How To Conquer Machu Picchu and The Lares Trek

Anticipation and excitement rushed through every ounce of my body. The night was cool and crisp as we packed our Osprey duffle bags for the coming morning where we'd begin our 4D/3N trek on the Lares Trail in Cusco, Peru. Who could blame the excitement? We were about to depart on the journey of a lifetime, one that most only see in #Wanderlust tagged Instagram photos.

7 AM struck the next morning, as did the intimidating rain, and we were off with our guide Efrain from Killa Expeditions. Our first day would be 6km of hiking to our basecamp. It would be a piece of cake, I thought to myself as we climbed into our van and sped down the coiled roads of the Sacred Valley into Urubamba where we’d start our trek.

There are two essential elements of the success of a trek: your tribe and your mind. While there are dozens of tour companies offering treks ranging from $90-$1000 (be aware that you get what you pay for), you would be hard pressed to find a company like Killa Expeditions. Paired with the incredible support of their entire staff and the days prior of mental preparation, we were able to conquer Machu Picchu and the Lares Trail.

How To Pick The Right Company For Your Machu Picchu Trek

Unlike a majority of trek companies in Cusco, Killa Expeditions treats their staff like family. In fact, the staff is the closest thing to family next to blood. All of the guides and the owner have been friends for over fifteen years and have been hiking for just as long. From the moment we expressed interest in booking a trek, we were welcomed into their family and taken care of as one of their own.

We knew we were in good hands from the second our guide said: “Please, call me Effy.”  

Our trek consisted of a 20 mile stretch of mountains, rivers, and crystal lakes being fed by numerous cascades of waterfalls covered in mist from the surrounding glaciers. The first two days proved to be the most difficult, with us covering upwards of 15 miles, most of which being uphill and descending through snow, rain, and hail at 15,000 feet above sea level. Sounds crazy, right?

It was anything but crazy - unless you’re referring to the breathtaking (literally) views that surrounded us as we moved from grassy terrain to rocks and translucent streams feeding the aqua lakes.

As a group of three, each day was spent being led by our personal guide. His constant positive re-enforcement of our mental and physical strength, knowledge of the area, and the never-ending supply of high-fives at each roundabout made the trek one we’ll never forget. There was never a time the thought crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to finish because he led us to believe in ourselves - much like a favorite coach from high school or a mentor - that we were the best hikers to ever cross the Lares Trail. Genuine care was all we received and it made hiking that much easier.

When you find yourself embarking on journeys, such as the Lares Trek, it’s fundamental to ask yourself: Who is a part of my journey? Surrounding yourself with individuals that offer a constant positive stream of encouragement, building you up with love and support, and proving that they are indeed your tribe is indispensable for your success - not only physically, but mentally, as well.

Why Mental Preparation Is Important For Excursions and Treks

I am by no means an avid hiker. I've enjoyed calm walks in Big Sur and hour-long hikes around San Diego's top spots, but up to 8 miles in a day? Forget about it. The Lares Trek proved my mind and my body wrong in every way. One foot in front of the other, I developed a deeper appreciation for my feet, my legs, and my mind. There were times my lungs felt like daggers, and when they did I reminded myself of my breathwork training.

Inhale through the nose, slowly exhale through the mouth.

There were times my fingers lost all sensation from the 15,000 feet altitude and sporadic blasts of snow and hail, but I told myself:

Just wait until you can knit your fingers around a warm cup of coffee at base camp.

When it comes to pushing your body to limits it’s never seen before, it’s more than just positive thinking. It requires developing a conscious skill to ignore the obvious screaming from the “fearful” part of your brain. Whether that fear is telling you you’re not strong enough or your knees are feeling weak from the descent, it’s up to you to push it aside and keep going. In the end, we are separate from that voice in our heads and by discovering this notion we realize just how magical our bodies are when there is a synergistic relationship with the mind pushing to reach the summit.

Embarking on treks, like the ones offered by Killa Expeditions, has proven to be a testament to your strength. Disregarding the obvious physical strength it takes to hike over 15,000 feet above sea level, the strong mentality rules above all. We are tested on our ability to corral our thoughts, disengage our body from our “fearful” minds and keep put one foot in front of the other as we admired the natural wonderland around us. The lessons learned from taking these types of journeys, whether you are running a marathon, hiking Machu Picchu, or sailing around the world are there to present you with an opportunity. They present you with an opportunity to grow, to learn how to persevere, and to show you just how magical and incredible you are.

Thank you so much to the entire staff at Killa Expeditions, we are so grateful to have found such an incredible company to partner with on our excursion!