The Trail Makes You Young Again

It's Sunday, 15 December.

A week ago, I packed in Auckland.

Today, I walked for three hours to get out of the Herekino Forest. Eventually, the trail descended a steep, slippery series of giant steps while I clung to roots, waltzed with trees and fought gravity.

It had rained yesterday evening, a heavy, drenching downpour that left me wringing wet and chilled and turned the trail into a quagmire. I walked blindly until it stopped and then made a dripping camp on the ridge.

Somehow during the night I rolled onto the mosquito netting of the hammock. I awoke disoriented and with my sleeping pad glued to my face.

In the pre-dawn darkness, the hammock and I fought a short tussle until I precariously righted myself on hands and knees.

Swaying, rocking and bouncing in my "onesie" above the forest floor, still half-asleep, I collapsed, weeping with laughter.

Hammock - 1. Richard - 0.

As soon as it was light enough to see, I began walking. The rising sun illuminated banks of mist floating silently through the bush.

At a rare lookout, I paused to drink in the view as the rolling cloud banks parted.

On a hunch, I turned on my phone. Amazingly, I had coverage and a little battery life,

I called Rosa far away in Auckland. She sounded sleepy, warm, still tucked up in bed.

Me: "I wish you could see what I'm looking at."

She: "All these people in their little white boxes."

From wet forest I passed onto hot and dusty gravel roads. I held the Power Monkey charger in my hand, angling it to get the most sunlight.

I'm a mobile solar panel.

The gravel road became tarmac, sticky under my shoes. A few cars passed by.

When I came to a bridge over a large stream with an inviting pool, I clambered down the embankment and waited by the pool's edge.

A car rumbled over the bridge. I measured angles.

They won't see you.

I undressed quickly and listened.

The silence of a hot lazy Sunday afternoon in the country hummed.

And my heart drummed in my ears.

It's my rest day, too.

My sunburned skin sizzled as I slipped below the surface.

After I had cooled, I waded out and dressed.

When did you last skinny-dip? 

Today.

I feel young.

Like a boy again.

Carefree.