Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu and the Inca Trail – Peru June 7-11, 2016
A year ago I told myself I wanted to try to Machu Picchu because it was something I had never imagined doing. The four days I spent on the Inca Trail were breathtakingly beautiful, incredibly challenging, and completely inspiring. This is something I thought I would never do. Really I thought it was something that I thought I never could do. This was my first international traveling experience and I learned that I’m so much stronger than for which I give myself credit. Having never backpacked before, I really jumped into the deep end with this trip. Traveling with a wonderful group of people who were encouraging, helpful, and enthusiastic about the trip really helped make it a wonderful experience.
What I loved most about hiking the Inca Trail was the different experiences and challenges each day. At the beginning it was warmer weather and the newness of everything. Day 2 brought the challenge of Dead Women’s Pass, the constant climbing up to the altitude for the first time. When I made it to the top and felt the colder weather, saw the fog, and bundled up, I realized what an accomplishment it was and how great I felt about what my body was able to do now that it was healthy.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain on day 4 was one of the biggest challenges I have faced. I was so honored to be climbing with my friends on their first of 52 Peaks. I had pulled a muscle in my leg and it made the climb really challenging and painful. Both Tami and TJ stayed with me and climbed at slower pace to help support me both up and down the mountain. I hope that I will get to climb more of the 52 Peaks in 52 Weeks as the year continues. This trip was so inspiring and confirmed for me that living a healthy life opens up so many possibilities for adventure and I was so happy to be a part of it. Read Karen’s Inspirational Story!
I started hiking with a TJ in the fall of 2011. TJ made hiking a part of my life when it previously was an activity that I had not enjoyed or had any interest to pursue.I fell In love with hiking and the Santa Monica Mountains. TJ has always been encouraging and has pushed me to do things I never thought I would do. She encouraged me to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2015. She trained me for that trek and really helped and encouraged me when I had an ankle injury two months before the trip. I am now hiking Machu Picchu in June with TJ and might hike to Kilimanjaro again with TJ next year. I am able to do these trips because TJ is the only person that has been able to talk me into “camping out”, especially for multiple days in a row! I never would have considered these trips without TJ. I now can’t imagine not doing them. Thank you, TJ, for help and support over the past few years. You will never know how much it has and will continue to mean to me!
Most people go to Machu Picchu as part of a bucket list experience. They thoughtfully choose a lovely 2 hour train ride over a much longer, often physically demanding, definitely dirtier 4 day trek, upon which the fortunate ones are greeted with a spectacular view of the sun rising upon Machu Picchu. Like most great decisions, I chose neither thoughtfully or to check something off my never-ending travel list instead embarking on this journey with my gut alone for the “challenge”. TJ’s pitch, delivered on Sedona’s Red Rocks, dangled the idea of this trip like successful bait – slowly luring me in just enough that I wondered if I could do it until finally convincing me three months later – a great motivator for me. If the sound of something makes you feel just a little uncomfortable, I’m a pretty big believer the answer is probably yes.
I don’t love hiking like most people who do things like this: 1) it is exercise and 2) it scares me as it constantly tests my fear of heights and my need to be in control. So when a trip’s basic itinerary is a 4 day hike + climbing 2 mountains sprinkled with a dash of camping for a girl who believes camping = 3 star hotel, some trouble definitely awaits. Although we laughed as much as we complained and sweat (rose colored glasses), what sticks with me isn’t the difficulty of that hill or the rooster that had it in for me but of those moments that both tested and thrilled me.
The Inca Trail isn’t easy, but definitely doable. Machu Picchu is amazing, yet had little to do with my overall experience as it was the destination, definitely not the journey. Instead I know:
1) Physically I am capable. We all were. These are big words and anyone who is lucky enough to be able to move their body at their own will should be grateful for this every single day. Do not think about what your body looks like, but what it can do for you. Work to strengthen this and feed it well. The rest will fall into place.
2) Accept your fears. This was far more of a mental challenge. Each day I needed to face my fears. I wasn’t going to stop being afraid so I needed to work through it. Tami was amazing at helping to keep me mostly calm as we went down throughout the trail. My real moment of glory came midway through Machu Picchu Mountain when I lost it for about 45 seconds. The important part wasn’t the tears but the recovery. Give yourself a moment even if it means tears (although I don’t recommend the side of the mountain as an ideal location), accept your fears and then figure out how to deal with them. Stopping and analyzing for too long doesn’t change the situation so put one foot in front of another and just move (even if it is up as fast as possible and down at a snail’s pace).
3) Don’t let your fears keep you from doing things. Find what motivates you – challenge, competition, thrills, nature, being able to say you did something. Then let it help you forward.
The accomplishment paired with the energy of getting to complete the first two of 52 peaks with TJ and Tami is unforgettable. The lessons from hiking always seem the same with a different spin – to really live you need to let go. You can’t worry so much about what is next or you miss the beauty of what surrounds you now. Somehow, you will get through what is in front of you (my best advice, just don’t look down!). I’ve been asked what is next, and not knowing isn’t super fun, so for now, one foot in front of the other. TJ and Tami have started baiting the next hook…we shall see if Kilimanjaro is in my future. What have they done to me?
I DID IT- I COMPLETED THE 4 DAY, 26 MILE INCA TRAIL!!
Day 2 was the hardest and was one of the most physically and mentally challenging days of my life. We climbed 1300 meters (4100 feet)) up to an altitude of 4200m (13800 feet). There were a lot of tears (and a major meltdown when a huge moth landed on my face!). Add in 3.30am wake up calls. A wonderful mix!
The trail may have been exhausting and painful (and felt never ending!) but was beautiful and the scenery changed from mountain scenery to cloud forest to a jungle with mist. All the pain and exhaustion and tears were worth it though when I turned into the sun gate the morning of Day 4 and saw Machu Picchu in front of me. That moment is one I will cherish for the rest of my life. Partly because Machu Picchu is so special and partly because I was so proud of myself for actually finishing it I would like to thank my fellow hikers for being so supportive and especially Tjay Hiker and William my guide without whom this would not have been possible.