Fuck me it is cold. The leaves from the ground won’t light because they are covered in frost. How the fuck are we supposed to make tea? I run around blowing on my hands, rubbing them together, picking up sticks and lighting matches like my life and Tom’s life depend on this fire and cup of tea. My water bottle was outside overnight. The water is now ice. Using toilet paper I get a small fire going and use it to rescue my hands and dry more wood.
Hiking up the 2,359m Garden Castle mountain I’m thinking about the guide book in my back pocket. Better not to read it. Tom does not have one and that must make his experience more pleasant. Anyway, that guide book has given us more grief than it is worth. Telling us to cross streams that do not exist or walk along fences that are no longer there. Inner-hut fireplaces mentioned in the book have been sealed shut with bricks. The guide must have been written at least 10 years ago. Fuck it is hot. We have gone from wearing all the clothing we have to wearing pants and a shirt in under an hour. From freezing our tits off to sweating and cursing at the sun. The heat and the climbing and the strenuous summation of the past three days start sending me into a delirium.
On day one I was wrestling with my mind, trying to slide it from its normal busy state to a mellowed out state.
The second day the two opposing states of mind were ebbing and flowing casually until I smoked a small joint. After that I spent the afternoon blissfully absorbing the wilderness.
On day three I guided my thoughts gently, letting the butterflies drift in and around and out.
Today, my mind is behaving like a series of intersecting out-of-control carousels. Without any warning I am spun around one train of thought and flung onto the next in a swift exchange. Carousel after carousel. The horses’ laughing faces lit up by flames. I do not choose what I think. Or when I stop thinking one thought and move onto the next. It just happens in a series of misfiring connections.
Fuck it is hot. Not much water and no streams. Man I miss those streams, should have filled up my icy water bottle all the way to the top. Jackson would have loved this hike. If he could handle it. I’m sure he could. I see him walking in front of me, a pack full of his own food like we have. Me being a bit of a dad. Tess might have thought these thoughts about me when she did hikes on her travels. “The man in me will hide sometimes, to keep from being seen. Something, something because he doesn’t want, to turn into some machine.” Bob Dylan. Oooh a lizard, hello! Am I tripping or did that little guy not have a tail? Maybe it’s a drop trail lizard. You can go about a week without water and a couple of months without food. How do people not know that. I remember Kingsley telling the class that in year 2. And I remember the sleeping lion game. Ha! Tom Purvis and I hated each other then. We were rivals vying for acceptance in Harry Marsh’s crew. Funny that we became best friends in high school and have remained so.
Fuuuuuuck!!! Remember that Little Athletics carnival when Matt Kevill chased me down on the 1500m? Of course I do. That was the greatest sporting comeback I have ever been a part of and I was on the wrong side of it. Coming into the fourth and final lap Matt was in second place over half a lap behind me. I could actually see him in front of me he was so far behind me. I noticed him starting to gain ground so I put on a little gas to keep him at bay. He kept coming and coming. Halfway around the last lap I checked over my shoulder and he had closed the gap to less than 100m. At the 100m mark he was only 20m behind me and steaming along with a warrior’s expression on his face. Or looking like he was squeezing one out. He drew level with 30m to go, we were both throwing our bodies along the grass, neck and neck until a few metres before the finish line. He snuck in front and burst through the tape. How did I lose that? Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That burned grass bush looks like a porcupine. What was that book I used to read when I was a kid? Some tale about six or seven Chinese brothers. They each had some special, ridiculous skill. How did I get here? What am I thinking about? I’m thinking about what I’m thinking about. “When it comes to compensation, there’s a little he would ask.” More Bob Dylan. “Lala lala la la la la lah la lala la.” What is Tom thinking about? Hmm, KFC or a pub feed for dinner tonight? KFC would be a surefire success. A good pub feed would be better. But a bad pub feed? That would be a huge bummer. Fuck it is hot. Maybe Jackson wouldn’t love it. The wind in the willows. How now brown cow. What the fuck is going on in my head? Who knows. Ha! Those white mints dad used to always have in the old Magna wagon. Pop one out of the packet, suck away while listening to the radio. Damn where is that lake. Or was it a waterfall?
On and on my mind jolts, with a mind of its own for the rest of the day.
Recently I had been wondering if – given there were a supermarket at the end of today’s leg – I could load up on more supplies and set off for another four days hiking. Physically, I think I could. My body was aching on days two and three but now it feels a little better. It is getting used to the weight of the pack and the hours of walking. Mentally, it seemed a cinch. Until today, that is. I was sailing on an unalterable course bound for rocks. Upon seeing our final destination my mind came back under control. As if insanity realised it was defeated and let go. But without that end in sight, with just more hiking and no human contact, I might have lost the plot. Forever walking and chewing nuts and yelling at those goddamn streams and imagining dinosaurs roaming around in the valleys below.
Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.
Until next time,
H F Peniston