Riding could only take me so far.
As I mentioned before, motorcycle riding is mentally demanding as it requires a deep level of attention to each and every second of the moment. Trekking is different, in some ways the opposite of riding - since all one is required to do is walk, an activity most people are accustomed to doing without actively thinking about it, the mind inexorably unwinds and takes a back seat to its own incessant musings as it is steadily immersed in the prodigious merger painted by forest, mountain, and sky. I needed to find a more primeval, less ego-centric mindset, one that I had lost during the previous year; in fact, I think I had been straying away from it for the past 5 years.
I chose to trek the Routeburn, a 32-kilometer track through the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The Routeburn has a reputation for unforgettable scenery. However, at only 32 kilometers in length it can be covered in a single day, and I felt that I needed to spend more than a day absorbed by the wilderness. I could try to walk slowly, but even at half-pace this could only stretch it out by an extra day. Thus, I decided to start and end the trek in Glenorchy, which would provide an extra 27 kilometers of distance to the start of the Routeburn track, and then decided to do the whole thing twice, which would nearly quadruple the total walking distance and gift me with 5 days and 4 nights in the wilderness.
Spending several days in the back of beyond automatically forces a person to temporarily ablate their connection with the numberless sources of entertainment, media, and communicative technology that riddle our world. Since I do not watch television, stay abreast of news gossip, or surf social media, my connection with entertainment and media was already pleasingly feeble. However, I had not been able to abandon the incessant barrage of emails, texts, and phone calls, all of I required to function efficiently at work, and I fervently anticipated the breaking of those links, if only for a handful of days. Yet I still needed to take it even further if I was to induce a more primal mindset on this journey. Thus, I opted to conduct a 5-day fast during the trek, sustaining myself with only water and a small plastic bag of salted almonds so as to maintain minimum water and salt requirements. I would strip life down to the bare essentials, to devote myself to what mattered.
The answer to that vexatious question.
An Extended Journey
On arriving in Glenorchy, a modest settlement of about 360 permanent residents, I sojourned for a night at Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat. Sitting behind the front desk was Daniel, a cheerful, pensive fellow originally from Brazil, but who had been living in New Zealand for 6 years and had no intention of returning to his homeland. Daniel showed me around the camp, which had been designed to function as a self-sustaining, ecosystem-complimenting set of "living buildings." The camp generated its own solar energy, and it collected and treated its own rainwater and waste.
Starting out in Glenorchy, sun sparkling.
Distant peaks, a presage of things to come.
The wind rejoices amongst the poplar trees.
This gang of cows keeps me company.
A perplexed farmer.
Start of the Routeburn track.
Crossing over the Dart River.
Shimmers of light run down the trees.
A place of blessed silence.
A prodigious merger of forest, mountain, and sky.
Dying daylight at the Routeburn Flats.
Sunset at dusk.
A windy ascent through a seasoned forest.
Parting view of the Routeburn Flats from up high.
It is now overcast, but the visibility is still good.
Puffs of mist hover over Lake Harris.
A lonely lake nestled amongst jagged bluffs.
No views to be found anywhere on Conical Hill.
Thick fog blankets the mountainside.
A curious kea.
The clouds rescind their grip, just for a moment.
Lake Mackenzie, but the hut's not for me.
A collage of mountain, lake, light, and mist.
The placid shores of Lake Howden.
End of the Routeburn track...now, time to do it again.