A Battle with Oneself

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Just a thought - it's Friday 13th tomorrow, which is nice. I watched six of those old horror movies back to back once, which is great if you want to firmly instill a particular image or scene or even fear for that matter.

I've committed myself to doing something big tomorrow. I haven't booked anything or signed anything or handed over any money yet but I've committed myself in spirit so I can safely say I will be carrying out those three minor practicalities tomorrow. When I say 'something big' I at least mean big 'for me' anyway, and probably for reasons that a lot of people would find funny or even silly. When I picked up the brochures from the DOC office yesterday on the various day walks and the Rakiura track, I'd noticed a huge topographical map on the wall which gave incredible detail of the island and the routes and tracks which snake through it. The very popular and well-known three day Rakiura track (one of the NZ 'great walks') was clearly displayed as well as the Southern Circuit, which cuts across to the coast and hacks away through the bush before persevering through the southern end of the west coast. The one that seemed to occupy most of the map however, wherever I looked, started and finished at Halfmoon Bay like the others but entwined itself all the way up, over and down the entire north-west coast of the island then across, inland, from the west coast and back over to Halfmoon Bay. It's huge, covering some 125 kilometres in total and crossing some pretty serious looking terrain. It's referred to as the 'North West Circuit' and though I'd read about it and heard about it briefly before, I didn't really know too much about it other than the fact that it's serious, hard going and takes anywhere between ten to twelve days to complete. It's not overly popular with visitors and tourists as the Rakiura Track more often than not takes the limelight, which is understandable, particularly if people are on limited timescales. The North West Circuit seems to be more popular with those serious trampers who travel specifically, from all over in a bid to complete and beat this nasty, challenging track.

Why I even started entertaining the idea is beyond me, but it's one of a couple of little things that I've started to notice about myself of late and have to note it cos' I've not been like it before. I'm almost certain that it comes down to the fact that I'm either getting older, changing or evolving. I'd prefer to think of it that way anyway, the latter that is. What's beyond me totally though, is how hearing about, reading about or the very idea of something, goes through the whole metamorphosis of evolving in to a tiny seed that somehow finds its way into a cosy little nook inside my brain. I'm either getting older and more stupid or older and more adventurous, I'm not sure which. What I do know and what I've come to notice more and more lately, is that once that little seed is in there festering away at my sub-conscious, I'm done for. It could have started as a word on a page, a picture in a book, a passing comment or even a joke. But somewhere along the line, whether it is my conscious or sub-conscious and without me knowing, part of me will question or even consider making it a reality. And that's the part which is largely out of my hands and the part that gets me in to trouble I think. Or potentially anyway. Without any warning that tiny little seed of an idea, that mere molecule of consideration starts to invent its own fuel to burn, and before long it turns in a monster. One that refuses to leave me alone.

So yeah, when I walked out to Ackers Point yesterday I spent the whole journey wrestling with the idea of venturing out on to the North West Circuit. So I went back to the DOC as I'd got a few questions. This wasn't actually of great use, as they hadn't got that many answers. Very nice, friendly lady though - Sharon; high pitched voice, spoke like she was talking to her overly cherished pet poodle, but don't get me wrong here; very, very helpful and had all the time in the world which was what I needed. Apparently as it's out of season it's a lot less popular, to the extent where I was the first to enquire about it for a while. Apart from two blokes who'd set out the other day, there was no one out there. This is actually highly irrelevant, apart from the fact that if I went out there, I'd be alone. Totally alone. In the middle of nowhere.

She kindly went through the whole track on the topo map pointing out the many areas for concern such as those impassable places at certain times of day due to high tide, and the whole area on one of the north west beaches where the route reluctantly passes through a large area of quicksand which she said needs particular caution. Walking times average seven hours a day and take up to nine on some days. She also made very clear the need for an emergency locator beacon, particularly as I'd be travelling alone. In fact she stressed this quite seriously. It's all quite impressive really. If you commit your responsibility to one, the DOC fax an official statement over to some place in Australia who log it as being in your possession between two specific dates. The frequency is then scanned constantly by the military. If the unit is activated or if it's not returned by the panic date, things start happening. Full mountain rescue and a friendly face is within reach of the lost or maimed in around six hours and to an accuracy of within seven metres or so. They can also activate the unit remotely if need be which is quite comforting to know and extremely handy if you find yourself unable to use your hands. So the whole concept of the beacon made a lot of sense, especially considering the alternative - the local residents form a search party and hope to find you in a matter of days with torches and a lot of luck.

So just thinking for a moment cos' that hell I went through on the Kepler track took all of three days - clothes, dry clothes, waterproofs, thermals, map, compass? Emergency beacon! First aid, snacks, energy bars, nuts, water? stove, mess tin, food - eleven days worth, shit that's over thirty odd meals not to mention emergency food supply, cup, cutlery, sleeping bag! head torch, book, journal, earplugs, towel? pillow, itinerary, bog roll, candles, shit - gaiters, can borrow off Clear, trekking pole(s), hmmm...

It's forecast snow tomorrow.

Truthfully, I'm feeling uncertain. It's a big commitment to venture out there. Especially all alone and even more so when there's no one else out there at all. It's not so much the physical side of it. After all, you trek through mud and water, climb over rocks and tree roots and descend steeply in to a knee-splitting nightmare all day long, but you still get to eat a basic meal and get a good nights sleep (hopefully). It just means you have to do it for eleven days. So it's not really that. Nor is it the fact that there is no electricity, gas, plumbing or flushing toilets. No heating or lighting to welcome you at the end of a hellish day battling with nature and the elements as well as your own sanity, nothing. It's not that at all. After all, I have a torch, a stove, thermals and a clothes peg for god's sake! On the health and safety side, if I get completely lost, break a leg or slip and fall down a steep face, I just push the button, eat the rest of my food, wrap up warm and wait for the sobering sound of the helicopter. It's not even that. Here's the thing. I'm scared. I'm scared of the whole idea of being miles and miles from civilisation, in the middle of nowhere, completely and utterly alone when the night time comes. Stupid I know, but I've never really been one for the dark. Even in places familiar to me like the family home where I grew up, the dark and I have never got on. I have a very, very vivid imagination and believe all sorts of rubbish. Well this is worse. I will be in a very unfamiliar place. For ten cold, dark evenings. In the bush. Each day getting deeper and deeper in to the middle of nowhere. Alone. Remote. Exposed. Vulnerable. With sights, sounds and smells that are completely alien to me. The other thing that hasn't helped too much is being told (by DOC) that rats are quite common out there, particularly this time of year as it gets cold and they often nip in to the huts to warm up and harvest food from your pack. Sharon said with a little shiver that she likes to enclose herself totally inside her sleeping bag, as she doesn't really like rats. Those who know me will also know the expression that's on my face right now.

So yeah, I'm scared as...

The 'Friday 13th' films were set in the woods too. And I did happen to 'buy-in' to the whole concept and read all its background text and factual exhibits before watching 'The Blair Witch Project'. I came away from the cinema that night expressionless, emotionless, cold and stiff. I even went to the trouble of building it up superbly before passing it on and totally scaring the shit out of someone else with it too (which I'm eternally sorry for Jo). So I'm due some seriously overdue yet only fair and very 'due' karma. I just don't want it.

In my unjustifiable defence I happen to do it to myself too. All the time. And that's the problem. This is just a big, big battle with myself. Plain and simple.
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