Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Climb Every Mountain

I have just changed the tagline of my blog. It used to be a pair of Goethe's couplets (Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.) But I've chanced upon a quote by one of my favourite uncles ;-) , Lao Tzu, and found it to be more in line with my blog name. So there you have it, a really great quote that I can so totally identify with.

"To know others is wisdom, to know oneself is enlightenment." ~Lao-Tzu (pronounced as Lao Zi).

Tough call though. I believe it is difficult or even near impossible to know thyself completely. We would be lucky to understand ourselves to a great degree. But never totally. And good luck to the fella who meticulously analyses his every thought and action. I hope he manages to stay sane on most days.

I went on a road trip recently. Kinda ended up in Tasmania (Australia) after landing in Melbourne. Thought it was a good time to rediscover myself. And rethink my life. Tasmania is LOVELY. And since it is early spring, the weather is still very chilly. On the first day in Tasmania, the itinerary was to climb Cradle Mountain. Originally, I thought, “Hm…No sweat! I am a fit, healthy gal who can clock a gold standard NAFA timing on her periodic 2.4km runs. What’s more a touristy attraction? How wrong I was!!”

Climb Cradle Mountain? No sweat!

Turns out that the track to the top of Cradle Mountain is a good 1,545 metres above sea level and is an eight-hour return walk. Here’s a picture of Ivy on the beautiful day she set off for the summit, oblivious to the perils that lay ahead. Am I blind or what? Look at the height of the mountain behind me!!! Obviously, I suffer from an error of perception!

Placid Dove Lake Beneath Cradle Mountain

In fact, I took such a lovely photo at the boatshed at Dove Lake below the Cradle Mountain that I was full of anticipation of the panoramic view that awaits me when I ascend the mountain.

My treasured keepsake-With boatshed at Dove Lake

I started feeling suspicious when the track changed quickly from the uncomfortable gravel walkway to a steep and rocky one. Soon, I was gripping on to the grooves in boulders and practically pulling myself up on all fours—like a pathetic little mouse, hanging precariously onto the ledges for dear life, complete with legs flailing helplessly for support. It was a total nightmare! As spring was a wet season, the path was made more perilous by slippery rocks and mushy mud.

Initial path up mountain--it's amazing I didn't get pricked to death!

The big problem was that there was no room for quitting. Why? Because our group will not be using the same path on our downward journey. The options would be to face the treacherous downward climb alone to the foot of the mountain, or, grin and bear it like a true blue never-say-die 21st century gal. ;-) I chose the latter, not because I am dauntless, but mainly because I did not want to get fall off the precipitous cliff and disappear into the abyss of the mocking mountain ALONE with no one to hear my screams.

Taking a breather--and smiling bravely for the camera

The track to the top of the mountain is actually rather breathtaking. It is surrounded by stands of native deciduous beech (which is wonderfully colourful at most times of the year), rainforest, alpine heathlands and buttongrass. Icy streams cascade down the mountainsides and ancient pines are reflected in the still glacial lakes.

Kaleidoscope of colours on Cradle Mountain

Icy cascading stream

But boy, am I so not in the mood to stand around and admire them. I felt like a Hobbit on his journey to Mount Doom. My shoes are scratched and awfully distressed from all the kicks and stumbling into rocks. Like Frodo and Sam, my journey is fraught with danger and is painfully exhausting. And those Hobbits actually completed their mission without shoes!!! What frightfully THICK skin they have on their feet! =P

Our tour guide, Robert (or Rob, as we called him), assured us that the returning path would be easier. That proved to be a comforting thought and soon I found myself on the summit! Before I could savour my victory at having conquered a mountain, fate had it that the weather took a change for the worse and soon enough, I am bombarded by a mixture of rain and hail. There was nothing we could do and we were totally exposed with no bushes for cover. I sat on a rock overlooking the scenery below and shivered miserably in cold. The combination of wind, rain and hailstones--the size of rice grains was so potent that I bemoaned my plight in silent anguish. “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE? JEOPARDIZING MY LIFE for which cause?”

When the hail storm subsided to a considerable degree, we made our way gingerly down the mountain. But, it was not a piece of cake. In fact, I have always deemed descending mountains more difficult and dangerous than ascending them. There were times when the slopes were a 70 degree drop and all I had was a metal chain to grip on with my frozen numbed fingers. I was so afraid that I would suddenly lose my hold, slipped, hit a rock and bleed to death slowly but surely.

With tremendous effort and bravery, we emerged from Cradle Mountain, exhausted. This is how we look like in reality.

Totally exhausted!!

If life were a MYTH, I would breeze down the mountain and do a pretty dance for my friends while looking like a goddess.

Dancing gracefully after spending a harsh winter in the mountains--YEA, that's so totally believable

Twirling with such elegance--wow, she sure didn't starve in the wilderness

And...looking absolutely ravishing!--In reel life...(Don't get me wrong, I really do admire Hee-Seon's beauty)

Upon reflection, I realized from my expedition that mountain climbing is never for the VIEW. If anyone really wants a good view, a helicopter ride would definitely be more enjoyable and practical. Mountaineers climb to conquer a peak carved by Mother Nature. And if they can withstand the physical fatigue, face the harshest weather elements and battle the most formidable obstacles presented by the cruel mountains, they can face up to any challenge that life brings.

And as I stood on level ground, looking up at Cradle Mountain 5 hours later, I can proudly claim myself to be a survivor and emphatically proclaim, “Come hell or high water, there is nothing that Ivy cannot overcome in life.”

I would like to conclude my verbose entry with the lyrics from a song found in the “Sound of Music”:

Climb every mountain, search high and low
Follow every byway, every path you know.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream!

P/S: All the pictures are taken by me (except for the ones featuring Kim Hee-Seon)!!! Don't some look rather professional? ;-)

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