For a number of years, walking loomed large for me. I went on bushwalks with a bushwalking club, which meant single-day walks ranging from 10 kms to 20 kms or further, or “base camps” where we, and others, traveled somewhere to do a series of day walks. I hiked, by which I meant I carried a larger pack with tent, stovetop, and food for days in wilderness (sometimes benign wilderness on defined tracks between established campground, sometimes challenging treks that had no support and required navigation). We joined paid hiking tours a few times, an option that usually inspired less. We did long accommodation-to-accommodation hikes across fields and through villages and over mountains, in England and Italy and France.
What was I seeking? Walking is intrinsically bountiful, uplifting of body and soul, but mostly, I now realize, I sought challenges. A city boy, I became something better.
Over the last few years, my walking has diminished steadily to almost nothing. Basically it takes too much time away from more important goals, the writing being the most crucial.
But often I long to return to those days. Next Monday, we join a nine-day “walking and camping” tour in a four-wheel-drive bus from Darwin to Broome, through the Kimberley Ranges. I can’t wait. The scheduled walking (five to eight kilometers) would have seemed trivial some years back. But when you stop walking, the feet grow soft, so I expect the regular effort will feel tough. I can’t wait.