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January 21, 2011

Blind Hikers Trek the Andes

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* 16-year-old Andrew trekked to Machu Picchu with a group of 18 American teens, 5 who were blind and 4 sight-impaired.

Machu Picchu. Over 500,000 tourists visit this ancient Peruvian city every year. I wanted to be one of those people, and this summer I got the chance.

The cards were stacked against my being able to go — I'm 16, I'm blind, and Peru isn't exactly around the corner from Greenwich, Connecticut. I got the opportunity through a group called Global Explorers, a nonprofit organization that specializes in sending middle and high school students to interesting places around the globe.

Global Explorers teamed up with Erik Weihenmayer, the first and only blind athlete to summit Mt. Everest, and put together a hiking trip for both blind and sighted people. I applied, was accepted, and before I knew it I was on a plane to Lima, Peru!

Eighteen students and five group leaders headed out from Cusco to what we referred to as the "Super Inca Trail". The trail was "super" because it was longer, higher and more challenging than the trail the average tourist takes.

Our route was 6 days long, taking us to a highpoint of 15,200 feet above sea level. In order to complete the trail, we divided into teams of two or three.

A sighted team member would walk ahead of the blind one with a cowbell, and the blind person would follow the ringing sound and the occasional voice commands.

The trick for the guides was to speak as little as possible. Usually the guides would only talk to mention drop-offs on the side of the trail.

We eventually got creative with describing exactly what would happen if one of us slipped.

A "mildly annoyed" fall meant the worst bruises would be to your pride.
An "organ donor" fall was a bit more serious.
"Headaches" were rocks that jutted out at eye level.

 Descriptions like these helped to make hiking more exhilarating and fun for everyone.

With the excitement of the hike and the ever-present knowledge that a missed step just might land me in a Peruvian body bag, I was glad that I didn't have to worry about comfort on the trail.

My Lowa Boots kept my feet feeling great, even after nine and a half hours of hiking!

If I accidentally stepped in water, the only way I would know was if people told me — my feet stayed warm and dry. After my trek to Machu Picchu, I can't imagine hiking in anything but Lowas! Thanks, again, for the boots!

Thanks, LOWA!
Andrew J

PS - Next year I hope to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro and of course my Lowas will be with me!


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3 comments:

Jenna said...

Wow! Your trip sounds like it was an incredible experience! It really brought me back to the memories we made with Inca Trail Tours. Thanks for sharing!

hotels machu picchu said...

That is the real adventure that you never forget try to visit in machu picchu hotels
you can spend time and rest here beauty of peru.

hotels machu picchu said...

Real adventure and i know you enjoy your tour you feel tired and embarrassing experience just rest the nearest hotel at machu picchu hotels
this post is great!