When was the last time you really challenged yourself? When was the last time you looked back on a day’s worth of accomplishments and felt overcome with pride?
The Lares Trek takes students through the high Andes near Peru’s Sacred Valley. The mountain peaks and river views provide the perfect atmosphere for students to reflect on the service work they’ve completed while volunteering in Peru and an ideal situation to solidify their bonds with one another. Hiking the Lares Trail provides an incredible blend of rigorous challenge and serene relaxation to help students immerse themselves completely in the timeless scenery.
The hike begins and gets its name from the town of Lares, where students take time to adjust to the altitude with prepared group meals and time in natural hot springs. Days like this are where the Lares Trek and Inca Trail gain their reputation as glamorous camping or “glamping.” Participants are free from the burdens of carrying heavy packs, making meals, or even setting up tents. Everything the students have to worry about can fit in their daypack for the duration of their hike.
The beauty of hiking the Lares Trail is that it’s literally and figuratively off the beaten path. Many backpackers and tourists stumble upon this incredible experience when they are unable to gain a reservation on the more crowded “Inca Trail.” Many people returning to the Inca trail for a second or third time neglect to reserve a space and begrudgingly go to the Lares trek as an alternative. Online travel review sites are riddled with anecdotes of this experience from travelers that are now staunch supporters of the Lares Trek over the Inca Trail.
Despite its reputation as a “glamping” trip, the high Andes terrain and climate will always present its fair share challenges. Some days are made up of a combined 8 hours of trekking through steep inclines and thin air. 2015 alumni Miranda Langford said “waking up in the morning was a struggle for all of us due to the cold, windy weather, but the sun peaking over the tops of the mountain definitely gave us some motivation.” The demanding trek necessitates plenty of breaks for resting or playing games.
Students that take on the Lares trek often highlight its challenges, but they are always followed up with genuine expressions of its magnificence. “Getting to the top of the mountain was trying at some points, but it was a true testament of how close we all have gotten because it was the support of one another that made the last minutes all the more bearable. At the top of the mountain, there was a buzz of excitement (literally because everyone was talking and laughing). The cherry on top of that cake was that we were able to see where our lunch area was set up on the other side!” wrote another 2015 alumni.
Year after year we hear back from students that found something they liked about themselves during these 4 days and 3 nights. Julia Galloway said, “We all felt such an amazing sense of accomplishment when we reached the end as we all were exhausted from hiking for the last few days.”
The challenges and overwhelming beauty of rural Peru bring something profound out of students in a time in their lives in which every new experience is a learning experience. Small moments seem to have lasting effects like when an alumnus recalled the experience of a cloud rolling through their campsite. “We all just sat there for a while, being in awe of the magnificence of nature. This was probably one of the best experiences of my life and after the clouds passed through, the stars came out. The sky was so clear that we could even see the Milky Way.” GoBeyond provides students with an opportunity to volunteer in Peru and connect with this ancient and perspective-changing terrain.