Day 1 of Sol Fitness Adventures Inca Trail Trek: Machu Picchu, Peru was a humbling experience, and not for the reasons you’d expect. Sure, starting a hike at 9,300 ft is a little challenging – the air is thin up here. But I had prepared diligently for the hike, so today’s four hours of hiking wasn’t that hard.
I was humbled by the Quechuan porters, the lifeblood of every tourist on Inca Trail guided tours. Jaws dropped and cameras flashed as we caught our first glimpse of the troupes of porters at the bottom of the trail. The porters climbed at a bustling pace, sprinting past us on even the steepest uphill sections. Their precariously balanced loads bore closer resemblance to the overloaded truck on The Beverly Hillbilly’s than our modern day backpacks. Black rubber open-toed sandals revealed bruised toes bandaged with plastic wrap while we enjoyed the comfort of our technical hiking shoes and $16 sweat-wicking socks.
In an effort to provide jobs and stimulate economic development, the Peruvian government requires anyone hiking the Inca Trail to hire a Peruvian guide and porter. The porters belong to a union that assures that they receive fair wages and are not abused on the trail. Porters place their heavy loads on a scale and are not allowed to carry an ounce over 40 kilos. Local farmers who guide to earn additional wages to support their family, these porters spared us ‘gringos’ the agony of carrying all of our own gear for four days.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive my own personal basin of warm water hand-delivered to my tent each morning and evening, complimented by a hot coca tea or a cold chichi moran punch. All this with welcoming smiles and a genuine graciousness I’ve rarely encountered.
So while I could spend this first blog talking about the spectacular scenery of the Andes Mountains, the site of my first Inca ruin, or how my training regimen prepared me for the hike, it is the porters who deserve my first and highest acknowledgement and praise. I thank them for taking such good care of us.
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