Tag Archives: Inca Trail

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Andrea of Andy in the World

We, hikers, are more similar than we think.  If you ever doubt that, please let me give you some arguments to support that statement.

I took one year to travel and trek.  Andy did as well.

I have trekked the Inca Trail.  Andy has done the same.

In fact, I’ll add Mont Blanc in Europe, Torres del Paine in Chile, Banff in Canada, Haleakala National Park in Maui and Yosemite.  We both have trekked in those places.

Add Kilimanjaro, South Africa and Nepal, which I’ve been to.  These three are on Andy’s bucket list.

Obviously, Andy and I have similar tastes when it comes to mountains.  Not only that, but we are also both fortunate to be part of the same supportive community of female hikers called Hike Like a Woman.  And, I’m quite happy to add, Andy is also part of the Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks project.  Who knew there is such a thing as being twins in the trekking world?  Well, now you know.  With all that said, I’m excited to share Andy’s hiking story.  She’s truly an adventurer and a source of inspiration; hence, I’m thrilled to have her featured on this series.   After all, Andy has already inspired a significant number of people.  Need some proof of that?  Check out her Facebook page and see for yourself her number of followers.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice

Andrea “Andy” Buzeta is from Kennesaw, GA who currently resides in Canton, GA.   Andy is back in the working world after a full year of traveling and hiking.  But not for long.  She already has some adventures in mind. Her next trip will be in Colorado for a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.   Locally, Andy hikes around North Georgia mountains, metro Atlanta and the Smokies.  She usually takes 1 to 2 hiking trips a year abroad or to a U.S. National Park.  When off the trails, Andy loves traveling that entails experiencing other cultures and cuisines.  She’s also fond of biking, kayaking, salsa dancing and reading.

How did you discover hiking?

I first started hiking 8 years ago- 2008. I had moved from the city (Atlanta) to the country (North Georgia) when I had first got married to my then husband. I was bored and having culture shock because there was nothing to do- no crowded bars and nightclubs, no international restaurants, it was even hard to find a gym. While I was out driving one day, I found Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked some of the trails.  Upon hearing that the Appalachian Trail starts there and goes all the way to Maine, I was fascinated!  Also the 2 mile loop I did with 600 stairs in the middle made me realize that I was out of shape!  It became my goal to be able to do that 2 mile loop without feeling like I was going to die.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?

My most memorable hiking experience to date was my trip to Chile in January 2015.  It was supposed to be a 6 day backpacking trip called the “Trail of the Neighbors”, trekking Chile’s famous Futaleufu River Valley.  The trip would depart from near the little town of Futaleufu and take me to a camp located at the confluence of the Futaleufu and Azul rivers.  It would be a circumnavigation of the Teta peak along side the Espolon lake, while experiencing deep immersion of Patagonia culture with homestays in remote ranches. Well, that’s what I went to do.  But I ended up on an expedition from the Andes to the Ocean on horseback, because the route was too dangerous on foot. A volcanic eruption a few years before had left the route too dangerous, with rivers unsafe to cross on foot.  I later learned that this was a bucket list trip for horseback enthusiasts. I had never even rode a horse before. It was way out of my comfort zone to trust an animal to carry me up high mountain passes and to cross rushing rivers.

That’s quite a surprise – from walking to horse riding!  That’s why it’s memorable indeed.  

What do you like the most about hiking?

What I like most about hiking is the mental meditation that it is for me.  It completely clears my head and rids me of my anxieties.

I couldn’t agree more with that.  To me, the meditative part is the most alluring aspect of hiking.  

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

It depends.  I enjoy hiking solo more as a general rule, when I am just going out for a hike on the weekend.  On trips, especially international trips, I enjoy the group comraderie, meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sharing the experience.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

First, to be truly present in the moment.  Put away the IPhone. Put one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the scents around you.  Second, some things seem impossible when really they aren’t, it is just your brain telling you so. For example I look at a pass and think wow, there is no way I’m going up and over that. But you just put one foot in front of the other and next thing you know, you’re there!  Third, when you’re lost and cannot find the way, sometimes prayer really is what works.

What advise would you give to women who are new to hiking?

1) Always go prepared- with water, rain gear, etc. 

2) Don’t not go hiking because you don’t have anyone to go with, go alone anyway. Start at your local state parks and get comfortable there, then you will have more confidence to venture out for hikes in other places.

Please share with us your 3 favorite hiking photos and the reasons why they are your favorites.

This is in Banff National Park, Canada, in July of 2014.  This was the day I went over my first real high mountain pass. I was very happy because I had accomplished something new. The scenery around me was so very beautiful!

This is going up Macchu Picchu Mountain in Peru, in April 2016.  This was a very challenging hike, because you have to climb 2000 stairs above 10,000 feet in altitude.  The air was thin and it was hot and humid.  But about halfway through I got this crazy second wind and zipped up to the top!

The next picture is from the Tour du Mont Blanc in August 2015.  This was right near the border of Switzerland and France. Our group was about to close the loop we started 10 days before. The weather was just gorgeous this day and I was enjoying every moment.

With all these beautiful trekking experiences you’ve had, what other treks do you still have on your bucket list?

I would like to do a trek in Nepal in the Everest region or Annapurna region.  I would also like to do a trek in Africa- either Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or something in South Africa.

What is your favorite hiking gear and why?

I love my Merrell Moab Waterproof shoes.  They have taken me all over the world.

Andrea shares with us 3 favorite trails.

In July 2016 I took a trip to Yosemite National Park in California and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Panorama trail, which starts at Glacier Point, passes Nevada Falls, and ends in Yosemite Valley.
 

In February 2016, I took a trip to Hawaii (Maui and Lanai) and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Sliding Sands trail in Haleakala National Park, which is a dormant volcano.  The terrain of this place is the closest you can be to walking on another planet!

In October 2015, I hiked a 100 kilometer section of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, starting in Sarria and ending in Santiago de Compostela.  The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.   This walk was 8 days, 2 of which were in the pouring rain.  This hike really tested me.  Even though the terrain was flat and much easier than trekking in the mountains, the 2 days of rain and amount of time walking on concrete really took its toll on my feet.  This was also my first solo trek.  On others I have typically gone with a group.  It was a great experience.

What was the toughest hike or trek you have done?

It was actually the section I did of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  It was physically more challenging to me because walking on flat terrain, sometimes paved, for longer distances was harder on my feet and legs than walking up and down mountains all day. I got leg cramps that I had never had before. I walked 2 full days in very heavy rain so I got blisters also. It was also mentally challenging. I expected to be meeting and connecting with lots of people, but the rain had everyone just trudging along only focused on getting to the next town. This was also my first solo trek, so when my phone died from getting too wet, it did increase my anxiety.

Yikes!  That is one heck of a blister.  I do agree with flat paved paths as a challenge.  I’ve had that same issue in the past myself as it can be mentally challenging due to the lack of variety of the trail.  

Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?

 No, not really.  On one of those really rainy days walking on the Camino, I did have a man pull over and offer me a ride to the next town.  I asked the pair of hikers behind me and the pair in front of me if he had offered a ride to them and they said no.  I’m pretty sure it was just a nice person offering me a ride, but being a female alone, my guard was up and I declined.

One last thing, Andy leaves us with her favorite quote from one of my favorite authors to inspire us all.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” 
                                       – Paulo Coelho

Andy manages to document all her adventures via her blog,  Andy in the World which launched in August of 2015.   In her blog, she documents not only the treks that she has done but also her non-trekking travels.  I do enjoy the fact that she is eclectic in that she does combine her love of the mountains with regular traveling.   With us being so similar in tastes and with my social enterprise (Peak Explorations), I get the sense our paths will cross sooner than later, and that’s something I look forward to!  Until then, you and I can follow Andy via her blog to see what mountain trails or cities she’s exploring.  And if you did end up checking her Facebook page earlier, you would then have discovered that she has over 17,000 followers!  Proof enough of her being a source of inspiration in the traveling and trekking world.

You can follow Andrea via her blog, Andy in the World and social media:  Facebook 

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

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Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

Saying I DO is Not the Only Thing to Celebrate On the Trails


Source: MC Travel

Today I had a bit of time to browse through my Facebook wall and by chance came upon a video that caught my attention. It was a video depicting the famous Machu Picchu, a place that I have visited twice.  The first time was to do a one day hike and the second time was when I organized a group of 30 people to hike the Inca Trail.   But this video happens to be about  not only the ancient ruins, but also about men proposing to the ladies in their lives.  The women as expected were ecstatic as evidenced by their tears of joy and smiles.  The video gained over 4 million viewers, 65, 000 shares, 54, 000 likes and 12, 000 comments.  If you asked me 10-15 years ago whether I would “like” the video, my answer would have been a “yes.”

But fast forward to now, looking at this clip I’m perplexed by how much society celebrates the dramatic flair of marriage proposals as if it’s the ultimate goal in life.  I’ll confess one thing – I’m beyond the age that most women get married. I have never been married.  It’s not my ultimate goal even though the majority in our society sets that as a goal for me.

You see, when you spend tons of time alone on travels which I had over a decade, you realize there’s so much more to celebrate beyond marriages and partnerships.  Women are advancing in their careers at a much higher rate and breaking down glass ceilings more than ever before.  Women are expanding their horizons as they travel the world with others or solo.  Women athletes are on the rise, be it on the mountain trails or in the more traditional sense.  Women are turning towards entrepreneurship to answer their calling and define their own freedom.  There are so many aspects of being a woman that warrant a celebration beyond a piece of paper that says you’re legally committed to one person.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in the value of having a loving partner in one’s life. Sharing moments on any and every hike would be amazing.  But as we age, we need to be more mindful of the sources from which we receive love.  If it’s from the outside world or our partners that we find the flow of love, then what happens when we lose him or her?  Oftentimes, when we don’t have a good grasp of loving ourselves, once he or she disappears, we end up easily losing ourselves.  That’s a pity.  I’d like to think that love can be more enduring and everlasting than that, at least for as long as I’m living on this planet.

This brings me to the thought – wouldn’t it be nice if one day our society places more value in learning to love ourselves and stop looking down on women who walk the trails alone?  Trust me, I get questions about my being a solo hiker along with the curious looks and wondering minds that question the whereabouts of my partner.  If this video depicted me instead with my looking into the camera directly, hence, looking at the viewers themselves, would they even have the ability to see the happiness within me the same way they did with the couple they saw kissing and hugging?

Perhaps, not. Perhaps they’ll assume the wrong things and disregard that genuine sense of joy on my face so they can instead feel sorry for me for standing alone in that photo.  Or better yet, they’ll wonder where my prince charming was in such a beautiful mountain backdrop.  If I may be blunt, as I watched this video, I felt more concerned than joyous towards the couples as I wondered if they were making the right decision for both parties.  After all, commitment on paper entails tons of hassles, both emotional and financial.  It’s a step that most people take based on societal norms even though unnecessary at times.

But then, what do I know?  I’m just a mountain fanatic who barely has time for relationships, and who, for now, is simply happy to commit to nature  because it always provides me the ability to align with my innate sense of joy.  I know it would be unrealistic of me to expect millions of viewers and thousands of people to like my videos that merely depict a lone female frolicking on the trails, but I’ll continue sharing them, nonetheless.  Maybe one day society will warm up to the idea that we can celebrate other crucial life moments besides the notion of marriage atop mountain peaks.  If it’s truly meant to be, then I’ll patiently wait like any hiker at heart.

For more, read She Becomes a Judge and I Become a Mountain Nomad.

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Trekking the Inca Trail: Why Go With The Crowd?

It’s no exaggeration.  The Classic Inca Trail has to be on every list of top 10 treks in the world.  

Hence, it can get crowded.   You may even be so unlucky that you lose out on the chances of getting a permit. But, don’t be discouraged!  Take this as a good reason to keep trying to cross this trek  off your bucket list because it’s deemed to be one of the best for a reason.

I organized a group of 30 people to do the classic Inca Trail years back.  Even to this day, we still reminisce about the experience.  Upon reflecting on our journey, we can’t help but feel the same joy we felt while on the trail.  The Classic Inca Trail trek is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable adventures of our lives.

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So, why is the Inca Trail THAT appealing?  Here are 11 reasons why:

1. It’s a short trek – only 4 days

Let’s start with the obvious.  The Inca  Trail trek is in essence akin to a long weekend backpacking trip.  You wake up early on the first day so you can get to the trail head just after the sunrise and start walking on the same day.  On the last day, you wake up early before sunrise to hike to the much awaited highlight of the trek – Machu Picchu.  The trail itself is only 26 miles long.  Hence, a traveler can easily add this trek to his or her itinerary without using up too many days to do so.

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2.  It’s not so high

Although it’s deemed as a high altitude trek, the highest point is only 13, 828 feet.  It’s high enough to feel the altitude but low enough to comfortably trudge on without much of an issue. In fact, my group of 30 consisted of ages ranging from 20s to 60s.  All of us made it to the highest point with no problem.  Of course, you would need to consult with your doctor to make sure there are no pre-existing conditions that would render you unsuitable for high altitude trekking.  For more on how to prepare for high altitude trekking, read THIS.  Please keep in mind that this trek does require hiking up a significant amount of elevation so you have to be fit and in good health!

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3. It’s trekking with a day pack

One of the key factors as to why this trek is easier than most is the fact that you can hike the entire trail with a small daypack to carry only your day hiking essentials.  A lighter weight on your back means a much more comfortable walking experience.  At the same time, this trek has been instrumental in the tourism industry in the Cusco region of Peru, no doubt.  The trek has created jobs for the locals who are hired as porters to carry all your personal belongings.  Typically, you can share the cost of hiring one porter or you can have one porter to be assigned only to you.  Usually, people share porter services as each hiker is allowed to hand over 15-20 pounds of items.  With it being only 4 days, you can easily minimize the weight to under 15 pounds. As a side note, it’s always appreciated when hikers are mindful of the weight they give to the porters to carry so avoid that urge to overpack.

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4. It’s a luxury vacation on the trail

You don’t need to deal with setting up tents, cooking meals and setting up group gear.  As part of the tour, you have the luxury of simply walking from one point to the next and not even have to worry about setting up a tent.  Tours include set up of tents and the meals on the trail.  Once you get to the camp, the time you have there is all yours to do whatever you wish. There are no chores to be done on your end. Your job is to enjoy your rest and the nature that surrounds you.

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5. It’s an easy and well-marked path

The trail is well-maintained and closed part of the year for the purposes of cleaning and overseeing the trail.  There’s nothing technical about it; nor is there scrambling or any tricky parts to the trail except for some sections that may be rockier than others.  In addition, there’s no concern about getting lost on the Inca Trail.  Even if you do find solitude along the way (which can happen most definitely), you don’t need to panic and worry about getting lost.  You’re far from being off the beaten path. It’s a well-trodden trail that even trying to get deliberately lost would be a challenge.  Don’t even try.

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6.  The weather conditions are typically pleasant

Unless you go during the rainy season, this is a trek that poses no concerns regarding any kind of extreme weather.  The area may be prone to rain, but even so, the rain typically doesn’t last long and the amount is rather minimal.  At night, it can get chilly but it’ll never be below freezing.  This means there’s no need for you to buy an expensive high quality sleeping bag.  Most decent sleeping bags will do and oftentimes travelers rent the bags from the tour company, which is the more reason why the trek attracts crowds.  The tour company can essentially supply you all the gear that you need.

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7.  Machu Picchu is at the end of it

Obviously, this is the top reason why Inca Trail is on everyone’s bucket list.  Having been there myself, I can confirm that the majestic nature of this site DOES live up to its reputation.  DON’T MISS IT.  That’s all I have to say.

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8.  You can dip into a hot spring as a reward.

Aguas Caliente, the hot spring and the town with the same name are both amazing treats to hikers.  Who can resist the idea of trekking for 4 days and ending the journey with a dip in a hot spring?  Plus, the town of  Aguas Caliente is full of restaurants and shopping opportunities that attract the tourist side to those who hike the trail.  It also serves as a quick immersion back to civilization.

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9.  You visit Cusco.

For full immersion after the trek, you return to Cusco in the evening on the fourth day – a highlight in, and of, itself.  Cusco is one of the most beautiful colonial towns in South America with such a warm and welcoming atmosphere to tourists of all kinds. There are plenty of restaurants for the hungry hikers of the Inca Trail where you can indulge in local delicacies before heading back home.  As an aside, souvenir shopping can be had in every corner of the town.  Not a bad place to end your trek.

10.  Reasonable airfares

Let’s not forget one other good reason for the popularity of this trek – the reasonable flight costs, especially from the U.S.  If you wish to be creative and are willing to sacrifice time and sleep, it’s possible to book a $200-300 flight round-trip from the U.S.  Be prepared, however, to  deal with long and multiple layovers to get to Lima and back.  Otherwise, on average, the flights can go anywhere from $650-850.

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11.  You can get by without speaking Spanish

Finally, you don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to survive the experience, both on and off the Inca Trail.  English-speaking locals are common in Lima and Cusco.  Once on the trail, you’ll be with an English-speaking tour guide and TONS of English-speaking hikers.  There’s plenty of English to be spoken on this kind of trip so don’t even spend a second worrying about language barriers.  Having said that, it would serve you well to learn some Spanish before the trip and practice it when you get there.  Locals always appreciate the effort.

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In summary, the trek is an ideal experience for all levels of hikers, even those who are new to multi-day trekking and high altitude. As a bonus, it’s also a great introduction to other cultures for those who are first-timers to overseas traveling.  The culture shock is minimal which renders the entire experience pleasurable.

So, coming from a hiker who loves off the beaten path trails, for this one moment in time, I will happily deviate from that to to tell you –

Go follow the crowd!  Seriously, you should.

I did with 30 people and to this day it’s still the best NON-off the beaten path experience I ever had.

As a side note, you can join Brown Gal Trekker’s trekking group for the April, 2017 Classic Inca Trail Trek.  For info, click HERE.

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