I leave for Ecuador in three days. Oddly enough, I’m prepared ahead of time for this three-month trip. A few days ago I packed my new backpack and drove out to Quilcene for a day hike, a test. I listened to a Spanish learning CD on the way. “Deme un kilo de azucar, por favor.” The Spanish spoken on these CD’s is decidedly European in word choice and pronunciation. If I were studying English for a trip to America I’d be saying, “Pit some petrol in the caravan. Ah goat tae git me jumper oot the boot,” instead of, “Fill her up. I gotta get my sweater outta the trunk.” Besides, I’ll probably never in my life have to ask for a kilo of sugar—I’m not planning on baking snickerdoodles while I’m backpacking in South America. Still, it’s the listening that counts. It’s been since high school that I spoke any Spanish, but it seems more familiar with every phrase I hear.
“Siga adelante por este calle. Doble a la izquierda al semaforo. La biblioteca esta aqui en la esquina.” I turned left onto a gravel road. It was two miles to the Mt. Walker viewpoint from the trailhead. My pack was about 40 pounds and my boots, also new, felt great the whole way up. I ate an apple and some string cheese and enjoyed the view of Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. They are volcanoes, like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, but they are not nearly as high. The Mt. Walker viewpoint is at 2,900 ft. Cotopaxi is 19,347 ft. My lungs aren’t quite big enough yet. They’re not deep enough, nor wide enough, nor healthy enough, yet. Hell, the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, where my flight lands, is at about 9,350 ft. My body will probably have some catching up to do, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready for a change. I feel like I’m holding my breath, but I shouldn’t be. I should be breathing deeply, forcefully, because this is not even the beginning.