For me, Machu Picchu has always been a place I’d dreamed of visiting and seeing with my own eyes for as long as I can remember. When the opportunity arose to take part in a Charity Challenge trek, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. To be able to raise money and awareness along the way for Age Scotland just made the experience all the more rewarding.
The reason I chose to support Age Scotland was because a couple of years ago, I had two grandparents pass away within short succession of each other. It really made me think about their last years and how they must have felt. How did they cope with modern life and was there anything I could do to help? After researching Age Scotland and discovering more about the vital services they provide our elderly such as their free phone line service and local community projects, I just knew I had to get involved.
To prepare for Machu Picchu, I tackled the West Highland Way with Mixter Maxter’s very own Ingrid Garrioch! It was a seven day 96 mile trek through the Scottish Highlands starting in Milngavie, Glasgow and finishing in Fort William. I found the West Highland Way to be very tough and it certainly opened my eyes to how hard Machu Picchu would be (and how sore blisters could be!). I also climbed the local hills as much as I could and I completed Ben Nevis with my sister.
Although no amount of preparation and walking could get me ready for the altitude. For me this was the most difficult part of the trek. We arrived in Cusco at 3350 meters above sea level and had two days to acclimatise. From here we trekked through the Sacred Valley to Cuncani at 3380 meters, then on to Huacahasi’s high pass which reached 4600 meters above sea level. The headaches and the generally unwell feelings were quite difficult at times but I had the best group of fellow trekkers who were all supporting each other through the hard times and we had a lovely doctor on hand 24/7. For me, the people I have met on this trek have definitely been the best part. I feel like I’ve got a great group of friends from this experience and it has just bonded us together completely. Another part of this trek which I absolutely loved was seeing the wild Llamas and meeting the local Peruvians along the Sacred Valley route. The children were just so adorable. We brought them small gifts such as toys, corn and fruit which we purchased at the local market before starting the trek. For the Peruvian women, we brought Cocoa leaves and bread. They would sit at the side of the route with their handmade hats, gloves and ponchos etc all for sale. They were just the kindest people; you couldn’t help but buy something!
For me, the most important bit of kit was my water bladder. At high altitude it was extremely important to stay hydrated. Also haribo starmix was a godsend.
My Mixter Maxter pom-pom hat was such a blessing during the trek too. We genuinely had four seasons of weather in one day, every day. On the third day when we were trekking over the highest point, we had our lunch in a valley near the snowy mountain Tirijhuay. While we were eating it actually started pelting hail stones for 30 minutes but my head was so nice and cosy and the view was just stunning. It was hard not to be happy in that moment despite the unpredictable weather.
The moment when I felt I’d achieved something incredible was on day four when we reached the Sun Gate and caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. We woke up early that day at 4am to begin our trek. We were all tired and too hot but still so excited about reaching our destination. I’d seen pictures of Machu Picchu before, but nothing can prepare you for how jaw dropping it is when you see it in real life. All of us were a bit emotional at that point and it was just so overwhelming. I remember thinking my Grandparents would be so proud of this. To celebrate reaching Machu Picchu, we enjoyed a beautiful meal in a restaurant in Aguas Calientes and a relaxing night in a hotel instead of a tent! I was just so grateful for a hot shower (and no more baby wipes!).
Once we’d completed the trek, we enjoyed a chilled night and half day in Cusco where we spent most of our time in the local markets admiring all the beautiful colours and textiles Peru had to offer. There were bags, hats, jumpers, blankets, food, herbs… you name it; they had it! It was a textile dream and a place I need to return to with an empty suitcase!
This was my first Charity Challenge adventure and I can guarantee it won’t be my last. It was just an unbelievable experience and totally different to what I expected. The most important thing I will take away from this challenge is the new friendships I’ve made along the way. It’s also taught me more about my limits and how far I can push myself to achieve my goals.
For anyone who is considering taking on a challenge like this, I’d say without a doubt do it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will totally surprise yourself and change for the better. Now pack your Mixter Maxter pom-pom hat and go on an adventure!