Choose your challenge with Warwick RAG: mountain hiking in Machu Picchu

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At this time of year, many students will sign up to one of Warwick RAG’s exciting challenges, from climbing Kilimanjaro to trekking through the Andes mountains to the ‘lost’ Incan city of Machu Picchu. Having recently achieved the latter, I can confidently say that the Machu Picchu trek was the toughest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. In addition to being a great way to fundraise for a charity such as Make-A-Wish, it was a fantastic travel opportunity which offered a refreshing insight into the culture and the often overwhelming landscapes of Peru.

However, before you get anywhere near Peru, there are a lot of factors to consider before jumping straight into the challenge. To begin with, the sheer enormity of raising the £3000 fundraising total in a year may not seem like such a daunting prospect, when you’re reassured at the welcome meetings that “everyone manages to do it” and “you’ll be surprised how easy it is.” When it’s several months into the year, however, and you’ve run out of family and friends to sponsor you, the panic begins to set in, and it suddenly seems impossible.

Taking into account the additional ‘hidden’ costs of vaccinations, clothes and equipment to bring to Peru, the challenge is undeniably expensive even with the fundraising. I eventually found many easy ways to cover the costs across the year and prepare for the trek itself:

 

Term 1 and Christmas holidays

Shortly after you sign up (and make a hundred Facebook posts asking everyone you know to sponsor you), RAG will start to run “raids,” which, in short, are a chance to dress in a ridiculous outfit and stand in a city centre with a bucket. The London Megaraid, which takes up an entire weekend, made up a large bulk of many of my friends’ fundraising totals. Making the most of the Christmas spirit, I also contacted my old school and asked them to hold a “Christmas jumper” day at the end of term, with all students paying £1 to dress up. The school held a similar non-uniform day in the summer, and both days raised about £400 each.

Term 2

Whilst you’re away at uni desperately attempting to get your broke housemates to spare you some cash, it’s a good idea to get your family and friends from home involved! My father, who likes taking part in duathlons, decided to do a sponsored duathlon for Make-A-Wish, which added a lot of money to my total. (Alternatively, you could be a better person than me and actually do a sponsored event such as a charity run yourself.)

Easter holidays and Term 3

It’s difficult to make the final push when you’ve run out of friends and family to sponsor you, and you’ve got a ton of exams to focus on. The biggest contributions to my total at this time of year were from bucket collections organised within supermarkets at home and at Warwick. It was astonishing to see how generous people could be; just standing in the front of Tesco and Sainsbury’s for a few hours raised over £325!

Summer

The summer holidays were largely about preparing for the trip, from continuing with fitness training, to booking vaccinations, to running around Mountain Warehouse ticking items off your Choose A Challenge checklist. It is easy to assume everything on the kit list is vital, but we discovered far too late that some things we had rushed out to buy were not even necessary. If you can, talk to older students who have already been on the trek, for a more realistic account of what you actually need to buy.

The challenge!

The six-day Salktantay trek is one of the hardest routes to Machu Picchu, with altitudes reaching 4600m and challenges in the form of exhaustion, altitude sickness, blisters and insect bites, and yet it’s unquestionably worth every difficulty you face. Experiencing the unfamiliar nature of South America was spellbinding; you can see a condor circling above you on the cold mountain pass, and watch vibrantly-coloured hummingbirds flitting around you in the humid rainforest, all in the same day (not to mention the abundance of adorable llamas and alpacas!). The local tour guides were truly passionate about sharing as much Peruvian history and culture as they could with us, and we even learnt to put up with their penchant for playing the same cheesy Noughties songs every day (I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to listen to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” again).

Image: Natalya Smith

The most important thing to remember before you “choose a challenge” is that it will be one of the most incredible experiences you will have, and you will be immensely proud of how far you’ve pushed yourself to the limit and reached your goal, from both your trekking and your year of fundraising.

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