Hiking Machu Picchu with a Fractured Foot

Most people dream of seeing Machu Picchu at some point in their lives and I was no exception. I just never imagined that the day I finally did see the lost city of the Incas, I would have a fractured foot and hike to the top of Machu Picchu mountain.

I haven’t told many people that I fractured my foot just over half way through my travels. I fractured it when I was in Sydney, Australia on May 17th. Like all stupid “I fractured my ___” stories, mine starts with “I was very drunk”. Here’s where my story is different: it wasn’t my fault at all. I was at an Irish pub with a good friend and we were about 7 drinks into our night. Suddenly, a girl, whom I did not know and was wearing 5″ stilettos, stepped on my foot (with her spike heel). She did not realize she was standing on my foot, so she was standing on my poor foot with her full weight… for a good 45 seconds. It sounds painful, I know. Trust me, it was. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion and I was too drunk to push her off. My eyes instantly filled with tears and I was thinking “oh man, this chick is standing on my foot… that hurts… really bad… I should probably push her off… but how?” Yeah. Not one of my top 5 brightest moments.

The night I fractured my foot

The night I fractured my foot

The next morning, it was swollen and black and blue. And in a lot of pain. All I could think about was the fact that I was going to hike Machu Picchu in one month’s time and my injured foot better not ruin that for me. I went to my friend’s mother-in-law who is a head nurse and she looked at it and said “it is likely fractured” but she advised me exactly what I was thinking: nothing can be done for it. It’s a small bone in the center of the foot. They’ll simply do an expensive X-Ray (I had travel insurance, but still, there is no guarantee I’d be refunded), possibly put me in a cast and boot and tell me to rest it for a minimum of 6 weeks. I never went to the hospital or the doctor to have my foot looked at. I don’t know if this was a smart decision, but it’s the decision I made and I am (mostly) happy with my decision. My friend’s mother-in-law-who-is-a-nurse advised me to rest it as much as possible. So, in true Chelsea fashion, I rested it for a whole half day and walked on it every day after that. I did a lot of walking and hiking on my fractured foot. I even went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef with flippers on (very very painful). But the craziest thing I did was hike to the top of Machu Picchu mountain. Again, was this smart? Probably not. But this is exactly what I did.

1 week after my foot was fractured. Inside the circle is the fabulous red mark from the stiletto. I blurred out my big toe nail because it was so bruised at the time, no one deserves to have to see that.

1 week after my foot was fractured. Inside the circle is the fabulous red mark from the stiletto. I blurred out my big toe nail because it was so bruised at the time, no one deserves to have to see that.

I decided to do 2 days at Machu Picchu, which is certainly something most people do not do. Most people do a half day or 1 day but I knew I wanted to dedicate more time to this wonder of the world. I figured, I was there and do not know if or when I will return, so why not? I took the train with Inca Rail from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and was so happy to have this experience. What a beautiful train ride it was. Without this train ride, I would have never met someone who is now a good friend and I wouldn’t have had someone to share the experience of seeing Machu Picchu for the first time with. I stayed in Aguas Calientes (the town nearest to Machu Picchu, approximately a 25 minute bus ride away) for 3 nights. Again, this is something almost no one does. Three nights in Aguas Calientes was a bit much because it is a tourist town and it is annoying to walk around because you constantly have restaurant workers desperately trying to get you to come eat at their restaurant and men and women trying to get you to come to their spa to get a massage. However, I am glad I stayed for 3 nights because it allowed me to relax and enjoy Machu Picchu for two whole days.

View from the train to Machu Picchu

View from the train to Machu Picchu

 

Inside the train

Inside the train

 

Inside the train

 

View from the train

 

View from the train

 

View from the train

 

Aguas Calientes. Do you see me?

Aguas Calientes. Do you see me?

 

The first day, June 18th, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. to catch the first bus (5:30 a.m.) because I wanted to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. My new friend Z hired a private guide and kindly let me tag along her two hour tour. If you go to MP, I highly recommend hiring a guide otherwise you will probably have no idea what you’re looking at. Our guide, Paquas, was informative and entertaining and Z and I could not believe we were actually there. It was really nice to share this experience with a friend instead of being there alone. I stayed at the site for 7 hours the first day, mostly just wandering around and enjoying being there. I met an Irish couple and hiked to the Inca Bridge with them which made for a highly entertaining experience. Even if you don’t hike up Huayna Picchu (the mountain that is most photographed and is nearest to the ruins) or Machu Picchu (the higher of the 2 mountains), just hiking around to get to different photograph spots is not an easy feat, especially for someone with a fractured foot. At the end of day one, I was exhausted and I still had my biggest challenge to look forward to the following day: hiking to the top of “Machu Picchu Montaña”, elevation: 10,111 feet/ 3,082 meters. This mountain is much higher than the more often photographed Huayna Picchu.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

 

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Llama at Machu Picchu

Llama at Machu Picchu

 

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View of the not-as-often photographed Machu Picchu Mountain

View of the not-as-often photographed Machu Picchu Mountain

 

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My reflection amongst the ruins of Machu Picchu

 

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Day 2, I checked in at the bottom of the mountain at 8:15 a.m. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. This hike was extremely difficult. Granted, I am not particularly in shape but I am also not completely out of shape either. It was a very steep hike and it got more steep as I went along. I took many breaks, which was fine with me because this is all I was doing that day and I wanted to enjoy the views on the way up as well as chat to the other hikers. My breaks had to be more frequent than the average person’s because of my foot. When I was about 25 minutes from the top, I stopped and absolutely did not think I could go on any further. This is when I met a 69 year old man. If he could do it, so could I – plus, hiking is mostly mental. I knew if I did not make it all the way to the top, I would never forgive myself. I am not exaggerating when I say that was the most difficult 25 minutes of my life. But I DID IT. I made it to the very top of Machu Picchu with a fractured foot. We won’t discuss how the 69 year old man beat me. All that matters to me is that I did it. I reached the top at 11:20 a.m., so it took me 3 hours and 5 minutes. This is a bit of a shame considering it takes most people 1 1/2 hours, but I am proud of my accomplishment. I stayed at the top enjoying the magnificent 360 degree views for 1 hour. I didn’t realize going down the mountain would be a lot more painful for my foot than going up.

 

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En route to start hiking up Machu Picchu Mountain

 

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Excited and energized at the beginning of my hike!

 

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Sweating already

 

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The view of Huayna Picchu is already amazing from not very far up Machu Picchu!

 

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Still a long way to go…

 

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Crazy steps

 

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Starting to not have as much fun as I was in the beginning…

 

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Never ending steps…

 

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I DID IT! FINALLY!

 

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Huayna Picchu & the ruins look so tiny from the top of Machu Picchu!

 

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I did it! I did it! I did it! …

 

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…but I’m super tired!

 

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The top of Machu Picchu

 

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The top of Machu Picchu

 

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I wasn’t the only person tired after the hike to the top

 

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Climbing down

 

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I am not sure what size people the steps of Machu Picchu were designed for, but they must have been oddly sized persons. The width of each stair was extremely narrow and the stairs were set far apart from each other. These people must have had tiny feet and very long legs. Luckily, I have long legs… but not small feet! This is why going down was so painful for me, I had to carefully place my feet sideways on each stair. It was a bit of a nightmare and I was really wishing I could just paraglide off the side of the mountain to the bottom, but I made it. It took me 1 hour and 35 minutes to get to the bottom of the mountain, and when I did, I was so dehydrated (I had recently run out of water) and had the worst headache and my body felt like it was utterly falling apart, so I laid in the grass, put my hat over my face and passed out.

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My view while napping at Machu Picchu

 

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Napping at Machu Picchu

I stayed at Machu Picchu for a total of 9 hours on my second day. It was such a magical experience and I loved feeling the energy while I was there. I would highly recommend spending two days at MP like I did – it didn’t feel rushed at all.

Side note: When I returned to the U.S. in July, I went to see my primary physician and told her about my foot. She looked at it and felt it and said she thinks it was fractured but it is too late to do anything about it now. She also said she doesn’t blame me for not getting it checked out when it happened because I likely would have been put in a boot and it would have ruined my trip. However, now I have to give it about 1 year to fuse and I have to be careful to not get a stress fracture on top of the fracture. It is still in a bit of pain but it is bearable.

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What’s in my Backpack?

Many of you have been asking me what I traveled with for 4 months. Here’s everything I had:
Chelsea HPL
– Tortuga Backpack (carry-on size!)
– Deuter GoGo Daypack
Chelsea HPL3
CLOTHES & SHOES
– Small packing cube had all of my underwear (14 pair) and socks (8 pair) inside
– Large packing cube had all of my shirts inside (10 shirts total – 2 tank tops, 1 dressy top, 7 t-shirts – some of which I acquired while traveling and left behind)
– Long sleeve chambray button-down shirt
– Scarf
– 1 pair of yoga pants (I wore these anytime I got on a plane, bus or train and also wore them to sleep in when it was cold)
– 1 pair of light pants from India to wear when I had to dress conservatively when it was hot outside (I got rid of these after I left Asia)
– 1 pair of black jeans
– 1 pair of capris
The North Face Adele Triclimate Jacket
– Flipsters foldable flip-flops – an amazing invention! I used these as shower shoes when I stayed in hostels.
– 2 bras (1 black, 1 beige) & 1 sports bra
– 1 pair of black ballet flats
– 1 pair of Merrell hiking shoes (Salida Mid Waterproof)
– 1 pair of Teva Tirra sandals, which I can HIGHLY recommend! Every time I wore them, I was so happy to have them. When I was searching for a pair of sandals to bring on my trip, I was so hesitant to order these because I thought they looked too “grandma-ish”. I am so glad I got over that. I have plantar fasciitis in my feet and I cannot wear shoes that do not offer support. These were perfect.
– 2 pairs of shorts (one black pair and one pair of exercise shorts)
– 1 bikini
– 1 dress I purchased in Thailand and got rid of after awhile
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TOILETRIES
– Toiletry bag
– Comb
– Mini brush
– Travel toothbrush
– Deodorant
– Face wash
– Nail clippers
– Tweezers
– Facial moisturizer
– Toothpaste
– Floss
– Aquaphor (lip care)
– 3 GoToobs (1 for shampoo, 1 for conditioner, 1 for sunscreen)
– Q-tips
– Tiger Balm
– Anti-itch liquid for mosquito bites
– Mascara (I didn’t even use this until my 3rd month of traveling!)
– BB Cream
– Eye drops
– Razor
– Nail file
– Lotion
*Not pictured:
– Ear plugs
– Eye mask
– Band-aids
– Mosquito repellent
– Lunatec Self-Cleaning Travel Washcloth (it dries within 30 minutes and is great!!)
– Small packets of tissues
– Medication (Pepto Bismol, Imodium, Ibuprofen, etc.)
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ACCESSORIES & ELECTRONICS
– Small purse (Travelon Anti-Theft Signature Slim Pouch) – it is perfect for travel because it cannot be cut or slashed by thieves and has locking zippers
– Hat (Blu Bandoo – it has SPF & cooling beads so when you soak it in cold water it keeps you cool for hours)
– GoPro camera
– GoPro Backdoor Floaty (so I can take my GoPro in the water and not worry about it sinking)
ChicoBag (It takes up no room at all because it stuffs into its own tiny pouch and it opens up into a nice, sturdy bag that I find myself using often! It serves many purposes.)
– Point and shoot camera
– Small sweat towel – something I did not bring with me but bought in a department store in Thailand – I was SO happy to have it! I think it is a must when traveling in hot countries. This one is micro cotton – it is super soft and dries quickly.
Chelsea HPL2
*Not pictured:
– 13″ Macbook Pro
– iPod Touch
– Chargers for all of my electronics
– Copies of my passport
– Passport-sized photos for visas
– Small notebook & pen
– Sea to Summit DryLite travel towel – it dries much quicker than a regular towel
– Luggage locks
– Head lamp
– USB Stick
– My Passport External Hard Drive (I purchased this while on the road)
– 1 universal adapter
Tortuga HPL1
*Note: I traveled without a phone. I know I am probably one of the very few travelers without a phone. Many people think I am crazy, but I love the freedom of not being able to be reached and was absolutely fine without it. It is an extra expense I do not need.
Also, there was nothing I didn’t have that I wished I brought with me. However, there was one thing I often wished I could have with me – SLIPPERS! – but it wasn’t realistic (I did not have room for them).

Details of my Budget

Before I began my round the world trip, I figured I would spend around $10,000 USD total (including flights, food, accommodation, personal expenses, etc.) from the day I left home til the day I returned. I ended up spending a grand total of $11,661, which I think is pretty darn good and was close enough to my budget so I’m quite happy.

Some of you may be thinking “that’s a lot of money to spend on a four month trip”, while the rest of you are probably thinking “that’s really good, how did you do it?” I am going to respond to both thoughts. First, to those who think it is a lot of money to spend in four months: you must keep in mind that I flew 37,814 miles – that’s a lot of ground to cover! I flew to 3 different continents (not counting North America or any stopovers) and 6 different countries (again, not counting the U.S.).

I flew from Tampa, FL -> Detroit -> Amsterdam -> Delhi -> Almaty -> Bishkek -> Almaty -> Bangkok -> Kuala Lumpur -> Medan -> Kuala Lumpur -> Sydney -> Melbourne -> Cairns -> Sydney -> San Francisco -> San Salvador -> Lima -> Cusco -> Lima -> Fort Lauderdale -> Orlando

Now, for those of you wondering…how did I do it? I traveled on a budget, but I never hesitated to treat myself at any point if it was something that I really wanted. That’s the key. In Asia, I stayed in hotels because they are cheap enough (compared to the rest of the world). I spent an average of $9 per night on a hotel in Asia. In Australia, I stayed with friends, couchsurfed and stayed in hostels. In San Francisco, I stayed in a hostel. In Peru, I stayed with a friend and stayed in a hostel. I stayed in a dorm room in each of the hostels I stayed at. I never once treated myself to luxurious accommodation because that’s not my priority. If you’re a hotel snob, you probably could not do  a trip like I did for less than $12,000. I knew if I stayed in private rooms (outside of Asia), I wouldn’t have the money to spend on the things I really wanted to do and the things I really wanted to eat! (Let’s be honest, eating is always at the top of my priorities list when it comes to traveling).

I told myself I would keep a budget in an Excel spreadsheet but I never did. Instead, I kept my budget in my head. I knew I was aiming to spend an average of $50 per day. On some days, I spent much less than this and on others (like on days I did expensive activities), I spent much more than $50. I figured it would balance out and for the most part, it did. Why did I go $1,661 over my original budget (other than treating myself more often than planned)? I originally did not plan to go to Kyrgyzstan and the flights to and from Kyrgyzstan were quite expensive. I think this added approximately $900 to my budget but would I do it again? Absolutely, it was 100% worth it. When else will I have the chance to go to Kyrgyzstan? Maybe never.

Keeping this in mind, I could have spent thousands less than I did if I really stuck to my budget and didn’t “treat” myself so often. But here’s how I thought of it: I worked so hard to earn this money and am on the trip of a lifetime, why not spend it the way I really want to spend it instead of just “sort of” living the trip of my dreams? I have absolutely no regrets.

 

Here’s a breakdown of what I spent (on food, accommodation and activities) and where I spent it:

1) In India, I spent a total of $2,067.63. I spent an average of $83 per day. This is very skewed and not typical because I was on a tour in India so I spent a lot more than I would have if I had done the trip on my own. The tour cost $1,600 (not including flight). Having said that, the tour was perfect and I would do it all over again given the chance. India is an extremely cheap country and it would be very easy to spend much less than $50 per day.

2) In Kyrgyzstan, I spent a total of $684.35. I spent an average of $34 per day. This is a good estimate of what it would cost per day traveling in India on your own.

3) In Thailand, I spent a total of  $1,399.42. I spent an average of $70 per day. Thailand is a very cheap country but everything is approximately twice the price of what it is in India.

4) In Indonesia, I spent a total of $357.42. I spent an average of $71 per day.

5) In Australia, I spent a total of $1,665. I spent an average of $64 per day. I could not have done this if I didn’t have a friend to stay with in Sydney and if I didn’t couchsurf in Melbourne because Australia is extremely expensive.

6) In San Francisco, I spent a total of $300.11. I spent an average of $60 per day. I treated myself for each lunch and dinner and ate whatever I wanted to eat.

7) In Peru, I spent a total of $1,109.91. I spent an average of $58 per day.

On average: I spent $63 per day on food, accommodation and activities.

The bottom line is, I could have easily spent $50 per day or less in each country (except for Australia) if I really wanted to, but it wasn’t that important to me. Most of the countries I visited are very cheap, certainly much cheaper than the U.S. In Asia and South America, you can find street food for anywhere from 50 cents to two dollars for a whole meal.

Minus $96.51 for a refund of all ATM fees (because I used my handy dandy Charles Schwab debit card – the only debit card I use when traveling!)

TOTAL SPENT ON FOOD, ACCOMMODATION AND ACTIVITIES: $7,555

 

Fun with 9 different currencies

 

Here’s what I spent on my flights:

1) Flight from Tampa to Delhi: $802.06

2) Cancellation fee of $37.79 for my flight from Delhi to Bangkok

3) Flight from Delhi to Bishkek: $430.79

4) Flight from Osh to Bangkok: $594.40

5) Flight from Phuket to Medan: $179.70

6) Flight from Medan to Sydney: $213.22

7) Flight from Sydney to Melbourne: $50.83

8) Flight from Melbourne to Cairns: $168.40

9) Flight from Cairns to San Francisco: $1,324.80
I could have spent about $300 less if I wanted a much longer layover.

10) Flight from San Francisco to Lima: $813.50
I could have spent about $200 less if I wanted a much longer layover.

11) Flight from Lima to Cusco: $125.66

12) Flight from Cusco to Lima: $155.29

13) Flight from Lima to Orlando: $345.51
If I wanted to fly to Tampa, I would have had to spent about $300 more, plus I would have had a 15 hour layover in Fort Lauderdale.

I spent a total of $5,241.95 on flights, BUT:

I used 103,570 points/miles on 3 different credit cards for a total travel credit of $1,135.49. That’s right, I got over $1,000 in free flights just for using my credit card! So…

TOTAL SPENT ON FLIGHTS: $4,106.46

 

The bottom line is, if you make travel your priority, you can easily do a trip like this. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can… and I sincerely mean that! Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

 

Statistics of my RTW Trip

I decided to figure out some of the interesting statistics of my trip and wanted to share them with everyone. In 4 months, I:

– Went on 23 flights

Flying from Kyrgyzstan to Thailand

Flying from Kyrgyzstan to Thailand

– Spent a total of 87 hours on a plane

– Flew 37,814 miles

– Visited 3 continents and 6 countries (+ San Francisco!)

Where I Flew on this Trip

Where I Flew on this Trip

Source

– Had to adjust to 9 different time zones

– Spent a grand total of  $11,661 (Including all flights, hotels, food, daily expenses, etc. I think I did pretty darn well!)

In my next post, I am going to break down my budget and explain how I did what I did for less than $12,000 (and I’ll even explain how you can do the same for less money!)

I’m back!

I’m back in Florida!

My round the world trip is officially over, but the memories will live forever – as cliché as it sounds.

I left Peru on the night of June 27th and was back in Florida on the 28th. I have been in Orlando visiting my sister and I will return home tomorrow.

It’s so funny – since I am only in the U.S. for 6 weeks, I am going crazy eating all of the crap food the U.S. has to offer – the food that I miss when I am gone. My stomach was like a rock when it came to handling Indian, Kyrgyz, Thai, Indonesian & Peruvian food – but American food? Nope. It’s been upset since I got here! Way too processed.

My blog will be getting a new look soon and after I spend time with family, I am finally going to start actually updating this blog with stories and photos from my travels.

Thank you to everyone who ever sent me a supportive message while I was traveling. I can honestly say I enjoyed every single second of my 4 months on the road.

I still can’t believe this is my life – so amazing.