"Open up the oceans, jump on in
The masters of the coastlines beckoning
Unfold my only life vest, sink or swim
Through the everlasting worlds begin"
Liquorlip Loaded Gun, Sticky Fingers
Went to Uganda to see parts of a new country for sure, but also to learn how to camp again in a harsher environment, use a Steripen and pre-filter on unsafe (and horrible tasting) water, becoming accustomed to the lifestyle of having everything with you, testing gear etc. Dealing with insects that can kill you was just a bonus.
Learned some great things about myself and compact living -- I loved it. What I wasn't so great at was lugging everything around. My shoulders have taken a beating over the years and now really dislike having anything over 8 kg on them. So self supported multi-day backpacking will not be in my future. I would consider trying to pull a sled for a winter expedition though.
Came away with a tremendous appreciation for the application of solar technology in remote places from both a daily as well as post disaster perspective. Sure, I've read articles and seen cool pictures of expeditions where members had portable panels hanging on the packs. But I hadn't anticipated how exasperating it would be trying to charge things via generators.
At that point last year, I didn't even own an extra power pack. My life has now expanded to recognize the need for portable off grid equipment. Enter Goal Zero. My workout room and part of my walk in closet now serves as gear storage. Along with D's bike packing, we now own 3 tents and I've got my eye on a winter one next.
Quito was my first time at a higher altitude. My goal was to see how I would do with the teleferico ride up followed by the hike up to Pichincha volcano and if I'd discover any signs of altitude related symptoms. I knew my goal was slightly higher then 4696 m (15406 ft) but the cost:benefit ratio of trying to get to La Paz, Bolivia instead for a short visit didn't make sense.
Equipped with Diamox (Acetazolamide) and deliberately not taking it the day before, I went for it. It was important for me to feel what the problem symptoms were so I could recognize it. Had a plan to take meds and descend quickly at first signs.
Fortunately I did not feel the need for the meds. Was waiting for signs after the teleferico before getting started with the hike. I saw a number of people gasping for air and found myself doing the same about 3/4 of the way up, where I couldn't take more than 12 -14 steps before needing to stop and let my heart rate slow down. If I still had hours to go, I would have taken the Diamox for support.
Another major thing I learned was that extra water requirement at higher altitudes is real. I ran out of water before I made it to the top. Couldn't believe it as I don't drink much when I hike. But up there, I was parched even though temps were cool (had hat and gloves on). Lesson learned the hard way. It felt very uncomfortable, like my body was getting shrink wrapped from the inside out. More than I ever felt in the Moroccan desert. Enough that I practically ran all way back down.
On top of my regular training, we also spent time out west at our local ski hill so I could do hill repeats (530 m). But alas, the above wasn't enough. I came back with punctures and tread ripped off my hikers, torn plantar fascia (realized over time), strained soleus, messed up joints in my foot, ankle, knees (all that without ever falling!) and a nasty sunburn at the back of my neck and forearms.
Langtang, Nepal kicked my butt. The healing is almost there. The learning and training continue.