Squeezing the most out of life | An Aussie and a Colombian living life with a wandering spirit. Eight years together & over 60 countries up our sleeves, we're sharing the love |

Walking on the trail of the Inca

Five years ago I took a couple of months out to do a whirlwind trip to South America. Mainly I had dreamed of seeing the animals on Galapagos Islands and hiking in the high altitude mountains of the Andes. This is the continuation and retelling of that journey. Kris

The past days spent hiking the Inca Trail have been like most good things, more about the journey than the destination. I’ve been reminded that timing is always important – whether its a trip or connections with other people. The landscape mightn’t have been as spectacular as some of my other mountain trips to Nepal, Canada or New Zealand, but it’s been the perfect timing for some self exploration.

After a challenging past year, the effort to get to Machu Picchu has made this hike both cathartic and transforming. I don’t think I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to do the Inca Trail justice, but I’ll try. At the most, it has been emotionally powerful and strengthening and at the least a damn good workout!

It goes something like this:
Day one:
After waking up early from excitement, our little group of five finally got to our starting point. We began the hike with about 10km of steep walking, passing through mud hut villages; accompanied by the smell of donkey, eucalyptus wood fire and the dampness from the river below. I found some children with dreads to play with and we spun around like airplanes in the midday sun.

After an easy day of hiking we found our campsite, the boys played soccer with the locals and I escaped to meditate the afternoon away. On the edge of a tiered stone Inca wall looking back down the valley I sat, mountain peaks crossing each other, snow behind, and the angry river flow cleansing my mind. The air was sweet and fresh, the sound of children playing below me somewhere, cows eating grass and the last warmth of sun kissing my face. The valley was cold and our campsite high. I laid back on the grass for a long time, arms outstretched and simply watched the clouds float by. Feeling far away I gained so much strength from nature. I looked into many beautiful Indian eyes and shared a smile today.

Day Two: A very emotional day – but great. Leaving for our steepest day of hiking – up 1,200 metres to a high altitude pass of 4,200 metres – I felt buoyant, high on my environment. Happy in my head space I spent most of the day finding a sweaty pace to reach the pass alone. It was a cloudy day, the tops of the mountains covered. An icy cold wind slapping your sweat cold as soon as you stopped.

Walking through a misty cloud forest to get to the top I spent time just soaking in the height when I got there. As everyone joined me I was overwhelmed when the 55 year old father of our group and his son got to the pass together. The hug they shared and the pride in each other moved me to tears. My tears kept coming and I had a good outburst that turned into happiness and pride for so many reasons. Challenging yourself physically somehow releases deeper thought – it’s hard to explain – one of the bonuses of hiking.

Elated, with the hardest part of the hike behind us, we bounced back down the pass along the rocky trails. As we got in to our campsite and lied down, the rain fell heavily on our tents and I spent the afternoon just listening. Sleeping at high altitude was a freezing -2 degrees but the dark night was dripping with silver stars, more than I can ever remember.

Overall, a gorgeous start to an epic experience.

To be continued…

Kris

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