The International Writers Magazine: Trekking and Loving
A Wild Love Affair
I will proclaim it loudly and clearly - before I met my boyfriend, I was a virgin to the pleasures of the great outdoors. I was a person who, upon the weather being less than inclement would stay inside, cuddled up in front of a fire with a hot chocolate and a good book.
I viewed the countryside as a fearsome place one travelled through while venturing from city to city.
Now, a year into our relationship, I wouldn’t quite say I'm at the point of fearlessly trekking up and over hills, camping enthusiastically and sliding down mountains for kicks; but I will say that I am a changing soul, gradually learning to love the wilderness in all its majesty. This is the story of a stiletto shod city girl who swapped her Louboutins for wellies in the name of love. It’s also the story of a girl who fell in love with not only a boy, but also the stunning natural world in which he delights.
I can’t pretend the journey was easy. What won’t a woman take on to gain the affections of a man? She will be cold, wet and muddy. She take part in all sorts of demonic thrill seeking, and she will definitely regret telling those white fibs on their first date about what she liked to do in her spare time. But in the end she might even find she enjoyed it all. There may be a passion there that endures beyond the relationship, or something that gave a pair of lovers more to experience together.
He told me that he liked to hike. I said that I too, enjoyed country walks, with the prospect of a refreshing gin and tonic waiting for me in a cosy pub at the end of it. So one sunny day, we decided to go for a walk. I dressed myself appropriately for the occasion- I put on my nicest summer dress (with a cardigan handy, just in case it got chilly) and some pretty little pumps that were good to walk in. Innumerable blisters and a pair of ruined shoes later I realised that he had meant proper hiking; up and down hills, clambering over rocks, charging through fields of startled sheep and generally getting hot and bothered. As this became intolerable, I pleaded for a rest and a recoup. I began to cheer up at the prospect of the picnic that I had carefully and lovingly prepared. There were bite size chunks of fine cheeses, served with crackers and grapes. There were little sandwiches with various fillings and a bottle of white wine that had been sweating in the utilitarian backpack he’d given me to carry. We sat down in a shady part of a meadow and I was just forgetting about the smell of cow waste and the insects everywhere when he said quite seriously “You know that today isn’t actually a real hike, don’t you sweetheart?”
I looked at him, biting my tongue; and spent a moment fully appreciating how much it really meant to him to have me there with him, enjoying one of his favourite things. I took a deep breath of smelly air and replied in my sweetest tone that yes, I was well aware that today was not in fact a real hike, merely a practise run to allow my nerves to contemplate the trauma of walking aimlessly for miles and miles on end some other time.
When he announced that we were going wild camping, I was under no illusions that this would be in any way a glamorous or sophisticated affair. I knew I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair, or have a hot shower for a whole weekend, but knowing it didn’t make forgoing these small luxuries any easier. We drove for hours until we were well in the middle of the Highlands of Scotland, the only two tiny dots of humanity for hundreds of miles. Upon arriving at our destination, I was keen to take a little walk around, appreciate my surroundings, and chill out, but this was not to be. We had to set up our campsite and I had responsibilities. Putting up our tent was harder than tackling the most complicated Sudoku puzzle I have ever done. We grappled awhile with poles and fabric and stakes before harsh words were exchanged, and I was sent away in disgrace to find rocks to make a firepit. A couple of hours later, with our canvas contraption set up and a merry fire crackling away, I was forgiven and all was well.
After a rocky start, my first camping adventure began to resemble what I’d always dreamed of and we sat snuggled on the deceptively comfortable foldaway chairs, cosily chatting as dusk fell. Amazingly, he even let me toast marshmallows!
I woke up the next day to the sound of birds chirping in the trees and that alone put a smile on my face. I felt like Snow White, gathering and befriending all the woodland animals. I swam in a loch with clear cold water that not only cleansed my body, it seemed to cleanse my spirit too. I floated in the water and gazed up at the swirling clouds. Huge evergreen trees bordered the loch and it was a paradise of beauty that gave me a deep sense of contentment and peace. My newly found evangelism and sunny disposition soured briefly when it rained and turned the ground underneath our tent into a pit of slimy mud, but I got over it. A little mud in places mud has never been before hardly seems to matter when you realise that you can see all the stars in the night sky for the first time in your city dwelling life.
My advice to all the nature fiends out there who find themselves inexplicably involved with someone who shows a disappointing distaste for their passion; is to focus on harmony and wonder rather than adventure and challenge. Show them that a weekend spent camping just the two of you can be as romantic as a weekend strolling along the boulevards of Paris or the canals of Venice. Take them to the moors to unwind after work, rather than the pub. Encourage them to explore mountains with you, not just Morrisons. And above all, compromise. The last time we went out for a long walk, encompassing forests and meadows; I wrapped up warm and wore sensible shoes- and he ambled along at a civilised pace instead of taking the difficult route. I call that the beginning of a beautiful friendship, don’t you?
© Rym Kechacha Oct 2010
rymkechacha at hotmail.co.uk