Michael Meets Machu Picchu – How it Got Started (Summer 2017)

I thought I would take a moment and share how this Machu Piccchu thingie got started.  Hiking to Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list since about 2004.  Life kept getting in the way (doesn’t it always?).  In the spring of 2017, I retired from my job as an aerospace engineer at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

I finally decided to take some steps to start planning the Trek.  Being blind, I knew I would need some sighted guide assistance and training preparation.  So I asked my friends, Bernie Tretta and her husband, Zach, who are experienced hikers and marathon runners if they would cafe -express-westgraybe interested.  They had never been to Machu Picchu and agreed to take on the challenge with me – yeah!  After a few months of researching the trip, we met at the Cafe Express on West Gray in the summer of 2017 to discuss some top-level plans for the trip.

Since there are several trails to get to Machu Picchu (Classic Inca Trail, Salkantay, Lares, Inca Jungle, etc.), we first needed to decide on which trail we wanted to take.  The trails ranged from 2-day hikes to 9-day hikes.  We agreed on a 4 to 5-day hike.  My heart was really set on the Classic Inca Trail (which is a 4-day hike and also the most famous and most crowded).  Bernie and Zach are so laid back and easy going (well, at least Zach is) that they agreed to guide me on the Classic Inca Trail.

Next decision – when?  Based on our research, we considered several factors to come up with the “ideal” time of year for the Trek:

  • The seasons are opposite in Peru vs. Houston, January is the hottest month and July the coldest.
  • The rainy season in Machu Picchu is November through March.
  • The Classic Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance and refurbishment and reopens in March.
  • The trails would be fresh and least used beginning in March and April.
  • The most crowded time on the trail is May through August.

We knew that the remainder of 2017 would be too soon to prepare for the trip.  After comparing our 2018 calendars, we quickly saw that 2018 was also out.  So we started to look towards 2019.  Bernie and Zach would be completed and rested after the Boston marathon by late April and my schedule was clear of any major iBUG related events.  OK, so we had our date for the Trek to Machu Picchu – late April 2019.  [UPDATE  12/15/18  Due to issues with Inca Trail permits, the trek is now planned for June 2019.]

Towards the end of 2017, I was thinking to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if the Trek could be documented on video?  That might really empower other blind people to try some things they never thought they could do.”  But producing a documentary film is costly and would require funds to be raised.  Then, I remembered the Holman Prize that was created specifically for legally blind individuals with a penchant for exploration of all types, the Prize provides financial backing – up to $25,000 – for three individuals to explore the world and push their limits.  Would I be able to qualify?  More to come on applying for the Holman Prize …

As you know I am planning to produce a documentary film of my adventure to inspire and empower the blind to explore new ​physical activities and experiences, overcome barriers and see there are no limits to what they can achieve.  The film will also challenge stereotypes of blindness and other disabilities in an abled-body world.  I would appreciate your prayers and financial support.

DONATE   All donated services may be claimed as a tax-deductible donation in kind to Achilles Houston, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Thanks for joining me on my journey!

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