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Pura Vista on the road "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

A walk to remember – Incan Style

PERU | Friday, 10 August 2012 | Views [294]

Its been 40 something days since I set foot on the Incan trail and what lingers are many of the valuable lessons we picked up along the way.

For those of you who never heard of the incan trail, it’s basically a trekking route in Southern Peru which for the natives (the Incans) was considered a spiritual and yet rigorous  26 mile walk to the sacred city of Machu Picchu.  Considered gruesome for its high altitude and hills, yet bursts of bewilderment and tranquility do present themselves on a path full of various ecosystems and picturesque beauty. Judge it yourself from the picture below:

The Incans in their time of territorial abundance  probably completed their journey in a day, tops, while lugging the Incan King on their shoulders. We were told that a tour guide completed it in 3 1/2 hours. We, who didn’t even bother to train for it, were forced to finish it in 4 days.

When hiking a mountain with no cell phones or ipads, a person can really evaluate the purpose of what ever he wishes to define.  He can reach a state of mantra without even realizing it.  He can also start to hate the cautious-influenced triggers that thought carrying a ton of nutrigrain bars, a bottle of shampoo, and lanterns was such a great idea.

What I got from the trail was that it offers you an opportunity to learn.  Not just about yourself, your friends, or about the Peruvian culture.  But it can teach you a good amount about efficiency and adaptation. You can feel out of your comfort zone but at the same time, with 6 porters, a cook and a knowledgeable guide, the trail is basically luxurious camping.

If life is begging you for a challenge, the incan trail is a good start and considering the following can really make the trip a success:

Be the initiator - I sent out an email back in December asking everyone I knew who would like to embark on this once in a lifetime experience.  I got 6 yes’s. And now we all have amazing stories to share and inside jokes that will never be forgotten.

Yet, let someone else figure out the logistics if you’re no good at planning on a reasonable budget.Oh its horrible. I judge books by their cover and sometimes forget to look at the price of an item at the grocery store.  Luckily, Erika took over. Her amazing researching and organizing skills found us PERU’s Best Tours (http://www.perubesttours.com/).  You book through them and you’ll get to pet a condor and even have one jump on your back.  They definitely worth checking out.

Book months in advance. The hike itself costs between 400-500 dollars and the entrance ticket into Machu Picchu will need to be reserved and purchased at least 4 months in advance.

Spend two days in Cuzco. You need to adjust to the high altitude and check out the Sacred Valley.

Drink just a cup of coca tea.  Not 4 cups thinking that you’re preparing yourself for the extreme.  You may not like the side effects.

TAKE a walking stick but don’t completely rely on it for support.  Or else you’ll fall face first down the steep hill.   If you’re lucky they’ll offer them at your hotel or hostel for you to take. Check ahead of time.

Listen to your guide when he tells you to pack lightly. Unless you think $40 is enough to pay a local community person to carry your bag on the second and third day of the hike. The 4 day Inca trail hike does not require you to stuff everything you think you’re going to need into a 45 liter REI bag and then have your face be the true indication of your pain and struggle. Before you know it, you’re guide will start to resemble your mother when he starts to say “I told you so”.

From time to time you may have to share the path with toolbags. These would be individuals who may criticize the culture or the people of the country that they supposedly cam to experience.  Ignore them.

ALWAYS spray yourself with mosquito repellent. Or your hands may very well swell up to the size of mickey mouse or the hamburger helper figure. And its painful. Ask Jessica.

NOT everyone needs to carry sunscreen. One bottle is enough.

Be prepared for a lot of squatting….. in the dark.  Its better this way.  You don’t want to know what the awful smell in the bathroom is really associated with.  Nor do you really want to know what you’re stepping in. Its ok to carry on with your business out in the middle of the mountain.  According to your guide, the mountain spirits won’t care.

Therefore, carry wet/baby wipes.  It’s more reliable than toilet paper. Which you won’t find anywhere on the trail.

Carry a flashlight and medicine TAPE! If torturous mosquitoes eat away at your ankles, youre shoes are not going to feel sorry for you.

You may run into an alpaca herd along the way. Have your camera ready. Don’t poke them with your stick.

Its ok to wear yoga pants. I was told not to do so. By several people.  I ignored them. Best decision ever.  Comfort at its best. But spray your ankles with mosquito repellent.

The guide may lie to you.  And he may do it for good reasons.  If he tells you that you got 20 more minutes until your next checkpoint, rest assure that youll get there in 2 hours.  And if they tell you that you only got 3 more hills to hike, he really means 5.

It might rain so take a poncho.  Or poke a hole in a trash bag.  Whatever works for you. They also sell them on the trail.

Remember that it’s all in the mind.  You control your thoughts.  If you think you can’t make it.  You probably won’t.  And then you’ll be that person who’s walking the opposite way from everyone and getting funny looks. Don’t let your mind or your body become your enemy on the second day when you’re only a short distance from the  mountain’s highest peak at 4215 feet above sea level. Forget the snow and the rain.  You’ll get to do a little victory dance (if you still got energy) once you reach the top.

Don’t hike the trail like you’re running a marathon.  Or else you’ll miss all the beauty that you may not wish to pay 500 dollars for again.

Do take short videos! You’ll be able to relive memories and concretely remember each sensation you felt along the path.

Do stack up on digital memory cards and maybe an extra battery. You’ll want to remember great moments as such:

  You’ll get the sense that the strenuous walk, with its hills, high altitude and monstrous stairs, will be worth it once you reach the sun temple and cast your eyes upon the city of Machu Picchu off in the distance.  Its truly a marvelous feeling.  And you’ll always have a great story to tell.

Tags: cuzco, incan trail, machu pichu, peru

 

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