To wrap up this journey, we shall include some parting words. Three months is a long time to sum up, but some of the things I will take away from/have learned from this journey are as follows:
Challenges. I underestimated my ability to handle many of the trail’s obstacles. I thought that because the guide book said to wait for sun, then I couldn’t possible cross this peak in a hail storm, or walk for 12 hours in the rain only sleep in a cold, wet tent. But I did. I didn’t think I could climb and descent over 500 meters more than 2 times in one day. But I did. I didn’t think I could walk more than 40 km on roads in a day. But I did. Conquering each of these obstacles, among many others, gives one a sense of physical strength that can only be psychologically earned by overcoming such feats.
Basic needs. Developing an appreciation for simplicity goes hand in hand with living a minimal lifestyle. Even a can of Thai chili flavoured tuna can seem like a gourmet delight at the end of a long day. The taste of clean water and the heat of a shower can easily be taken for granted. Every time I work a faucet it’s similar to how the Wright brothers must have felt when they lifted off the ground. Such ingenuity! What brilliance! A means of filling a glass that doesn’t involve finding a stream, checking its cleanliness, filtering the water, carrying it on my back. Just… pour and drink. Genius.
Music. One hears a lot of sounds, especially birds, here in New Zealand. We’ve fallen asleep to the waves of the ocean, the roar of the wind and patter of rain. Your ears become in tuned with more than you’d expect- the sound of a voice up ahead, the snap of a branch to your right, your own breath on a climb. Yet, music is absent unless you count the songs that play on repeat in your head. For me, the songs were as follows: Living on a Prayer- Bon Jovi, Love Story- Taylor Swift, Romance- Lady Gaga, and The Waiting- Tom Petty. Don’t ask me how/why my subconscious has locked into these four songs, but alas, I’ve sung their choruses thousands of times in the past 3 months.
Nature. One develops a heightened sense of nature when subject to its fluctuation so frequently. I paid attention to small things, like the dampness of the air, the movement of the clouds and the shift of the wind. My internal compass was constantly adjusting, trying to gauge where I was in relationship to where I’d been and where I was going. The sun’s movement across the sky could dictate the time of day and the brightness of our tent would tell me, almost to the minute, the time of morning. I can identify a ridge, a spur, a valley, a gorge, a sound, a fiord, a cliff, a burn, a berm, a pass, a saddle and a peak. I can read contour lines on a map and know the acute necessity of finding water at all times. I know what trees burn and what trees smoke. Survival skills in nature: check.
And lastly, thanks to the vast network of toilets and long drops (outhouses) I only had to poop in the woods once. J