1- It’s good to have a guide: Someone who has hiked the trail before. Someone who knows when to lead and when to bring up the rear. Someone who can rub a little Inka medicine in your hands and with a deep breath in, get rid of nausea. Someone who can tell you to start early because it will be a hard day.
2- You can plan on what to carry but that might change after you hit the trail: You can do research and try to figure out what to bring in your back pack but once you are on the trail at high altitude, everything is heavier. Do you plan for cold weather and if so how cold? How much water can you drink. Do you carry that big camera that takes the nice pictures. Do you carry your sketch book. Half way through the hike you may feel like sending it flying.
3- Do you use the hiking stick or do you get down and use your hands: Sometimes the trail is so steep that you can put your stick in your pack and use your hands to climb. Nobody else may be doing it but it might be the safest way, up and down.
4- Honor the Porters: You don’t carry the entire burden: There were porters on the trail. We would yell, “Porter coming” and get out of the way. They were carrying tents and pots and pans and food, back packs that towered over their heads. Old men and young boys who would steady up the trail past you when you could hardly move. Porters carrying big packs and running down the rocky stairs.
5- It’s nice to have something to share: One of the guides we had before we hit the trail said she had hiked the trail. She told me you need some coca leaves for energy and she had me buy a small green bag from a man with a face wrinkled by the sun. She also showed me how to use the leaves. You take three leaves put them together and rip off the stems. You roll them up and chew them three times and then just leave them in your cheek and about 5 minutes later you chew again and then keep it up. It’s suppose to give you energy. I tried it hiking up to dead woman’s pass. Hiking down the trail we met porters done with their job hiking back up the trail. One asked for coca leaves. I smiled and said, “Why yes I do.” I reached in and pulled out the leaves and handed him the whole bag. He was grateful. I also reached in my back pack and pulled out an orange and handed it over. I made a new friend on the trail.
6- It’s not whether you fall but where you hit: As the porters ran down rocky steps past us we asked our guide if they ever fall. He said, “No, Every morning the porters throw a rock and say a pray. I should have thrown a rock. Rocky steps mixed with misting rain equals slick trail. I was watching my step and I watched my feet go out from under me. Down I went in the soft dirt at the side of the rocks.
7- Take some time to listen to the frogs: We were hiking in a cloud with just enough sight to realize the trail dropped off forever on the left. We had our ponchos on because it was raining. On either side of the trail was a cacophony of frogs singing. It was magical. (Haven’t you always wanted to use the word cacophony in a sentence?)
8- In a pinch take your carry on luggage: If you didn’t bring what you need, use what you have. One of my friends didn’t bring a back pack big enough so his carry on with back straps, wheels and handle made the entire hike.
9- Sometimes it takes a little faith to get the right shot: The last day we woke up at 3:30 so the porters could pack up and make it down to the train. We were hiking to the Sun Gate which would be our first view of Machu Pichu. We arrived at the sun gate but clouds surrounded our view. I put down my back pack and reached in and pulled out my big camera. I had about time to adjust the lighting when the clouds lifted and there was Machu Pichu. I took some shots before the clouds closed in again.
10-Good friends can be the best thing to take on your journey and the best thing to bring home with you.