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The Truth About Hiking: You Will Get There
“You’re almost there…” is a lie I have come to accept while hiking.
The first time someone said this to me, I could feel my spirit lifted and my legs reenergised. But I was “there” only after another half an hour of trekking.
The writer at Sungai Pisang waterfall in Hulu Gombak, Selangor.
I felt cheated.
So the next time another man said this to me while hiking, I responded without enthusiasm. I just kept my pace, reached my destination in good time, and experienced the same sense of accomplishment.
When I descended, I heard a lady next to me uttering to her weary kid, “See, we’re almost there.” The kid smiled and, like me previously, his motivation rose.
It was then that I realised I had gotten it wrong. “Almost there” wasn’t a nasty lie to trick people; it was a little white lie to encourage people to keep going forward and not give up. It was also then that I realised I could learn more from hiking. I just needed to open my eyes.
Two years ago, when I climbed Mount Kinabalu with my friends, I would not have made it if not for three things: to tick this peak off my bucket list, the glorious sunrise, and a group of blind climbers.
One reason to take up hiking is that the scenery and terrain are always different, such as this trail leading to Mount Kinabalu.
When my legs started to ache and my breathing became heavy, the first two reasons seemed to dim. I consoled myself that I could come back next time if I didn’t reach the peak.
But the third reason was the fuel that kept me going. The determination displayed by the blind hikers moved me. And so, step by step, we eventually got to the top.
I started hiking not only because I wanted to be healthier and to learn determination from the outdoors. I also found the uncertainty in hiking thrilling, since no two hikes are the same. The route to a particular place may be the same but the surroundings and companions may change, which makes it all the more adventurous.
For example, that fallen tree was never there before or the river water level has risen from ankle to knee level. Watching the rainbow in the fine spray at the base of the Sungai Pisang waterfall (in Hulu Gombak, Selangor) and dipping into chilly waters with tiny fishes at Sungai Chiling waterfall (at Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor), in both cases after trekking through the jungle, are some examples of nature’s great rewards. These are scenes we don’t see in our everyday life.
The trail leading to the Sungai Pisang waterfalls.
It is a challenge to start but once you take that first step, the rewards soon follow. Like that packet of potato chips you always munch on, hiking is addictive. Unlike it, hiking makes you fitter, not fatter. Still, as a foodie, I look forward to meal times after every hike.
Like most sports, hiking strengthens relationships. The route allows us to spend quality time with our companions, be they family or friends. It may be difficult to talk while trekking but actions speak louder than words.
Often, at the end of the day, we don’t remember what was said, but smile at the memory of being chased by monkeys or the hand we held for support when sliding down a slope. We grow to look out for each other, watching for potential hazards, and the habit grows beyond the hike.
Reaching the destination is of course enriching and fulfilling. But there’s so much more: the humbling journey of awesome landscapes, fellowship with our companions, meeting other hikers along the way and being in sync with nature.
Plus we learn life lessons from the outdoors as we continuously push ourselves, as physical goals become metaphorical ones.
Of course the photograph of you at the summit will make for a good Facebook profile picture, but the knowledge that you have made it there through sheer sweat (and maybe tears) is what will live with you. Forever.
So when you don your hiking shoes, remember: you’re almost there.
Originally published: 13 September 2015
Author: Kan Wai Choong
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