Spectacular trails throughout the Andes, Peru moved mountains within.

My Peruvian path was a quintessential prompt to simply embrace the trail that awaits rather than holding tight to plans or expectations. Destiny, the way my life changed and the direction my trail turned on September 3, 2014, served a healthy dose of perspective. As I now travel some of the world’s most illustrious mountains and challenge the mountains of my mind, I am working towards embracing the detours and closed trails. Anticipating stunning views and easily navigating natural obstacles along the way, Peru challenged me to be flexible in my thinking and expectations of trail running.

There is a common assumption that if travelling to Peru, you are heading for Machu Picchu. With all due respect to the historic route, I had no interest in contributing to the human impact on the trail. In the Andes, as well as any massif I challenge myself in, I prefer to stay off the beaten path and embrace silent serenity of untouched trails. I aim to get a taste of the countryside by foot; see my my own ‘eye’ rather than dodge permit restrictions and cameras.

For a lone monolingual traveller, regardless of a severe visual impairment, distancing oneself from heavily trafficked routes takes effort . Putting myself in vulnerable situations and asking unheard questions, I am most thankful for the way my plot twisted as I set out to explore behind the scenes of the Incas. Making a local connection led to a plethora of possibilities throughout Domingo’s native land.  When we initially conversed, Domingo noted my visual disability; I found myself instantly defensive and quick to advocate for that which I am capable. However, his clarification came with wholehearted empathy and admiration. Domingo is the founder of Yo Soy Sus Ojos (I am His Eyes), Peru’s chapter of a visually impaired runners’ group. A talented trail runner himself, we had a instantaneous connection. Domingo not only suggested a motley crew of  trails, accommodations and modes of transport, he was keen to connect me with Yo Soy Sus Ojos. Domingo sent my Peruvian trail on a collision course with my comfort zone for which, in reflection, I have so much gratitude.

Navigating unmarked trails above the uncomfortable chaos that is Cusco, striding over stones of Inca ruins, and outrunning crowds to Laguna 69, Peru was been anything but predictable. From mammoth rocks, alpacas and curious farmers throughout the Sacred Valley, my trails led to Amantani, a tiny island which sits near 4000 m above sea level on Lake Titicaca shoring both Bolivia and Peru. Sunrise strolls and relatively short lunch time runs during a 5-day silent meditation retreat collided with my usual routine however the collision on the pristine island fostered mountain sized personal growth.

The growth and movement toward acceptance of that which is beyond my control certainly was constructive amidst transportation and accommodation mishaps in the Cordillera Blanca. Personal goals towards cultivating more peace and patience on every trail, I aim to embrace challenging situations and find the opportunity within. Challenges in Peru led to trails from which emerged global friendships, sincere curiosity, encouraging support and brilliant ideas, not fixed plans.

Spectacular trails throughout the Andes, love and kindness enough to move mountains; Peru had a way of surprising me with unexpected adventures all for which I have grown, am thankful and leave, without a concrete plan though with hope and anticipation of a trail that loops back to the start.

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