|1500 words|long read|
Our first ever family hiking adventure in Tasmania sounded like a great idea at the time – a 6 day trek in the Walls of Jerusalem mountain wilderness. However, for me it started with a panic attack when I first lifted my 20 kg backpack onto my back. The weight made my legs wobble and my head spin. Could I really carry this much weight for 6 days up hill and down dale for 6 days straight?
The planning had seemed so good. Every second day for several weeks we had carried 16 kg backpacks loaded with books and weights up and down 267 (yes, I counted them many times) Balmoral stairs. But now my confidence in our training regime was rapidly diminishing. To be blunt, I suddenly felt a bit undercooked in terms of my level of fitness.
I saw similar apprehension on some of my fellow hikers’ faces. I had a feeling that I was not the only one who wanted to give up before we had even started. It was not an option. I needed to dig in with my Finnish SISU.
My journey started with shaky legs and with a thought – why am I doing this? The next six days were not only an amazing 80+ km journey through breathtaking Tasmanian wilderness, but one of the most challenging and uplifting mental and physical efforts I have ever undertaken.
These are six revelations from my journey.
- Have a purpose and it will keep you going – especially when things get tough. Of course, this applies when starting anything new – a project, a job, a hobby, a business. Know your WHY and you will find energy and ways to march forward.
The hike had several why’s for me – to experience wild Tasmania for the first time, to challenge myself, to get fitter, to escape busy city life, to have time to think about my future plans. Having a purpose gave me the inner strength to climb over every peak, rock and fallen tree (and there were plenty of these).
- Be well prepared and the job is half done. When starting something new you often don’t know what to expect. There will always be surprises. Do your research, ask questions and do your best to be prepared for the challenge. You will be glad you did.
- Invest in quality and expertise and it pays off. Learning from experts (especially the first time you do something) makes the journey/challenge easier and faster. Listening to those who know their stuff will greatly help you avoid stupid mistakes and diminish your risks. Using suppliers who are good in what they do is a very good investment. You might need to pay a bit more for expertise/quality but it is worth it in the long run. Know your suppliers/equipment and treat them with respect and they will be great friends.
We used a very reliable active holiday specialist (Tasmanian Expeditions) to provide a top quality guided hiking experience. Professional guides (Thank you Pip, Ava & Charlotte) made sure we all had a great time – they made it fun and we felt very safe. They did challenge us at times though and I learned that their ideas of trekking are slightly different than mine i.e. ‘quite easy trek’ means very hard work, ‘a bit challenging climb’ means very, very hard work. You get the picture. I did learn though what to expect after a few days walking.
We also invested in good quality outdoor gear and equipment. The weather forecast for the area was showing everything between snow and +30 C, so we had to prepare for ever-changing environmental circumstances; harsh sun, rain, cold, wind and so on. My equipment and gear became very important to me because I knew I was relying on it to get me through the day. I greeted my backpack with a ‘hello friend’ each morning.
- Strategise and anticipate your next steps. Thinking, looking and planning ahead at what will happen next minute, day, month, will ease the journey. What is your next move, goal, event, process? If it is big and feels overwhelming – take baby steps. Slow down. Stop. Breathe. Think practical, innovate, be creative and use your common sense. Adjust but don’t become distracted by minor changes in conditions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance. You will become more confident, productive and faster. Over time, learn to adjust to the weight of your goals.
Change was the only constant throughout the trip. The weather was changing many times a day. You tended to respond to the discomfort by repeatedly either putting on or taking off gear. To some extent, you needed to make a judgement as to whether you would ‘stay’ with your discomfort or adjust to the ‘weather’ of the moment. Your packing and equipment had to be very practical. The items most likely to be used each day had to be readily available. Your tent and gear had to be quickly set up for sleeping in the evening and re-packed in the morning, as you moved on daily to a new camp site. After a few days you learn to think of how to pack with purpose and have the right gear handy throughout the day.
On the track I learned to look ahead, where and how to step. Which rocks, roots or slippery ground to trust my weight on (or not) and which obstacles and challenges were coming up ahead. I started the walk overwhelmed by seemingly impossible weight of my backpack. Over time though, I learnt to control my movements and be in charge of the situation (rather than my backpack). This eventually made me more confident and faster in reaching my next stop.
- React with calmness to change and new experiences. When you are a novice at anything your confidence can sometimes be low. This is hard, especially for those who are used to being in charge of a situation. You need to tap in to your EI Surrender to the new and unknown and be curious. Learn and listen to wisdom and experience. Push negativity away from your thinking. Accept assistance. This will lead to success.
Our trekking provided many unknowns and surprises. As it was a new experience for me, I was curious but my confidence was low and I felt apprehensive at times. Our group had mostly experienced hikers and they were all fitter than me. I was concerned that I was slowing the group down and not pulling my weight. I gained confidence on the way and the friendliness of my fellow hikers made me feel more positive. I had to control my pride and ego at times, especially when I felt I was rushed. I was at times frustrated, exhausted and angry but also at other times excited, thrilled and proud of my achievements. Quite quickly, I decided not to think too much about my reaction in the moment to any one thing and just move on. This greatly worked in my favour.
- Be where you are. When you surrender to a situation or surroundings you will start seeing things differently. You become more observant to details and nuances. Your senses sharpen and your intuition is clearer. Mindfulness will increase your enjoyment and you will get more out of the situation. Get comfortable and go with the flow. This will lead you to much more positive outcomes and success. You will learn to enjoy the journey.
After a few days, when I was more confident about my trekking, I started seeing things around me. I mean really seeing them. Rugged mountains, sparkling clear lakes, amazing plants and animals and incredible blue skies and sparkling clear lakes. I stopped being so self-absorbed and looked around. My curiosity increased and I started asking questions about the region – nature and history. Now I know what a Trigger plant, Scoparia and Melaleuca’s look like. Drinking the most pure water from stunningly clear lakes and later swimming in them was a thrilling experience. The amazing valleys of native plants that looked like gardens, surrounded by magnificent Dolerite peaks, were unforgettable. We had funny (possum visit to tent) and sometimes slightly scary encounters (tiger snakes on track) with native animals.
We did indeed complete the circuit of close to 80 km (including ‘casual day walks’). It was awesome and I had a huge sense of achievement. I felt strong, fit and confident, very happy and ready to meet future challenges. The only question is – what’s next!
Our reward was our self-drive tour down to Tasmanian East Coast visiting wineries, cheese factories, amazing beaches, national parks, historical sites and much more, but that’s another story.