30 Days of Indie Travel Project: Transit


Day 22 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project is about Transit.

The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

I could write about my current trip for this one.  Riding the Trans-Siberian Railway is all about the journey and really not much about the destination at all.

But you can already read about those experiences in another post.

Instead, I want to focus on a journey that actually didn’t involve transit.

At least, not a lot of transit.

At this time two years ago, I was in the middle of a four-day hike along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. In fact, we reached Machu Picchu on Thanksgiving Day.

The journey began bright and early miles away in Cusco, when a van picked us up from our hotel and we joined eleven others for the bumpy ride to Ollantaytambo.  There, we enjoyed breakfast and picked out walking sticks before getting back on the van to drive to the starting point of the hike.

I was tired before we even began walking. I barely slept the previous night, nervous about the adventure and the challenges that lay ahead.

Everything about the trek would be new to me.

Hiking in high altitudes.

Camping overnight.

Not showering for 4 days straight.

The hike started off fairly easy. We followed the Urubamba River and everyone seemed to take turns hiking next to others in the group, all of us trying to get to know the people with whom we would share this great adventure. We stopped a couple times to learn about Inca ruins along the way and again for a delicious lunch of soup, rice and chicken.

When we arrived at our camp mid-afternoon, I felt a sense of relief that the first day went so smoothly.

But as I fell asleep, a feeling of trepidation began to set in. Day two would be the most difficult day, reaching the highest altitude as we would hike to Dead Woman’s Pass.

I decided to take it very slow. As much as I would have loved to keep up with the others in the group, I knew my physical limitations. And even though I was in great shape and had just run a marathon the previous month, the altitude took its tool. So I hung back with a pair of retirees from Australia. We stopped every few feet, took pictures, told stories and chatted up others who passed us along the way.

I reached Dead Woman’s Pass feeling great and the descent on the other side was a breeze compared to the uphill climb.

Unfortunately, that was the best I would feel for the next two days.

By the time our afternoon snack of hot chocolate and popcorn rolled around, I was starting to feel pretty nauseous. That evening, I could barely eat a bite at dinner and when I tried to fall asleep in the tent, I instead lay awake, trying to fight off the cramps in my stomach.

Morning brought no relief and I faced our longest day of hiking yet, including two more ascents before a final, long downward stretch. The Aussie couple stayed back with me and kept my spirits up, breaking out a harmonica and leading a sing-a-long. Nonetheless, when we stopped for lunch, I broke down crying.

I was so angry that my body was not cooperating with me.

By mid-afternoon, I was finally able to eat again without feeling sick to my stomach and at dinner, I managed to force down a whole plate of rice with some chicken. I even felt up to making an extra hike to see some ruins nearby the camp.

On the fourth and final day, as we walked around Machu Picchu past dozens of clean, well-dressed tourists carrying just a small purse or daypack, I really started to feel a sense of accomplishment.  Yes, experiencing the ruins at Machu Picchu was amazing, but I could have done that on a day trip from Ollantaytambo or Aguas Calientes. Instead, I chose the hard way. I challenged myself physically and mentally before and as a result, my visit to Machu Picchu was about far more than those Incan ruins.

It was about the entire journey.

*Throughout the month of November, BootsnAll is inviting bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging effort – the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project –  designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year – or whenever – have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs.

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