I have just returned from a five-day, charity mentoring trek in the mountains south of Canberra with Outward Bound for the Sir David Martin Foundation. Backpacks, nights under a nylon tarp, sleeping on the hard ground in bags, up mountains and down the other side and my aches and pains bear witness to the struggle. My body is so sore it’s actually funny, blistered feet and bruises on my arms, shoulders, back, hips, thighs, shins and ankles and muscle soreness everywhere in between. My nose and fingertips are still tingling with the effects of sleeping outside in subzero temps on the last night and my cranky right knee is a reminder of every long step downhill on the last day as we came down from the mountain. For all of that it was an amazing thing to be a part of.
I got to witness personal development, growth and struggle, first hand, and even play a part in it. I was reminded almost every minute how successful I have been in making my life more comfortable. Telling myself that I was indeed, the old man on this journey, was useful from time to time, as springy young legs bounded up hills that simply took my breath away. It has been forty years since I wore a backpack and oh my goodness, what a challenge it is to trek up mountain trails wearing one, and negotiating low hanging trees that occasionally hung over the path, preferring to look like some sort of struggling praying mantis, than stop and remove the pack and put it on again on the other side.
The opportunity to abseil has presented itself several times before this trip, but I have declined it or dodged it every time, citing my fear of heights, or an upset stomach, or any excuse frankly. To be able to abseil in a gale, down a granite rock face in zero temps was thrilling. Then to do a little canyoning, crawling through tight gaps in and under rocks that looked impossible to get through, was special though tough too.
The three mentors on this trip raised more than 17k between us which is an amazing effort. I was so impressed by the other two guys and felt so special to be counted as one of them. I can’t help feeling how incredibly proud my late father-in-law Sir David Martin would be, of the event. Not that he was much of a hard-nosed outdoorsy guy himself, but he would have been very proud of the journey, the effort and the resolve of all the trekkers. He was a huge fan of solid teamwork, and this group had that worked out very early on.
Perhaps one of the elements that was most enjoyable was spending five days without my phone. I wasn’t as sad about Shiraz as I thought I might be. Though I did talk about it a bit, one small glass on my return home was all it took to send me straight to bed.
I’m going to have to spend some more time thinking about journeys like this. It is not just the hardship and struggle, but the cathartic opportunity they seem to magically provide to so many of us, to stop and ponder. One of the wonderful guys on the trip was reflecting on just how tough the last 18 months of his life had been since the passing of his father, and how much his dad would have enjoyed the trip. It was very emotional hearing him recount his sadness. Beautiful though that he got the opportunity to do that.
I have enjoyed my first night back at home, in my warm and very comfortable bed with my bride at close quarters. The showers, the toilets and all the other comforts of home like a roof and walls all evoke a gentle smile. I wont pretend that the trek was easy, because for me it was physically demanding. It was though, incredibly rewarding, bruises and all. Many of us don’t ever get the opportunity to work in our own ‘discomfort zone’ and many people never get the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s development and struggle. What an honour. Thanks to my new friends for slowing down when I needed it.