I got back 2 weeks ago from South America -Ecuador (mainly the Galapagos islands), Peru and Bolivia. It was a very different kind of trip from Asia -infinitely more challenging.
The Inca trail was the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life – 45 km over 3 1/2 days reaching altitudes of 4215m above sea level. At the end of day 1 I was exhausted. Had there been an option to turn back I would have done so. But there isn’t. Once you’ve started, you have to carry on unless you become seriously injured (and yes, I did contemplate breaking my own leg so that I could be stretchered down off the mountain).
One of the guys in my group, Benny, kept on telling me what a sense of achievement I’d feel when I’d completed it, how pleased and proud. Do you know what I actually felt when I completed it? Relieved and exhausted. Just pure, pure fatigue. We got to Macchu Picchu about 9am having started walking about 5.30am on the final morning. One of the girls in the other group (who hadn’t done the Inca trail and had had a proper night’s sleep- in a bed!- the night before) said that she cried when she saw Macchu Picchu because she was so overwhelmed by its beauty. I can barely remember my thoughts when I first saw it except ‘thank god it’s stopped raining’ (the first couple of hours that day had been walking in the rain and the dark. Yes, it was just as fun as that sounds). I certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by its beauty. I’m just glad I took lots of photos because if I hadn’t I’m not sure I’d have remembered it that well.
Those were my thoughts at the time I finished. But now it’s coming up to 4 weeks since I finished the trail and guess what? Benny was right. When I think back to it now, I think less about the pain I felt with every step (although I’ve not forgotten it altogether, far from it) and more about the perseverance that kept me going. More about strength.
I use the word ‘strength’ for a specific reason. Yes, my legs are stronger (it’s a delight to me to find that running on the flat is now comparatively easy after those mountains!) but I’m thinking more of mental strength. There was a reason for going to South America when I did, a reason aside from just wanting to see it (which I obviously did too). The other reason was a desire to be out of the country for a certain event. The marriage of my ex-best-friend to my ex-brother-in-law.
Yes, this is my actual life, it’s not a bad romance novel. When I got married over 3 years ago, my then-best-friend (bridesmaid) got together with my ex-husband’s brother (best man). They have been together ever since. I cannot describe the pain I have felt as she has taken my place in the family, as she has become the new favourite daughter-in-law, as she has gone on holiday with my ex-husband and his new girlfriend. It’s not about me not wanting her to be happy. It’s about feeling jealous that she got the life that should have been mine.
And so I knew I wanted to be well away for the ‘happy event’. I knew I’d need to be doing something where I couldn’t torture myself imagining every second of the day when she became Mrs C, a name that used to be mine. And that’s part of what made me decide to climb a mountain. And I did -not just physically, but mentally. And ALL of it was hard, really really hard. But I did it. And just like Benny said, I do feel a sense of achievement. A better achievement than when I was Mrs C.
A better strength. And as an added bonus, my legs look pretty good right now too.