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Almost a week alone and away from civilisation

I have now returned home, two days earlier than planned. The reason for this is fairly simple, but since I do not want this entry to be about that, I intend to tell you about all the good bits first. In short, my five days alone and away from civilisation were awesome. I had a really nice time and I learnt a lot. I spent three days exclusively on walknig, and two mainly on other things (writing, mostly). I totalled around 120 kilometres.

Here are some observations from the excursion in no particular order:

Walking is meditative – Perhaps no surprise, but walking in silence is great. It is not boring in any way, but after a while my mind settles as it does in meditation. I can of course focus on various things if I wish, like the landscape, a creative idea or anything, but walking in itself is great.

My boots are merely 99.9% water-proof – Had this figure been lower, it would have been a show-stopper. 99.9% is still enough to work on a hike like this, but it was not enough too keep my feet dry when the ground was very wet (splashing through pools of water where no other option was available). Perhaps better treatment of the boots would have helped.

Terrain does affect speed – Seriously. I planned a short trip which would last four hours, but the terrain was horrible! I ended up walking for eight hours that day.

Butterflies are nice creatures – No comments.

Food out in the wild always tastes better – Familiar to most hikers, I am sure, but food does taste better. Probably it has to do with exhaustive work (walking), the atmosphere or something.

I can be creative on my own –
This might seem a little bit surprising, but those of you who know me personally, know that I rely much on others to discuss ideas and make progress. During these few days, I have learnt that I can be creative on my own as well. I will write more about this later, but I think it has to do with mindset and allowing time to pass. Whatever the cause, I managed to produce an awfull lot of good ideas, mainly for my novel.

Drawing and writing compete – If I have paper in my lap and a pencil in my hand, I will write, not draw. This is a problem if I want to learn to draw.

A day is very long – Without television, computer, books, music or communication of any kind, a day is very long. Of course, it is not possible to use all that time to something useful, but the insight is nevertheless profound. Removing external distractions helps me write.

Cows have a sense of humour – I was walking across a meadow with grazing cows when suddenly the path in front of me was blocked. Twenty or so cows had decided to park in the small opening in the fence into the next meadow.

I stared at them for a moment. They stared back. I am not afraid of cows, but wrestling my way through a crowd of them is not something I am comfortable with. I backed off, slightly to the side to see if they would follow. They did. With quite some speed. However, they all stopped a few metres away where the rocky ground I was occupying began.

I stared at them for a moment. They stared back. I decided to just walk and see what would happen (having lured the creatures a little bit to the side, I now had an opening). They did nothing. Then suddenly I heard this stampeding noise, and feeling the panic rising, I spun around to see what horrible death awaited me there. The cows stopped dead, again a couple of metres away. Some of the grazed lazily, some bellowed faintly.

After some shuffling, they presented what looked like the leader of the pack, a black and very kind-looking cow. She looked at me timidly for a while, as if saying:
“Uh… hullo.”
“Hi”, I replied aloud.
Since nothing more seemed to transpire from this conversation, I turned around and continued walking again. Silence. Then the stampeding noise again! I stopped and turned around once again. There they were, innocently grazing. The leader said:
“So… do you come here often?”
“What are you doing? Why are you following me?”
“Just grazing, generally speaking.”
“Generally speaking?”
However, she seemed to lose interest after that she and her pals went off to find someone else to harass.

Fire is fascinating – It is as fascinating why humans, me included, can spend an almost infinite time on making them.

I really look forward to my year in Taiwan
– I thought a lot about leaving Sweden. Conclusively, I think my stay in Taiwan will be great.

I hate being semi-alone– At home, I am rarely alone for more than a couple of hours straight. Leaving civilisation was an experiment in being alone, but it failed at least partly. I like being alone, I like being with people, but I do not like being semi-alone. That is, aiming for being alone, but always running the risk of meeting people. I have no trouble with being alone in the dark woods for several days, but I hate meeting other people when I do so.

50 kilometres is a long way to walk in one day – Still, I managed to complete this goal on my 101-in-1001 list. Actually, I specified that I should have at least ten kilos of equipment. I had almost twenty. I walked a total of 78 kilometres the first two days. Not bad.

Orienting is fun – Although this trip was not primarily about orienting, one cannot hike without running into it. I have a task on my list which specifies that I should learn to orient. This was the third trip I did with map and compass. I have confirmed that I know the basics, but it would be fun to practice more explicitly on this another time.

Candles take a long time to burn – Another task on my list was about watching a candle burn down as some sort of meditation. It was fairly relaxing, although I was luck to pick a very small candle (it still took almost two hours to burn down).

I failed a task on the 101-in-1001 list – You might think that camping near a lake in August with a perfectly clear sky and some wind would be cold, and you would be right. The first four night were agreeable indeed, but the fifth is the reason for my being home early. This is how I went to sleep after creating a huge fire nearby, feeling warm and cozy. My standard outfit for sleeping is a tent (The North Face Spectrum 23, very nice), a sleeping mat, a sleeping bag, a cap, socks and covering underwear (shirt and trousers).

Unfortunately, the sleeping bag was not up to it. The weather must have gotten much, much colder suddenly, because regardless of what I did, I still froze. I ended up in a foetal ball, inside the sleeping bag, with the opening sealed shut except for a hole the size of my fist to let air in. And I still froze! At four in the morning, I went up and started another fire and made sure it held me occupied until the rising sun could banish the cold. I still was not warm when I paused for lunch six hours later!

I do not want this to happen again. It is bad for my health and it is a very unpleasant experience. I hate freezing, even though I am seldom bothered by cold weather. So, the prospect of this happening again was what made me turn home in the end. This night might have been even worse, because I had no way of washing myself off before going to bed. Being sweaty to start with in such a situation as last night is very bad indeed. So, after having decided that, it was easy walking the 37 kilometres home.

There is no place like home – Really.

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  1. Martin’s avatar

    Oj, trist att det skulle vara en sådan sak som satte stopp för det, men det verkade ha varit rätt lyckat ändå. Du kanske ska ta en vecka i Taiwan, där slipper du i alla fall frysa. ;-)


  2. Svante’s avatar

    Det skulle kunna vara intressant att höra lite om vilken väg du tog och hur du valde den.


  3. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Martin: Neh. Då kommer jag säkert få en massa tropiska sjukdomar istället. :) Jag räknar den här punkten som misslyckad.

    Svante: Först gick jag till Vidingsjö och knatade runt där för att testa hur snabbt det gick. Jag gick drygt 20 kilometer där. Sedan gick jag till Sätravallen på Östgötaleden, typ 30 kilometer till. Vidare till Rimforsa och tillbaka till Sätravallen igen, cirka 28 kilometer till. Därefter var jag stationär i nästan två dagar innan jag drog 5 kilometer ut i skogen till ett vindskydd och eldade och hade mig en stund. Det var där det var så jävla kallt. Sedan gick jag 37 kilometer hem därifrån sista dagen.

    Jag visste åt vilket håll jag skulle innan (mot Kisa till), men ganska tidigt bestämde jag mig för att gå hem också, vilket gjorde att jag inte ville gå så långt. Östgötaleden är rätt trevlig, men man måste ha bra skor om det har varit blött pås istone.