And so I return from a quest. The quest of hiking around this island, which I had taken upon myself to endeavour. On a bright and sunny morning (as are most mornings around here, but still) I walked out through the door of the telescope building, and set forth upon the mountain path which winds its way along the crest of the caldera, precariously close to the precipice. My rucksack packed with enough food to sustain me for days in the wilderness, a tent, a sleeping bag, and other things useful for somewhat convenient survival in nature. An adventure stretching ahead of me, determination guiding my steps, and joy filling my heart. Four days later I return in triumph. On a moonlit path, with an exhausted and blistered body but with an unbroken spirit, with memories of sweetness and wonders and agony, and a desire to sleep for a week.
I walked ninety kilometres in four days. Mostly uphill and downhill through rocky terrain. I was by no means sure that I was going to make it, and many times during the hike I contemplated giving up and calling for a taxi. I had never before walked so far for so long, with almost a third of my weight on my back, in such difficult terrain, and by myself at that. But apparently my willpower is far from insignificant, and I made it through what proved to be the physically hardest thing I've ever done. Fuck modesty, I'm proud as hell of myself!
And it was so thoroughly worth it, just as I had hoped. There is that to be said about agony, that you really get to know a land if you let it torment you for a bit. Through pain, sweat, blood, tears and exhaustion I've gotten to know this island. I have seen most of it now, and not only that. I have heard it, smelled it, felt it, even tasted it. Sensed it in every way possible. Dizzying heights and petroglyphs and ravens eating nuts out of my hands on mountain tops. Silent, mossy, dewy and sweet-smelling pine forests. Clouds, poked and prodded from above, below and inside. Volcanoes, with craters and petrified lava streams and many-layered geological beauty. Picking wild cactus fruits, figs and almonds. Meeting goats, chickens, horses and stray dogs. Seeing the cities by night and the moon reflected in the sea or illuminating the sea of clouds. Trudging along up the steep mountainside, miserably wrapped in a cloud that's been raining on me for hours, and then finally seeing the clouds clear before my eyes as I break through the cloud layer. Never in my life have I been so happy to see the sun, and I cried out with joy as I saw its evening rays gilding the mountain tops so close to home.
Home. Yes, that's how I feel about this place, now and for five more weeks. I have completely and utterly fallen in love with this beautiful, dramatic and interesting island. I would like to just lie on the couch and read books for a week right now and let my poor feet heal a bit, but no matter. I managed this ordeal far better than I had expected, and I am positive I have my running to thank for that. My legs groaned and complained about the constant going up- and downhill, yes, but I could convince them to continue onwards in spite of that much better than I could a year ago. My neck and shoulders had their share of stiffness, but my back could cope with the weight of the rucksack without taking damage. My heart pounded on without cramping, and with some disciplined breathing I could push myself through things that seemed all but un-aspireable to my fatigue-dazed brain (eleven to thirteen hours of walking a day for four days takes its toll on the psyche if you're not used to it!). And even though my toes got blistered and started bleeding after a while, I think my feet and calves hurt considerably less than they would have without all that barefoot training. The best thing of all: I didn't feel the slightest hint of pain in my injured knee, despite walking so hard for so long in such difficult terrain, without the support of either staff or bandage. Seeing as my main motive for starting running was to make hiking less of an ordeal I can only say: mission incredibly successfully accomplished! Just think what another year will do.
So, after having spent three days descending 2000 metres, and then one day ascending as much, I have now spent an extremely lazy day doing not much more than surfing the internet. I am now off to sleep in an oh-so-comfortable bed and waking up to dry clothes and a warm cup of tea. These luxuries that we take for granted. It teaches you a lot about nature and yourself, hiking, not least to be thankful.
Love and adventure,