On March 5, 2019 Julie sat down with our member, Victor Romero, to learn more about his goal to climb Machu Picchu.

He did it! He has climbed Machu Picchu! Here is his story:

So I did it! I did the 28 mile/14,000ft Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu! It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life!

     When I first talked to you, Julie Johnston, about my goals, I thought of this hike as a demarcation point between my old lifestyle and the new one. It was definitely that and so much more. I feel like this hike did not start with the trail itself, it actually started back in June when me and my friend, Amanda (Mande), decided to sign up for the 6 Week Challenge. In the intro meeting you asked us why we wanted to get in shape. I said, “I want to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.” It has been a dream of mine for years. At 313 pounds and completely out of shape, that was a pretty lofty goal.
I remember that first workout, I was so nervous and had to modify everything, but I kept going. Looking back, the training that I received from Camp Rhino not only trained me physically but also mentally for the trek. It was a four day hike, but the hardest day is the second day. That is when you reach the highest elevation. The day before the hike I met our guide, Jose, and 4 others that were also hiking the trek with me. There names are Colin, Nate, Daithi, and Eric. They are great guys that became good friends. That night we stayed in a Peruvian village, they taught us to potato farm, we learned their customs, and had an incredible day. We got a good night’s sleep and started out for the trek in the morning. Day one of the trek was beautiful, we made good time, had a good dinner, and just enjoyed the evening. We made a plan, with our guide, for day two, the hardest day of the hike.

     On day two, I woke up and I was sick. I was really sick. I’ll spare you the details, but on the hardest day of the hike I was very ill. But………I did it!!! I kept on going. My guide, Jose, kept an eye on me. The Inca Trail is built on stone steps. I followed Jose’s advice, just do 50 steps at a time. So I would count 50 steps and rest. It was slow going, people on the trail were constantly asking me if I was okay. I just gave them a thumbs up, did my 50 steps, and would sit down. During this time my mind was messing with me. It was a internal battle as well as an external one. My mind tried to convince me to stop. What really helped was thinking of Camp Rhino. I thought about all the workouts I struggled with but kept on going no matter how hard it got. I thought of all the encouragement I received from the coaches, from Amanda, and from the entire Rhino Family, especially the 5am class. I visualized you all hiking with me, saying good job, keep on going, and giving me high fives with each set of steps. I felt so blessed having such a support group with me, if not there physically but there in spirit. Around one o’clock in the afternoon I made it to the top, and I broke down. I broke down in tears of joy! I made it through the most difficult part of the hike and I was literally in a cloud. I gave my guide a big hug and we sat there and enjoyed the moment. Then we were on our way to camp, all downhill for the rest of the day. I was so sick that the downhill part was rough, too. When I had to rest going downhill I knew, man oh man, I’m sick. One of the porters came up and carried my backpack for me. We got to camp in the late afternoon. The boys were there already, them and the porters all gave me a round of applause. The chef made me some soup and then I passed out for the night. It was a rough night. But in the morning I would start feeling better.

     Day 3, in the morning I woke up and was tired, but my body felt okay. I was hoping that by lunch I could finally eat a full meal. The views on day 3 were incredible. My friends stayed with me, which meant a lot, we made good time. I was weak but I felt way better than the night before. I was able to eat lunch and truly enjoy my day. I can’t tell you the beauty and wonder that I experienced, hiking that trail. We got to camp, had a great dinner, learned about the lives of all the porters, and made a plan for our last day.

     The final day is a short hike to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu. The guide said it would take us about an hour and forty minutes. For the first time since the first day I felt great! I felt strong and I was ready. I thought to myself, “An hour and forty minutes, that’s just one Bootcamp and one Crossfit class, I got this.” We get up early, get to the final checkpoint, and then we are off. The boys let me lead and we got there quick. It took us around fifty-seven minutes. We got to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu, celebrated, and watched the sun come up. It was emotional, exuberating, and so many things all in one. I can’t tell you what that moment felt like. I will cherish it forever. Once the sun was up we went down to Machu Picchu and had a guided tour.

     This journey, all of it, not just the trek, but from the first day at Camp Rhino till now has been incredible. Transformation is hard. I had to step out my comfort zone and just keep on moving forward. Honestly, I had no idea it would be this hard. However, I’m very happy now. For the first time in my life I am making myself a priority and taking care of myself. I did not do this alone. I did it with the help and support of friends. I also was not afraid to ask for help. I needed to learn how to exercise and how to eat right which Camp Rhino provided. Through the process I also sought out psychological counseling. I thought if I want to do this right I need to work on myself as a whole, so I started therapy. There was a reason I was masking my emotions through eating and not living a healthy lifestyle. Seeking therapy was another form of me stepping out of my comfort zone. I created a vision wall, with a calendar, and have kept track of all my Camp Rhino workouts. When I started the trek I had completed 239 workouts with Camp Rhino. Today, I have completed 265. I will not stop. This is who I am now. I am Rhino Tough: I make myself a priority, I do Spartan Races, I push my limits, I challenge myself, I work to make myself better everyday, and I CLIMB MOUNTAINS!

     I want to thank everyone that has helped me in this Journey, all the staff at Camp Rhino and the entire Rhino Family, Thank you! Wayki Trek, Jose, Cirilo, Zenon, and all the Porters for making our time on the Inca Trail truly enjoyable, Thank you! The dream team, my trekking buddies Colin, Nate, Daithi, and Eric, it was truly a pleasure, so glad we experienced the trek together! Thank you! The 5am crew, I wouldn’t want to start my day with anybody else, you guys make me happy, Thank you! My dear friend Amanda (Mande) who started this Camp Rhino journey with me, Thank you for so much! There are many others that helped me along the way, Thank you to you all too! Here’s to new adventures, new goals, and new journeys!

You can watch Victor’s original video here, and the video of his climb here.