A step off the Gringo trail

Chinchero to Urquillos – In Cusco, Peru

The Gringo trail, the typically tread path throughout the South American continent. Worn in by soul searching travellers, adventure yearning backpackers, exploring couples and letsbehonest…ravers. When someone or something has a name, it is because it deserves to be known. The Gringo Trail is no exception. Hitting up on the wonders and highlights from the tip of Columbia, to the tip of Argentina, across the great massive that is Brazil, daring a venture into Venezuela, bouncing between Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, wondering into Uruguay and Paraguay and tasting the best that Argentina has to offer. There is something for everyone, for any budget, for any adventure. For these reasons, I am not one to shy away from the Gringo trail, even when the tourist mob forces me to make tracks out of there faster than you can say “selfie”.

A very basic lacklustre fact of the Gringo Trail is that you’re most likely never going to be the first, or only one on one of the most iconic wonders that South America has to offer. For this reason, it is when you step off the gringo trail, that the frustrations of being part of the tourist mob become easier to swallow and In my humble opinion, your appreciation for both the tourist popular sites and the lesser walked areas becomes that much better.

While in Peru, I had the fantastic opportunity to spend the day with a local woman (who had hosted us for a week before) and go on a surprise hike. I had no idea that it would be a highlight of our stay in the Cusco area.

Starting off behind the ruins of Chinchero, we found ourselves on a little known track towards Urquillos (a small local village, where the women where top hats and the chickens are fat AF, and everyone looks almost taken aback at the gringos strolling through). In an almost entirely downhill direction we passed into a valley surrounded by lush greenery, towered over by grand mountains on all sides, followed by rivers below. Four hours we spent trekking down rocky passes, stopping to enjoy choclo (giant corn) and sandwiches in a shady glade and finishing off by sipping on Cerveza in a small Peruvian township.

I have topped Mount Salkantay, reached Machu Picchu, hiked Rainbow Mountain, walked the ancient ruins, and cobbled streets that Cusco had to offer, but nothing has made me feel more connected with the nature and the beauty of this part of Peru until this point. It could be the simple element of being the only ones out there (oh yeah, WE OUT HERE), but you can really feel the heart, soul and power of the Pacha Mama, Mother Nature. Taking a moment with an offering of cocoa leaves , I felt connected, I felt humbled and I felt hopeful – which was an unexpected sensation. Our friend and guide told us that sometimes, when you are connected enough, the mountains can have a voice and they can speak to you. It sounds crazy, but I have unwavering faith that there is a spiritual truth here.

The pass is actually a UNESCO heritage site as of not so long ago, so I don’t expect that word of it will always be a little known thing. Perhaps one day it will find itself as one of the spots to hit on our famously well stomped Gringo trail. Whether that happens or not, my god am I grateful for having the opportunity to be one of the only gringos in sight on this track on this day.

The gringo trail is a good thing, but don’t forget how much it pays to sometimes take a step off, even if for a moment, even for a second, you might just hear the mountains speak.

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