I remember my brother pointing out a guy in Bali’s Timbus region who was wearing a red t-shirt with the quote “Are you alive, or are you just living?” printed boldly across the front of it. It was October 2005 and I was preparing for an international paragliding event above the skies of Indonesia. There were some hair-raising times on tour and thanks to Kenyon (my twin brother) I have the video of some of those moments – moments where I felt fear which in turn made me feel very much alive.
Wow! There’s still so much more space on this page than there ever was in my Sydney-based apartment which I sold almost a year ago. I love my space but I’ve never had much of it. Perhaps this is why I enjoy the outdoors as much as I do? Since selling my home I’ve been juggling life and gearing up for United State’s Pacific Crest Trail – a five and a half month hike from Mexico to Canada. I’ve been feeling pretty good about my choice of adventure and even better now that my brother has taken the time to join me. With only two weeks to go before we depart for San Diego I felt it prudent to search for a few meaningful and awe-inspiring quotes to perhaps share with you. I came across some interesting ones …
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
…. hmmm? Well thanks Ralph. Those were the days eh!
Strangely enough, I’ve been looking forward to finding my way through the deserts of California, hiking for entire days without any sign of water. Mt. Whitney, Half Dome and many other beautiful places along the Pacific Crest Trail have solidified my passion for testing my limits in the great outdoors.
One thing I have learnt about myself is that whether or not I approve, my adventurous spirit craves a life of challenge and, without consent, seems to just get on with organising things. When I am not confined to my office managing personal investments which is a challenge in itself, my interests continually lead me towards photography, creativity and the desire to travel to those “hard-to-reach places”.
Some of my greatest experiences include skydiving and flying general aviation aircraft as an unrestricted private pilot. I have also been lucky enough to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro not once but twice and on both occasions in the unmatched company of my brother – up until now that is. If there’s anyone out there taking note – the challenge continues ;). Why two climbs in Africa when you live all those thousands of miles over in Australia some ask? My answer: “Well, I literally fell short of the summit by eighty feet on my first attempt of this magnificent mountain. Plus, it’s only 21 hours of flight time to Moshi”, the village on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was on night four of our first climb on the mountain after five and a half hours of cold shuffling ascent when I felt humiliation descend upon me for the first time in the true unadulterated form of altitude sickness. I had given the climb my all and felt very much like I had the will to push onwards but I had reached a point where it was no longer up to me. While I had been more than adequately hydrated for days, in just one hour every ounce of fluid had been rapidly squeezed from me, my mind telling me to continue on with the climb, my body screaming out for immediate descent. I can clearly remember pleading with my brother, who was clearly able, to continue the ascent without me. He reluctantly pressed on only to face a freak and fearsome snow blizzard an hour later and the added task of having to keep his only guide from falling asleep every few minutes. Kenyon summited the roof of Africa but unfortunately endured the snows of Kilimanjaro returning to high camp a number of hours later with long thick stalactite-like icicles attached to his balaclava beneath his nose and chin. He still suffers from frostnip on his toes (a superficial cooling of tissues without cellular destruction) thirteen years later, due to the storm he had to fight his way through.
Three years later and to the day in 2003, I booked our flights for a second take on the adventure and returned to Africa with my brother. In the same cold hours of night we found ourselves knowingly and silently shuffling our way up the final ascent once again. We reached the very point on the steep face of Mt. Kilimanjaro where I had previously been brought to my knees except, on this occasion, we paused for a quiet drink before powering on to share in the sun-drenched summit which awaited us. I had found a way around my obstacle. I also learnt what it was like to fall short of a personal challenge. While it’s not easy dealing with a false sense of failure, it’s what one does with one’s experiences which ultimately equips one with – experience. I should add that during my training for my first trip to Kilimanjaro, I seriously injured myself. For the full three months prior to departure my training had been brought to a sudden halt. I searched for medical assistance in the remaining months leading up to our looming adventure. I was young, inexperienced and I paid the price for over-training.
“There are no secrets to success, for success is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure” — Colin Powell
What I can recommend is celebrating New Years Eve in the remote islands of Antarctica. What better way to kick-off a new year than in broad daylight while surrounded by stark white powdery snow and the pristine beauty of such an untouched wilderness. Diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as well as Fiji, exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage, crossing Canada’s Pemberton backcountry by skimobile and trekking to Everest Base Camp in 2009 & 2013 are all experiences which have filled my life, making it a life worth living. Unfortunately while en route to summit Island Peak our expedition was aborted due to poor weather.
One of the most unique adventures I feel privileged to have been a part of was playing a crucial team role in my brother’s solo traverse of New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail (traversenz.com). In the final months leading up to his trip I found myself completely driven to develop a unique set of maps to assist Kenyon on his thru-hike of the North and South islands. Could there be something in the genes handed down by my grandfather, an Ordnance Surveyor and Brigadier in the British Military who, for seven years, mapped the boundary of the Ivory Coast in Africa. Only once in this period did my grandfather come into contact with remote civilization. Personally, I regard the act of studying maps as similar to spending time with someone who’s company you enjoy on a deep level. It’s in the detail where things start to become interesting, just as it is knowing someone – it’s quite a feeling to feel as though you know an entire country intimately. 🙂
I hope to be able to stay connected and to share my brother’s and my experiences with others through this site which I have recently created especially for our hike along the Pacific Crest Trail – starting 15th April 2016. WordPress is rather new to me so, if you’ve enjoyed any part of my blog, please help me out by leaving a comment or two! Your words of encouragement may just be the leverage my brother and I require to keep us edging northbound towards Canada.
It seems appropriate to sign off by quoting others. So I’ll end off with one last quote which I feel accurately personifies me.
“If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” — Mario Andretti
… Can you hear the Italian between the lines?
As I draw to a close here, I’m filled with a powerful sense of being attracted by infinite horizons.