"The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fire burns the cartilage of my upper nose. The burn, the intense heat does not throb like the impact of an elbow from a school yard scrap. I instinctively reach up with my right hand to examine the damage and get ready to accuse the nearest thing accusable. My arm struggles to find freedom in the restricted sleeping bag that my body’s huddled in, my fingers sting on the tips while they bounce between my body and the sleeping bag on its path to unrestricted movement. I know this sting and it reminds me of the thousand bare hand snowballs moulded in my youth. Bare hand because it always made the perfect compacted sphere while the warmth of your hands melted the surface as it quickly refroze into the most lethal schoolyard projectile that made even the toughest bastards drop to their knees with a square hit to the eye. Finally freedom after a small struggle and the numb finger tips surprisingly add relief to the burn of my nose transferring the little heat they hold to the soft tissue that helps me smell. Relief because the burn is not the warmth I expected but the pain of the extreme cold. What the hell is this shit? Am I still in Australia or has hell frozen over in the past few hours? I wipe the frost from my nose and recede my head into the sleeping bag allowing my breath to help warm my face, Il need oxygen eventually but for now its comfort and that comfort sends me back into a light sleep.
The sun burns at the north east side of my tent lighting my surroundings, I jump up and open the door as if trying to catch a burglar prying a TV from a wall. To my excitement I catch a thick layer of frost covering my kayak and personal belongings still lingering in the shade. I feel as if I’m too sneaky for the sun and found the culprit to my burning nose before it disappeared with the morning mist. We arrived in the shadows of darkness the night before and erected our canvas shelters in hopes that we could hide from the increasing cold.. We couldn’t. I emerge from my tent and get the first glimpse of our surroundings and starring me square in the face is Australia’s tallest mountain. Mt. Kosciuszko. I stare at the snow caped peak in disbelief that me the Canadian who travelled to the opposite side of the earth to escape the one thing that’s currently biting at the cracks in my lips, Cold. Cold. Cold. SNOW! I hate it but that malicious grin grows upon my face knowing I’ve packed the same clothes I took to the beach on Christmas Island. Ill prepared and uncomfortable is my new highlight to waking up in the morning. You sick piece of work.
I’m hungry and I’m still cold from the miserable night I’ve just had, I muster the energy to find a seat directly in the sunlight, slowly gaining energy through photosynthesis. Warm clothes are on my to do get list and Il leave this photosynthesis business up to the trees. It’s not for me. A hot tea boils away in the stainless steel pot. Tea is not just a luxury but a necessity for warmth and filler to trick my stomach into thinking the two slices of bread that lay before me are going to be enough substance for breakfast. It’s not but I tell myself it is. I’m more gullible than I thought. Buckle up junior. I’ve got two and a half months of this ahead of me and I haven’t even started yet. Embrace the pain and forget the luxuries, hot showers, soft beds, and personal hygiene are a thing I refuse to believe that I ever had. You don’t miss what you never had and I love this. A job, responsibilities, and civilization are hardly a memory stored in hibernation as all I can think about is how many days can I survive without food, how many hours can I lay motionless in the frigid water before my organs fail, how many strokes of my paddle will it take me to reach the salty waters of the ocean. Thirteen weeks, 2500 kms, an incomprehensible task but I’m a dreamer as you know and I don’t intend to wake until my face kisses the salt of the Southern Ocean.
Wish me luck.