A Challenging Journey

  • A Challenging Journey

    A Challenging Journey

    The date for departure for us to walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu seemed to come around rather quickly – whatever happened to all the time that I had for the preparation before going! Despite that, fitness levels were good, so off we set to raise money for charity – Sarah walking in her father’s footsteps and me with Angels in my heart.



    After two days in the sacred valley to acclimatise to the altitude, neither of us were feeling particularly well. I got about two and a half hours sleep the night before due to an upset stomach and both of us felt like our heads were locked in a vice.

    We were collected at 6am, introduced to our 11 other trekking companions and off we set.

    The first morning was baking hot, and not the ‘relatively flat’ walking terrain we had been led to believe. With the effects of the altitude – upset stomach and cramp, aching muscles, tiredness, shortness of breath, headache and nausea – I found it challenging from the outset.

    At the first break, the guides were doubtful that I should carry on but agreed for me to continue on to lunch to re-assess. I found the walking extremely difficult and felt so unwell I had to keep stopping – the stomach pain and nausea the worst. At lunch I was about an hour and a half behind the rest of the group (apart from my gorgeous, lovely friend who stuck with me throughout!). So whilst the rest of the group got a nice rest, lunch and then set off feeling refreshed, Sarah and I got about half an hour before continuing. I had a little boiled rice and herbal tea as couldn’t really eat. The guides asked me if I should continue.

    It was at that point I did consider not continuing. I didn’t want to negatively impact on Sarah or the rest of the group, or make it even harder for our two lovely guides.

    But – I had photographs of the Angels children in my rucksack and in my heart and when I thought of them and all the challenges they face on a daily basis, there was absolutely no way that I was going to give up and not do it.

    So, day 1 after lunch, the main guide Carlos walked with Sarah and I, whilst Raul, the second guide, went up front with the rest of the group. After a short time, Carlos suggested he get me a donkey so I could conserve my energy for the afternoon and have a better chance of completing the whole trek, as after camp on day 1 no animals or other support would be available. I declined on the basis that going on a donkey didn’t constitute ‘walking’ the Inca Trail and I didn’t want to take sponsorship money under false pretenses!

    We arrived at the afternoon break just as the rest of the group was setting off again. The rest of the afternoon was tough and whilst we were meant to arrive at the overnight camp about 5.30pm and at least before it got dark at 6pm, we got there at 7.45pm after 3 porters came back down with torches to meet us and our guide Raul and help us complete the walk and get safely to camp.

    Day 2 was tough! A long day walking up to 14,000 feet. A mix of weather from warm to rain and cold. Others in the group started to feel unwell too on this day. A tough walk up! And then down again to camp. I found going up harder but downhill also took its toll! Then I got nosebleeds! I thought there might have been at least one symptom that I didn’t have but alas!

    Day 3 I really enjoyed. I still felt unwell and had to keep stopping but really appreciated all around me, the mountains, the orchids, butterflies, birds, rainforest – a truly amazing place. Some of this was downhill, and as one of the group had hurt her knee, I wasn’t the last one walking! Raul always stayed with the last person, so whilst that was normally me (!) the latter part of the morning trek meant that Sarah and I got to walk together and on our own. Still behind the main group, but marginally ahead of a couple of others we got to appreciate the time and experience together. It was at this point that I saw an Angel in the trees – outlined from leaves of a different colour – but definitely an Angel!


    We finished walking day 3 with a late lunch and got to relax (or collapse!) for the afternoon before a 3.30am start on day 4.

    An early start to do the final part of the walk up to the Sun Gate. A mix of terrain – mostly up! And just when I thought I had cracked it – we got to the vertical ‘monkey steps’. Raul took my walking sticks off me and told me to climb up on all fours. Really!!! Up I went – feeling guilty that he was carrying things for me – feeling guilty, that was until he ran up the steps and passed me so he could take photographs of us from the top!!!!


    And then after a short time more – I got there! I made it to the Sun Gate. The last one in the group to get there. It was foggy, so Machu Picchu didn’t reveal itself until we walked down to the next viewing point where the clouds parted for a short time before hiding it again. As we continued to descend to this amazing place, the weather opened up to show it in all its beauty.


    We all made it! A fantastic group of 13 trekkers. Great friends supported by two fantastic guides and amazing porters.

    I did it with 4 days of feeling ill and physically depleted and challenged. I have never undertaken such a difficult physical challenge whilst feeling so ill in my entire life. I am still not sure how I did it. But even though I felt so ill, I have to say I enjoyed every step. In having to stop all the time, I had the opportunity to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. Sarah was amazing and we supported each other through a very special journey for us both.


    The Inca’s called the walk – ‘the journey of the soul’. It certainly allowed me an opportunity to journey into the depths of my own soul, to find a level of determination, to overcome physical difficulties in order to achieve something wonderful.

    Having experienced illness and told at points in my life I would never be able to achieve such a thing – I am grateful that I found the ability to do it. And I found that through the inspiration that the children give me. How they continue to deal with challenges on a daily basis. Challenges that most of us cannot even contemplate having to go through.

    With Angels in my heart I achieved something that I never would have thought possible.

    With Angels in my heart I overcame physical, emotional and mental challenges that will stay with me for the rest of my life and inspire me to be able to do even more.

    Whenever I feel I cannot achieve something, I will have Angels in my heart to continue to inspire me – in all aspects of my life.

    And for their inspiration – I will continue to support and help Angels and will always hold them in my heart.

    If you can too – that would be amazing.



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    Thank you to all who sponsored me

    Janice Haddon


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