Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spit!

Good grief! Adventure World - that's Adventure World - has just announced its new luxury Inca Trail package. If anything ought to be an oxymoron, it's 'luxury Inca Trail'. This package includes masseuses, sleeping stretchers and HOT SHOWERS. Imagine! Trails of porters in car tyre sandals flapping up and down all those irregular steps with strapped to their backs a massage table, fancy Portaloos, gourmet dinner ingredients, presumably linen table cloths, wine glasses... It's madness.

The Inca Trail is a unique and very special experience that's meant to leave you grateful for the opportunity to have walked it, and proud of having coped with the altitude, the exertion and the relatively primitive conditions. It's not right, turning it into some cushy outing with canapes and high thread-count pillowcases, for goodness sake. Wrong! Totally, totally wrong.

When I did it, with Explore, it was already a cut above the usual experience, simply because we started walking five hours or so behind the daily quota of trekkers (still just 500 a day, porters included). That meant that, far from walking in the company of so many people, and trying to sleep each night while some of them partied hard, we didn't see any other hikers till literally the very end of the track, and spent our nights in peace at what were for everyone else, lunch stops. It was a real privilege, having the track to ourselves, with all its birds and ruins and rivers.

But we still slept on the ground, on pads, washing twice a day in half a bowl of warm water brought to our tents by the porters, ate nourishing, if plain, rice-based food, and used a fairly insalubrious portable toilet (which was made worse by the sole American in our group, Chuck from Saint Louis, refusing to go along with the national custom of putting used loo paper in a bucket, rather than down the toilet). When we got to the end for that fabulous view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we truly felt we had earned it, and even owned it, a little. I really can't believe it could possibly be the same for well-rested, fluffed-up, gourmet-fed rich people.

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