I’ll start off by saying hiking the Inca trail is an awe-inspiring experience, although at times it felt like hell! Altitudes an evil demon, so what did I learn, and how did a hike make me a wealthier chick?
Preparation, feels horribly like that boring word from a previous blog, research! I have to admit that, just like investing wisely, a mountain hike requires research and preparation. I did back to back hikes to make sure I was fit and, incredibly important, had worn in my hiking boots, and it worked as I didn’t suffer a single blister.
Do the research and spend the money on quality hiking boots, hiking socks and a very warm sleeping bag (<1 degree at night, artic!). Go to the travel doctor, get the shots, get the altitude sickness tablets, be prepared because once you are on that mountain, it might be too late.
And wet wipes, bring lots of large wet wipes! Trust me…..
Listen and learn from the Experts
It was timely that my previous blog was about learning from experts, because sometimes I can be a stubborn, independent, little Miss! Not on this hike, from day one I put aside my ego and relied on my guides, here’s just a couple of examples:
- if your experienced guide uses 2 hiking poles, hire 2 poles. He’s not trying to scam you, hire 2 poles! Those poles steadied me down very rocky hills and gave me something to lean my head on, often, when I was exhausted going up mountains (I worried I’d have a permanent pole handle imprint on my forehead!);
- breathing, sounds basic right, but in altitude I needed to change my breathing and,despite sounding like a heavy breathing stalker, it made a huge difference; and
- drink more water! I usually limit my water intake while hiking to avoid having to pee in the bush, but in altitude water is vitally important to help move the little oxygen you are getting through the body.
The Value of a Supportive Team
You may have realised that I can be a bit hard on myself, a trait that came out on day 1 when things didn’t go according to my plan. I got really upset and angry with myself because I wasn’t powering through the hike, I felt slow, sluggish and quite frankly defeated by the first really big hill. What was the point of all my training…it’s called high altitude Amanda!
Thankfully the guides and Andrew & Paul, my rocks from Adelaide, were there to reassure me I was setting a good pace, in fact the same pace as them, that it’s not a race and it’s better to finish than burn out or injure yourself. Hike at your own pace, take breaks when your body needs it, and don’t compare yourself to others.
Over the 4 days we all had our struggles, so it was gratifying that there was always someone walking with you, encouraging you, cheering when you walked in to camp, or for me at my most vulnerable, willing to provide a hug when you reach the highest summit and start sobbing uncontrollably! There’s a frozen puddle of my tears on that mountain top, but you did not defeat me, and don’t mess with me again…please!
We all need a supportive team on hand/phone to cheer for you in the good times, and support you through the challenging times. There will always be challenges and you can’t, and don’t, need to do everything on your own.
Stop and appreciate the journey
It was very tempting to put your head down and hike to the next camp with only short breaks to give the body a rest, but this focus on the destination and not the journey meant missing out on some wonderful experiences.
Our guide put it perfectly when he said “why are you focused on getting to the next camp, are you ever going to be here, on the Inca Trail, again? So take your time, look around, take lots of photo’s, the camp will be there when you get there.”
I took his advice, I stopped, I looked back to appreciate how far I had hiked instead of focusing on how much further I had to go. I took lots of photo’s, and sometimes I just sat and took in the beauty of the Inca trail and appreciated how lucky I was hiking in the Peruvian mountains.
Okay, I mostly sat with my head leaning on my hiking poles praying for some flat land!
Our last day, an amazing sense of achievement hiking through the gates of Machu Pichu at dawn, then after more hiking we arrive at the top of Machu Pichu, looking over and then exploring this awe-inspiring complex before the hoards of tourists arrive.
Because we weren’t tourists, we’d earned the right to be here because we’d hiked the Inca trail, not come up the mountain in a bus! Oh, but how we envied how clean those “tourists” looked, and smelt!
Fast forward to the best part of the day, celebrating with our fellow hikers, sharing stories, with a beer or a wine (or both, was that just me?), in a restaurant, with stable chairs on flat ground! We’d made it, and yes it was a tough physical and mental challenge, but that made the celebrations even sweeter.
Hiking the Inca trail made me realise that I shouldn’t take anything new or difficult that I do for granted. I will no longer belittle my achievements because someone else did it first, faster or “better” (what is better anyway?). I pushed myself to overcame obstacles, I kept going and I did it. I am not embarassed to say I am proud of myself and that’s worth celebrating.
I am immensely grateful that I was able to experience the Inca trail with 2 of my closest friends. I am also grateful that hiking and camping reminded me to appreciate the little things I take for granted.
Flat comfy bed – oh the luxury of a mattress and pillows! I spent one night hoping I didn’t slide out of the tent and off the edge of a hill (see photo below, and that was a fun night time toilet trip!), and another night rolling on to my tent buddy, such is life camping in the mountains.
Hot showers – after 4 days of “washing” with wet wipes my first shower was luxurious. Washing 4 days of sweat and Inca trail dust off my skin and out of my disgusting hair was better than a scrub at a fancy day spa.
A real toilet – that flushes and isn’t just a toilet seat balancing on a big bucket placed on unsteady ground. Plus a light as it was quite challenging to balance with only a head lamp. And solid walls, if you get stage fright a toilet tent offers very little privacy!
Why am I a wealthier chick?
For me being a wealthy chick isn’t just about money, it’s about experiences, friendships, smashing your comfort zone and overcoming challenges.
On the second day of the hike I was extremely exhausted from the lack of oxygen, zero sleep and an upset tummy. The thought of hiking continuously uphill for about 5 hours was daunting, so daunting I had a little cry before we left.
But I was determined to arrive at Machu Pichu with everyone else, and if that meant climbing up a mountain than that’s what I would do. One step at a time, well actually one step up at a time, no breaks on this mountain climb! I kept going, I made it to the summit, and I cried uncontrollably because I was so relieved it was over, and so proud I made it.
My increased wealth came from demonstrating to myself that if I put my mind to it and believe I can achieve something, it will get done, no matter how hard the journey.
Let me coach you to understand and overcome your fears, achieve your goals and most importantly celebrate your successes.
Oh, and I go to see lots of Alpaca’s and Llama’s on the hike, cue cute animal photo!