Have you ever wondered what types of people come from all corners of the world to spend time in nature’s therapy room? Or, what sort of people carry all their worldly possessions on their backs, fall in freezing rivers, live on simple rations, sleep in spartan accommodation, plod along trails in wet shoes for hour after hour, knowing that if they take a wrong turn it could end in drama and still call it fun?
Let's find out, shall we?
Six hours after wading out of the Makarora River, I reached Young Hut. Perched just below the tree-line and above the upper reaches of the South Branch of the Young River, the hut is a modern refuge. The coal smoke curling from the chimney pipe foretold a warm welcome. I climbed the steps to the verandah, brushed past the familiar row of gaiters and socks hanging from a clothesline and stepped inside the warm wood-panelled room to join other members of the tramping tribe.
We're an international group. Tonight, we're here from Britain, Israel, Sweden, Australia, Japan and Germany as well as New Zealand. Retired grey-haired elders chat happily with twenty-year old students. Business executives swap stories with tradesmen. Only here could such an eclectic mix of people find so much common ground.
We’ve got finely-tuned bullshit detectors because spending so much time away from modern distractions allows intuition to flourish. Deeds count more than words.
We're modest. Whatever our status or income at home, we like living on a shoestring budget out here. The stripped-down, spartan lifestyle is part of our pleasure. It’s a link with how our ancestors lived: pared down and close to nature. In our own ways, we find joy in treading lightly. We have different tastes for luxuries on the trail: for one person, it’s chocolate, for another a pair of fluffy sleeping socks, for another a home-made pillow. We have our little quirks and rituals. We’re strong individuals but we’re also tolerant of others.
And we’re kind-hearted. On the trail, strangers stop to say, “hello”. We’re generous, not just with a helping hand or small items of equipment, but with how we relate to each other. Arguments and hurt feelings on the trail are unheard of; opinions are expressed with tact if at all. We never gossip. We’re cheerful: a good drenching is a great story. It's easy to laugh at your own misfortune and you like others joining in. We’ve all been there. It's like a badge of honour.
We don’t care what we look like because it's who we are on the trail that counts.
We feel fear and move through it.
We know discomfort and rise above it.
We push into our limits and expand them.
I think trampers are incredibly cool people. They're a tribe worth joining. It's certainly been fun and rewarding for me.
Some of us tonight will never see each other again. And some will meet on another trail. Yet others will become friends or customers or colleagues. This is a very different kind of networking event!
Fortunately, tribal membership is easy and cheap.
If this excites you, then try out a nice easy trail of just a few days. If you need some direction, then send me an email or ask in a comment and I'll put you on the right path.
You'll come back a happier, more relaxed person with a renewed sense of purpose.