I had spent the four and a half years leading up to this moment, trying to get sponsorship, researching equipment, weighing each individual item I planned to take, making lists and adjusting them as I tried to bring the weight of what I planned to carry each day down to an acceptable and achievable level, and of course besides the planning I had to ensure my fitness level was up to the task.
I therefore had a personal trainer who, using a mixture of Yoga and Pilates, pushed me to my limits with the intention of making my muscles stronger and more flexible, which would hopefully help to reduce the possibility of any serious muscle strain that could put all these years of planning in jeopardy. I combined these work outs with weekly walks in the city, climbing up and down the hills that are an inevitable part of living in a valley, and monthly walks in the Andes Mountains with the hiking club I belong to here.
During all this period, I mostly felt positive and convinced I could successfully complete the hike without any major problems. I was expecting blisters, muscle stiffness, days of torrential rain or persistent drizzle, occasional detours due to getting lost, and, being vegan, days when I would have to suffice with basic and uninspiring menu options—all this I felt I could live with.
The two things that concerned me most were the weight of my pack and whether my back was up to carrying around 18 kilos for 8 or 9 hours a day for around two and a half months, and the psychological part of the challenge—getting up every morning and walking again even if I didn’t want to or feel like doing so, and occasionally this led me to sometimes wonder why I was complicating my life when it would be far easier, and certainly cheaper to abandon the idea—but a voice inside me nagged me to press on with the challenge.
Having had back problems in the past, my two main concerns were the weight of my pack and my ability to carry it. I am accustomed to regularly carrying 10 kilos when hiking here in the Andes as I have a DSLR camera that is relatively heavy, plus the amount of liquid needed on these daily hikes that average seven hours is usually 3 litres. To ease my mind, during the six months leading up to my departure I started doing my 20k weekend walks in the city carrying on average 15 kilos in a far from ergonomic backpack. The lack of back pain after these trials was very encouraging and eased my mind completely.
This was a great relief as I had been through my gear list an infinite number of times, weighing each item, making adjustments to try and get to, what was for me, a balance between necessity, desired outcomes, such as returning with good quality photographs from the trip, and relative, though by no means excessive comfort.