Updated: Jul 6, 2020
We arrived in Cuzco to beautiful clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds.
Everywhere I turn, there are mountains, the spectacular mountain ranges of the Peruvian Andes. As we drove along the winding mountain roads from Cuzco to the archaeological Inca ruins at Saqsaywaman, then further on moving down into the valley of Urubamba, they watch my every move. With each turn, I get to see them from a different angle. Majestically they stand tall and grand, everyone different, each with its own personality.
I am mesmerized. I cannot turn away.
One by one they call out to me, “choose a favorite.” With each turn of a corner, another one appears and I bring out the camera that I had just put away.
The guide tells us we are going to stop for 10 minutes at a scenic point. This way we can take clearer pictures and learn a little about the mountains. We go around another curve and what I see in front of me takes my breath away.
There it stood, high above the others. It’s white, snow-capped peak, glistening in the bright noon day sun. It was a sight to behold. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, none could compare to this beauty. I had found my favorite.
To find out more about the Mountain Ranges of Cuzco check out the Mountain Ranges of Cuzco
Vibrant, Exciting, Busy Cuzco
Cuzco sits at an elevation of 3,399 meters (11,152 ft) above sea-level. Even before we set off to the arduous climb up the trail, we had to come to Cuzco first to acclimatize ourselves to the difference in altitude before going to Machu Picchu. Unlike the weather in Lima, Cuzco was much warmer, but still a little chilly.
What can I say about Cuzco, except that it was busy. There were hikers everywhere. They had come from all over the world to hike up the Inca Trail and experience the phenomenal Machu Picchu. Our group was no different.
We went to our hostel to deposit out gear and then went out to tour the city.
It was bustling and noisy. There were restaurants galore, serving some of the finest Peruvian fares. I saw lots of bars and watering holes. As always in a place that is visited by hundreds and thousands of tourists each year, a multitude of shops awaited our shopping pleasure. Anything from souvenirs to take home for friends, hiking gear for those who may have forgotten to pack something important, and the finest cashmere items for those who came to indulge themselves.
Just in case you decide to do some jaywalking, you will be immediately stopped by the pedestrian cop. They are there to make sure the crowds observe the fact that cars belong on the road, pedestrians on the pavements.
The small town of Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo is a town in the Urubamba, northeast of the ruins of Machu Picchu. There are lots of interesting buildings and statues, including this one of Aguas Calientas, the first Inca.
Machu Picchu Pueblo is where trains come in from Cuzco and from where buses take tourists all the way up to the famous archaeological site.
My intention as to hike up the mountain for three days, arrive at Machu Picchu tired, muscles hurting, but exhilarated knowing that I had “done it.” That was my plan, but as many of you know, even the best laid plan has a way of changing course on you. What I had not put into my plan was the spiritual element. The journey was not about succeeding. Instead, it was a journey of inspiration, motivation, and exchange. The challenge, although I did not know it then, was the answer to my prayer, “What is my purpose?”
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Plans.
You may be surprised at the outcome.
As a writer, I spend a good part of my time doing research. I could be sitting in the library for days and weeks, pouring over books, gathering information and making notes. I might be sitting in a space, like Starbucks, a Mall or park, watching as people go by, noting their expressions, mannerisms, and movement and other times. Most of the time, I am in front of a computer, reading article upon article, to get to grips on what I want to relay to my readers.
Every adventure can lead to new findings. And so, it was, as I tackled a very harsh climb, I found out some things that I realized were a collection for this new offering.
According to the itinerary supplied by G Adventures, the tour group I went with, the 4-day hike is "physically challenging, but worthwhile." It was also "with the ability of most reasonably fit."
Well, I like to class myself as physically fit, plus I enjoy hiking up and down hills and mountains. I am quite fit and able to endure to the very end, even if I'm moving slow at times. But, I certainly did not take into consideration altitude sickness.
Beware Altitude Sickness
It was in Cuzco, on the second night that my head started to pound with a headache that just would not go away. What I didn't realize was that the fast pace from one city to another, along with getting on and off two planes, was not enough time for acclimatizing to the changing altitudes. I was very uncomfortable and didn’t like the way I felt.
By the evening, I was worse. My head pounded. My heart raced. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t breathe. I laid down thinking I would be okay by dinner time. I was wrong. The headache would not go despite taking two Ibuprofen and resting in a dark room.
My roommate got anxious when I told her I could not go to dinner. She called our Fernando, our CEO to let him know what was going on with me. One look at me and he knew. Altitude sickness.
Of course, he knew, he was the expert and had guided hundreds of people up and down the Inca trails. He immediately sent for the oxygen tank to help me in my breathing. He gave me two Ibuprofen and told me to rest. It wasn’t until the evening of the next day that I felt better to begin the hike.
Climbing, or in my case hiking a mountain, is a challenge. Your expectations at the beginning of the journey are often immense. The adrenaline is flowing and you feel you can conquer anything. It is as you continue to ascent up and the way gets steeper, that you realize how small and insignificant you are in comparison to the big, beautiful mountain you think you can conquer.
If you want to see a change in your life you have to do something different. You have to be radical and this means stepping out of your comfort zone. Those around you may not understand your actions. Some may ridicule you or even chastise you but you have to stand your ground. You have to want change so bad that your only focus will be on accomplishing your desired goal.
I know that most of you would not even think about doing such a thing as climbing a mountain. Nevertheless, you can step out of your comfort zone by doing one thing that you have never done before. Even better, do one thing that you have always wanted to do, but unrealistic fear has prevented you from doing it.
This one thing, once accomplished, will not only lift your confidence and boost your self-esteem, but it will let you know that change is possible if you give it a chance.
I was ready to begin the hike up the Inca trail. I had come to Peru for this very reason and so failure was not an option. This challenge was for me to do something I had never done before. I was ready.
Anything is possible with determination.
Join me in Part 3 for the Lessons I Learned from Hiking the Inca Trail.