“When the great markets by the sea shut fast
All that long Sunday that goes on and on:
When even lovers find their peace at last
And Earth is but a star that once had shone.”
James Elroy Flecker – The Golden Road to Samarkand
Last week I was enjoying my lunch on Horseshoe Hill near Canberra. There were 20 of us on this club walk. Suddenly, near me, I overheard 2 supposedly educated persons discussing, in all seriousness, the preservation of wilderness. Both of them were arguing that wilderness should be used to its full by the present generation and not kept for future generations. I was stunned by such a selfish and blind view. Is it any wonder that the world is so reluctant to act to reverse climate change? Also, do these supposedly educated persons not see the integrated nature of the world’s biosphere? The survival of this world is not just about alternative fuels, but is also highly dependent on the survival of wilderness and of course on population increase. The again, why should we use up all the world’s resources, leaving only a quarry for future generations? And what of the animals and birds? Do we hunt them to extinction because they are there for us, and to hell with the future? Such people do not care if Earth is but a star that once had shone. Unfortunately too many people are only interested in increasing their wealth. Those two persons I mentioned are members of a club which believes in opening up the wilderness to as many people as possible. One would think that members of a hiking club would be the very people who would fight for wilderness protection and preservation.
On another tack, I recently heard that one of the leaders of a bushwalking club was warning against walking solo. Perhaps that is the view that one has to take if one is a club committee member. If we all walked solo there would be no walking clubs! However, I got to thinking about his statement. Unless one is inexperienced, I do not see a problem with solo hiking. If one looks at the number of bushwalking man hours , there are in fact very few accidents. Those which do occur tend to be when walking on easy ground, often on fire trails when people relax and chat as they are walking along instead of concentrating on walking. There is also a great deal of fear in even thinking about solo walking. The old rule of having a minimum of 4 on a walk is still in vogue. In the old days, two would go for help and one would remain with the wounded. However, these days things are very different, what with GPSs and PLBs. Today, if you suffer an accident you walk out if you can regardless of the pain, unless the injury is life threatening , in which case you trigger the PLB and are carried or airlifted out. Being in a party or on your own doesn’t change this. However, experience, ability, terrain, climate and other factors do come into this. For example, an injury might mean a night out as it may take you much longer to get back. Being with others does not prevent accidents, and in fact, being with others can cause accidents for one is often chatting and therefore not concentrating on the ground. Walking solo is wonderful! One is free! One can stop when one feels like it, can change one’s route, not be constrained by the needs or expectations of the party. But walking solo does mean that one has to overcome one’s fears and one has to learn to cope.