Only about half a day’s trek from KM104 of the Inca trail, the air noticeably thinned and my breath increasingly depleted. It didn’t take long for us to reach exceptional heights. For the majority of the morning my eyes were firmly affixed to the smooth stone beneath my feet, carefully “looking” each foot into its new grip like a wide-receiver “looks-in” the football during each reception.
However, at this midday location (and several others like it) we were presented with an inspiring opportunity to leer back and reflect on our progress. The thin ribbon of white that clings to this mountain side is the Inca trail and the dots of bright green are the ponchos of fellow hikers. I welcomed the warm sense of satisfaction that coated me as I watched those bright pieces of plastic slowly creep across the trail.
Not only were the views spectacular but this very image is one that I’m glad I wasn’t wise-to before tackling the trek. I scoured the internet fairly exhaustively for visuals of what I would encounter on the Inca trail. Yet I did so reluctantly because I knew that little, shy of top-roping, would discourage me from accepting the challenge. I was emotionally and financially committed. Any additional insight I would obtain into the truths of the trail would only add to my lingering altitude apprehensions. In the end, I faithfully referred to the only comforting line in the trekking company orientation brochure that clearly stated: “No experience is required.”
Looking back on this photo, I suppose I learned little from the experience. Still I wonder, as I probably did when I took it, how I didn’t violently tumble down that precipitous peak.