Trekking the Inca Trail
For Katrina Gerity, events and challenges fundraising officer at Epilepsy Society, trekking the Inca Trail in Peru was one of the most amazing experiences of her life. Here she describes how the challenge was so much more than two weeks in the sunshine and how it is a fantastic way to raise money for charity.
Before I went to Peru, to take part in the Inca Trek to Machu Picchu for Epilepsy Society, I regularly had people saying to me 'I've always wanted to go there!' and 'You will have the best time ever', 'Wow, what an amazing holiday'. And it was one of the greatest things I have ever done but not quite the ‘holiday’ some had in mind.
Machu Picchu is absolutely amazing and one of the most awe-inspiring sites in the world. The views are even better than in the promotional shots. However unlike many a middle-aged tourist who simply flies into Cusco, spends their days sampling the Peruvian cuisine and shopping in the local markets before taking the bus up to Machu Picchu, we trekked our way there. And that made it pretty tough.
I thought I’d probably have a headache or feel a bit sick at higher altitude but what I didn't really think of was the complete lack of oxygen. This meant taking 10 steps forward, or sometimes just rolling over in bed, left you completely out of breath and feeling like you had aged 100 years. To put the height into perspective, the highest point in England is Scafell Pike which is 987m above sea level. Landing in Cusco we were at approximately 3,400m above sea level, and our trek would peak at 4,500m!
As a team we trekked for five days in total. Each morning, we woke up at about 5am. We then ate a hearty breakfast and got ready for the day ahead. The one thing about the Inca Trek that completely surprised me, was the absolutely stunning views. The Andes are some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world and when I was struggling with the trek, I did have to stop and remember where I was. I have never seen such blue skies in all my life!
The weather was completely changeable on the trek, the days could be boiling hot and by the end of it - true to British form - we all ended up with bright pink tan lines. As soon as the sun set, it was absolutely freezing and we would all be in thermals, fleeces, gloves and hats. However, singing round a campfire was a great way to keep warm.
It's absolutely a challenge, but one of the most amazing experiences of my life and one of my proudest efforts to date. And that's why people fundraise and support fantastic charities in their efforts. I would recommend this trek to anyone and everyone!
Eating endless bags of haribo sweets and cereal bars as well as solving riddles as we walked were brilliant at motivating us for the trek. As a team we all got on so well and that only added to the experience. The guides were incredible too and really would do all they could to help people struggling with the altitude and physical intensity of the challenge. The trekking days were tough at times, tougher than anyone on the trip imagined. You really are thrown in at the deep end starting at over 3,000m above sea level. Even those who had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro said that the first few days of the Inca Trek were harder than those first few on Kili. One of my favourite days ended with a trip to the hot springs. After a long day trekking we had the opportunity to relax our aching bodies in naturally heated pools. How many other treks come complete with a spa visit?
What I also really didn't consider was how much you would learn about the local culture. We trekked the Lares Valley route, which is off the beaten track and not the typical Inca Trail route. It was incredible to be trekking through mountain passes that seemed so untouched. Along the route we were regularly greeted by small Peruvian children, in their bright ponchos. All they wanted was to say hello and were so grateful when we gave them a cookie or a few sweets. When we weren’t trekking, we were also lucky enough to spend our evenings at local discos and even tried alpaca! For me, that's what gives the Inca Trek the edge over all other treks.
So, was it all worth it? Absolutely. I was so glad it was a challenge because climbing up some of the steepest and stoniest mountains for hours on end, and then reaching the top, seeing the stunning mountain views and beautiful lagoons, with your team, completely made it all worthwhile and gave you such a sense of achievement. A few of us even shed a tear (I'll admit it) when we hit the top, the sense of achievement is unbelievable. Even when we felt like giving up, we didn't.
To all those who think the Inca Trek is a holiday, it really isn't your typical two weeks, all inclusive, in a sunshine destination. It's absolutely a challenge, but one of the most amazing experiences of my life and one of my proudest efforts to date. And that's why people fundraise and support fantastic charities in their efforts. I would recommend this trek to anyone and everyone!