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Ataxia and I : Machu Picchu Challenge

Dear reader!

So, how is it going this week? Me, more than well: Boston lost (NHL) in the Stanley Cup final – niark, niark! I … No, but no kidding, that cumulated with the  victory of the Toronto Raptors (NBA) stamped a smile on face for a few days. : p

Today, I will tell you about the Machu Picchu Challenge that achieved in July 2015, for the benefit of the Ataxia Canada Foundation with a group of participants who live with FA daily!

The first time I heard about the Machu Picchu Challenge was at the Ataxia Canada Foundation General Assembly in November 2013. Samuel – an ataxic fellow – shared his dream of climbing the sacred mountain of Peru to raise funds for the foundation, to advance Ataxia research. A crazy and super ambitious dream for someone in a wheelchair, it was clear – where should I sign?!?

Personally, I did not dream of Machu Picchu. I hardly knew it was one of the new wonders of the world – a question of general culture – so huh … But I had always wanted to go on an adventure, without a precise route, with a backpack for only luggage. It was even on my to-do list, the one we all do – mentally at least – thinking that one day we would realize it before we die. The one of which I had painfully had to mourn, at least in part, with the acceptance of being sick. Suddenly, I jumped with both feet in the project of Sam: certainly, the trip would be planned scrupulously, but hello the adventure!

And two other ataxics, Raphael and Antoine, had made their personal challenge as well. As companions were necessary to become our arms and legs there, eight other people had joined our adventures: Chantal, Jean-Pierre, Alain, Bianca, Stephanie, Cassandra, Meg and J-F.

Sam and his mother, Chantal, then orchestrated the rest of the plan with the help of Karavaners, a group that organizes expeditions. Three days of acclimatization to the altitude, followed by five days of trekking in the Cordillera de la Urubamba to finally reach the famous Machu Picchu on the morning of the fifth day.

For the ataxic, this climb in five days was done on the back of horse, in goélette or in “trail rider” ( rented for the occasion.

An account of this journey, marked by the surpassing of oneself, is present in my book to be published and is more than thirty pages long.  … But I can still tell you a minimum here!

The big departure was on July 13, 2015 and, after more than twelve hours of travel, the city of Cusco welcomed us. For the first three days, Cusco and the Inca sites of Sacsayhuamàn and Pisaq were visited. Peru is not at the forefront in terms of accessibility for wheelchairs, we helped each other between participants, it was beautiful complicity!! Then we met the Peruvian team who helped us in the field, in the mountains; in all, we were a group of twenty-six, Quebecers and Peruvians together, to start this trek.

And ensued five days engraved in our memories forever, with landscapes all more fabulous than each other and whose slogan was “Live your dreams instead of dreaming your life”! When we finally saw Machu Picchu at the end of the expedition, it was the cherry on the sundae: it was the sweet after a trip where we had “made the impossible possible”!

Well, well … Almost seven hundred words later, it’s time to wrap up. I sincerely believe that if you visualize a summit as achievable, it becomes if you put the effort, “Is not no mountain high enough” as said Marvin Gayes!

Well, for our next meeting, I’m thinking of writing a short article about the Ataxia Challenge 2019 organized by the Ataxia Foundation of Canada in Chambly, Quebec, and talking about its importance. See you!

Manu xxx


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