Trekking Kili, the Inca Trail, and Annapurna
I have been lucky enough to have trekked both Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. In my case, this was with the same group of 4 guys, 10 years apart. More recently I also completed a solo 3-day trek in the foothills of Annapurna in Nepal. Each an amazing trip, but quite different. Here are my thoughts on how all of my trekking experiences compare:
- We took the Lemosho Glades route. This is the longest trail which winds around the mountain. We chose it to give us the most acclimatization time. It is the most expensive because of the high park fee, porter fees etc. It is far less travelled, so we did have the mountain to ourselves for the first 4 days.
- The change in scenery from jungle at the base to ice and snow at the top was stunning. Luckily we were well prepared with lots of layers of clothes to handle the changing temperatures.
- Over the 8-day trek we climbed from the starting elevation of 2,800 meters to Uhuru peak at 5,895 meters, without experiencing any altitude sickness. We put this down to good pre-trip conditioning, getting good sleep on the ascent and luck.
- The last overnight push, starting at 10 p.m. We walked through the snow and ice until we summited at 7 a.m. It was difficult, but achievable at the very slow pace we took. The view of the huge glaciers on the left and the wide expanse on the right were spectacular. We were blessed with a clear day and no other trekkers on the summit when we arrived.
- The camping was rough as there are no huts on the Lemosho Glades route and the food was basic. There was little contact with other trekkers as every small group seems to stick together.
- Kili certainly is the easiest and most accessible one of the seven summits and I think it can be climbed by anyone with reasonable fitness and a lot of determination. I would not go any higher without proper mountaineering training.
- Our group relaxed in Zanzibar after the hike. In hindsight, we should have opted for a safari as well.
- If bragging rights and a good sustained workout are your objective, then Kili fits the bill, but without the safari, it’s a one-dimensional holiday, with little history, local interaction and local culture.
The Inca Trail
- The Inca Trail is less demanding physically, but this is countered by the shorter duration which leaves less time to acclimatize and the lesser pre-trip conditioning that comes from the assumption that this is simply a walk, and not an extensive trek. In my case, the ascent of Dead Woman’s Pass, at 4,200 meters, the highest point on the Inca Trail was more difficult than the last night of Kili. This may not be typical for everyone, but it was my experience.
- I found the stone steps on the trial incredible and enjoyed the constantly changing scenery, but I rate the Kili trail more interesting.
- The Inca Trail’s advantage is that you end up on the last day seeing the sun rise over the amazing spectacle of Machu Picchu. This alone is worth completing the trek for.
- There is a little more interaction with other trekkers, mainly in the last night where there is a great party spirit as everyone is eager to get going to see the sunrise.
- For a total vacation experience, with the same amount of time available, of roughly two weeks, door to door, I rate Peru, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu higher than Kili. The saved travelling time (as it’s only an overnight flight to Lima, Peru) and the myriad choices of Inca ruins, unique local cultures like the floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca, other historical sites like the Nazca Lines, make Peru a much more interesting venue for me. It is also less expensive, all-in.
Trekking in Nepal
- Trekking in Nepal takes you through the same types of amazing scenery from 1,000 meters all the way up to the same 4,000 to 5000 meter heights, not including the real mountaineering trios to Everest.
- The main difference I found was in the trekking process. There are many routes, starting close to Kathmandu, Pokhara or other places a short flight or a day’s bus ride from Kathmandu. It is very easy to hire local porters and / or guides at very low cost and the routes are clearly laid out, like the Inca Trail, not Kili. You can trek for as long or as short as you like. I met trekkers walking for periods from one day to six weeks.
- You can choose the degree of difficulty of the treks based on the topography, distance and height and you are guaranteed similar basic facilities at each of the many “tea-houses” dotted along the main routes. These small inns offer exactly the same basic fixed-price Spartan accommodation, limited hot shower facilities and the exact same menu of hearty food served in communal dining halls heated by wood-fired oil drum stoves.
- Because everyone is travelling the same routes and you all stay in the same tea houses, there is much more interaction with other trekkers, local porters, guides and tea house owners.
- I would recommend Nepal trekking over Kili or Machu Picchu for any singles or couples, and less experienced trekkers.
- It’s as hard a place to get to as Kili, requiring at least two flights from Canada to Delhi and then a third flight or train/bus to Kathmandu, but very well worth the effort for a unique relatively low-cost flexible holiday.
Blog written by one of Merit Travel’s clients, Miles Atkinson. Miles has travelled the world and continues to do so; solo and with friends and family. Merit Travel offers treks to all of the above destinations.
March 27, 2013