The Inca Trial: Here's what life as a porter is really like

Former tourist gets to join 'unsung heroes' on incredible journey


The Inca Trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is often rated by many to be in the top five treks in the world.

Over 26 miles (43km) the ascent combines beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud forest, subtropical jungle and a spectacular mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The final destination is the breath-taking 'Lost City of the Incas': Machu Picchu.

Access onto the Inca Trail is limited to 500 permits a day - approximately 300 of these go to porters and guides - in order to conserve the incredible landscape of the lost city. Entrance to the infamous Machu Picchu site is also strictly ticketed to limit the number of visitors and preserve the grounds.

See also: Ten holiday destinations where tourist numbers are limited

See also: 'Lost city' in Peru gets 10,000 ft cable car

The 'unsung' heroes of this notorious trail is undoubtedly the porters – people without whom the climb wouldn't even be possible.

The role of a porter is to assist and guide people completing the Inca Trail. This means carrying equipment, preparing meals and pitching tents for a group usually consisting of around 14 people.

Mysterious city - Machu Picchu, Peru,South America. The Incan ruins. Example of  polygonal masonry and skill

In a typical trek there will be 22 porters, including s a head chef, a sous chef, a head guide and an assistant guide. The porters always have to be ahead of the pack to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Their typical day starts by waking up the trekkers with a cup of coca tea and a bowl of hot water. They then set off before everyone else and erect the meal tent for lunch time, dismantle again and get ahead of them for the evening meal and camping. All of this while carrying up to 25kg of equipment and dealing with high altitude. This includes crossing the 'Dead Woman's Pass' which has a maximum altitude of 4,215m (13,796 feet).

In 2016 Jarlath McHale completed the Inca trail as a visitor. He was so astounded by the incredible work the porters did and admired them so much, that he travelled back to South America to complete the Inca trail again – but this time as a porter.

For more information about visiting the Inca Trial visit Exodus.

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World's scariest walks