Hello from Peru!

By: Falon Sweeney

Hello from Peru! For the past four months I have been in Chile, managing the blog, writing posts here and there, and living vicariously through the HB Twitter feed. I have had the most incredible four months in Chile, but I am so excited to return to Boston and the HB to get my summer sweat on. I have had the opportunity to take spin classes at a local gym in Chile, but there really is nothing quite like a HB sweat sesh. Being instructed in Spanish was a fun twist and great practice, but I’m ready to get back to raising the bar, HB style.

I am currently writing from the foot of Machu Picchu, in Aguascalientes, where I am wrapping up my semester abroad with a trip through Peru with two good friends that I met on my abroad program. We’ve been traveling through Peru sinceMonday morning, beginning our journey exploring Incan ruins and getting to know Peruvian culture.

Before our program began in February, the three of us and four other students from our 21 person program did a four day trek through Torres del Paine, Patagonia in the far south of Chile. This four day trek brought us closer than I could have ever imagined and set the tone for an unforgettable semester abroad in Chile with some great friends by my side.

However, before February, I had never really considered myself much of a hiker. Sure, I love a jaunt up Blue Hill every now and then, but by no means did I feel prepared to trek (tents and all) through Patagonia with a 30lb pack. Only the pros do that, right? Wrong…with the help of my friends, that is.

I won’t lie, 46 kilometers in four days wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. We hiked from campsite to campsite, dusk until dawn, getting to know one another in our rawest forms – there’s wasn’t much opportunity hide our personalities, and that brought us closer than ever. We pushed each other mentally – and sometimes physically – to make it to the top of whatever mountain we were climbing. We had each other’s backs, and just knowing that made finishing the trek all the more feasible.

It wasn’t until today when my two friends and I stumbled upon Mount Putucusi that I was reminded of these feelings. We had been searching for the entrance to the mountain for about and hour, and just as we were about to give up and enjoy a cold beer and the World Cup game, we found the hidden stairs leading up to the top. None of us wanted to be the one to suggest calling it quits, even though we had already woken up at 4am, drove 2 hours from Cusco with a crazy taxi driver, completed a 1.5 hour trek in Ollantaytambo, and traveled 2 hours by train to Aguascalientes, all without a nap. You could say we deserved a break, but we continued nonetheless.

A quarter of the way up, we came to a series of nearly vertical, wooden ladders, and my friend, Katie, who is deathly afraid of heights, was ready to turn around. I wouldn’t have been upset to head back, but I had an urge to see what lay ahead of us. Assuring her I just wanted to see what was up there, I headed for the top. Not long after, both she and my other friend, Audrey were on their way up as well. When we all reached the top of the first ladder, it was plain to see that the next leg of our climb was made up of the same treacherous ladders. Katie’s fear almost got the best of her, but encouragement from Audrey and I helped her realize that we were in Machu Picchu, climbing ladders and stone stairs in the middle of the selva, and that we probably wouldn’t have the same opportunity in the future. That realization and reassurance from fellow trekkers that the view was worth it, Katie reluctantly gave in. She led us the rest of the way and I pulled up the rear. After we passed the 6 sets of vertical ladders, it was all steep stone stairs to the top. Exhausted physically, I fell behind. I took breaks every time I would complete one side of a zig-zag, but was struggling hardcore. I thought to myself “they’ll get to the top and come find me on the way down – I’ll just see the view from the pictures” and “oh, well this view is breathtaking enough for me”. I tried to justify my desire to give up, but the fact that Katie and Audrey were still pushing along with determination to get to the top kept me determined to finish. Plus, Katie faced her biggest fear – how could I let a little exhaustion hinder her great feat and the accomplishment we’d feel at the top? I couldn’t.

We all arrived at the top about an hour and a half before sunset, took in the amazing view of Machu Picchu that we weren’t even expecting to see, and snapped some great pics.

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On the way down, I got to thinking about how the three of us unconsciously worked as a team to get to the top – kind of how we work as a pack at the HB to get ourselves and our fellow riders past our mental and physical barriers. But how could two things completely different – trekking and indoor cycling – be so similar?

Friends. Teammates. Hiking buddies. Rooster Riders. We are all on different journeys, mental and physical, but the one thing we hold in common is the need for support and camaraderie as we work to defeat our most challenging goals.

As the summer sets in and the HB Summer Share kicks off, we emphasize the importance of supporting our fellow riders, friends, or hikers through whatever journey they’re on. Summer is a time to set goals, enjoy the warm weather, travel somewhere you’ve never been – whether it’s to Maine or South America – all with good company.

We hope that you’ll share your summer with us at the HB and crush your most challenging goals, all with friends by your side.

The competition is getting stiff and the saddles are filling up. The HB Summer Share has begun…How will you share your summer?