Bliss Within Agony
Despite the fact that I recently lectured a friend on just how difficult hiking really is and how heroic our efforts really are, little could have prepared me for what I faced in Scotland. Here’s a few glimpses.
The pain, all things considering, wasn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I never had to bite down before as much as I did then, but it had very little psychological effect on me. One thing that I did feel however, was disappointment with myself.
I performed much poorer than I thought I would. How much of that was caused by the way I sat and how much was actually physical shortcoming, I still don’t know. I did know that I was the weakest link on several occasions, and that frustrated me to no end.
The rucksack in particular is really what killed me. I could have ran the whole way and hardly break a sweat (such a hero), but the twenty kilos of equipment on my back was too much for my legs. I conquered mountains considered “challenging” by experienced climbers without taking the time to have breakfast, but when it comes to strength,… I fail.
I broke down emotionally at one point too, when I found myself forced to take little baby steps during a steep descent. The humiliation suddenly boiled up, and before I knew it I had launched my hat into the bushes and screamed to no one in particular. I was stuck, in the middle of an everyday road, incapable of moving on. I couldn’t even quit: going uphill would only lead me into the forest. Three of us were there, and the strongest eventually kept us going. I should thank him some time for that…
Despite very unsettling forecasts, the weather was very manageable. We had interpreted “showers” as constant rain as we tend to have here In Belgium, while in reality it meant ten minute alternations between sunshine and pouring rain. Predicting the weather was all but impossible because of the hills and random intervals between clouds, making preparation very hard. Since I am quite warm-blooded, I usually walked around in little more than a tee shirt, even when the others had their vests on. I figured I’d be drying up in a few minutes anyway, and usually I was quite right.
Camping wasn’t as much misery as I had expected. Mornings were –thank god– generally fairly dry and all in all, our gear didn’t get overly wet. The five of us in two tents worked out rather well, and nothing tore or broke, no water came into the tent and we didn’t get eaten. The only major frustration came with the horde of ticks we encountered, and those goddamn motherfucking widgets out to avenge their dozens of murdered brethren.
There’s little I can say about the company, which were four men. We clicked easily and despite a few moments of light tension, discussions were open and healthy, and agreements found. Our minds were on the same level, which is a big relief for me. I was afraid there might be major differences that would lead to unnecessary arguments, which so often happens with more heterogenous groups.
One small side of me was left unsatisfied however, and that is my tendency to dig for stereotypes. We did have a rather obvious leader, but other than that it was hard to define each individual as, other than “one of the guys”.
I noticed I didn’t get lost into thought as often as I used to. Maybe it was the pain calling me back to reality, the conversation, or the view. I hope it was an external factor because I am quite fond of my little world, they know me here. It helps fight boredom and reach important conclusions on irrelevant but important matters, at least to me.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have much to think about. The annoying thing is, was that I didn’t have a conclusion to reach. There was no problem to work out. No issue that could be resolved by pondering alone. I eventually got stuck in vicious circles, going back to the same thought pattern again and again.
There is mental one condition that has the same effect, and hopeless romantic that you are, I’m sure you can guess it. And the fucked up thing is, you are probably right. The very morning of our departure I spent waking up next to a very lovable creature, one that appears to think the same way.
I usually have sufficient control over my thoughts to keep my moods in check, but there are exceptions. In this particular case, it seems I walked around with my head in the clouds figuratively at least as much as literally.
Talk about poor timing. While I spent the last few months looking forward to heading out, I spent most of my journey longing for home.
But now I’m here, and I feel… strengthened. Confident. My limits may not be where I would want them to be, but I know them a little better now.
I think I’m done travelling for a while. Yeah.
It’s good to be finally home.
It’s finally good to be home.