Inca Trail Update: Day -373

I promise not to bombard you with Inca Trail Updates, but I’ve had so many emails and comments that I wanted to get in a quick one today. Your comments have ranged from “you should be applauded” to “you should be chemically altered before you become a danger to society”. We’ve also heard some good tips on fitness prep and gear to bring. We appreciate all of the feedback.

This is Day -373, or in other words, 373 days before our projected start date for the trek. After our first week of study and walking, I still feel like we will need every one of those 373 days, but I’m very optimistic. Our two biggest obstacles are still gravity and reality, but we think we can deal with both.

First, the encouraging news. In the first 7 days of our quest, we walked just over 50 miles. 50.3 to be exact, and I’m talking 50 miles as tracked by GPS (the A-GPS system we use is accurate to within 5-8 meters), none of that “estimated mileage” bullcrap from FitBit, or other “stride counting” methods. We have been to the Loberia/Chocolatera area four times, and walked to the El Paseo Mall yesterday, to achieve the bulk of those miles.

For those in Salinas considering walking to La Puntilla, we have not had any difficulties at all entering the military base from the Air Force or Army entrances. They have just waived and said “buenos dias” as we walk past the gates. We still carry our plastificado copies of our cedulas, because we have lived in Ecuador long enough to know that the day we do not bring them will be the first day they insist we must show them.

As for the walk to El Paseo Mall, although the distance is fine at about 4.3 miles from our condo, I don’t really recommend it as a walking goal. There is too much traffic, and it is dangerous because buses and motorcycles like to use the shoulder and do not mind chasing you off of it into the dirt. In fact, some seemed to really enjoy the sport of it.

Anyway, the important thing is that after a week and 50 miles, we feel remarkably good, with no negative body reactions. In fact, we feel almost lazy if we walk less than 7 miles a day now. We already feel stronger, and seem to be breathing deeper and easier. We do feel confident that we can handle the mileage itself, so now it is a matter of getting ready for the ups and downs, and walking at altitude. And for me of course, losing some tonnage.

Here’s a fun fact we learned about the Inca Trail: over the course of the four days, you walk up and down more than 7,000 stairs. To put that in perspective, we live in a high-rise that from the lower garage to the top of the stairwell runs 22 floors. Each floor has 17 steps between them. That means if we start at the bottom and walk up to the 22nd floor, turn around and walk back down, then walk back up to our condo on the 19th floor, we will have used 1071 stairs. So if we did that 7 times in 4 days, carrying packs, that would be a good simulation – if we could manage to only use one lung, anyway.

That will be the bitch-kitty – the altitude. Fortunately, we live in Ecuador. That means we can get to places with trails that start anywhere from 3000 – 10,000 feet with just a few hours travel time to do some hiking at altitude. We’re already looking at some side trips to Quito, Baños and Cuenca where there are many great trails to hike.

Over the next few weeks, we probably will cut back on the walking a little as we start adding some strength training using our building’s gym, and spend some time on the elliptical, stationary bike, and the stairs for some aerobic work.

The most important update for us is that we are very excited by this commitment. We are enjoying spending the time together getting into shape, and planning the details. We also are really looking forward to some of the practice hikes in different parts of this beautiful country. There’s a saying that “the journey is more important than the destination”, and in this case, we certainly feel that the next year promises to be just as rewarding as our goal.

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