It was a short plane ride from Lima to Cusco. Seeing the Andes Mountains from above made them seem smaller. Piece of cake right?
I immediately felt anxious as the air around me thinned. This 5-day hike was really about to happen. I hadn’t even arrived at the hostel and was already feeling my lungs beginning to tighten. Inhale. Hold. Inhale. Hold… Albuterol is kind. I placed my pack over one shoulder, one hand in my pocket and clenched my inhaler. I trained for months, but at sea level. What was I thinking? I had never done anything like this. I kept replaying my workouts in my head – perhaps my runs and small hikes weren’t gonna cut it. Was I gonna be okay? What if my style wouldn’t cut it? What if, what if, what if…
“But I can do it. I will. No other option,” I thought.
Greeted with mate de coca at the cutest family run hostel, Piccola Locanda, I sat down, rested, and completely fell into a trance of exhaustion from the altitude. The hot tea, washing away my anxieties, purifying, replenishing, and re-setting my state of mind. I was prepared to start the hike through the Urubamba Valley.
As I crossed the bridge to begin the climb up to Machu Picchu, I admired the many beautiful faces along the path. Llamas navigated toward me as each step became harder, but my legs stronger and my soul determined. The air was no longer burning my lungs and with coca leaves in my pack to chew, tunes blasting through my white headphones, and Gary Snyder by my side, the official first stretch of the trek began.
Each burning step ignited a push-pull mentality. Andean vibes of strength were transferred to my body through the green medicinal coca leaf. Signals of positivity were sent to my brain, electrifying my nerves and awakening my muscles.
This was no longer about training styles, how many half marathons, or how fast I was going. The journey to the Valley of Machu Picchu was about being present in the moment, and taking it step by step, stone by stone, breath by breath. Just doing it. I embraced it to the top and the story of the Incas as told by our porter & guide Juan, inspired me beyond words. This grand city once populated by its Quechua peoples, standing tall with pride, was only a few miles away. The feeling of gratitude as this historic masterpiece extended its arms, was overwhelming.
Feeling so proud of myself, I opened my heart, took a deep breath of peace, and said….“Tupanachiskama,” See you soon. Until we meet again.