Saturday, January 16, 2010

Re-learning how to Peregrinate..

Now that the wet season has set in, I’ve had to learn a new way of walking. When weather permits I like to go out hiking with a pack on for some exercise and a change of scenery. With 35kg’s on your back though, it’s hard to correct when you start to slip so I’ve acquired a walk that, although I lack the grace of either, seems a hybrid between a Geisha’s fast but shortened steps and an ice-skaters plant, expecting as it were to have to glide with each step. It probably doesn’t look as funny as it sounds but it has felt weird learning to walk somehow differently.

Regular bushwalking is easy and my desert style is ingrained after many years trekking in the Pilbara and central Australia. Even my ability to walk on ice and snow is pretty good after 7 days trekking the Overland Track in winter last year. This ground out here however is different. Where the tracks aren’t overgrown with grass taller than me, the are slippery with mud or worst of all, the green lichen has created a surface with roughly the same coefficient of friction as ice. Even my Scarpa SL’s – still the most impressive boots I’ve owned and hitherto awesomely reliable – just turn into ice skates.

I also discovered recently while wrestling my way back to vertical, that it’s easy to slip completely over but hard work getting upright again with a heavy pack firmly strapped to you. It makes a good mini workout in itself but much like a turtle trying to right itself, I probably also made an amusing if ungainly sight. Kauga who was walking with me at the time was very polite and somehow managed to refrain from laughing. I’m not sure I could have mustered the same polite restraint had the roles been reversed.

With practice these days, I’m slipping and sliding less often but with the wet season setting in it’s getting more slippery every day – either that or I’m getting less graceful which I hope is not the case, given that I’m coming off a low base already. The first time I slipped over was only two days before the second time so that should give you some idea of the escalating lichen growth.

Apart from the great exercise and a change of scenery, I’ve also been going out hiking to prepare for the possibility that that I might have to hike out of here in February if the airstrip is too wet. At the very least I’ll be looking at a days hike plus a boat ride or perhaps 5 days over the Mahale Mountains if I feel like taking the more interesting way. Initially the Mahale Mountains was sounding pretty good but after witnessing a few days of 50+mm of rain recently that option is looking much less appealing (at least during the wet season). Might have to get out with the panga (machete) and slash the airstrip after all…

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