After a big 2017, there was something tantalising about the thought of doing nothing. Nothing but walking. For four days. Walking with everything I needed on my back. From the moment I booked the plane tickets and the walk pass, I had one word circulating around my head. Simplicity. I committed to not overthinking this trip. No analysing, no research, no planning, no YouTube. No checking weather.

Dumb? Maybe. Exhilarating? Yes.

Milford Sound, NZ, has been explored by thousands of people. I’d even explored it, years ago, from the deck of HMAS Hawkesbury. I’d never explored it by foot though. With the onslaught of information available, it would have been so easy to explore it from the perspective of someone else. Social media, travel books, the information flows freely. But I’d never smelt the smells, felt the blisters and been captivated by the sights. I didn’t know in my bones why it was one of the top 10 walks of the world.

Here’s a run down of the three days prior to departure.

  1. Bought what looked like appropriate shoes. Given my barefoot lifestyle and deep love of birkenstocks, I owned nothing that was even remotely suitable.
  2. Wore shoes around the block once. Acknowledge this was a recipe for blister-town disaster.
  3. Tore ration packs apart to check the quality of chocolate. Immediately replaced the dubious looking bars with good quality dark chocolate.
  4. Packed one set of clothes to walk in, one set to sleep in. Clean underwear for everyday.
  5. Thought about red wine. The rubbish in, rubbish out policy made me ponder how heavy empty bottles are. Never thought about that before. Prefer to stay light and nimble. Disregarded wine.
  6. Done.

Here’s a run down of what transpired from walking and not showering.

  1. So much is sacrificed for our complicated lifestyles. What takes the biggest hit is creativity. I don’t just mean artistic pursuits. I mean thinking creatively, loving people creatively. Creative nutrition and hygiene. Random, out of the box conversations with people you meet while walking.
  2. Rite in the Rain notebooks. Splendid invention. I’ve filled three of them since December. Particularly useful given the annual rainfall at Milford Sound sits between 9 and 12 meters plus my sweaty occupation.
  3. I forgot to pack my sunnies. My expensive, favourite sunnies. Bought a pair in NZ from a two buck shop while waiting for the bus to take us to the start of the trek. I love these cheapo sunnies. Seriously. I haven’t worn my expensive favourites since being back. It seems a bland, two set wardrobe was necessary for me to truely appreciate the injection of something new. Albeit something small, cheap and daggy.
  4. People need different things to set themselves up for the possibility of deep, reflective soul work happening. My husbands line of work means he likes to prepare for every possibility; snow, rain, cyclones, disease, famine.  A Belgium guy who kept showing up at the end of every day spent a few hours each night pacing with his Bijbel (which I could only assume translated to Bible in Dutch). I guess his soul needed a lot of cleaning on account of the pacing and the murmuring. What I needed after a year of planning everything down to the wire, was no diary and no knowledge of what was coming.
  5. Ugly and unorganised is real life. When an avalanche hits Milford, tearing down from the glacial rooftops, everything in its way gets caught up. What the DOCS rangers do is not much. Instead of coming in and removing the debris, taking it back to pre-avalanche beauty, the rangers move only enough for us Mother Nature spectators to squeeze through, shimmy around and tip-toe over. Sometimes they took a chainsaw and removed a tiny slice of an almighty tree fallen across the track. Pack off, go sideways. Leave it be.

I was asked this question many times upon my return. 

How much yoga did you do? None. Well not in a get on your mat, downward dog kind of way. I absolutely took care of my body though.  Each afternoon when we reached our isolated chalet (shared bunkhouse with 39 of your closest, also non-showering friends) I took a few moments to really pay attention to my body. What hurt, what I’d neglected, what I’d been too hard on.  I specifically tended to those parts, in quite a clinical way. Given my only preparation was a walk around the block, my body did an amazing job of carrying me up and down 60kms.

But did I do YOGA? Yes. Absolutely. I was reminded of the definition of yoga. Being settled with whatever comes up, riding the waves of both comfort and discomfort. Mindfulness. The ebb and flow. Being present with yourself. That yoga happened for an entire week. No mat required.

I now know in my bones why this is one of the top 10 walks of the world.