights.

The Inca Trail is the best (and it won’t kill you)

It’s tough – there’s no getting away from the fact, but other than Dead Woman’s Pass on Day Two, it wasn’t shockingly hard. Dead Woman’s Pass is grueling though – just a big, long slog uphill to the highest point on the trek, at around 4200 metres. We had definitely earned the rum we drank when we got to the top.

There are too many highlights

The ruins were all really impressive, obviously with Machu Picchu the star of the show. Our lunchtime soccer game against the porters on one of the trekking days was definitely a memorable moment though – 3800 metres up, puffing away in the high altitude, and we managed to win, with me scoring one of the all-time great backheel goals. Lionel Messi himself was intimidated by my prowess.

I should also mention our guides, Elder and Isaac, who were amazing. It was the first time I’d been on a tour like this, so the atmosphere was a big unexpected bonus of the fortnight.

Machu Picchu = epic

Better than I expected. Standing looking out onto it from the Sun Gate was pretty incredible, and being there with two good mates, having all just conquered the Inca Trail – just a fantastic moment.

The cities, oh the cities

All the cities were awesome, but Cusco gets my vote. It’s got a relaxed, fun feel to it, from the old streets to walk around to the markets, and the nightlife is great – definitely a good place to get acquainted with the local cocktail, pisco sours.

One of the great things about the Andean cities is the amount there is to do nearby – obviously there’s the Inca Trail near Cusco, but there are loads of other Incan ruins as well, including Sacsayhuaman (enticingly, but definitely misleadingly, pronounced ‘sexy woman’).

Food, glorious food

The food was a massive highlight, and one of the biggest surprises of the trip. Peru’s got some awesome dishes. Anyone going should eat well, with ceviche on the coast, pisco stir-fries and tasty soups, while local meats like guinea pig and alpaca are also really good and worth giving a go.

Also worth mentioning the food on both the Inca Trail trek and at our Lake Titicaca homestay: soups… stir fries… pancakes – fantastic!

Buenos Aires is one of the best places on earth

Man, the steaks. You’ve just got to indulge when you’re in BA – they’re the best steaks you’ll find anywhere, so there’s no point in holding back. I must have eaten about 15 in the five days we were there.

I’d really recommend anyone visiting Buenos Aires to take a graffiti tour. Palermo has heaps of amazing graffiti, but even if you’re not that into street art, graffitimundo’s tours are great for learning about the history of the city and its people during Argentina’s troubled past, and how important graffiti was as a form of protest at the junta regime.

Lastly, catch a soccer game if you can. We went to see Boca Juniors take on Tigre and it was crazy! Crowd going loco for the entire game, 3-3 final score, us joining in with the chants and singing even though we had no idea of the words – got to go see Boca Juniors play if you’re in the city. No excuses.

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About the Author

Likes: The Karate Kid, Cans of Solo, dogs, trekking in Nepal, trekking in Peru, trekking in Morocco, trekking, Deep fried chicken, alpaca steak, monkeys holding hands, Pho, Rage Against the Machine, table tennis, Welcome Back Kotter, beer, the smell of a freshly cut lawn in the morning, blue-footed boobies, signing loudly while I drive, New York, Dal Baht, having my cake and eating it, eating a kebab in every country I travel to, graffiti in Argentina, steak in Argentina, wine in Argentina, wine and taking a conversation to the extreme. Dislikes: Cats & turtlenecks.

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