We did the Sacred Valley day tour and the 4D/3N Inca Trail Comfort Service in November 2013. Our Inca Trail group had 15 customers, 2 guides, about 20 porters, and a cook.
Our experience was generally along the same lines as the other Comfort Service reviews. Hence, I'm going to point out the specific ways in which Llama Path impressed us and disappointed us. Generally we believe that Llama Path is the best option for the Inca Trail, but believe they have room for improvement.
Ways in which we were impressed by Llama Path:
- The porters really are the best treated and seem generally much happier than the other company's porters. They worked quickly to resolve any problems, and were amazing to watch run along the trail. They are also well trained regarding water purification and camp set-up (tents were staked properly).
- The food was tasty and plentiful throughout. Each morning we received a a plastic bag with two snacks for use during the day.
- Clean drinking water (for drinking and for filling packs) was available at every meal.
- Although our group camped each night at a campground with bathroom facilities (running water and squat toilets), Llama Path was testing out the idea of carrying a portable chemical toilet for its trekkers to use for solid waste at the first two camp sites. My husband had a bad experience with the toilet on the first night and refused to use the chemical toilet again. I, on the other hand, was really appreciative of the portable toilet and hope they continue with it on future treks.
- Our group had one person who didn't eat fish and two people who were intolerant to gluten and eggs. The cook went above and beyond to accommodate these people including making substitutes of many of the meal items for them (for example: regular biscuits and gluten-free biscuits). Considering the fact that there was ample food, including plenty of options they could eat, this seemed a bit over the top to me. My husband found it quite impressive the lengths that the cook and company went to accommodate their needs (and for no more cost).
The negatives about Llama Path:
- We rented sleeping bags ($30 per person) and trekking poles ($8 per pole) from Llama Path. Although my allocated Mountain Hardware sleeping bag was fine, my husband's looked and felt like it was from the 1980s and it constantly leaked feathers. It had certainly seen better days and needed to be replaced a while ago. The trekking poles were old, but worked fine (although they did not have any shock support).
- Llama Path provided '4 person' tents for use by two people. Our first tent had a hole in the tent large enough to allow bugs and also had a hole in the door mesh, the second tent had a broken rain-fly zipper and leaked in multiple places when it rained, and the third tent seemed to be the same tent as the first night (as it also had a hole large enough to admit bugs). We expected much better tents for the price we paid. The '4 person' tents would have been large enough to fit 4 children or perhaps 3 people without equipment, but were a bit small for us and our gear (especially when it rained and we had to keep everything away from the sides of the tent). However, the most annoying part was that the tent was too short to even allow me (5'5'') to lie flat without my head or feet touching the tent. For the record, I have used a variety of 4-person tents in the US (mainly REI and Mountain Hardware brands), and these tents were not of comparable size or quality.
- Two people were assigned to each tent by default. If you wanted a tent to yourself, you could pay a single supplement. There were three men and one woman doing the trek alone in our group. When the tents were set up the first night, the head guide told the woman that she was to share a tent with one of the men (which she did not feel comfortable doing). It seems unacceptable to us that Llama Path would expect this - they should have notified her (and him) that this would be happening at the pre-trek briefing, and given them both the opprotunity to pay a single supplement and receive their own tent. This awkward situation never should have come up at the first camp site.
- My husband and I have weak knees, so we go slowly on downhill climbs. We spent hours at the back of the group with both guides in front of us on day 2. When confronted about this, the assistant guide claimed he was not far ahead of us for those hours. However, we strongly believe that a guide should always be at the back of the group in case someone falls or otherwise needs help.
- Our guide gave us Llama Path shirts on the last night, that we were to wear the next day for our group picture at Machu Picchu. He only had limited sizes, and said we could exchange them at the Llama Path office in Cusco after wearing them shortly for the group photo. When we went to the office in Cusco to exchange my husband's shirt, they originally refused to exchange it since we had opened it. Even after explaining that our guide had told us to wear it and then exchange it, they still refused. However, when my husband asked how much it would cost to buy another shirt, the girl went upstairs and eventually came back down after talking to a manager and said an exchange would be possible.
- Correspondence with Llama Path implied that we would only need 20 soles per person for lunch on the sacred valley tour, yet the tour stopped at a restaurant offering a 42 sole per person buffet.
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