Pissed as hell I danced in the packed pub with my fellow wanderers. The music was plain wrong, I got surrounded by old farts and the dollars vaporized in no time, yet I couldn’t care less. At least we were inside, warm and comfortable on this bleak night. Rarely did a warm meal taste so filling, were the drinks so tasteful and the togetherness so welcoming. We were all content with the moment. For us, this was the unofficial ending of an unforgettable journey, one which we all finished on our own terms. Suddenly it was all over once we arrived in Albany. I faced that uneasy fact with mixed emotions and a great sense of achievement. A sense of pride prevailed, we pulled it off. We managed to hike 1000 kilometers through Australia. We closed this special period in style with worn wrights, blisters, pains and burned fat reserves. The hangover will probably be mad after losing 10kg and abstaining from alcohol, but who cares. It was pure joy. Not just the pub and new life experience, but also the warm shower, nearby supermarket and comfortable mattress. It all felt like a well-deserved reward
I was drunk. Not just because of the booze, but mainly of the overwhelming satisfaction and happiness. This hike had touched me deeply for various reasons. Moments of intense goosebumps, persisting pain, tranquilizing awe, fierce rage and vast wonder alternated each other. It was a time of isolation, joy, connection, enrichment and suffering. A time lived according to the natural rhythm of daylight, weather conditions and daily routine that comes with it. This contagious simplification of life descended on me like gravity. Civilization was beyond the horizon. I was thrown back on the essence in remote areas. The distractions or limiting influences of society were gone. It was confronting, lovely, clarifying. Continuous seclusion on your own grows something which can’t blossom in ‘the normal life’. Experiencing first hand that you can deal with demanding situations, physical problems and mental confrontations make you stronger and stronger: both physically as mentally. Nothing will test you anymore. You can take on the world with deeply rooted self-confidence.
For weeks I hiked the Bibbulmun track fully geared. Animal sounds and pristine landscapes helped to indulge me in a never-ending hikers’ high. The splendor and horror of this spectacular continent unleashed itself in all its intensity. This experience helped me to develop a tremendous respect towards Aboriginals and Australian nature. Man, the bush could be so pure and unbearable, beautiful and as hard as a rock, wonderful and tiresome. It often demanded all my energy and awareness. There have been moments in which I wondered why I did this, moments in which I considered to quit. Especially fierce storms and blistering heat could trigger these considerations. Some stretches were a true plague of flies and mosquitos within stinky swamps; others were an overgrown snake pit teeming with razor-sharp vegetation. The at-times monotonous landscape went by on an agonizingly slow pace, hoards of biting ticks caused an infection which turned hiking into torture, and of course there were still the memorable wildlife encounters. There have been multiple occasions in which I was literally one step away from deadly snakes – welcome to Straya. One well-hidden Dugite got me by total surprise and nearly bit me. Muscular kangaroos that didn’t back off for anyone or anything. A bug that bit me and caused my face to swell. I even managed to piss off an emu by accidentally scaring its chicks. No wonder that I felt relieved when encountering ‘just’ a huntsman spider after such shenanigans.
At some stretches, I didn’t encounter anyone for days. Those I did encounter were often remarkable characters, especially the so-called ‘end-to-enders’. As with other unusual activities, the circumstances (automatically) create a bond that is impossible to comprehend for outsiders. An additional dimension of this experience is that we’re living in a time in which true contact with yourself, others and the natural world isn’t self-evident, isn’t stimulated by culture in general. In current times, essential things like (self)reflection, intuitive decision-making or deep contact are easily overshadowed by the busy, packed, confusion events of daily routine. Although everyone had their reasons to do this hike, these topics were mentioned time after time. Sickened by the increasingly rushed, hardened, money-driven and shallow society, they retreat. They take some time to return to the purity of the essence, to go back to what’s truly important for them. They don’t walk away from life; they walk straight through it.
I recognize this all too well. These are the aspects that form the fundamental base of my actions, besides the desire to do something unusual or ‘adventurous’. Even if such endeavors are temporary by default, they leave a permanent mark. They leave something fundamental, something real. It feeds the burning desire to live life’s sheer diversity first hand. Or, in other words, it’s the will to feel alive, including the physical or psychological pain, impracticalities and risks that come with it. That’s why I do these kind of things. I want to live – truly live. It’s that willpower, dedication and conviction that provide the fuel for me to keep on going and going. I even declined the offer of two pretty women for a lift and a place to stay. That’s how important this new chapter was for me. A chapter dictated by total focus, animation and experience. The aboriginals were right, although it has little to do with dreaming in my opinion. They call it the dream time. I call it the real life. One that’s full of awe, purity and glory.
It’s more about the journey itself than the final destination, but arriving somewhere feels nice too.