Intrepid Supports Blind Runner’s Historic Feat in Peru


Dan Berlin blazed his own trail. Berlin partnered with Intrepid Travel and endurance athlete colleagues of Team See Possibilities to undertake Peru’s 46-km Inca Trail on Oct. 14, becoming the first blind person to complete the storied mountain journey in a day.

Berlin alternately ran the trail – which normally takes trekkers three or four days – and at other times gingerly stepped along sometimes startlingly steep stone stairs built by the Incas more than 500 years ago in 13 hours. He was joined by three other endurance athletes – collectively known as Team See Possibilities – as well a group of Intrepid Travel guides and porters led by Intrepid leader Elyas Maxdeo.

Elyas ran the Inca Trail three times before Berlin did to time the route and ensure the team would stay on the timed plan. Inca Trail guides and porters run the route annually in what has been described as “an unofficial marathon.”

“I told Dan that what he was attempting to do was not impossible,” said Maxdeo. “But I did warn him the local authorities thought it was crazy for anyone to try it, let alone a blind person.”

The trail reaches a lofty 4,200 metres, leaving even many of those who simply hike it struggling with the altitude.

Berlin’s adventure started at 4:30 a.m., well before sunrise, with his companions sporting headlamps as they set out in darkness. The team reached the Winayawayna checkpoint, near the end of the route, at 3:58 p.m., barely ahead of the 4 p.m. needed in order to continue on the trail that day. It reached Machu Picchu at 5:30 p.m.
The famed Inca retreat was quiet when the group arrived. Berlin could not physically see Machu Picchu, but felt a strong connection with it.

“We live in such a visual world that it’s difficult for some people to understand the beauty of space,” he said. “For me, the beauty is the feel of the place. It’s the people that we’re with, feeling the soft earth, the hard granite steps, and the humidity in the air.”

Berlin lost his vision over 20 years due to cone-rod dystrophy. He decided not let his disability turn into an inability, and with the help of friends formed Team See Possibilities in 2014. The group takes on endurance challenges as a way to inspire people not to let their limitations stop them from accomplishments. They also raise money for the Blind Institute of Technology through their adventures.

Intrepid Travel was inspired by Berlin’s story and decided to become official travel sponsors and partners with Team See Possibilities in 2015.

“We feel so privileged to be part of Team See Possibilities and help tell Dan’s story to the world,” said Leigh Barnes, VP of Intrepid Travel. “We hope Dan’s story can help inspire people with perceived limitations and show the world that we are all capable of doing great things.”

Intrepid Travel and Team See Possibilities will now begin planning for their 2016 adventure.

“We’re so often told by well-meaning people everything we can’t do,” Berlin said. “The message is to get out there and show that together we can do great things.”