Thoughtful/lessness of a long distance hiker

by on 30th January, 2014

Tom writes:

“Some time ago, when my sister told me hers was a cancer diagnosis, the thought of being half the world away in the Huayhuash mountains of Peru produced two vivid feelings.

Firstly, the shame of wanting to hide away from it all overseas; and then the overwhelming desire to see my sister as much as life, work and Edinburgh and Bristol travel distances would allow before what would happen would happen.

I stayed in the country and now I’ve come to realise that my adulthood has seen most of my major life events surrounded by the reflection time afforded by lengthy hikes.


Life hiking

The Inca Trail was the first long hike I did after a serious illness.

On Aconcagua, it was how on earth could I get married while my family was breaking up around me and not everyone could come to the wedding?

In the Atlas of Morocco, it was why on earth was I here when I wanted to be with my partner?

In Bulgaria it was run like the clappers as I got a splash-back charge from a lightning strike on a ski pole next to me.

Patagonia Ice Cap – nope, nothing there that I remember.


inca trail trekkers peru

Inca trail trekkers, Peru


Day walks

And then in October 2012 I went back to the Huayhuash helping to research the new Bradt Trekking Guide to Peru.

When I was younger I’d seen fantastic mountain ranges and been a bit blasé about their dramatic forms.

You see, a day walk gets me into the relaxed subconscious, where my witty jokes, charming sing-a-long songs and general chipperness foam over my comrades, and tickles and giggles them in equal measure.

A weekend away and you invent new kingdoms of personal wit at camp, over cups of tea, maybe a fire and some slugs of whiskey. Those translucent webs of friendship spun or fused stronger.


Back to Peru

And I couldn’t help but think of my sister while walking among the spectacular Huayhuash mountain range.

It was if each mountain, glacier and every clear lake was a balanced reflection of my  thoughts.

How to face life; how to react; how to expect the unexpected; what to do with the time we have.

The mighty Huayhuash made me think of my sister Rhiannon’s life path; the walk she walked and the full circle she went, and still happily walks, round and round and round. She is now happily married with a beautiful boy.



Uros greeting, Peru



For me, long hikes have always come around at a time when I needed to go on them, or not, for some reason.

Coincidence, or something more? I’ll have to head off for a long walk to get back to you on that one.

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