Published on January 11th, 2013 | by growwny0
Feature Friday: Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
BY: CAROLYN HUMAN, GROWWNY TEAM
We are stepping just a bit outside of Western New York for this week’s Feature Friday; about 3,500 miles to be exact. I joined the GrowWNY team over the summer right as we were launching the Go Outside map and quickly realized how many great places in WNY that I was missing out on. The map came in handy when I had a last minute offer from a friend to join her on a trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail and end at Machu Picchu on New Year’s Day. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, but I was not a hiker, and neither was my friend. So I checked the GrowWNY Community calendar back in September to see where we could go on some practice hikes. I joined a group hike put on by Earth Spirit Education at Franklin Gulf Park. I had never even heard of Franklin Gulf Park but what an amazing place we found it to be. It was like discovering a hidden gem in Buffalo with a lot of history. In fact, I went back to hike it the next two weekends to start building up my stamina and test out different clothing. Knowing that I would have to be doing some serious climbing (at a high altitude), I headed out to Chesnut Ridge Park to climb up and down some of the hills and try to “up” my mileage by doing the long loops a few times. I was ready for the Inca Trail, or so I thought.
It was an amazing opportunity to visit Peru, but I realized it was nearly impossible to be properly prepared for the altitude, the hike, the stunning views and the cultural differences. What really struck me was how the country has embraced the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu (only discovered by an American in 1911) and turned it into an amazing ecotourism experience for travelers from all over the world.
The government has strict regulations for the trail now. There are rules about how many people can start the trail each day (500 people), how many porters (licensed Peruvian men who carry tents, food etc.) you must have with you, what campsites you can stay in and there is a lot of paperwork to be filled out and turned into the rangers at the start.
Our guide was so passionate about making sure the trail and the ruins scattered all along it were preserved as a sacred part of Peru. He was equally as passionate about educating us on their importance to his country’s history. He didn’t want the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu to be seen as just tourist hotspots. He took pride in what his ancestors had created, and wanted to make sure we saw it through his eyes.
Unfortunately, it was disappointing to see litter all along the path. In fact, someone who was hiking ahead of us dropped about 100 candy wrappers marking their way. Our guide stopped to pick up a lot of them, but we couldn’t be everyone’s trash collector. We were all taking out exactly what we brought in. I only hope the other guides have as much pride as ours and continue to educate visitors and encourage them to take care of the Inca Trail.
This is a worldwide lesson, and one that I didn’t have to travel to Peru to learn. It’s disheartening to be immersed in the beauty of nature, or the wonder of history, all to be brought back to reality by the careless act of littering. If we want to keep what we have, be it a major tourist hot-spot or our favorite neighborhood park, we have to be the ones to preserve it.
Just a quick note on the actual Inca Trail hike for those interested, it is approximately 26 miles and it takes the average hiker 4 days. The highest altitude on the hike is 13, 778 miles above sea level at Dead Woman’s Pass. The hike is a lot of steep climbs and equally as steep down hills. The majority of the path is original Inca Trail rock steps and walkways. I never felt unsafe but you do need to be very aware of your footing and stay mountainside. The stunning views are worth every step you take.
Where is your dream hiking vacation? Mt. Everest? Mt. Kilimanjaro? Share with us here in the comment section or on our Facebook page.