One of the Mother City’s major blessings is her mountains. And they aren’t in short supply either. Whether you’re a path plodder or hardcore hiker, a little hit of Mother Nature always keeps us coming back for more.
At this point, we’ve established that I enjoy a good mountain. But what is it about hiking that’s got me so hooked? There are, after all, less exhausting ways to experience nature.
My latest walkabout had me plotting theories from the ground to the clouds and back. I came to the conclusion that all of my hiking experiences had a few commonalities that might explain my mountain madness.
Let’s start at the beginning – literally, the beginning of any hike.
Your lungs are on fire, your heart rate doesn’t know what just hit, and you wonder why you’ve subjected yourself to such torture. All you can think about is stopping, and if you’re anything like me, you get angry at the upcoming inclines.
Then comes stage two.
Lungs rediscover oxygen, you make a mental shift, and you get over yourself just a little bit. It’s hard to think as much when your legs are like jelly. Your mind has warmed up but your body is only just getting started.
Cue the brain game.
When the physical subsides (you’ve basically gone numb), the pleasantries of hiking start to appear, like fynbos spurting out of the toughest rocks. Beauty emerging from a tough challenge. Your mind departs from the lungs and legs and a game of mental strength begins. Your focus becomes fixed on reaching your goal, on getting to that peak.
An experience for the soul.
Eventually, you find myself reaching a point of elevation. A spiritual detachment from the body. An all-freeing encounter with nature that allows for the deepest sense of appreciation. Reaching the top becomes less important than immersing yourself in the raw landscape that surrounds. A stunning sense of symbiosis – almost meditative.
A return to land; reflection.
When it’s all said and done and you land up back where you started, it’s as if you’ve been not on a hike, but a spiritual adventure. A sense of achievement, mangled with exhaustion and enlightenment works its magic to produce what I call Hiker’s High: that indescribable feeling that somehow makes you forget about all the bad bits; nature’s magic spell that keeps you coming back for more.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Well, Mother Nature, consider me fooled. If this is what it means to lose your mind, I’m okay with it.