The sky becomes quietly dim as the clouds dance to the rhythm of a hundred footsteps. My breath becomes shortened and with each step, I’m wondering if this is all but a mere dream. The glacier mountains greet the fleeting sunlight and birds accompany the wildlife below in song.
We have reached a little over 13,000 ft. and I am completely mesmerized by the world above, below, and surrounding me. The Andes Mountains are a fearsome sight to behold. I feel so inadequate, so small, and so speechless at the sight of it all.
The four day Inca trail hike through the grandiose Andes mountains is something that I will never forget. It is hard to capture through just simple words or fleeting images in time, but I will do my best to describe what those 96 hours felt like.
Day 1: Easy Day.
On the first day, our team of nine was told by our tour guides, Elias and Emerson, that today was “Easy Day.” I kept thinking to myself, “This really isn’t that easy.” After hiking Day 2 and 3, I look back and can’t help but laugh, “Day 1 was indeed an easy day.”
We were greeted by horses, learned how to make a rope out of cacti, and enjoyed our first(of many) delicious meals together.
Day 2: Challenging Day.
Perhaps the number one thing that I remember from this day is staring up into the mountains, and after a couple hours of climbing, coming to realize just how much longer it was going to take to reach our highest point. What’s next? “Steps. And, more steps.”
It seemed to be never ending, but once we reached the top and frost seemed to be biting at my nose, it was absolutely breathtaking. Descending another 1,000 ft. to reach base camp that night, the fog was thick and weaved it’s way through the mountains, the trees, and the fields below. I felt like I was Maria von Trapp in that instances, despite the numbing pain in my legs.
Day 3: Unforgettable Day.
This was our longest day of hiking, 12 hours to be exact, in which the last hour was completed in the dark.
We visited three archaeological sites, said hello to a few llamas along the way, and climbed another 1,000 ft, followed by a 3,000 ft. descent. Towards the end of Day 3, my knees were in so much pain that I had at one point wandered how in the world I was going to wake up and hike to our final destination the following morning.
Day 4: Unique Day.
Our wake up time was at 3:30 a.m. Luckily, we were awoken by the aroma of coffee and pancakes on our plate for quite an early morning breakfast. At dawn, we made our way to the Sun Gate where we watched the illumination of Machu Picchu.
This past semester, I read Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in A Thousand Years.” Describing his four day trek through the Andes Mountains, he writes
“because you can take a bus to Machu Picchu; you can take a train and then a bus, and you can hike a mile to the Sun Gate. But the people who took the bus didn’t experience the city as we experienced the city. The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.”
Despite altitude sickness, the throbbing pain in my knees and the ache in my back and muscles, there was something absolutely indescribable about seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. We appreciated it in a way that others hadn’t.
Miller alludes this feeling to how some of us will feel when we arrive at heaven’s “Sun Gate.”
During the four day trek, I spent a lot of time with my thoughts. I will never forget on the third day when I stopped for a quick moment and stood in awe of the rolling mountains in front of me. It was the one moment on the trip where I could hear God’s voice, “If I can move mountains, how much more can I do in your life?”
You see, these mountains are absolutely immovable and unbreakable. They are vast and as a human being trespassing in their company, you feel so tiny. And, there, in the middle of the mountains, God reminded me that He is omnipotent and greater than any mountain standing in our world and in my own life.
When we finally arrived at Machu Picchu, I thought about how this four day trek resembles each and every one of our lives. Life is a journey. While we look forward to the final destination, I pray that we never lose sight of the people, the sights, the sounds, and the mission of today. One step at a time.