After Cotopaxi I began designing a hard training program for myself to get back stronger and healthier. Part of beauty of training for me is that I live in the most perfect site for an altitude workout.
About four times a week, hopefully, I will be doing a loop right from my house at 10,200 feet up the mud path to a wide dirt path that wraps gently up the ridge for a long while and switchbacks over the top. On the other side the path continues more or less level to a tiny settlement called Alamohausu, technically part of Alao, for the entire way back east. There I jump on another upward-sloping mud trail back up to a higher saddle (the same starting location for climbing up Torre) at 12,200 feet and descend down the direct route to Alao... it's a steep shin-killer but good practice.
If I don't stop a lot and rest or take pictures, I can do the loop in 3 hours flat. And people here don't believe that's at all possible. Just today, Friday, I was about halfway to the first ridge crossing when I met two women who seemed...shocked. Rains were coming down the valley and would reach us soon. It was already 3 p.m. They were convinced I wouldn't make it to the village and I would certainly not make it home. And I blew their minds when I said I made the journey in three hours yesterday. Not possible, they shook their heads. Hmmm. I continued on and, to my amusement, I was back home three hours after I started, almost to the minute.
One guy I keep meeting is a little hilarious. He asks me where I'm going (everyone I meet asks me this), and I say I'm walking for fun and for exercise, and I'm going to Alamohausu. "Noooo," is his only response. Most people have similar feelings and think hiking up and around mountains for fun is ridiculous unless it's for work. But there are some who 'get' it. Today arriving back in town, I passed one of my favorite residents who always greets me warmly. He of course asked what I'd been up to, and he surprised me by saying 'Going up Torre is some good exercise." Yes! He got it.
Yesterday a group of five guys who were at a minga in Alamohausu waited for me at the second saddle to walk down together. They drilled me with question after question about the U.S., Alaska, my vegetarianism, religion, my relationships, my lack of siblings...they covered all the awkward bases. According to them I'm really strange: I don't eat meat, I'm really confused about religion, I have no husband (or even boyfriend) or children, and I'm an only child. But they were impressed about my hiking around and called me 'strong' twice which was nice to hear I suppose.