Another beautiful day ahead it seems. Today’s hike is quite long, we start early after a no-nonsense breakfast. What will I think about today?
Ahead is yet another clear cobblestone stream. I am getting a bit sick of the things. A swinging bridge crosses it. A sign instructs the reader not to rock the bridge. We rock the bridge. Luckily for us the wood and wire structure holds up. Next we scale Little Bamboo Mountain. Why did they name it that? I have no fucken’ idea, there is no bamboo in sight.
Today my mind is relaxed. Thoughts flutter in and out like butterflies searching through a field of flowers. Most of the butterflies are black and purple, thoughts without emotion attached. These butterflies are thoughts like, “there is not much wind right now, it is blowing from the west,” or “left foot, right foot,” or “I wonder what sort of dinosaurs I would be looking at right now if it were 70,000 years ago.” Two more come along, “Oh wait, dinosaurs never existed,” “well… maybe they did but I certainly could not have existed at the same time to be looking at them.” A bunch of separate black and purple butterflies coming and going. A Monarch butterfly passes across the field, “Hang on, why did we spend so much time learning about dinosaurs at school, and so little learning about Aboriginal history?” And then, a yellow, black and white spotted butterfly comes into the foreground, “That’s okay, I promise to teach myself more about Aboriginal culture soon.” Then another black and purple butterfly comes along. And so on my thoughts meander a little more innocently than usual. This pattern of calm thoughts and the pure surroundings render my face with stupid glee. The sea is placid, sailing is smooth. A gigantic wave would have to appear from nothing and strike the bow for me to be knocked from my blissful crow’s nest.
Steadily we pass a mountain lake surrounded by burnt grass. Forestry have been conducting controlled burns to manage the landscape so we cross strips of burnt land quite regularly. These strips disrupt a mountain like a shaved patch on a dog’s neck post-surgery.
For lunch we stop by a pool in the Killicranckie Stream. A peanut butter sandwich, an orange and some nuts. We dip our feet in the almost icy water and read our books with our shirts off again. I would like to lie in the sun for the rest of the day. Tom reminds me we still have a long way to go before we get to the huts.
The trail goes in a different direction to what the guide book instructs. This is not the first time the trail and the book have had different opinions, but it is by far the most their opinions have differed. There are no farmhouses where it says there should be. There is no stile across any fence. There is no dam in a trout stream. Nor is there a second dam in a second trout stream. After some self-doubt and speculation, we decide on the best and only course of action… Keep walking. Clambering down a steep, rocky section we slip and gather several times each, the loose surface threatening to send us to the bottom of the mountain in seconds. First comes the ripping sound of a foot skidding on the dirt. Second, relief in the form of a high-pitched “woop!” Lastly, a chuckle. Repeat, all the way down.
We have been walking for a couple of hours since the guide book last made sense. Still there are none of the features we should have seen by now. I do not think worrying thoughts. Only butterflies.
You know, out here with one other human bean there are only a handful of things to busy oneself with. There are the essentials; walk, rest, eat, collect wood, cook, and sleep. There are the few available leisures; play cabo, read, drink scotch, maybe roll a little spliff. Now, at the pace of normal life one could get through the essentials and get bored of the fun stuff with still four hours left in the day and nothing else to do.
At any one time, there are only a couple of options ahead so I tend to do a thorough, focused job. Then I spend some time staring into space, maybe reflecting, maybe watching flames, maybe wondering how long I could live this way. The next task that requires an action will surface and when it does, I will approach it steadily and clearly.
In this way, the few things at hand take up the whole day just as normally 100 things would take up the whole day. Only I have been spending a lot more time with my mouth open looking at the air in front of my face. Genius, I know.
Finally the track leads us across a road and over a hill to the Winterhoek Huts. We are elated to find mattresses on the bunk bed frames. After gradually getting through the evening routine we load a rusty wheelbarrow with bricks we had put by the fire and wheel it into the hut.
The small room warms quickly.