Yesterday (August 31, 2017) Rita and I successfully completed our quest that began just over a year ago, and walked into the famous Machu Picchu ruins after hiking 26 miles (45 kilometers) in four days on the Inca Trail. I’d like to say that it was easier than we thought it would be – but that would not be true. In fact, it was the most difficult physical activity either of us have ever attempted, and successfully completing the trek was a very near thing, and in doubt at one point.
Both of us had some difficult periods with some illness, but we kept going and persevered. I discovered a very interesting thing: you can accomplish great feats when you have no other option. About halfway through the second day, there really is no way to give up. It is just as hard to go back as it is to continue.
Sure, if you are injured or just cannot move at all, you can be carried out by porters, but that is really the only other option.
But we did it, and have no regrets. There were some beautiful sights along the way, great food provided by our tour group (Alpaca Expeditions), and some truly emotional moments. I know it sounds arrogant, but I really do not think you get the true experience of Machu Picchu without walking there on one of the trails. We encountered many LTR’s (Lazy Train Riders, as trekkers usually refer to them) when we were walking down from the Sun Gate to make our triumphant entrance, and in the park itself, and it was amazing the difference in attitudes.
You could take one look at the face of a visitor, and tell immediately which was which. Not just that the LTR’s were a hell of a lot cleaner – it was that the people who had hiked in had faces that were practically glowing. There was an obvious sense of accomplishment and wonder, and a deep appreciation for just how difficult it must have been to create this incredible city, surrounded by eight mountain peaks, all but invisible to the outside world. The tourists looked like tourists. Their faces were blank, in fact they looked almost bored, and annoyed at the stairs and the crowds. The wonder of the place didn’t seem to get past their eyes. It was just another historic site; let’s hit the important points and get back on the bus before the hotel restaurant gets crowded.
I’ll get a full account of our journey into the blog as soon as I can, but I know there are many people curious about how things went, and I wanted to at least let you know that we survived. It may take a while to get everything posted – it is quite a story to tell, and I need to sort through over a thousand photos and video clips we took along the way. Also this is just the first part of some South American explorations for us, so we will be on the road another three weeks or so.
I also hope to finish a book I’ve been working on by the end of the year. It deals with the work of preparing for the journey, and some of the personal demons and fears I had to face in order to get in shape for the trek. There are reasons why I had so much weight to lose, and why I struggled so much before we dedicated ourselves to the Trail. In many ways, the struggles and setbacks of the first 59 years of my life were every bit as difficult as the last four days, so our success yesterday has had a deep emotional impact for me.
Right now we are back in Cusco for four more nights. I had the foresight to book us an “Ejecutivo” room, so we are pampering ourselves with big, beautiful bed with many fluffy pillows, a work desk and a separate dining/sitting area, and a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. Of course at the moment, my muscles are too sore to leverage my fat and bruised ass (part of the story) down into it, but I’m hopeful I’ll be mobile enough before we leave to enjoy it. Rita spend a loooong time in it last night when we first arrived, and we both showered twice until we felt like we had finally removed all of the trail slime.
So we are happy, proud, sore, achy, a little lame even, and in full agreement that we will never, ever, do anything like that again.
But we did it!
And now, some llamas and alpacas.