Sixty Something: Hiking

Being 60 something isn’t all bad though and as some of you have insinuated that I lie and some say I am too negative, I will finish this part of my story with something I did yesterday. You need to know though, that I have been on a 90-day waiting list for over two years now for a hip replacement, which is getting worse and that I have chronic bronchitis which affects my ability to breathe properly. The specialist who diagnosed me four years ago told me not to expect to live a long life. I don’t give up that easy though.

Yesterday I decided to have a go at walking what is called the Alum Cliffs Track. It is a walking track which is carved into the side of a cliff, not far from where I live. It has taken nearly 20 years to be finished and is quite steep and uneven and 7 and a half kilometres round trip. I decided that there had been so much hype about it, I wanted to at least go a little way up the track. My little dog and I set off, thinking I would probably get about 400, maybe 500 metres.

It was a dull morning and looked like rain. The wind was quite strong which doesn’t help me at all, but I decided to start up the track. I walked a short way, saw the snake sign and contemplated going back, but am not used to letting things deter me, so decided it was too cold for snakes so kept going. After 15 minutes I came across a bench seat and rested. The sign at the beginning of the track says it takes around two and a half hours to walk it. I looked up and the view was already breathtaking. I decided to just try for the next bend. I kept going and my puppy was happy walking along with me so after I reached the next bend, I aimed for the next one, and the next one, and the next one. This is rugged terrain in places and I slipped on rock a couple of times. When I next looked at the time I had been walking for over half an hour. I needed to rest. So far my hip was OK, but my breathing was a little laboured. I found a rock and perched myself on it. I looked up and the ocean was amazing through the trees. I wondered what the view would be like at the top. I remembered what my specialist had said and decided I could not let any illness or disease stop me from enjoying some things in life. I would not let this beat me.

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I kept going up the track. Higher and higher, steeper and steeper it went. I took my time, stopping when I needed to and finally reached the first lookout. How amazing was this. The waves crashing on the shore roared in my ears as though I was right on the beach. There was a yacht or two on the water and I could see Kingston, my little town on the horizon. I couldn’t stop now. Just one more bend, one more turn. It was becoming a little harder now, so I found a stick and used it to help me. My little mate was happy bouncing along in front of me so we kept going. I got to a clearing, could see some houses which face on to the cliff face and then a pit stop. There was an old wooden table and chairs, in the middle of the track. A man, who I found out was 50 years old and came this far every day with his Jack Russell was idly taking in the view. He advised me not to go too far as it is pretty rough, but there is always people on the track and I had my phone with me, so on we went.

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I walked and walked and soon the ocean disappeared and we were surrounded by tall native trees and shrubs. The thicker it got, the cooler it got but it was beautiful. There was a bench right in the heart of the trees donated by the Lions Club, so we sat and took in the beauty. You could no longer hear the ocean, just a few birds and a plane overhead which you couldn’t see. Even Scarlet was a little tired by now and was happy to rest.

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Around the bend and the next one, we could see the cliff face and the ocean again. The roar was deafening and we stopped and gazed at this amazing site as the sun started to appear over the water. We sat at the next lookout and rested for awhile. I looked at my watch, I had been walking for well over an hour.

On we went, we passed several people. Some were locals and some tourists, all were friendly. Finally, I saw a sign and knew I was nearly at the end of the track. I was so happy to have made it.

Of course now we had to go back. It is mostly down hill on the way back, but some up hill. Off we trekked, but much slower now and my toe was hurting. I was guessing I had a blister. My puppy was no longer pulling on the lead but just ambling along. We stopped twice to catch our breath and admire the view. We chatted to others and kept going. I took pictures to prove I had made it. Now I just needed to get back.

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When I arrived at the bottom of the track, I checked my watch. It had taken me three hours and ten minutes. I had done something that to young, fit people is probably easy. To older fit people a little harder, but to me, it was like conquering Mount Everest. I was so happy. By this time my hip was aching, my breathing a little laboured and I was tired. As I smiled and chatted to people on the beach, they had no idea how much I was aching or how proud of myself I was. I had beaten the track, but more importantly, I had shown the specialist, myself and anyone else who thinks you should just accept what life throws at you without challenge. You should never give up, I know I won’t. 60 something can be full of fun and adventure if you just push the boundaries a little. Know yourself and never think you are too old. Today, I am a little stiff and aching in muscles I didn’t know I had, but I am so glad I did it. I won’t get a medal or a trophy, no-one will ever know how hard it was for me, but I know, I am proud of me and that’s what counts.

Have you ever gone on a big hike? Where was it?