After our walk on the Kokoda Track we were shown an ABC video depicting one of the trek leaders escorting a group of troubled youths for a stroll down the Track. Troubled youths seem to be regularly dragged along on these sorts of intense experiences in the belief that enormous physical effort, coupled with copious volumes of sweat, will somehow lead to an epiphany that will change their lives forever. They were exhorted by the trek leader to take whatever negative event had lead them from the straight and narrow and leave it on the track, starting afresh upon their return to the land of electricity and hot water. While this does seem to have some potential merit with people occasionally claiming that the effort had indeed transformed them, I can’t say it had any kind of similar effect on my son or me.
Although the exertion was extreme and the result extremely satisfying I failed to leave any of my issues on the track. It struck me that, while we were all walking along in total silence, the exertion being too great to permit free speech, I should have been doing something more useful with my thinking time like composing a great novel, devising a solution to a complex problem, working through a personal issue or exorcising some demons that were causing me grief. Instead the internal jukebox fired up and I spent most of the walk with a loop of random songs coursing through my brain; the most oft repeated ones being “Sacrifice” by Motörhead, “Minority” by Green Day and “I Was Only 19” by Redgum.
The rest of the time my mind appeared to be wool gathering, arbitrary thoughts flying through my brain, some getting caught in the perpetual loop, others only momentarily passing through. Any time I tried to embark on a complicated and extended train of thought we began a sharp and hazardous descent and, after almost tripping over a tree root or nearly falling face first into the mud, I was forced to bring my thoughts back and actually concentrate on walking the Track.
So, no great revelations. It was just the joy of labour and the chance to get away from civilization’s little annoyances for a week. I can’t say I missed our modern world. After a week of living by head torch and candlelight the thing that struck me the most was how incredibly bright our electrical life is. I felt like the mobile phone screen was burning my retinas when I first turned it on.
There was, however, one thing I did leave on the track, and that was any life changing resolutions I might have come up with. While I did not miss the various things that were unavailable to me while they were unavailable, now that they are once again available I don’t have the strength to resist the booze, leave the TV turned off, ignore my emails or keep getting up at 5.30 and going to bed at 8.00. I have just returned to become the same person I was before I left, which isn’t really such a bad thing, is it?
Dr. F. Bunny