Solo With a Subi Through the West Macdonnell Ranges (Part 4)
Feb 5 Monday
It's time. I've warmed myself up with a few shorter walks over the past couple of days, I've avoided the fear long enough, time to jump in and test my hip flexors with a long(ish) walk! The Ormiston pound Loop at Ormiston Gorge. The sign on the trail says 3-4 hours and 7km. I managed to get it done in 2 hours and 45 minutes! Even though I got lost around 45 minutes in. The markers and trail just disappeared! I nearly turned around and went back, but decided to try again, emboldened by the EPIRB I was carrying, and eventually made my way through the valley and came out on the other side to find the track again! How did I lose it in the first place?! It's a mystery.
I used to listen to music on long walks, but as a yogi I've come to see the value in silence and space for contemplation. We're so bombarded with stimulation that we disconnect from the source within. Obviously I was connecting with myself so deeply that I forgot to connect with my physical surroundings enough to keep on the bloody track!
It was a stunning walk and I decided I would try it again the next day, and see if I can find where I went wrong. After my long lovely walk I lounged at the Ormiston Gorge waterhole for the rest of the day. Soooo divine. I know people don't come out here so much in the summer because of the heat, but honestly, if you just hang by the waterhole between the hours of 11am and 3pm, it's amazing! Ten years I've been in Aus now and searching for a freshwater lake that rivals Canada, and I've found it in the central desert! And its even better because it's not cold!
Striking up a conversation with strangers is something I've always struggled with. I really admire people who can just have a chat with anyone they encounter. Witnessing this trait in people, to me they just seem free. I am bound by my own insecurities and judgements. But it's something I've been working on. I'm trying to break it down because, really, why is it so scary for me? I suppose it has a lot to do with fear of rejection, having been the victim of bullying as a youngster, it's really stuck with me. But what is conversation anyways?
Conversation is just contemplation out loud and in front of another person, allowing them to engage with and respond to your thoughts. One of the reasons I force myself to do solo travel is that it forces me to engage with strangers. Otherwise I end up alone all the time, and even for an introvert like me, that's too much alone time! I'm still learning the art of spontaneous social interaction. So it was just me at one point so I decided to do a bit of yoga, and sure enough as soon as I started, some people came, but I was determined to not let it interfere. When I finished and started packing up my things, a German bloke came over and started talking to me. He was impressed that I kept doing my yoga even when he distracted me with his arrival. He seemed intersted in talking and I told him about the amazing walk I'd done that morning. I had a feeling I would be seeing him again.
I decided to have a drink at the Glen Helen homestead before setting up camp and he was there. But by the time he showed up I had alread purchased some wifi and was stuck into listening to a voice recornding my best friend had sent me (we do this instead of emails because it's less time consuming), and I was taking notes so I could write my response. I could tell he was hanging around wanting to talk to me and I stubbornly resisted! Even though I wanted to talk to him, I guess it's part insecurity, part not wanting to lead a man on (how presumptuous of me), and part stubbornly sticking with the plan.
I was just too caught up in “I have to finish listening to this recording because I paid five bucks for the wifi and if I stop and talk to this guy I will have wasted it and also the sun is going down and I wont have time to set up my camp before dark...” but it's only five bucks! Who gives a shit!? Well I planted a seed at least, I told him maybe I'd see him on the pound loop tomorrow morning. Genuinely connecting with another human being is sooo much more valuable! And I could have just camped out where I was, it would have been fine, and he was even making it easy for me, clearly wanting to engage in a conversation, so I didn't need to fear rejection! Now I'm worried that he's feeling rejected ARRRGGG! Opportunity lost but lesson gained.
I decided to camp at Red Bank Gorge to avoid the French backpackers that I was too embarrassed to apologise to (see last post). I was literally the only one up there, and it was far more secluded than the other places I camped. I'm getting better at this alone in the dark thing! Still not game enough to turn off my lantern completely to really enjoy the stars, so the insects were too annoying and I just went to bed after dark anyways. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow =)
Feb 6 Tuesday
My second attempt at the Ormiston Pound Loop. Well, I found the spot where I got lost, and boy did I ever go wrong! There is a very clear sign, albeit off to the left of the path turns right. But I trudged straight on through to what must be a now defunct older trail. And even though they've stuck boulders in front of it, some dipshit hiker lost in contemplation will undoubtedly go the wrong way and stubbornly trudge on through! I even missed the extraordinary lookout. Tsk tsk...
About halfway through the walk I decided to take a rest under the shade of a beautiful tree and admire my favourite spot on the hike, a literal oasis in the desert. I was thinking about the previous night and really kicking myself for not surrendering to the moment and letting go of what I was doing to talk to the German fellow. I've been complaining to my partner that I haven't had any good conversations lately and one was literally put in front of me and I stubbornly refused! What. A. Dope. And I wondered if he followed my advice and did the walk this morning. I was lounging there with these thoughts for about five minutes, when who should appear!? Ze German! We immediately started talking and I confessed an apology for my resistence before and we had a good laugh about it and a relatable conversation about my silly behaviour totally engaging with my phone in the middle of this national park, instead of with an interesting human.
And we instantly connected and had excellent conversations about spirituality, philosophy, literature and music. He is also writing a blog, so we exchanged ideas and fb pages so we could keep in touch. It was a grand experience, one that I will never forget, and am grateful for a new friend. Even if our paths never cross again, and we only shared those few hours, the experience is priceless.