‘So why do you think that is Tayo?’ – asked this person I had just met on this hike.
The ‘at work’ Tayo, ‘the city girl’ Tayo, ‘the social butterfly’ Tayo would bristle at such an intimate question and immediately put up a wall of evasiveness – ‘what business is it of theirs to know this about me?’
But ‘the outdoors, taking in the beauty, adventurous’ Tayo goes into detail and responds with a calm ease. This is the Tayo teased out on hikes of the outdoors.
There is something about nature’s outstanding beauty that I get to witness when hiking, mingled with reaching that end point, that breaks down the barriers I put up. Here, I’m prepared to be vulnerable, have that intimacy without distractions and fast forward past the typical small talk conversations, that usually bore me to death. We often focus on the end destination in our travels but there is so much to be observed, learnt and savoured on the journey of a hike. It is not just about reaching the summit (or in the case of my hike to Colca Canyon in Peru, the bottom) but about the details of the amazing and vast landscapes before me. These landscapes are unattached to the everyday feelings of people. It simply exists; beautiful and proud, and being part of that relaxes and opens me up.
My first taste of hiking was with the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Award charity, a youth programme that seems to be a rite of passage for many school children in the UK, scrambling to show that they are developing desirable physical & mental skills and it always includes a hike either in the UK or abroad. I chuckle now at the memories – ripped trousers, falling into streams, getting lost, being met with the disapproving look of my teacher as I was the last to arrive at the campsite with my childhood best friend. Not much has changed since then, I am still at the back on all hikes. Although, I like to argue it is so I can capture the details that nature displays with my camera.
One skill that I had to demonstrate as a mastered competency on my DofE hikes was map reading. A competency that I passed due to relying heavily on my friend, who would whisper what I was supposed to deduce from looking at the confusing contoured map of colours, lines and numbers. And yet I must have absorbed something, as whilst hiking in the Cotswolds in the UK, I confidently instructed my companions that we were to go in this direction because of the ringed numbered gradient on the map. It led us quite surprisingly to this gorgeous field of sunflowers – I love discovering beautiful things by chance.
Since then I have taken hikes all over the world, each one giving me a new landscape, a new feeling and a new conversation. When I turned up at Parque Nacional Cajas in Ecuador to hike to the top of San Luis, the park guide took one look at me, deemed me incapable to handle it solo and proceeded to try and convince me to undertake an easier route. However, I remained undeterred and determined to do the trail I wanted. As I turned away, I heard him try to convince a German girl again not to hike the very same route. I walked up to her and asked if she wanted to hike it with me, as two heads are better than one when it comes to map reading! We marvelled at the lagoons from the top of San Luis and talked about our travels with each other as we hiked. We lived to tell the tale and triumphantly finished the route even with the little hiccups we occasionally had, and then parted ways.
Just like nature can surprise you; imagine my surprise when I randomly bumped into the same girl on a bus in Peru on my way to explore La Huaca del Sol found in Moche Valley. So we went from hiking Ecuadorian mountainous terrains to exploring Peruvian ruins – I love when travel surprises you with encounters like that. The encounters hiking has brought into my life is why I like to squeeze in at least one hike on my travels wherever I may go in the world.
Hiking has empowered me and I have even been brave enough to go hiking solo. First in search of Mirador Cruz de Bellavista in Baños, Ecuador and then to gaze upon the emerald green waters of Laguna Churup in Peru. They say love can be a slow burner sometimes and that certainly has been the case with my love of hiking. I am amazed at what my body powers through to get me to see beauty.
‘So what do I think about the outdoors?’
I’m in awe of its artistry and the person I become within it.
Always in Awe,
The Five to Nine Traveller xx