It had been about 2 years since my first fundraising efforts, ever. My neighbor and friend became sick with Leukemia as a young mother, and I was struggling to recover from a head and neck cancer surgery. It seemed like a low point. The charity run that I did at that time, with 9 teammates, really changed my life in a lot of ways. It made me thankful for many things, including the community that surrounded me. A lot of people supported us. It was quite inspirational.
Because I gained so much through my first fundraising efforts, I kept in touch with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada representative in Edmonton, Leigh Born. Often, she was asking what I was going to do next. Somehow though, I was never quite motivated to do another run. I like a challenge, and wanted something new. I kept searching, but nothing seemed to fit with my hectic schedule. Work, a husband with a crazy call schedule, and three teenage boys in high school. Leigh called me one day, “Have you hear about the Charity Challenge we have just started doing?”. Huh?
So as things go in life, I was reminded a few weeks later of one of our good friends, who was fighting an epic battle with Multiple Myeloma. Kim. This friend, is an amazing person, and beloved by many work colleagues and friends. My husband and I were a bit shamed that we hadn’t kept in touch, or been more supportive. We decided to scheme a way to support her through fundraising. The Charity Challenge seemed like a cool way to do it. Amazingly, the timing of the Peru Macchu Pichu Trek overlapped our teens’ Spring Break. We decided to make this a family event, and hoped that it would be a trip to remember, with a cause. What would it be like to undertake this epic journey for Kim, as a family, and as an amazing experience and life memory? So we signed up. We were about to find out!!
Getting together all of the “kit” for this journey was interesting. There was a huge equipment list that we thought was crazy. To buy this stuff for 5 people was prohibitive, but a single plea for help from our donors and the flood gates of equipment loaners came in. We were set. Except for the training part, I guess. Charity Challenge provides a training plan to follow, and most people on our trek did it. To be honest, we didn’t at all. It is important to make the note that we are all reasonably fit, especially our sports oriented boys, but by no means are we athletes. Thankfully, this wasn’t an issue. We all seemed to survive quite easily, although there definitively were struggles.
We arrive in Peru and were thrilled that we were picked up by the Charity Challenge driver, who gives us all of the information that we need. We arrived at a nice hotel, which made me happy. I am a pretty picky traveler in general. I tend to enjoy luxury, so what was I getting myself into? So far, so good. The acclimatization took a few days, and we were extremely happy that we arrived a few days before the Trek started. The folks from the UK joining us did not, and it was a bit harder for them.
So the story begins. What was it like? From start to end, this was a life changing experience. We gently acclimatized to the altitude by hiking through the local hills on the first day. I am an avid photo taker (note that I did not use the word photographer), and loved every minute of this initial walk. It was so amazing to be in a country that none of us had visited before. We were hiking with our whole family, and not having to make our lunches, snacks, or really do anything but enjoy Peru, our family, and meet amazing new people. It was hard to complain.
We were thrilled that all our meals were included. We ate at local restaurants, in tents, or were given bagged snacks and lunches. If you have teenagers, bring protein power bars, with high calories. They seem to be endless pits. For most of the group, no additional food was needed. We never had too much to complain about. Our boys were the adventurous ones, eating the local Alpaca dishes, and loving it. We had many great meals, with great people around the table. The first days exploring Cusco were a thrill, and we were anticipating the “Great Event” coming up.
Up at 6 am, ready to start our adventure, we were off to explore the amazing world of Peru. Up big climbs, with not much oxygen in our lungs, we were super happy that a doctor was with us on the Trek (although we are both doctors ourselves, it was a nice reassurance). The hiking was amazing, tents awaited us with warm soup and lunch every day. The locals who carried our food were amazing, running the whole way (in sandals). We were well looked after. Even though we faced a lot of rain (don’t forget to bring your ponchos), it wasn’t cold. Even then, the beauty was so amazing, that we didn’t really care. Some days I thought the rain was perfect, as it wasn’t too hot, and the pictures were amazing.
Evenings were short on this Trek. After dinner, we all pretty much went to sleep. 8pm bed time? No problem. Call it exhaustion, or the fact that we had to hike another 8 hours the next day. None of use cared. We had our tents set up for us, and we knew that in the morning the locals were going to knock on our tent with a warm coffee and steamed milk. Even when it was raining at night, and I had to rush out to the outhouse, wet and a bit cold, I knew that the next day was going to be an adventure. As I put my slightly wet clothes on the next morning, I thought of the day ahead, the locals, and my friend at home fighting Multiple Myeloma. I for sure could push on, and it was always amazing. The best part of being wet? The sun would come out, and quite instantly we became dry. What a great personal challenge, and something that I would never do in my day to day life. I could get used to this!
Day after day, we saw amazing beauty. I saw my family in a different light, as 3 adult young men, who were exploring the world. We met locals off the beaten path, saw Peruvians making a living in their world, all of it was so far away from how we live in Canada. We overcame obstacles, streams and small rock traverses, that I wasn’t sure I could do. This was a team effort, and everyone helped each other. Our guides were amazing people. They embraced the culture, educated us about our surroundings and the Peruvian culture. They engaged our family and the other travelers as well. For my teenagers, they raced them up steep rock climbs, and won by only a few seconds I would like to say! Although no one else partook in these challenges, the competition and grit made my boys trip unforgettable. There was something for everyone. We are all exhausted when we hit Macchu Pichu, but were happy to have a night in a hotel before the climb to the top.
The day of Macchu Picchu was unforgettable. The fog lifting from the Sun Gate to reveal the wonder of Macchu Picchu. The wonder of the ancient civilization. The beauty of being up in a mountain, with nothing but mountains around us. I will never forget it. I don’t think that anyone on our tip will. We were all exhausted, so proud of our accomplishments, and so bonded. I learned something about myself, and about my boys. Many ask “Did you get sick?”. Yes, we all had a little something of some sort of illness. We kind of expected it with the altitude, different food, and just exerting ourselves. We were provided medication if needed, and lots of bottled water. Some folks in our trip overcame amazing hurdles, not feeling well while hiking. They were so proud of themselves when they all finished in a blaze of glory. I was amazed at how the human spirit can pull through, and bring such immense personal satisfaction. The big question was “Did feeling unwell for a brief time on the Trek matter?”. We all overcame it, and none of us would stay home because of it. It was part of the experience, and part of the great stories that come with it.
We hiked to support our dear friend, but it changed our lives. We saw a beautiful part of the world, raised some much needed funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, we overcame some adversity, and bonded as a family. I can honestly say that I can’t wait for the next adventure, but don’t tell Leigh that, or she will be calling me to get with it!!