NMMU trailblazers conquer Inca Trail

NMMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz and two other members of the team who took on the Machu Picchu mountain trek to raise funds for students received a heroes’ welcome yesterday afternoon.

About 20 people, a marimba band and traditional dancers greeted Swartz, entrepreneur Dr Bridgette Gasa and final-year public management student Nandipha Jack when they arrived at the Port Elizabeth airport.

The mountain trek was taken on in aid of the #Trailblazing campaign.

This year the aim was to raise R4-million to enable 160 students to complete their qualifications at the university.

However, they were only able to raise just more than R2-million.

Swartz said even though he was exhausted, the scenery had been amazing.

“It was a privilege to do the legendary Inca Trail with 23 other climbers though exhausted and jetlagged.

“Nothing in one’s imagination can prepare you for the breathtaking beauty of Machu Picchu, as we emerged from the jungles to reach the famous Sun Gate overlooking the once-lost city.

“It is hard to imagine the technical ingenuity, not to mention the human sacrifice, it took to build a city in the 15th century, high up in the most remote mountains of the Andes.

“Machu Picchu is well maintained, though at risk of being overrun by curious travellers."

“Fortunately, it’s a protected Unesco World Heritage Site. They have beautifully uncovered a once-hidden history, and seem to take great pride in telling their story to the world,” Swartz said.

“Our group of 24 climbers all came out amazingly well, through four days of tough hiking through soaking wet rainforests, steep mountain passes and ravines, hot dry plains and icy-cold peaks,” he said.

Gasa said the experience had been absolutely out of this world.

“The preparations before we left put us in good standing,” she said.

First-time mountain climber Jack said she had learnt a lot about the history and culture.

“The history and the environment of the people is what captured me."

The people are so hardworking. They have taught me that you shouldn’t wait upon the government to provide you with things, but you need to work for them, “ Jack said.

The group are hoping to make up the rest of the money through other campaigns.