Why Hiking the Inca Trail Changed my Life
How the Inca Trail became a Metaphor for Life
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done both mentally and physically!
Before we began one of our guides took me aside and said, “Are you the leader of this group?”
I responded “yes.”
He leaned in closer and looked me in the eye and said “You have a great responsibility. You will determine how the group does on this trail. They will look to you as their guide to find strength, encouragement and positive thinking. If you are positive they will be and if you are scared they will be.”
I said “Yes, I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
He said “yes, but, this is even more serious because the mountain hears you. She will hear your thoughts and your words and she will give you whatever you are asking for. It is imperative that you keep you thoughts pure as we embark on this journey.”
Keeping my thoughts positive was easy at first.
The first portion of the trail is filled with optimism and hope!
Although we were venturing into the unknown and a little nervous about what lay ahead we were smiling. Our hearts were full with possibilities! Every 30 minutes there is a little stand and a Peruvian person selling Gatorade, water, treats or for 1 sol (about 30 cents USD) the use of a bathroom. There were locals using this portion of the trail in their everyday lives. Animals like alpaca, mules and horses were moving in unison with us, sharing the trail.
Exhausted, we arrived to our final resting spot that evening. There we were met with a big round of applause from our porters (the recognition was nice even though we knew that those guys had ran ahead of us carrying three times as much weight on their backs.)
Shortly after arrival we were convinced our chef must be magic. Like sorcerers, these men presented us with an unbelievably delectable meal. We sat huddled together in a tent with hot cocoa and what seemed like and endless stream of food and discussed what to expect on day two. I watched as fear crept into peoples faces. Our guides said many times “don’t worry. We will go very slow…like turtles…” This seemed to reassure people.
We woke on day two and our guides had set our yoga mats facing the sunrise and put together the most beautiful alter of coca leaves, the smell of Palo Santo was wafting through the air and I thought I must be in heaven.
There we were on the top of a mountain in the middle of the Andes. In front of us father sun was rising as just behind us was mother moon. We shared the most incredible yoga experience, breathing, moving and opening our hearts together. We sealed our practice with a prayer for safety on our journey.
We were prepared for a challenging day ahead, with the highest elevation gain of nearly 4,000 feet at the highest elevation of nearly 14,000 feet. Climbing this high, at this altitude, is difficult for even the most seasoned hiker. Every step is a challenge and the end never seems to come.
Our guides reminded us that the Incas specifically took this route, climbing to the sky in an effort to be bathed by the cosmos. To have moved through the mountains letting the mother earth hear your thoughts. Walking upon the earth and listening to the rivers flowing, purifying and healing her cracks. The final step is to sit with your head in the cosmos and bathe in the ether. This is the ultimate cleansing believed to be spiritually preparing you to descend onto the sacred, Machu Picchu.
Once again we were applauded as we drug ourselves to our resting place for that night. We slept at nearly 14,000 feet elevation. This was by far the coldest and most uncomfortable night.
We woke optimistic once again on day three. We knew we were for the most part done with climbing and the first half of day three was heading back down the mountain.
I think we were all surprised to find out that coming down the mountain was more physically grueling than the climb. Although we are no longer moving against gravity. Now, we were fighting the strong pull of gravity that seemed to want to toss us down the mountain. Each step a jarring sensation throughout out the whole body. At this point you find yourself praying for it to all be over.
Our guides had informed us that the second part of day three would be what they called the serpent. It was the part of the trail that went up and down.
Like life it was a little bit up and a little bit down but in more digestible chunks.
This part of the trail was so beautiful and filled with magic. We walked through caves and rainforest. There were looking points where the mist was settling over the mountains and it was so incredibly beautiful.
Arriving at our camp site, we were once again greeted with applause and celebration. There was a sense of accomplishment with the whole group. Sitting across from one another at dinner knowing that we had done it! There was a knowing that we couldn’t have done it alone. We came together as a group. Those that were feeling strong enough carried other peoples burdens for them in the form of back packs or just listening to them vent their worries. Some stayed back with those who were struggling just to keep them company and keep their spirits high. Now, we were on the brink of receiving our award. Which btw… was not the CAKE topped with frosting and sprinkles, that these master chefs somehow magically created and presented us with as a celebration, in the middle of the mountains.
Our reward would involve waking up the next morning at 3:45 am and getting ready to line up at the gate to the trail head that would take us to the Sun Gate just before sunrise.
When we arrived at the Sun Gate the sun was just beginning its climb over the mountain and beginning to illuminate Machu Picchu! I wasn’t expecting to have my heart touched in the way it was so many times on this trek. Our shared, sacred moments with the mother and all of her majestic beauty had brought me to tears on more than one occasion. But, seeing this incredible place and knowing the history behind it isn’t something that can be put into words or a feeling it is life altering!
I am sharing this story with you because I believe that this experience is a metaphor for life.
It is so easy to get stuck in the cycle of the mundane, to do what is easy. Your soul has chosen your body as the vessel it is using to ultimately serve its unique purpose. It needs to keep experiencing, growing, expanding and learning.
You are unique with unique gifts and talents and your soul is compelling you to become more of yourself. It is asking you to release the fears, attachments and binds to be free and soar in the limitless possibilities. Staying in your comfort zone can begin to feel like suffocating, being trapped or stuck. To know joy we must know expansion. To know expansion we need to keep growing, always be moving towards something that scares you a little.
Imagine every hurdle in life, every dream, goal or aspiration that you have will be similar to walking on the Inca trail.
At first you will be skipping along, hopeful, optimistic with all your needs still close by. Then you will suddenly be faced with what feels like a never ending wall that you have to climb over while staying focused on the end result. When climbing the wall you may need to enlist the help of others who are a little stronger than you! Accept that help, but, don’t give up!!
Soon, you will see the top and the momentum will come and suddenly you will be tested as how much can you handle as everything will begin to come at you so fast and you will just want to stop. Eventually it will all even out with gentle highs and lows ultimately leading you to your prize which will crack you open and blow your mind. You will realize just how strong you are and what you are really capable of and then, you will have to do it all over again!