The simple life is over.
Consider ultra running; the principle concerns of life are a broken down version of necessity. On any given day, the guiding forces of existence are; how the feet feel, how the body feels, how hydrated you are, how your fuel supply is, where you are and what time it is.
Parameters surrounding this are; weather/heat/cold, trail condition(s), time and place relationship (certain distance/place at certain time of day will vary from day to day) and how well the head is doing; i.e, mental state. You couldn’t care less about the rest of the globe – the shocking state of natural, political and economic affairs; Japan, Christchurch, Queensland, Libya… It is all so far removed from the time and place(ness) of negotiating a large slab of largely unoccupied human landscape.
The second-by-second transience of the day is all about footfall’s. Finding the even ground between rock, puddle, tree, root- any form of trail infraction, that will propel the next limb to a similar safe landing. The consumption of it is mechanical and make the 10-12 hours go by with surprising speed.
In all, I met 3 end-to-end hikers. Phil, heading north (a lovely chap whom I’d met on the Great Ocean Walk last year), Li (American chap zooming along with ultra light kit and on-task for a super quick day count) and renowned ultra runner/adventurer Dave Byrnes, also alone and heading out for a quick 26 day north bound walk (I have since been in message contact with Dave and wished him all the best). Otherwise two day walkers heading into Valantine’s Hut, a cross-country skier checking out the pre-snow trails on the north side of Mt. Jagungal and a tented, early morning head-showing from a guy on the north side of Mt.Speculation, brewing morning tea. An idle quad bike, sat in the middle of a bracken thick paddock near Taylor’s Crossing- its’ mount/farmer nowhere to be seen. There were some Parks people in the Mt.Nelse area, some 4×4 campers near the King Billies and a dozer driver and engineer clearing track near Black River. The busiest trafficed area seemed to be Baw Baw to St. Gwinear, but it felt like a rumour. I only saw their sticky footprints in the morning mud. You can count the people I saw over my journey on two hands and a foot. I am staggered at how few people were out there.
As I sit here now, warm as toast, as comfortable as any man could possibly be, I am thrown- by choice I suppose, back into the world of complication. Work, dates, study, deadlines, bills, lawns, relationships, filmmaking- domestication and segmented life. It is wonderful, and nice to be home, but the juggle is somehow less empowering and far less selfish. Ultimately, you can’t live an amplified physical existence in a by-the-minute environment for more than an intense burst of time, although this is a sliding scale for all of us, and in some ways depends on the task. As in, if the AAWT was twice the distance, your mental state would lock-in at least twice the time and thus- potentially, hold you through the project simply because thats the time required. The sheer consumption towards a single goal (in this case the rotunda beside side creek in Walhalla) may topple our natural equilibriums if we aim too big, or too fast, or too long.
It seems I may have got it right in some regards. Asked in Walhalla if I could go on; I oohed and ahhed. I suppose I could. The body was ok, but the head, having driven for two weeks towards that grand little town was happy for an end point. To see the high pitched roofs, to smell the wood smoke, to taste the afternoon dew in the air- it felt like the closing of summer and the end to one long day.