August 14th, 2017
Today is important, not just because we are only two weeks away from taking our first step on the Inca Trail, but because it was one year ago today that we took the real first step by deciding to commit ourselves to this goal. Back on that fateful day last year, we were completing a second-in-a-row 5+ mile hike out to La Puntilla, a nearby nature preserve, when a chance encounter with a friend who was planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain (he’s there right now, as a matter of fact)prompted us to go for Machu Picchu.
Since that time, a lot has changed. We’ve logged in 1,773 miles in exercise walks; we’ve walked (up plus down) a total 86,796 stairs in our building; Rita has had gall bladder surgery; we’ve successfully completed high altitude practice hikes in Cotacachi, Chugchilan and Quilotoa; I’ve lost 70+ pounds , and I no longer need medication for Type 2 Diabetes.
So at this point, I have to say that regardless of what happens in Peru, this has been a successful adventure for us. We have done wonders for our health, and we have seen some beautiful places in Ecuador that are impossible to see except on foot.
We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, what we can do, and what we cannot do. We’ve learned how making a commitment to small changes – and here’s the important part – sticking to it over a period of time, can make a huge cumulative difference in your life. When we first arrived in Ecuador three and a half years ago, we could only walk about a half-mile down the malecon before we would have to turn back. I remember the first few weeks here, walking down the stairs from the 19th to the 12th floor left my legs wobbly – and walking back up left me gasping for breath.
Now our daily routine is to walk down 19 floors, walk our three mile loop, and then walk back up the stairs. And we do that twice a day. This weekend, we did our “long walk” of 8 miles to the top of El Morro and back, a walk that now seems pretty routine. Our hikes at high altitude in June of this year would have been inconceivable to us last year, and now we are looking forward to our “warm-up” hikes next week.
Speaking of next week, that’s when it all starts to come to fruition. We are leaving Tuesday afternoon to spend an evening in Guayaquil, then flying out early for Quito. We’ll be in the Cotacachi area for a few days, acclimating to altitudes over 8,000 feet and getting in some of those warm-ups between 10,000-14,000 feet. Then we will be in Quito for a couple of days, with one last chance to hike to the top of Ruku Pichincha at just over 15,400 feet.
Finally, a week from Wednesday, it will be time for the flight to Lima, Peru. The next day will find us in Cusco, where we will spend a few days enjoying the area before that 4:30am van ride to our destiny.
I haven’t reached all of my goals; I wanted to be below 200 pounds when we start out, and I’ve been stuck at another fateau lately, hovering between 206-208. I’m putting on a last push, but since tomorrow morning is the last time I will have a scale available, it will be hard to track my progress. It also will not help that after tomorrow’s lunch we are going to have to depend on hotels and restaurants for our meals. But we will still have a reasonable activity level, and living above 8,000 feet does keep your appetite down and caloric burn up, so there’s still hope.
We do feel good about our chances of completing the hike. The two biggest challenges (besides my knees) remain the weather, and sleeping on the ground for three nights. Assuming we get decent weather, are able to sleep at least a little each night, and of course barring any injury or illness, we are confident that 17 days from now we will be gazing down on Machu Picchu.
At least no one can say we didn’t give it our best effort!