For someone who doesn’t like walking, I have done a fair amount of it.
I just got back from a 2-day camping trip to Israel’s Negev Desert where most of my time was spent scaling the rim and insides of Mitzpeh Ramon. An active volcano millions of years ago, the 25-mile long crater is a study of ancient strata; some of the bottom layer rocks are 200 million years old.
I left the relative comfort of my Tel Aviv outdoor cafe/connected-to-computer lifestyle to go traipsing through this shadeless crater in midday heat. Somewhere in the October world, I know there exist jacket-clad types who tote hot chocolate filled thermoses to college and pro football games in brisk autumn weather. In the Middle Eastern 2 p.m. desert, however, the relentless sun can be brutal.
I forewent the comfort of my apartment to spend two days accumulating dust, grit & grime during hours-long walks & climbs along sand, craggy rocks and narrow crevices… To contemplate magma formations, scrub brush, vastness, deafening silence & the haltingly magnificent sun slipping beyond the evening horizon… To feel the wind kick up wildly and the temperatures drop dramatically as the sun receded…To communally prep dinner inside a large “mess hall”, candle-lit canvass tent for twenty three like-minded trekkers, to introduce a dozen Israeli kids to gooey S’Mores, to stay up late reclining on floor cushions sipping Turkish coffee and swapping stories with Austrian and German travelers and to sleep in a large Bedouin tent alongside the same 23 like-minded souls.
In contemplating, I realize I have repeatedly reenacted this camping/hiking scenario in various forms. 8 years ago I joined seven friends in hiking to Big Sur’s Sykes Hot Springs – 10 miles each way carrying all gear and supplies on our backs. Several years ago I did a combo camp/hike/Scuba dive trip along the Sinai Peninsula with a group of Scots. I’ve gone on various short hiking trips in California, Israel, Greece and Egypt and I spent the millenium in Arizona’s Joshua Tree National Park.
And now, I have been advised to take up a training regimen because in two months, for a story I’m writing, I’ll be doing it again: Joining a group of somewhat serious trekkers who’ll be crossing Jordan’s Wadi Rum, Israel’s Wadi Arnon and a section of Egypt’s Sinai Penninsula (That would be The Ten Commandments-Moses-Sinai-Desert, indeed indeed). The American group leader has advised: Start getting in shape. Now.
Damn. I don’t like walking. So I don’t really know why I do it.
Could be because I love the desert. But LOVE it. I return from arid excursions relaxed and with a clear state of mind. Not to compare or anything but I TOTALLY get the whole bit about Jesus going out there for 40 days and nights, the Jews wandering around for 40 years & Moses and Elijah going on 40-day/night retreat sorties. Sort of out with the old/in with the new, innit?
I also love roughing it. A bit of campfire to get dinner going & sleeping under a canopy of stars suits me on a limited basis. However, give me a 5-star hotel with stocked en-suite mini-bar, open (preferably marble) lobby floor plan with plush armchairs, swimming pool and a bedside remote control & I’m there faster than you can say “Let My People Go“.
Perhaps the bit about hitting my wall is what draws me back to hiking in the same manner a delusional moth circles the flame: There’s a point in every hike when the inner struggle arises. It’s hot, I’m tired and internally I begin cursing the guide… for bringing us on the god forsaken trip, for expecting us to continue traipsing along in midday heat, for rambling on when exhaustion has encompassed, for merely existing. It’s the point in the trip when my every fiber screams in silent delirium: That’s IT! I’ve had it! I’m not going another step! I WILL NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!
But of course I do. And then I get back to the city & my computer & machinetta brewed Italian espresso and a hot shower and the whole wall business evaporates into a surreal realm.
Until next time.
Oh well. . . Time to start training.