Heights and I have always been at loggerheads. And, as much as I love mountains and all that they hold, I’ve found it hard to go beyond the point – fear takes over. My first hike, back in college, ended disastrously, with me trailing behind. I think I gave up at that point. Basil went for treks without me and I was fine with that. It’s something I didn’t feel compelled doing.
Years later, we planned to visit China. Not hiking the ‘Great Wall’ seemed criminal. I tried not to think much of it, until the day of the actual hike. The moment I climbed the first step, after the watch tower, I froze. The mountains and the valleys engulfed me. I wanted to cheat and take tourist snaps with the ‘Great Wall’ behind me. Basil wouldn’t have it that way. So, I walked, thinking the next watch tower would be the last. After few seconds of panic, I took another look at the mountains and stood still in the silence – everything seemed worth it. I continued walking.
Unfortunately, my right knee didn’t cope well with my change in spirits. At the part where the climb gets steeper, I had to quit. Ironically, at this moment, I wanted to go further. I saw school kids and other travellers climb without much effort. Why was it so easy for everyone else? I waited patiently as Basil went further and saw his form disappear behind the vertical ascent of steps. I’d made it this far and yeah, I had to get back. This time with a throbbing knee.
It was disappointing to not complete the hike. The months that followed made me more protective of my knee. I had reached a point where the fear of injury overruled the occurrence of an actual injury. Four months after our trip to China, we headed to Korea. Anyone who’s visited Seoul would know the climbing an everyday walk entails. Oddly, all the climbing aided my knee and bruised morale. We missed an opportunity of a hike along Mt.Bugaksan, but got lucky in Busan.
After a day of walking in Gamcheon and Busan’s market, we took a bus to Taejongdae National Park. Because of the rain, transport services were suspended in the park. We’d have to walk the entire stretch. It seemed easy with paved roads, that often lead to plunging valleys below. If only, we hadn’t wasted our energy in the morning.
At two points, we broke our hike and explored the rocky outcrops running parallel to the sea. The only way to exit the park was to finish the trail.
Few hours later, at 8 pm, we walked out of the gate. Finishing the trail was my moment of victory.
I think I’ve discovered something more than walking and exploring streets or monuments, while we travel. I don’t harbour dreams of climbing Mt. Everest or even getting anywhere near base camp. But, I do hope, I could trek the mountains ranges in the foothills of the Himalayas. Someday, perhaps.