The hike that changed my life – Goodbye Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

As I sat over my bowl of oatmeal and stared out over the beautiful mountains above Huaraz I was seriously questioning wether to hike up the mountain with my 3 friends. About 10 minutes before they were due to leave I had swayed towards staying and not pushing myself as I hadn’t been feeling too good. Not surprising considering we were at 3,700 metres and my body was still acclimatising as well as dealing with new foods and bacteria. But something within me was nudging me to go. I thought “yeah…this will be good for my body, I want to get fitter so I might as well go for it and I can hike as far as I want and turn back whenever I feel like it”. So I decided to go, and man, what a huge decision that turned out to be.

Shorts on, water bottles filled, toilet paper ready and sun cream smothered we headed for the mountain. One thing I had already noticed after just a couple of days was how deceiving the distances were. Everything was always so much further than it looked and the hike proved this to be true.

An important thing to point out is that there was no path. Only the path nature had carved out for us. I should probably mention at this point, I hadn’t really been on a real hike before and the mountain was around 4900 metres! and, (in case you didn’t know), I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 6 years and 2016 has been a major turning point for me. Although I had been doing so well I was still holding on to something mentally. I think I was scared of my body relapsing and crashing after pushing myself like had happened so intensely in the past. That mentality was about to change and help me release CFS once and for all.

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Trust me, its steeper than it looks! The top of the mountain = 4900m

So we made our way towards the foot of the mountain, climbing over boulders and through barbed wire and once we reached the bottom I definitely didn’t grasp the enormity of the challenge ahead. We began hiking straight up, taking a few breaks here and there, and after about an hour I realised how it was so much further and way harder than it looked, and it was only going to get harder.

My friends Jon and Alexi were quite a way ahead. I was going as fast as I could but I couldn’t keep up with their pace. Especially Jon, I’m not sure what he had eaten for breakfast but he was running up the mountain like a machine!

Marathon runners talk of hitting something called the wall. My wall came at around 4,400 metres. I felt nauseous, I was light headed, my heart was pounding, my legs were tired and I felt like crying. I didn’t know what to do. My brain and my heart were sending me conflicting messages. My brain was telling me it was too hard and I should play it safe but my heart was telling me to persevere and push myself. The idea of accomplishing such a great feat and really giving the two fingers to CFS kept me going. I knew if I could do this I could really say goodbye to it once and for all. My mind swayed towards home. Towards warmth, peace and comfort. I felt so homesick but I managed to persevere. This is where I found my inner strength and my faith. I kept repeating the affirmation “I am fit, I am strong, I am healthy” and asked for guidance. I was concentrating on just one step at a time, focusing only on the present moment and pushing myself to keep going.

As I continued up the treacherous ‘path’ I had to stop every 10 yards or so as my heart was pounding out of my chest. Every time I stopped my brain tried to convince me to turn back. Every time I would question wether I was being stupid or courageous. Perhaps they could be one and the same? But something beautiful happened when I took a break and stared out over the mountains. An immense feeling of peace washed over me. Nothing human. No distractions. Just our beautiful Pachamama in all its glory. Silence, yet nature is never silent. It is always talking to us. So I sat there, frozen in time and breathed it all in. It reminded me of how I often feel when on San Pedro. I wasn’t sure whether it was the lack of oxygen and exhaustion or something else but it was a beautiful feeling. I was so immersed in the present moment and for those few seconds I felt pure bliss and serenity. It’s certainly a feeling I will never forget.

My friend Sam stuck with me, climbing at my pace and providing morale support as I started to lose my ability to rationalise what I was doing and what was going on.

Both Jon and Alexi were waiting about 20 metres ahead on a huge rock, taking a break as Sam and I caught up with them. I was the last one there and this was definitely my hardest moment. I couldn’t catch my breath and almost panicked. I felt like giving up. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and magically teleport to my bed. As Jon and Alexi carried on Sam and I took a break.

Over the past few months I have had lots of synchronicity with triangles and the number 3, seeing them everywhere. I’d asked for guidance and as I climbed the mountain I began noticing triangle shaped stones and rocks in my path pointing me straight up the mountain. I had already picked up a triangle/mountain shaped stone at the beginning of the hike which I held tightly in my hand as we kept climbing. In the distance Sam and I could see the top of Jon and Alexi’s heads. They were sat next to a huge triangle rock. Sam said “that’s a sign, you at least have to get to the triangle rock”. So taking one step at a time we finally got there and man, did it feel good.

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The triangle shaped rock

As we sat down to take a break the hail started and a storm began to roll in. Definitely not what you want when you’re near the top of a mountain. We managed to find our way to some trees to take shelter but we were concerned as standing next to trees when there’s lightning isn’t a good idea…We made our way to the second line of trees and by this point the thunder was every 5 seconds. It was deafening. Sam and I were worried not only for our safety but for the safety of Jon and Alexi as they had gone further and we couldn’t see them. We shouted as loud as we could and we finally got a response. They were on the opposite side to us and were making their way down. Sam and I wanted to wait until the storm passed to keep going but it wasn’t worth the risk and it’s a good job we didn’t risk it. The storm was definitely a sign from spirit telling us to go down. When we got back to the hostel the mountain was shrouded in mist. So thank you great spirit for guiding us back down.

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The mist surrounding the top of the mountain

What a day. What a moment in my life. That was probably the first real hike I had ever done. I am so grateful for Sam for sticking with me and providing morale support and I’m so grateful to the universe for the guidance. And lastly I am so proud of myself, I wanted to give up but I persevered. You know what they say, “the only way out is through”.

So goodbye Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Thank you for everything you have taught me. I have learnt so much and because of you I am where I am today. I am eternally grateful but now it is time for us to part ways.

Brad.

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