Pushing the Boundaries

If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk~Raymond Inmon

It has been years since I went hiking. Even though I used to love it when I was younger, it is just something that unfortunately fell by the wayside. This weekend however, we were invited to go hiking with friends.  I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, but it is my legs I should have asked permission for ...

We chose a spot very close to home, and didn't think it could be too strenuous for a first-time-in-a-long-time hike. It is a farm nearby and we were going to spend four hours in nature. No cell phones, no noise, fresh air and a gourmet picnic half way through. Heaven. 

Anyway - that was the plan... Closer to the truth is that we ended up walking for six hours. The last two gruelling hours were spend climbing very steep cliffs using our hands and feet just to hang on. And no cell phones also meant no help if we were to get injured or lost! 

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.  ~ Dudley White

Back to the trail: To start off with, the place didn't look like much of a challenge. There were wide open plains with beautiful vegetation, cycads and rivulets. We slowly descended and were approaching a river. This is where the topography changed, and the boring plains transformed into an enchanting forest. We entered a ravine where we crossed at a beautiful waterfall. The rocks were eroded by water and formed natural round pools. As we walked along, the scenery became increasingly beautiful, it looked like something straight out of The Hobbit.  We had our picnic in the safe secluded shadows of the forest, and I was taking pictures of everything I could find! I was also very surprised at how well I kept up with the men! 

When we started walking again, we conferred that - since we are one hour ahead of schedule - we would rather intercept the other trail here instead of going back, cross the river and go up the other side of the ravine. 

Mushrooms growing on manure
Great idea in theory, not so great in real life. 

The map was also very deceiving, showing that - at the rate we were walking - this will only take us an extra thirty minutes. 

Well, two hours later, we were still climbing up the steepest rocky hill I have ever seen. The scenery was still quite breathtaking, but I couldn't care less . My camera was safely tucked away in my rucksack. I needed every ounce of energy to get through this! By now we all ran out of water, and the end was not even in sight yet (literally, it was too steep and dense to see anything)! We were dying of heat and thirst. 

This is also where I started picking up problems. I had trouble breathing and had goose bumps all over. At first I thought that I was just exhausted, but I soon realised that it was an allergic reaction I picked up en-route, and of course I didn't take any anti-histamine with. 

That's when I realised the value of the three rules of hiking:

It's always further than it looks.
It's always taller than it looks.
And it's always harder than it looks.

Another half hour later and everything in my body felt broken, and whatever wasn't, was protesting heavily. I really lost hope of ever reaching the top, and on top of it I was still battling with the allergic reaction, especially having trouble breathing. At that point my dad said that we must be near the end - he could see light coming through. Being at the back of the queue, I couldn't see anything, so I was still sceptical. He also tried to motivate me, and said that all I need to do is look down, to see how far we have already come. 

It then suddenly struck me why I used to love hiking so much. It is like a teaching school for life. In life - as with hiking - whenever you can see light, there is hope that the end is near. If you cannot see that you have progressed and feel like you are stuck in a rut, just take a look at how far you have come, and you can get enough courage to get up and push forward again. 

After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value.  
~George Macauley Trevelyan

This expedition into the outer realm of my daily life had a few lessons for future hiking trips that I wish to share with you:

-  Our bottled water is of no value, because it is generally ozonated. Take real mineral water (check the labels for minerals and pH levels), or hydrating powder, so you can replenish your vitamins, trace elements, minerals and electrolytes.

- Never run out of water. Rather take too much than too little. We have since bought "water bladders" for our rucksacks. It holds 3 litres and is very compact and easy to carry.
The route we walked

- Take more snacks instead of lunch. It is better to eat constantly for energy, than a big meal at once.

- You have to have good hiking shoes (one thing we got right!) You need something to support your ankles.

Sunscreen lotion is a given, and it is nice to have a Safety kit with the essentials, in case of an injury, because help is hours away!

- Don't get a manicure the day before you go hiking!

A gym is not for me. If you feel the same, then find something you love doing that distracts you from your daily life, gets you into the fresh outdoors and keeps you active and busy for a few hours. 

All in all we had a fantastic day, and we will be doing this on a regular basis again from now on. Next time though, we will just be much better prepared. So many of our friends have since asked to join us on our next expedition and I am already daydreaming about all the gadgets I now have a valid excuse for to buy! 

You get an enormous sense of achievement after completing a challenge like this. It's about feeling free, unbounded and shedding the distractions of our everyday life. 

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.  
~John Muir

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