The Inca Trail & A Very Important Lesson
This was my Everest of the trip. Having locked it in quite early, I always knew it was coming and every hike we did in the months leading up to it was a form of practice or an attempt to test our bodies at high altitude. We had hiked the distance a few times, done a few overnight hikes, gone higher in altitude on more than one occasion and everytime had been completely fine. All the prep was done and now, it was time.
The hike itself was tough. Amazing, but tough. And it was on the hike where I truly felt what it feels like to push my body to it´s limit. Every inch of my body was in this. Every breath had a purpose. Each second my mind logged another thought which pushed through that next step. My heart pounded with a force that ignited my whole body with intense strength, to get through that next minute.
Day one was somewhat a walk in the park, with 5 hours of hiking at a steady pace and a beautiful landscape to feast our eyes on, as we made our way to our first campsite. The rain was minimal and we had an actual toilet we could use - happy days!
Day two, the fun began. A five hour climb to the highest point of the hike, at 4200m. About 80% of the five hours is steps. Step, after step, after step. A nightmare for anyone that has issues with their knees. And as you ascend, your breath becomes shallower and shallower. About 2 hours into the climb, I had my first encounter with the altitude and was forced to stop and inhale some horrid liquid to open up my airways. But I pushed through and conquered the 'Dead Woman's Pass' as it is known, and then endured the painful 2 hour hike all the way back down more stairs on the other side of the mountain to our camp, where we finally got lunch at 4pm!
Day three was the longest. And the wettest. A morning of more climbing, more steps, more "fuck this, I hate steps!!" whinging and moaning, plus an extra 5km on the previous day. Followed by a welcome, yet hard on the knees, 4 hours of steep downhill action through some incredible 'Indiana Jones' style scenery to keep us going. Despite a small slip on the trail which almost saw Shane lose his third GoPro, the afternoon was one of tired relief as the sweet smell of Machu Picchu was getting closer and closer.
Day four begun at 3.30am. The final hours of the hike, before arriving at the sun gate at 7.30am for our first sight of Machu Picchu. Adrenaline was at an all time high, as were our spirits. We soaked in the view and prepared for the final 45minutes down to the ruins. We had made it. Exhausted beyond belief, my legs were like jelly. Yet we kicked on and began our two hour tour walking around the ruins.
By this stage, I was done. I could feel it. My body had done me the service of getting me to where I needed to be. All 42km of it, up and down the mountains over four long days. It had done me proud. Yet, I had pushed on. Forced it to keep going for those extra couple of hours, walking up and down the stairs of the ruins in the welcome, yet strong heat. ´Just that little bit more, come on´. The altitude, whilst nowhere near as high, was still playing around with my breathing. Short and shallow, each breath an effort. Until it all became too much.
After climbing a set of stairs near the exit, on which I was unable to let go of the handrail the whole way up, I folded forward in agony. And as I raised my body back up, my body went into what was an extremely scary panic attack, as I struggled to get any air into my lungs.
Thankfully Shane was near me and immediately saw the struggle in my eyes. He quickly raised my arms in an effort to open up my chest and called for help. I've never had a panic attack or an anxiety attack before in my life, and that feeling of being unable to breathe as tears streamed down my face, groups of people looking on feeling helpless and others surrounding me trying to coach me into calm, is a moment I will never forget. My body had well and truly reached it´s limit.
´No more, I've had enough, this is all I've got´, it was saying. Was what it had been saying for the last two hours. But this was the only way I was going to listen.
Our bodies are sacred homes. They protect us and carry us through life. And the most powerful thing we can do to help them is to listen. Listen closely and intuitively, to everything they have to say.
Attention to the human body brings healing and regeneration. Through awareness of the body we remember who we really are. ~Jack Kornfield
As much as I'd like to say I am always in tune with how my body is feeling and what it needs at every minute of the day, I'm not. Sometimes its easier to turn a blind eye, ignore your body's cry for help and just pray it holds out long enough. But if we continue to drown out these cries, ignore our body's subtle hints and neglect what it is we really need, we will eventually find ourselves in the middle of hundreds of people, embarrassed, in pain and helpless.
Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live. ~Jim Rohn
Is there something you have been ignoring lately? Is your body crying out to you for more, less or a new shift altogether? Give your body the respect it deserves and listen in. We often find it so easy to listen in when our body is crying for something we want. But when what we need isn't what we had envisioned or doesn't fit into our grand plan, that is when it takes real courage to step up and pay attention.
With all that said, my adventure on the Inca Trail will forever remind me of this important lesson. For all the great adventures and thrilling experiences there are in this world for me to enjoy, without my health and a nourished body to carry me there, they will forever only remain a dream. And to me, that ain't living!
*Apologies in advance for the lack of photos - our laptop has recently died so we are unable to access a chunk of our photos from the trip until we get home. Oh, Technology! Gotta love it!