Would you believe if I told you my first time hiking and camping was on the Inca trail in Peru?!
Well that is the truth – I’m a city girl with curiosity and an unfounded adventurous heart. Growing up in Hong Kong on Hong Kong island, my family rarely crossed the harbour to Kowloon, let alone visiting the ‘country-side’ of the New Territories. Then when we immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada – we didn’t venture out of the city to explore the rest of the province. Let’s just say my family is not the nature/outdoorsy type.
Fast forward to 2008, after visiting Bolivia the year prior, the itch for nature grew. Actually before I left Bolivia I decided I need to return and explore more of South America. So I had my heart set on the Inca trail and the Galapagos islands.
A colleague from work suggested I do some training to prepare myself for the 4 day hike of 45km (26 miles). I tried to find time but I failed myself. Working at a cubicle in an engineering office drains me – mentally and physically. When the tendency is to work 60-70 hour weeks, my schedule is really eat, work, eat, sleep, repeat. So let’s just say I was out of shape when I got there.
I kept a moderate to slow pace, took lots of photo/water/snack breaks and as long as I got to camp by dinner time, I was happy and proud of myself. Actually, I quite enjoyed walking the trail by myself. The solitude. The peace. The silence. It was the best way to enjoy Nature and all that it has to offer.
On Day 2 of the hike, I suffered severe symptoms of altitude sickness. Chewing coca leaves did not help. Taking Acetaminophen did not help. Taking Diamox did not help. I just kept feeling my blood vessels throb on the back of my neck as my heart tries its hardest to send blood to my brain. With a few hundred metres until the ridge of the Dead Woman’s Pass – I literally felt like a dead woman! The oxygen tank would be my last resort, else hike back down, call it a day and take the train to Machu Picchu.
I pushed through, slow, gasping for air, it was painful but I made it to the top. That day I did not make it to camp at 2pm like the speedy people. The porters actually had to bring us lunch from camp. I must say, the Porters took great care of us. I still remember how 2 Porters ended up carrying a 60 year old man on their backs to camp because his legs failed him.
Hiking on the Inca trail made me wonder how was it possible to build Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and the trail along the way. All the manual labor and hard work. All the heavy lifting. The dedication required. The perseverance necessary to complete such feats.
I am proud of myself for completing the 4 day hike. Walking through the cloud forest. Camping in a tent. Walking in the dark to catch sunrise over the Sun Gate. Walking through Machu Picchu – feeling the energy. All of it together formed a memorable experience.
Although next time, I might consider taking the train…