It is a battle, a battle that stops short of turning bloody. It is a battle between me and my body, between the mind that urges on and the body that threatens to stop following orders. It is a battle in which, I like to believe, both of us win.
The morning is fine enough, fresh after a good night's sleep, I wake up and dress hurriedly. It is nice to dress up warm, with a long shirt in muted colours and a jacket that I zip up close to my neck. I wrap around a stole next and lace up my shoes. The blue backpack is filled with some food, sunscreen, glasses, crepe bandage and pain spray, for I no longer trust my leg not to tear up a ligament yet again.
Soon thereafter, the preparations for the battle begin. It is slow going, initially. After a while, my legs get into a rhythm, it is left after the right, the right after the left. Once a while I look up and around, and my eyes set on the river snaking around the fields, the trees in the distance, a lone eagle gliding by. An insect almost hits me square in the face, unable to control itself when the wind blows hard. I put up a hand just in time to swat it away, the reflex is fairly good.
So are the instincts. We give those less credit than they deserve, I believe. Instincts are the first on the checklist when you are treading the path, or making your own. Instincts that were once, in ancient times, the only survival kits around. Instincts to judge which rock is OK to step on, which blade of tall grass might hold the weight of you pulling yourself up, which part of the rock might not slip and land you several feet below with broken limbs. I rely on my instincts, they, yet again, don't let me down.
On top, the wind is fierce. You stand firm on your feet or it pushes you about. The body is silent even then, there isn't a word, except for a break of sweat. All it is asking is that you take deep, loud gasps of breathe and feed it. You take them in, breathing deep. Way down below, there are cars, very tiny. A train chugs by, looking like the ones that you had in your toy set in childhood. It lets out a whistle and you count the number of wagons. A pair of eagle circle above your head for a while, then fly away, for you are uninteresting to those that fly free. A little cloud waves by as it goes to the east of you. There is the wind again, blowing fierce, drowning all attempts at conversation. But then, you don't want to talk, you went there for the silence and song of the wind below a blue sky.
You have won half the battle. The second half demands more strategy, more use of those instincts that you are so proud of. It demands control of the body your mind is in battle with. The instincts are to be sharper, a slight waver of concentration can be fatal. You step on a stone, the hand goes up to control balance. After a while, you think you have won again, and let go a little of the control. The body is quick to punish with a nasty bruise, a dozen thorns that go deep into your feet and a footing that slips. You gasp and reach for a rock in haste; another bruise on the palm appears, a deep red.
After negotiating with the legs to keep walking despite the thorns that are going in deeper, you promise them a good rest later, it is flat ground again. Another long walk. A bus journey back. A hot bath. That's when the rebellion starts.
On safe, flat ground again, my arms and legs don't listen to me anymore. The face is burnt and so are the arms; I have anti-tan skin, I don't burn till severe exposure; but the winter sun, deceiving, has burnt the skin off my forehead and nose. I cringe when water falls on the burning skin. The arms don't move to the back, the leg muscles are locked in. Climbing up the stairs to my house is excruciating. The head is throbbing. I have to sleep on the hard floor that night, that is the only thing that will give relief. I wake up with several locked in muscles. It is cold and I have to sit in the whole day, working. I do not do myself a favour by not walking about. The body is taking its revenge.
The battle is addictive, so is the pleasure in that pain. It is quite a soul-spa.
I cannot wait to trek and climb some more again.