We at Adventures Within Reach are inspired by all of our clients, but we thought we would share the adventures of one amazing client – Minda W. Minda W. was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), at the age of 14. CMT affects the nerve pathways, which results in the progressive loss of muscle tissue, particularly in the hands and feet. Despite those limitations, Minda W. decided to hike the 5-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Here is her trip journal:
Traveler: Minda W.
Travel Dates: July 21-25, 2015
Destination Visited: Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu:
I’m not sure how to put into words how much [my guide] Nick did to get me through this trek and how eternally grateful I will be for the rest of my life to Nick, Puma and all of the porters who took extra care of me.
As you know, I have a form of muscular dystrophy. I have never allowed my disease to dictate my life. I have done many things doctors told me would be impossible, including Ironman Texas 140.6. Until this trip, IMTX was the proudest moment of my life. I came into this trip knowing it would be a challenge. What I didn’t realize was [Machu Picchu] would be the most difficult and challenging thing I have done in my life.
I brought a script for Diamox for possible altitude sickness. I have hiked and raced at altitude before[, and] have never used anything for altitude sickness before, so this would be a first. I started taking the Diamox two days before the trek. I had experienced slight loss of the use of my legs after lunch on Sunday but chalked it up to sitting funny on the bench and that my legs had fallen asleep. That day my legs felt heavy as we toured the city and did a small hike. We had been on the go since Friday, so I chalked it up to adjusting to the weight of my boots and being a little tired. I only took one pill on Sunday. I took another Monday morning before Via Feratta and had a smashing day and felt amazing. I took a second pill that evening and by the middle of the night I awoke to pain and heaviness feelings in both legs. I got up to use the restroom and fell to the ground. My legs did not work, at all. I managed to get back in bed and I tossed and turned all night with discomfort and pain. When it was time to get up and start getting ready the morning of the hike I knew something was really wrong with my legs. I knew there was no way I could do this hike. I literally had very little use of my legs. None of my muscles were firing. I was terrified. What was happening? I told my roommate my concerns and how worried I was. I thought that the Diamox was interacting with another medication I was taking since I had not ever taken this combo before. She started Google searching and found that Diamox is on the medical alert list for my CMT. This drug directly effected my disease in a very severe and serious way. I did not know if this was going to damage my muscles permanently or what I was experiencing would be a temporary side effect. As soon as [my guide] Puma arrived, I pulled him aside and told him what was happening and that I would not be able to do this trek. After all, you need your legs for a trek of this magnitude. I didn’t want to hold the group up or put anyone out. I also didn’t think I could do it. That [was] a first for me. My mantra is, NEVER QUIT.
Puma took both of my hands and held them, looked me directly in my eyes and said, “You are now part of the Puma family. We will get you up and down the mountain. Do not worry.” I thought he was not understanding the gravity of my situation and started explaining again. He looked me in my eyes again and assured me everything would be o.k and I need not to worry. And just like that I said, “o.k.” From that point on my gut told me to trust him, so I did. I was so nervous but somehow also felt like everything would be o.k. Before we left for the bus Puma introduced me to Nick. His bright eyes and smile were so welcoming. He assured me that everything would be o.k. and that he was here to help me. I don’t think either of us truly knew what lay ahead for us both.
We started the trek and my legs felt so heavy. It was a beautiful day and I was with my best friends, I needed to push forward and just enjoy the experience. Once we got going I started feeling more at ease even though walking was labored. Our pace was perfect and we took nice breaks along the way to learn history and eat snacks. Nick was close to me while we made our way to the first camp. After a few hours I had fallen just a bit behind. We could see the group up ahead so it was not too bad. I fell twice because my legs would just stop working. It was beyond frustrating. After my second fall Nick ran to my side and helped me up. He looked at me and held his hand out and said, “From this point on, I will not leave your side. Hold my hand.” He stayed true to that statement. From that point, we started a life changing journey together.
For the next 3 1/2 days he pulled me up steps, gave me words of encouragement, lifted me up when I was down, gave a rich history lesson of the Inca Trail, told me stories, shared with me about his life. At times the group was way ahead of us and Nick never faltered. He did whatever I needed. Whether it be silence, laughter, counting steps together, singing songs, making up our own new mantras, helping me up series after series of steps, helping me down series after series of steps, walking in the dark with me, stopping when I needed, helping with my pack, waiting, listening, his dedication and determination to see this through was like nothing I had ever experienced with another human being. He was a pillar of emotional and physical strength. At times my legs literally would not work and Nick made sure he had my hand and stayed by my side. The endless hours on the trail together had tears, gut wrenching laughter and hope. We struck up an amazing friendship. I trusted Nick with my life. The sacrifices he made to ensure my safety and success were boundless. Nick is a veritable one man phenomenon. He made sure I made it, and I will never be able to thank him enough for such a selfless act. He has restored my faith in humanity. Nick held my hand till we got to the hotel after our trek was done. After an experience like that, parting ways was so difficult but I know this experience and Nick will stay in my heart forever. Nick made a dream journey come true for me.
Puma was right. He made sure I got up and down that mountain. During the trek there were a few spots where the descent was so steep Puma had some of the porters put me on their back and safely get me down those tough sections. 5 different porters assisted with getting me down some crazy sections and I will never be able thank them enough for their sacrifices to see me down the mountain safely. All-in-all I can’t say enough good things about my experience and the absolute love and support the entire crew gave to our group.
Via Ferrata and zip lines tour:
Via Feratta was amazing!!!!! I also can not say enough good about these guys. With Via Ferrata you have to clip to a safety cable and with my muscular dystrophy that is a very difficult task for me. Alex was awesome! He had me go up with another group that was using the trail section and “Captain Jack” worked my carabiner for me. The guys all took turns working my carabiner when needed. We had an amazing time!!!!!!!
Regarding Adventures Within Reach:
I can not thank Barbara enough for her quick responses and all of her assistance with details. Top notch!!!!!!! Thank You AWR!!!! You all are amazing!!