The soft light of the early dawn, the glisten of the fog droplets on the trees, the spangled spider webs: all of this muffled silence broken by the bounding of the kangaroos and wallabies as they bounce away from me, annoyed that I have disturbed their rest. And, later on, the sunlight glinting through the trees and making golden shadows and leading to the thought ‘this is wonderful; I could do this forever’.
Right up until the time of the first, sweat-inspiring hill, when the weight of the pack on your back makes it feel like a wardrobe and you only look forward to the tree 100 metres in front of you, promising yourself that you will have a break when you get there. And each pace seems impossibly slow, like you are trudging underwater, and you get to the next tree and you tell yourself that you aren’t really that tired and you pick a new ‘next tree’ and you head for that one and you know that you are tricking yourself but you are doing it anyway just to get up that damn hill. And those damn ‘next trees’ get you up the hills in a series of increments.
But sometimes the hills are too steep and/or the trees are too dense and not distinctive enough to distract you from your physical drudgery. So then you promise yourself a drink of water (just one swallow because you only have a litre dangling from your belt and the next water source is 12km away) once you get to the top but the top is shrouded by trees and around a curve and when you get to it, it turns out that there is more summit beyond and it is so disheartening; it seems there is never a corresponding amount of down for the amount of up you struggle to achieve. Your brain starts to cycle through the memories of all of the liquids you have ever drunk in your life and they all (mostly – leaving out Southern Comfort) seem so attractive right now, even the stuff that you swore you would never drink again, simply because they are liquid and your tongue is so, so dry.
Yet when you finally, FINALLY, get to that elusive top the view almost compensates for the effort to get there and one swallow of water seems like enough, and water is the only fluid you want to drink right now and possibly ever, and you feel like you are literally on top of the world. And the horizon stretches out in front of you, with a view that is nothing but natural and, again, you want nothing more but to go on doing this forever.