Trekking The Bolivian Inca Trail: Day 1

Trek 1-0Day one was all about the Andes Mountains and the extremely high altitude!

Departure from La Paz until La Cumbre at 15,645 ft (4,770 m). Starting from this location, the trek will continue until the Apacheta Pass at 16,072 ft (4,900 m). After this pass, there will be a spectacular descent for about seven hours from the high Puna grasslands to the cloud forest or yungas, passing the Chukura small village at 12,300 ft (3,750 m) and later arriving to the Challapampa Camp at 9,184 ft (2,800 m). Lunch on the way. Dinner and overnight at Challapampa Camping.

Trek 1-1Drivers, mountain bikers, and hikers make offerings to the mountain gods before setting off on their adventures!

Trek 1-2My sister-in-law and I standing in front of the mountains. As if the extremely high altitude and the amazing views weren’t enough to make our hearts race, we also had to carry our own sleeping bag, clothing, water, snacks, and personal items. Helping us on this journey was a cook who carried the food and cooking supplies, and a guide who carried the tent and the sleeping mats.

Trek 1-3The surrounding mountain peaks are covered with snow year round. I particularly liked the geometric indentations in this mountain top.

Trek 1-4A llama walks along the sun-drenched ground in front of Inca ruins.

Trek 1-5“A Tambo was an Incan structure built for administrative and military purposes. Found along Incan roads, tambos typically carried supplies, served as lodging for itinerant state personnel, and were depositories of quipu-based accounting records. Different types of tambos existed; those that served to lodge the traveling Inca and his entourage (typically wives and state officials), and those that served as relay stations for the chasquis, who were state messengers who ran along state roads.”

Trek 1-6Taking my first break of the day at the Incan rest stop.

Trek 1-7A sheep sporting brightly colored yarn ear tags.

Trek 1-8After hiking for hours through a large mountain valley, I was amazed that we were still higher than the clouds that surrounded a neighboring mountain peak…and that our final destination point was way down in another valley!

Trek 1-9While not always as smooth as shown here, the path on the first day was quite wide. (I almost felt like I was walking the Yellow Brick Road.) By the second day, the only way forward was to walk in a single file.

Trek 1-10Midway through the first day. While I was smiling, my shoulders were already crying from all of the weight they were carrying! (It was right around here where I started ranking things from most important to least important, in case I needed to start lightening my load.)

Trek 1-11Walking *down* into the clouds. What a sensation.

Trek 1-12An indigenous family using a herd of llamas to carry firewood to their amazingly remote village.

Trek 1-13Late afternoon, starting to walk into the clouds. The path continues to get much more narrow and rugged.

Trek 1-14Early evening fog starts to roll in. The path continues to get steeper and steeper, putting more pressure on our already-overworked knees!

Trek 1-15It quickly became increasingly difficult to see, as the sky continued to darken and as the clouds and fog continued to thicken. Still, we walked for more than an hour and a half after this photo was taken. The day’s final adventure before reaching our campsite: crossing a suspension cable bridge (with missing planks and all!) over a roaring river, in almost complete darkness!!!

This trek was not only a celebration of my recent return to good health, it was also a celebration of the hope that resides in each and every person who lives with inflammatory arthritis, and of the will to keep moving.

ShowUsYourHands_badge_125x125Please join me in these celebrations by making a donation to Show Us Your Hands! a nonprofit charity organization that serves to unite and inspire people who live with inflammatory arthritis. 100% of all funds donated will go directly towards community programs, including the Inflammatory Arthritis Community Collage, the Our Hands Can! Photo Book, and community posters.

For more information, please visit

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

1 Comment
1 comment
  1. Helene Matyi says:

    Beautiful pictures, and such an outstanding accomplishment for RA Guy! You have every right to be proud, because you did this yourself.
    Because you have shared your journey over the last several months I have also been inspired to push through the pain and accomplish more physically than I ever thought possible. I feel so much stronger, and more hopeful, and quite accomplished, and yes, proud too. I’ve said thank you before, but I have to say it again, because my walking success is directly attributable to yours. I am spreading the word, too… hugs and high fives!!

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