I climbed a mountain. And learned some things along the way.

The specatacular Cathderal Range

Last week I decided to do an experiment on myself. I wanted to see what it felt like to take myself away from all the physical constructions that us humans have made for ourselves. Spend just a little time appreciating nature. With no other people to interact with. Smell the fresh air. Gawk at the stars of the night sky. Climb a mountain. Make a campfire. Sleep in a tent. Just be with me. With nothing familiar to my vision, sound, touch, smell and taste.

I rented a car. It needed to have cruise control and be an automatic so that I could relax while driving, as driving isn’t something I do very much of these days. Having my own transport helped to give me a freedom of just being me, with just me, that I don’t recall having in this way before.

Leaving a trail of evidence on social media in case I was never found.

I set up my camp site. Then made my way up the mountain, with so many obstacles to climb over. Steep hills to climb. Slippery slopes to jog down. The silence of no humans in the bush, except for me. Keeping an eye out for snakes, making as much thumping noise with my feet to scare them away. Being attacked by March flies. Hearing the rustles of unknown animals scampering away in the bush scared of the approaching human. Yelling out “scared de cat” and laughing out loud to myself, knowing that no one else could hear. Admiring the bush, the flowers and the trees, following the track. Hearing the crickets and the birds. And the kangaroos and kookaburras much more wary of me, than me of them. Smelling the clear fresh air. Jogging back down the mountain like the fit 19 year old that I’m not, that damn adrenaline rush I get when everything feels just right.

The achivement of making a campfire, with only a single match.

Back to my campsite. Make a lovely campfire. It wasn’t cold at that stage, but I’d been given permission from the rangers to make one, and successfully making a campfire took me back to a different era that I had been in many decades before. Managed to burn two of my fingers, feeling so stupid that I didn’t take a first aid kit with me. Then sitting on a rock next to the fresh cold water mountain stream, easing the physical pain of my burns, and thinking about how irresponsible and thoughtless I can needlessly sometimes be to myself.

As the day turned to night, I looked up to the sky. Living in my light polluted city, the stars are something I miss seeing every day. When I get to see the stars for real, I’m always completely overwhelmed. If I could spend a lifetime of staring at them every night, I’d still not be able to see them all. Each and every star much larger and brighter than I can ever remember. They felt so close like I could reach out to them with my hands in the air. But I know that they are so far away.

Early to sleep, the warmth of the day quickly escaped the forest, and I was comfortable underneath my sub zero sleeping bag, on top of my mattress and woollen underlay. Yes, I do like to spoil myself sometimes.

Jumping breakfast companion.
Flying breakfast companion.

Out of bed before the sun arose, made myself some breakfast. Joined by the kangaroos, the kookaburra and the evil biting March flies. Next time I’ll make sure I take some insect repellant.

Then it was time to climb a different path up the mountain. Packed up my camp, got in the car, and drove to the start of the next track. The park guide described the climb as Hard. But the beauty and the fresh air, and the challenge of getting my footing right as I climbed over, under and around each and every obstacle. Then sitting at the top of the ridge, looking into the distance, the sun bearing down on me, getting some much needed vitamin D. What an achievement.

Somehow I climbed up and down this rock face.

To feel this fit, just a few short weeks away from my upcoming 50th birthday, with crazy amounts of energy, the beauty of the green and the blue and the rocks and the twisting and turning of the climb.

Coming down that mountain was a bit more technically challenging, getting my footing right, and planning each every step of the way, but just as rewarding as the rest of my adventure. But. I didn’t realise how hard I must have pushed my body.

A day after getting home, feeling so empowered by my ability to enjoy just being with me, my back started to hurt a little. Then it started to hurt some more. And then my leg started to hurt. By 3am on Saturday morning, I was crying in pain. I hadn’t really made the connection that it was probably climbing a mountain that had caused it. Silly me allowing my adrenaline to take control. Anyway, I called for a doctor, who arrived at my apartment 10 minutes later. Does my good luck have no bounds? He gave me an injection that helped me sleep and ease the pain. And prescriptions for a whole bunch of things. Spent the day chilling out. By 1pm the next day, the pain was unbearable again. And so I called for a doctor again. Got another injection of something else. And prescriptions for different things. And none of it really helped that much.

Call me brave, call me stupid, but I decided to go out and socialise for a few hours later that night. Unexpectedly caught up with some dear old friends. Who just made me feel so good about the progress I’ve made on being me.

Occasional panic attacks aside, my mental health is the best it has ever been. I feel so positive about my world. It doesn’t matter to me what tough things come my way. In the past few weeks I’ve had so many difficult things to deal with. I haven’t shared many of them with anyone; they will come out over time. But I’ve taught myself how to cope, with pretty much anything, even if it takes me a few days of irrationality, before I figure it out. But fundamentally, in my daily consciousness, I am happy. And positive. And hopeful. With no regrets about anything. And pretty much zero social anxiety. And skills and life experiences that I never ever even dreamed of having. I feel like I have won life — with nothing to prove, just a desire to keep on adventuring.

My life has once again found herself at a crossroads. The things I have been doing seem to be coming to a close, some of them not being by my choice. But they are real, and I need to decide how to manage another big change. Some personal successes over the past year have given me an insurance policy, that allows me to take on some risk. I have the option of making new choices again, and my choices seem abundant. But I know that making some of these choices will reduce my options for doing some other things in the future. Maybe some of this is a little esoteric and unclear, but this is all I’m willing to share right now.

The next part of my journey is as uncertain as my life has often seemed to be. I’m well aware of the dichotomy of the anxiousness this creates, contrasted with the excitement of all the possibilities. Whatever happens next, I will never regret what it is. My life summary is that it has been a blast. Every day I wake up I’m happy that I am still here. Another day of consciousness, another day of learning, another day to try to do better than I’ve done before, another day to be grateful, another day of overcoming challenges, another day to work at becoming more aware of reality, another day of calmness, another day of gentleness, another day of kindness, another day of feeling positive.

I climbed a mountain. Lucky me.