My mom is a better hiker than I am. This was proved to me when we embarked on the epic Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek together. I had been traveling all around Latin America, doing adventurous and dumb things, thinking I was kind of a hot-shot traveler. My mom was totally game to join on this latest adventure, despite having never done a high altitude trek before. But it didn’t occur to me that my mom would be a better traveler or a better hiker than me.
This Choquequirao trek tempted me with its 5,000 ft. ascents and decents (sometimes both in the same day) from one forgotten Incan city, Choquequirao, to the world famous one, Machu Picchu. For months, I anticipated the stunning contrasts of ecosystems, climate, and ruins. Older guides told me wistfully that hiking to Choquequirao, which is only accessible on foot on a multi-day hike, was like visiting Machu Picchu 30 years ago. While still breathtaking, Machu Picchu does feel less magical around noon when tourist-capacity peaks for the day – it seems 1,000 people arrive at once from both the mult-day trek and the train.
Choquequirao is still being uncovered by archeologists, who are discovering bit by bit that the entire complex is much larger than it’s more famous sister city. Already totally under-the-radar. To get even more epic, you continue on from Choquequirao (when most tourists turn around to finish their 4-day journey) and enter even more roadless, mountainous terrain, for several more days, until you reach Machu Picchu. My mom did this.
Is it difficult? Yes, if you haven’t trained or don’t like multi-day treks. While I had trained and really enjoy hiking, I was still nervous about the kind of challenge that well-weathered guides had described as brutal and exhausting. But on these long days of hiking, I discovered that my mom doesn’t get tired and she doesn’t complain. I mean, look at how much fun she was having 7 days into the trek:
Obviously, even if just to save face, I realized I couldn’t complain either then. I realized how petty it would be to whine when my mom was twice my age, enjoying every minute of the hike and marveling at everything we saw along the way.
Though my new-ish hiking shoes began falling apart and radical bateria in my digestive system attempted a coup (or two) — I began enjoying the hike more than ever. I wasn’t angrily cursing the miles in my head, but instead chatting absent-mindedly with my mom and other travelers.
Also, we laughed. Like obnoxiously, all the time. We stopped a lot, not to rest, but to make sure we didn’t pee our pants laughing or because we were giggling so hard we stopped breathing. But it made us appealing hiking buddies with the locals who were walking the path with us. We joked around with a mom who walked her kids 6 miles to school every morning and then 6 miles home every evening. We laughed with local muleteers about our slow pace and the mules’ bad tempers. My bad Spanish was more than adequate for making some conversation along the way and it was one of the best travel experiences I’ve had.
To be honest, I didn’t know if my mom would actually enjoy all the endless waiting, new food, high altitude, and pisco sours that accompany all Peru adventures. But she dove right in and dug all the new, exciting situations at hand. In the end, my mom probably appreciated the entire experience more than anyone else I had traveled with. I realized, again, that travel often reveals a person’s inner character and can teach a smug traveler how to hike more like their mom.