Comyns Hut – back in the ”good ol’ days’ on the trail…
Coming home was never going to be easy but I guess I didn’t appreciate that hiking the Te Araroa Trail would have quite the impact on my life that it has. I think I did a lot of my grieving about its ending before I left New Zealand, in the two week long no-man’s land of post-trail, yet pre-return-to-Melbourne. Calling on the support of other ex TA hikers going through the same withdrawal and adjustment, I sought to find some kind of a path back to what the vast majority of the population refers to as ‘normal life’.
The thing is, now that I’m back I realise with absolute certainty that I don’t want this to be my normal life. Once again I am surrounded by noise, busy-ness, pollution and meaningless consumerism – all an immensely far cry from the peaceful, simple and happy existence I enjoyed on the trail with my one bag of belongings. I’m now back In the midst of a crowed grey city with its billboards urging me to buy ‘things’… things I don’t need, to reinforce an identity I can no longer relate to.
And it’s this stark difference between what was once normal and my new awareness that is now causing an unignorable conflict in my life. As a Buddhist saying goes on the topic of spiritual progress, “Better not to start. Once started, better to finish.”
So here I am, back in Melbourne and trying to work out the way forward from here. If only there were some trail notes to guide me through this final section of the TA trail – the one when you get home. If there were, they would probably read something like “challenging at times, undulating ups and downs, with plenty of road sections”.
In the meantime, I get by doing a lazy 12km walk as part of my daily commute to work – thankfully quite a scenic journey along the Yarra River. And in getting my exercise out of the way on these walks, I have now traded my old lunchtime gym visits for an annual pass at the Melbourne Aquarium, conveniently located right behind my office. So now I spend my lunch times connecting with nature in a different way, with my nose pressed up against a 26cm thick pane of glass, watching the rays, sharks and trevally glide gracefully by.
And beyond that? I’m not entirely sure but I’m preparing hard for it anyway! There is a glut of other long distance trails out there calling me and I need to be ready when the idea and the time arises. Having suffered two shoulder dislocations on the Te Araroa Trail (unfortunately a common trick for me) I am now back on a strengthening program to avoid a repeat performance in the future. My colleagues playfully mock my dedication to hoisting red rubber resistance physio bands wrapped around an office door handle, grimacing pathetically at the effort. At night I’m bench pressing two bottles of Tanqueray Gin (the perfect starting weight for a shoulder weakling like me).
I’m not sure what the future will hold but I’ll be ready for it when it comes! Fear of the unknown will have to move out of the way.
Looks like I’m in this soultrekking for the long haul.