I have been busy for a while, but I wanted to address this. I have two pieces of input:
For you route, do you plan on bussing? The only reason I bring it up is because that is quite a distance to cover. I am sure that 3 months seems like a huge amount of time, but when you factor in a day per activity minimum, and the speed up busses, you might spend more time on busses than exploring! Just a thought.
I also wanted to touch on Peru. I have done a huge amount of research on the country and I am really excited to be there later this year. It sounds like an awesome country with a variety of activities. I would recommend Sand Boarding in Arequipa area. Sounds fantastic, assuming you like that sort of thing... Mainly, Machu Picchu is what I wanted to address.
That will probably be the one tour you need to book in advance if you are trying to do the Inca Trail, though I am not certain about visiting JUST Machu Picchu.
For the trail: they suggest booking at a minimum of 3 months in advance, and if you are going during peak times, they suggest 6 months in advance. The lowest price I have seen is $450 from two locations, though United Mice is offering a $420 or $430 price if you book quickly. However, you need to wire a deposit which costs $30 minimum if I am correct. Keep in mind that the Peruvian government allows only 500 people per day if you plan to do the Inca Trail, of which half are porters and guides.
Just a heads up. I will be in Ecuador and Peru about mid-2009, so I can offer some more input then!
thanks guys for all the good advice. I'm gonna take a lot of it on board. Yes, i plan on bussing it most of the way. i've still a lot of time to plan different parts of the trip and i like getting peoples opinions as you know yourself some plans will change when i'm in South America. I'm gonna have to have a think about Patagonia or the andean coast as i dont want to be spending all my trip on a bus.
Daniel, my mate is in SA at the moment and he has already given me some links. He booked a trip machu picchu when he was in cusco, he siad it was fantastic and cost about $200 US. Its a different route to the main inca trail as it goes through the jungle, he also said that you stay in hostels instead of tents but its quite challenging as it invloves biking. here's a link to it, i'm definately going to consider it. something different to the norm.
again guys thanks a lot.