‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Isn’t that what they say? Just as well that I love planning. I have three planners – for home, for work and for ‘other things’. All are cross referenced, and all are colour coded. They are a work of art. I am a bit of a control freak to be honest and I hate when something happens that I cannot control.
I am just starting the preparation for my trek to Machu Picchu (my fifth trek, not to Machu Picchu, just my fifth trek). But how did I prepare for the others? When I decided to do my first trek I was even more overweight than I am now. The only exercise that I did was walking to the fridge for more cheese and wine. So, I knew that I had to plan, plan, plan so that I could lose weight, get fitter and to actually walk some hills and mountains. As soon as I got my itinerary for Kilimanjaro (I don’t do things by half) I looked at what each day brought and with one of my walking friends we planned what specific training I needed to do. This went on for months. Everything was going to plan… until a week before I was due to leave for Africa.
I was doing my last training walk on Pen-y-Ghent when I had a complete meltdown. What I had not planned for was the effect of ‘other people’ on me. People had been taking bets on whether I would last a day. Not the best thing for me to find out. I had not even considered that I would not get to the top of Kili. I mean, my Welsh flag was the first thing I packed. I realised that mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. I did not get to the top as I had altitude sickness and I was quite poorly. That annoyed me for ages as I saw it as a failure but I looked at the bigger picture and I think I did really well considering where I had started from.
The second trek was the Great Wall of China. Again, I planned and trained according to the itinerary. I spent hours at the gym on the Stairmaster as I knew that there would be millions of steps. What I did not know was that the steps on the Wall are not of equal size. Some were as high as my inside leg. So what was a normal step for some people seemed like a mountain for me. Honestly, some days I thought I was climbing Everest rather than walking up and down steps. A million swear words and a couple of mishaps later I got to the end, just like everyone else.
What else did I not plan for? Again I also realised that there will always be ‘other people’ that you cannot account for. As I write this, I know that I might be ‘other people’ for someone else. I did not have my friends to rely on this time to balance the actions and words of other people but what I did have was the support of people who recognised the importance of team work and emotional support. We have all since become really good friends and I have trekked with them since. This trek more than another taught me that trekking is not just a physical experience but an emotional one too. It is not called a Life Changing Challenge for nothing. Trekking is not an individual experience – we all go on our own with our own individual reasons but to get through to the end we have to work together. Everyone has their own role to play.
The Grand Canyon trek was a master class for showing that you can plan, plan, plan but there are always events that you cannot control. I was still the fat lass at the back, but I got to the end. I always do. But who would have guessed that our bus would break down and we would all end up being ferried off the freeway in a sheriff’s car? What seemed like two days later we arrived in Vegas. The control freak inside me was freaking out but the bit of me that pretends that I am easy going was having a whale of a time.
My last trek was in Vietnam. That’s a blog in itself. Best experience ever. Despite appearances to the contrary, I had planned and trained. What I hadn’t planned on was the humidity. Bloody hell! This time I fell over numerous times in mud and on concrete and I managed to get heat stroke on the last day and was not particularly well which meant that I could not do one of the last activities. If this had happened on an earlier trek, I would have been very annoyed with myself. However, four treks later I know that I have to listen to others who are more experienced than me. I finally realised trekking is not always about the physical challenge it is also enjoying the unplanned events. Despite being a teacher, I do not always recognise when I need to learn a lesson myself.
So, I am off to Machu Picchu in August. My ‘other things’ planner is getting filled up with gym appointments, walking days and other activities. I have decided to get rid of some of the excess weight that I am still carrying so that is a priority at the minute. I want to look more like a short Lara Croft than Russell from Up. I need to get myself fit again as I had three months enforced rest because of a long-term injury. I know the planning that is necessary to achieve this but I know that something will happen that I had not planned or considered. I have to see that as all part of the adventure.
Maybe I have finally learned to go with the flow. I knew how I was going to start this blog but I didn’t know how to end it. So, maybe I should use it to thank all those who have physically and emotionally supported me before and during my treks. I want to thank them for the bloody huge laughs that we have had and for your friendships. Here’s to the next adventure!
Guest Blogger - Jayne Fry