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Leave No Trace Or Go To Space

by Globetrooper Lauren | 7 Responses
Leave No Trace

‘Ughh… I thought we were hiking “off the beaten track”, not through a beaten-up dumpster.’

Too often, plastic bags, crushed water bottles and candy wrappers litter the scenery when trekking and camping. We’re so used to flushable toilets, regular garbage pickups and pre-packaged food that when we get out into the ‘real outdoors’ we don’t think about our impact on the environment.

Leave No Trace (LNT) is a set of seven international principles to help reduce the human impact on our natural surroundings. It combines science and common sense for hikers, campers, bikers, runners, hunters, paddlers, fishers, ski-ers and climbers to responsibly enjoy the outdoors. Millions of people around the world are either trained or aware of the LNT principles.

After reading about the principles, I thought about how they applied to our recent Lares Trek (Peru) with Intrepid Travel and their local Peruvian operator. And I was really impressed to see that all of the 7 Leave No Trace principles were kept:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

LNT Principle: When you plan your trip poorly, you usually resort to higher-impact solutions. Some of these may include an improperly arranged campsite, unsuitably located campfire, and excessive trash through poor meal preparation or inefficient cooking equipment.

Our Trek: Even though our driver forgot to pick up the chef before starting the trek, everything else was planned meticulously by our guide. We trekkers didn’t have to worry about campsites, food, horses, tents or any other equipment, but from what we saw, the guide planned everything for minimum impact.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

LNT Principle: Damage occurs to the land when it is trampled by foot or more seriously a tent. For high-use areas, concentrate your activities to those areas so new areas of impact aren’t created. But the opposite advice is given for low-use areas: it’s better to spread activities out to avoid creating a high-impact area in the first place.

Lares Trek Campsite

One of our secluded campsites on the Lares Trek

Our Trek: The Lares Trail isn’t as established as the famous Inca Trail, so we weren’t restricted to camping in predetermined areas. Although we could choose anywhere to camp, we generally chose very small permanent camps. So small in fact that we were the only ones there!

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

LNT Principle: The ‘Pack it in, pack it out‘ slogan is a philosophy based on whatever a person brings into a natural area, must be taken out. But water and human waste are a little tricky. Soap and dishwater should be far away from natural water sources to avoid contamination. Catholes are recommended for human waste, 6 to 8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water to prevent the spread of disease.

Our Trek: Our porters set up a makeshift toilet sealed with a plastic bag, inside a teeny tiny tent for our group to use. This incredibly made little to no human waste impact on the land we travelled through.

4. Leave What You Find

LNT Principle: A lot of people like to collect keepsakes in the form of rocks, plants or other archaeological artifacts when they travel. Firstly, a lot of these things will be confiscated at the airport, but also, future travellers want to discover these things too. Instead, why not support the local communities through buying ceramics, handicrafts, drinks and traditional foods.

Lares Trek Locals

Local villagers coming to say 'Buenos Dias' and to give us an excuse for a rest

Our Trek: We passed through a few small communities on our trek where women and children would run up ahead of us to secure a spot on the trail where they could display their crafts, pose for pictures and of course, sell us Coca Cola.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

LNT Principle: Basically, restrict campfires to existing fire pits. Not only do fires cause degradation to land, but they increase the demand for firewood and increase the risk of wildfires. Try to only use firewood and kindling (tinder) on the ground; you don’t need to get all macho with an axe.

Our Trek: I was so keen to put my Girl Guides skills to the test by building our campfire. But for environmental reasons, our guide was against it. The high winds meant the fire could spread easily, not only endangering us, but also the surrounding woodlands.

6. Respect Wildlife

LNT Principle: Yes, we all like to get up close and personal with animals, and we all think there’s a deep connection when they stare into our eyes with a loving desperation for the food we hold. But leave it for your next visit to the zoo. When wild animals become dependent on human interaction, ecosystems suffer greatly.

Lares Trek Llama

One of the many photographic llamas on our Lares Trek

Our Trek: Although I was constantly sweeping the skies for condors and the hills for pumas, we didn’t come across much wildlife on the trek. There were plenty of dogs, llamas and alpacas to keep us entertained, but they were all part of a family or herd. Perhaps the absence of wild animals is due to prior hunting and human interaction.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

LNT Principle: Basic etiquette really… if you’re awake, don’t be too loud; if you’re sick, try not to spread it to others; and if you have to impact the environment with waste, be discrete.

Our Trek: Consideration of other visitors wasn’t high on our list, as we didn’t see anyone else. But I can safely assume this is a big issue for those considering the much more popular Inca Trail.

The Leave No Trace principles aren’t exclusively for hiking and camping; you can use them for all types of travel and life in general. Sure, the impact of your actions may not be a high priority when you’re on the other side of the world, but it’s one of the first steps to becoming a responsible global citizen. Otherwise the only place left for adventure will be outer space.

Intrepid Lares Trek Group

Our Intrepid Lares Trek Group - Clemens, Corrie, Lilian, Lauren, Todd and Renée

Featured image by sylvar

Posted in Adventure Travel, Peru | October 8th, 2010

7 Responses to Leave No Trace Or Go To Space

  1. Such great tips!!! I hope everyone does at least 1 or 2.

  2. Lots of quality tips for adventurers – great. Sensible, educational and interesting, too. Here’s to preserving the world for further trips.

  3. Dear Lauren,

    I have an Intrepid trip planned to Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Intrepid is insisting that I take the Lares trek. I’m having trouble deciding because I am asthmatic. I am worried about the altitude and I am also worried about hiking for 8 hours a day with my asthma. Did you feel the trek was challenging and physically demanding? I’m all about the road less traveled, however, I have my concerns. What do you recommend?


    • Hi Ericka,

      I also have asthma, but fortunately don’t have to use my ventilator often, only with very strenuous exercise. You will definitely feel shortness of breath at higher altitude, but don’t be too quick to jump to asthma causing the problem – everyone feels this lack of oxygen high up. I had a bit of trouble keeping up on the Lares trek when we hit the steep tracks, but just took my time, and took breaks if I needed them. Just be sensible and always take things slowly, there’s no need to rush to the top. Also you won’t be hiking for 8 hours every day, there are many stops along the way to have snacks, lunch and try your spanish out on some local kids.
      Additionally on the Lares trek, there are mules carrying all your gear. There is also one spare in case someone gets injured or if your asthma plays up, and they’ll get you down to lower ground asap.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you need any more info. And good luck!

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