INTO THIN AIR -Jon Krakauer

KNOWING HOW A BOOK WILL END AND STILL FINDING YOURSELF AT THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT… I’d call that a very successful book indeed.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Jon Krakauer: he is the writer of a bestseller in the early nineties that was turned into the hugely successful movie: Into the Wild. When I learned that he had written the book upon which the movie Everest (2015) was based, I contemplated buying the book. However, usually when I find out that a movie was based on a book, I am hesitant to read it. The book is always better, but the view of the movie – really someone else’s view of the story – can hugely interfere with my experience of the book.

Finally, I saw the book on sale at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – my favourite shop in all the world so far – I decided to just go for it and buy it. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

Even knowing how the tragedy on Everest in may 1996 would play out, this was still an exciting read. I found myself biting my lip whilst reading, looking forward to reading the book every spare minute I had and unable to wait to know how it would turn out; all the signs of a seriously addictive book.

Although the writer himself doesn’t always appear to be the most likeable character I have ever read about, he manages to portray the events and his own faults and tribulations with such honesty, that he is easily forgiven for simply being a human being. By me that is. I can’t be sure about the everyone else of course.

So, if, in these dark winter times (or any other time you are reading this) you are in need of a seriously exciting and scary adventurous escape but unable to actually go on any adventure – you know, real life getting in the way – read this book! It will carry you through it for a little while – and may deter you from any too dangerous adventures!

 

 

 

WANDERLUST

A musing

It’s been one of those days, again. One of those days where I kept reading stories written by and about world travellers; people following their hearts to where their feet lead them. One of those days of feeling the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and hearing my feet tread a trail along an ambling creek from the dreary surroundings of my usual office and seemingly endless commute. One of those days in short, where my desire to roam the world seems to burst out of me.

Is this wanderlust?

Sometimes, I feel like there's a world inside of me. I can feel the majestic mountains with their snow-capped summits and rolling vales, ending at a small lake surrounded by fragrant trees. The air is crisp, not to warm, not to cold en so, so fresh! I feel this space in my heart, as if this is what was keeping me alive instead of the beating of a muscle connected to veins traversing my body.

 

On days like these there is nothing left for me to do but to sit there, in wilderness in my heart. I sit on a picnic table maybe, or the doorframe of a trailer. Knees pulled up, hands warmed by a hot cup of coffee – somehow there’s always coffee – and just calmly staring at the quiet wilderness ahead of me. A quiet wilderness that does not resemble me – an extravert who loves to talk. But that feels like home.

Is this wanderlust?

Dictionaries describe it as a strong urge or desire to travel and explore the world and to roam about. But to me, that seems inadequate. It is never just a strong urge to explore or a desire to roam about. It’s deeper than that. More than wanting to go on a holiday and it feels more urgent than wanting to escape your place in the world for a while. It is a need to find that place that, like the horizon, appears to be ever receding.

It is a need as deep as the biggest love you’ve ever felt. A necessity to go see the ocean, to run the meadows of the world, climb its mountains, gaze at it’s views. A deep, almost physical desire to explore new territory, meet new cultures, expand your brain. All that is driving you is a thirst for the new, the different, the beautiful, the hard, the difficult, the so worth it, the changes, the sameness of people, the infinite variety of life, the profound and the mundane, the else.

 

The thirst for something else to see than your daily view, something else to smell than the myriad of smells you’ve encountered so often you can no longer separate them from each other. Something else to hear than people complaining like we all do about how dull life can me. A wish to feel something else. Something calmer and more authentic and true.

This is wanderlust.

A feeling that makes my heart cry out for the sensations of the salty ocean breeze or a pine scented sunset over glorious mountains. A feeling that makes my feet itch with desire to run and fly and keep running until I find a place where I can walk and maybe even be still. Unencumbered by outside influences. Still in the wilderness. A feeling that I fear will never leave, but that gives my heart a place to rest.

GIRL IN THE WOODS – Aspen Matis

I FEEL VERY AMBIVALENT ABOUT THIS BOOK.

On the one hand it tells a very courageous tale of a girl who got raped – in a country where despite being the supposed leader of the free world, victim-blaming still runs rampant – and found her way back to herself by solo walking the 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

On the other hand, this turned out to be the story of a girl who constantly relates to herself as others relate to her. Yes, she rescues herself from her trauma, but that salvation is not measured by her own feelings regarding herself, but by how the world reacts to her newfound confidence. It is, like too many books with female protagonist, a story of finding the right guy instead of the wrong.

So what to make of this book? I loved the parts of the story where the beautiful scenery is described, where the girl we meet in the beginning of the book has solo adventures and manages to rescue herself. I loved reading about the trail magic and the very different lives one meets on the PCT. I love, LOVED, how the writer found a way to herself where she breaks free from anger and frustration and her somewhat overbearing parents, at the same time realising the love they have given her and finding a way to reconcile both sides.

However, all of this was described in the margins of the book; the few pages I would try to get to as I was reading the other parts of the book. About a girl meeting a boy, about a girl meeting the wrong boy, about a girl obsessing about having found the wrong boy, about a girl ready to find love again, about a girl longing for love, about a girl wanting to be seen – by a man. It is the story of a princess, finding herself ruined – which she is not! Rape is not the victims fault, ever – and travelling through dark woods, finding a false prince and being rescued by dashing handsome prince Dash. A story I have read and been told in countless ways, far to many times.

Yes, I want love in my life, but not at all cost and not as obsessively.

To me, it seems more important – and therefore more interesting – how to love yourself, just for yourself. How to come to peace with a horrific trauma on your own power and your own terms.

This book however, is not that book. The downsides sadly outweighing the potential beauty of it.

However, there were several quotes I loved:

“Walking in solitude fixes nothing, but it leads you to the place where you can identify the malady – see the wound’s true nature – and then discern the proper medicine.”

“Then I let go of him.”

“Writing is a way to make a living dreaming wild dreams.”

Although my favourite is a quote by Maya Angelou, used in the book:
“A word after a word after a word is power”

Truth found in the margins of the book.

 

 

 

WAVES OF FEMINISM I

Have you ever had that moment in a conversation about feminism where someone casually drops something like "that is classical for second-wave feminist" or read something along the lines of "third-wave feminism focusses on a whole new set of issues" and not really understood what it was all about? Well I have, and it has bugged me tremendously the past few weeks. How can I claim to be a feminist if I don't even know anything about the waves at all?

So, I did what I always do when I am bugged. I Googled. I Googled and researched and I found that the basic idea is not all that hard to grasp. Basically in feminist history three (by now maybe four) major rises of the feminist are recognized. These rises are called waves and so we have four waves. Each wave has it's own characteristics, and their own celebrities, but like anything related to history much MUCH more can be said about each period and all the intermittent time.

However, I wanted to learn more about the waves to start with and take you with me on a little tour. So, here it is. A small breakdown of the four waves of feminism. 

 

FIRST WAVE FEMINISM

The first wave of feminism is the BIG one that really made all the following waves possible. It is primarily the struggle for the right to vote - but the right to an education and equality as to property and a few other rights came in to play as well. We call the women who fought for the right to vote are called suffragettes and this wave was at it's hight in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

For me, the first time I ever heard about suffragettes, was in Mary Poppins. Winifred Banks - the mother in the story - is a part of the "votes for women" suffragette group. We can see this in her clothes as she is wearing a purple and gold sash saying "votes for women" and off course when the chimney sweepers sing "votes for women, votes for women!" (No idea what I am talking about because you are either too young or too old to have seen the movie, check out this clip at 6:57)

Sadly, the happy-go-lucky version that mrs. Banks shows us, is not what the real suffragettes lived through. Quite often these women would be cast off from their families, be imprisoned at protest, force-fed when they'd go on hunger strikes and in some cases they even gave their lives for us to have the right to vote - amongst other issues.

It is mostly thought that this wave ended when women got universal suffrage, that is to say, when all women of a country would be allowed to vote. As such, the period ended at different times in different countries. For example, in my own country (the Netherlands) women were only allowed to vote from 1919 onwards (although they could be elected from 1917) whereas New Zealand gained universal suffrage in 1893.

Celebrities of this wave include: Aletta Jacobs, Marie Stopes, Virginia Woolf and Susan B. Anthony

SECOND-WAVE FEMINISM

Where first-wave feminism focussed mainly on legal equality, the second wave focussed on a lot more issues. Main points were the female body and reproductive rights, family and family-planning, the right to work and equal pay and abandoning marital rape and domestic violence. For me, it will always be mostly exemplified by two things:

Firstly the Dutch Dolle Mina's calling for "baas in eigen buik" (dominion over ones own stomach) that we all learn about in school as part of the troublesome sixties. When I learned about this, it seemed incredible that women were not always allowed to use contraception or get abortions - oh how naive I was.

The second association for me is the inmense shock of finding out that married women in the Netherlands were not legally speaking their own person (difficult to explain, but basically it meant that you couldn't legally hold property or make certain decisions or even work for your own money if you had a husband) until 1957! That's the year my dad was born!

What really gets me about this wave though, is that we still seem to be fighting for these issues! The iconic Roe vs. Wade judgement that legalized abortion in the U.S. is under direct threat from religious fundamentalists - not to mention President Trump - many people still believe that rape inside a relationship is impossible, that women who get raped must have brought it onto themselves, families started by unmarried people are viewed as inferior in many countries and overall the wage gap hasn't diminished at all - not the mention the lack of representation of women in influential roles in business and politics.

It makes me a little sad, but mostly it makes me want to keep up the fight! Who's with me?

Celebrities of this period are many! To name a few: Gloria Steinem (love her book!), Dorothy Pitman Hughes (their picture is so strong!) Jo Freeman, Joke Smit, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman.

NEXT WEEK, READ MORE ABOUT THE THIRD AND FOURHT WAVE ON #feministfriday

 

Ps. the header picture I found on this amazing page and found too good not to use! http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/inspired-illustration-feminism-at-work-pays-tribute-to-pioneers-who-moved-womens-history-forward/

 

THE FINAL DAYS OF OUR TRIP

Down, down, down again

Turns out it is much (MUCH!) easier to get down from a volcano than it is to hike up it. Luke told us we’d take about 8 hours to get down, but with the help of a walking stick (OMG, I really need to get one for my next hike, because I am seriously loving it) we sped down the mountain like crazy people and managed to do it in just five. Insanely quick as we were going though, the porters still managed to outrun us in their flip-flops. Guess they know the mountain much better than we do.

After a few stumbles onto my butt – and uttering Dutch curses that the only other Dutch couple on the mountain were conveniently able to catch – we got to the end of the park. Looking at our grimy and grinning faces, all we wanted to do, was take a nice long hot shower and not walk for a few more days.

Sadly, after getting to our hotelroom (after a bumpy ride) we found out the shower didn’t run hot except for a few minutes. Resigning myself to a cold shower, I simply figured being clean would be worth it. I gritted my teeth, took a nice long cold shower and spend the rest of the day sleeping and reading books and walking as little as possible. Nobody warns you about this, but as long as you keep walking, your muscles don’t ache too much. However, sitting still for a bit and then walking is like asking a very old invalid person to run a marathon – not going to happen. Oh well, it was all worth it.

Final day

And really, that is how we spend our final two days. Lazing about. 

Well that and taking a death-man’s ride to the airport – apparently if you tell someone on Lombok you are going to miss your flight if they don’t hurry up, they take it upon themselves to speed down a mountain, past children getting out of school and walking on the road and past anything that lives or breathes in the vicinity of the main road in a way that makes you pray to any god to please, please, please make it to the airport in one piece even if you are an atheist like me.

Also, lazing about really isn’t our style. So, aching muscles not withstanding, we explored the area of Kuta on Bali – not worth it, far too many tourists and all the attendant nuisances – and went surfing in waves far to big for us. And to end the holiday in a perfect manner, we met up with some friends who were only just starting their’s.

Getting home

Going back home, is never any fun. The amazing trip we took, was totally worth it, but I still wish it could’ve lasted longer. Our trip home made me forget that for a few days (waiting at the airport for 2 hours, then flying for 4 hours, then getting from one airport in the city to the next one before having to wait another 6 hours at the second airport only the proceed to fly for an infinite number of hours will do that to you! – thank god for good books like “the light between oceans“) but looking back already makes me nostalgic about this trip. It was a once in a life-time experience that I hope to repeat many times during my time on the beautiful planet.

Looking back

I cannot believe it has already been 5 months since we got back. And even though we have had plenty to deal with in that time – interesting internships, the holidays and, not to forget, buying a house and moving to a different city – I am already craving a new big adventure. High time to start planning the next one!

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS – M.L. Stedman

IT IS NOT OFTEN THAT I HAVE NO WAY OF FIGURING OUT HOW A STORY IS POSSIBLY GOING TO HAVE AN HAPPY ENDING FOR ALL THE CHARACTERS I LOVE, but this book was a very happy exception to that.

Now, I am not saying that every book has to have a happy ending, certainly some books fail to provide an unhappy ending when really the story calls for it. Waving a magic wand to make a white rabbit appear who makes everything all right is not my idea of a good story.

However, with this book, I so desperately wanted a happy ending for all characters involved, but I just couldn’t see how!

The story tells the tale of Tom and Isabel Sherbourne who live on a remote island between to converging oceans to keep up the lighthouse. Tom is a man who has managed to survive WO I because he had strict rules about what is good and bad. At some point though, he has to compromise his rules to provide Isabel with the child she so longs for. However, as things start to unravel, he is torn between the immense love he has for his wife and his life’s mission of doing what is right.

As you may guess, this book deals with the ramification of the actions of each person that are all completely understandable – the reason why there doesn’t appear to be a way to have a happy ending for all characters. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that you genuinely start to care for all the main characters and wish for them to find a way. Whether or not they do, you’ll just have to find out by reading this beautiful, eloquent, amazing book – or watch the movie, although since I haven’t seen it yet, I have no idea if it follows the same route and of course, SHAME ON YOU for wanting watch the movie but not read the book!

My favourite quote: “The law’s the law, but people are people”.  As a socially engaged lawyer, how could I not love this rendition of a difficult truth!

 

 

 

RENEWING MY RESOLUTION

This weekend, women the world over marched to show that they were not going to let their rights be taken from them. And although I was unable to attend, I felt so energised by following the story of connection evolve during the course of the day. And then the very next day, I found this in the bowls of the internet, otherwise known as Facebook.

At first I didn’t even understand what it meant. This “joke” was so far out of what I know, so far out of my comfort zone and definitely so far out of what I consider appropriately rude in jokes, that it took me about a minute to realise the “joke” is about gagging a protester. Although the text itself in no explicit way refers to rape, the comments certainly did.

I admit, I was shocked and angered. I know the person who put it online would not rape someone and definitely not gag someone just for saying no. But the fact that this in so many circles is considered funny – and me being without humour for not appreciating it – made me realise AGAIN, how much there still is to be done in the field of women’s right – as if Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. wasn’t enough to make me realise that.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the immense task – come on, if even here in the Netherlands we do not fully understand rape-culture, there is more to be done than people will admit to – I decided to go for a run in the woods. Well park really, but it was outdoors anyway.

I got my legs moving, my heart pumping and my lungs working hard. The ground was dusted in white, the trees stark against the bluest of blue skies. As my pace quickened, my mind slowed. I felt good, capable, strong. Even if I had no control over the world around me – and never will – I have control over my legs. And my own actions. I have control over what kind of conversations I am willing to engage in. What battles to chose and which to ignore.

I ran home, happy in my body, my mind, my heart and my soul. And as if the universe wanted to make sure my realisation stuck – which by the way, I don’t believe in – a tram covered in advertising for plastic surgery, displaying only female body-parts, passes me. As if society is trying to tell me I am wrong.

That it doesn’t matter how I think I feel. That I should only be happy when my body is one very narrow definition of perfect and my mouth is hut. Duct-taped over as a “joke”.

I am certain now, that I found a truth. That the resolution I made last fall is still relevant. I need to learn more about feminism if I am to deal with this kind of shit on a daily basis. Because as the beautiful poem goes:

“You are enough.
You are so enough.
It is unbelievable
how enough you are.”

Even if society is telling you otherwise!

HIKING RINJANI – DAY 2

Midnight wake-up call

At 2 a.m. the alarm rings and I am not feeling at all well – not only because it’s the middle of the freaking night, but because my nausea is back. I try to fake a smile, determined not to let it show and succeed for a little while.

The sounds of waking tourists are increasing as are the sounds of the porters who are laughing and cooking us lazy tourists some kind of breakfast. Ours consists of grilled sandwiches with jam and is very, VERY sweet. I try to force it down as best I can and then Erik remarks I look white as a sheet. I just have time to grab my empty teacup, but not enough time to answer him – again I am throwing up. Jeez, this holiday, I seem to do that more than I have for the past couple of years combined!

Afterwards, I feel shaky but fine and as determined as ever to reach the top. Luke tells me not to worry; he is unable to eat anything at this altitude either. I sort of doubt his remark as we are only at about 2400 m – not where I expect to be affected by the altitude-, but right now I’ll grasp at any straw to get going.

Up, up, up, yet again

And then we are on the move. It is quiet and pitch black as we head up the mountain. I stand still for a bit, taking in the crazy amount of stars that I can see. I have never been this high up, this far away from any light source and this much enthralled by the sheer amount of stars looking down on us. It makes me feel tiny and insignificant, but very happy to be able to see and live this moment.

I look back and the hundreds of thousands of stars are mirrored back in the couple of dozens of lights trailing the same path we just took. We are all united in getting ourselves to the top for the sunrise and I can’t help but feel connected to everyone. United in our common goal.

A few minutes later though, I am thrown back into my own little self. The journey up is arduous as we are trying to get up slopes consisting of volcanic pebbles. With every step we take, we have to allow for a bit of sliding back down, making it seem as if we are not making any progress at all. It is hard work and all I can do to keep going is keep going on and not pay attention to anything else.

We pass people panting in exhaustion and I feel like I can do this for a while. Not feeling as bad as they look, you know. And for a while I can.

But the cold – it’s about 5° C out – the altitude and my exhaustion are creeping up on me. I start counting my steps as I did in Dinant. To 100, to 50, to 10. I sit down, catch my breath, try again. 100, 50, 10, 10, 10. It’s so hard to keep going, but if I want to see the sunrise I have to. 20 Steps, then 20 more, just 20 more. I sink to my knees, too tired to even turn around and sit properly. I catch my breath, crawl up on my hands and knees. 20 steps – crawls -, rest with my head in my hands, 20 more crawls, catch my breath, 20 painstakingly slow crawls. God, why am I doing this?

Erik tries to cajole me into walking, into sitting, into getting up from the cold ground. I feel like crying, but I can’t. I am too tired, too weak and too stupid for thinking I could actually do this. People are passing me, time is passing me and I realise I will miss the sunrise. Weak stupid girl that I am, I am also depriving Erik from his sunrise view. Crying I tell him: “go on without me, I can see the sunrise perfectly from here, just leave me and go and enjoy the view”.

He scuffs, of course he is not going without me – and I love him so much for it! Later he tells me I was not the only one having trouble. A few meters from me the British guy is lying face down in the path and all around me people are struggling. But in my misery, all I can see is that I am not able to get to the top on time.

Summiting

Just when it seems like the darkness will never end, the sun starts to infuse the night with the slightest hint of a beautiful dawn. On the eastern horizon a small strip of orange appears and the night seems incrementally less dark. This light, for me, at this time, is a life-giver. It makes me get up and try again.

I stand up straight, finally accept the arms of Erik and Luke to lean on until the light really begins to show its self. It’s as if the sunlight brings back my energy, my will and my determination to get to the top.

Just then another British girl gives me a shout-out: “come on, you are fucking insane for getting here, you can make it! Here, use my stick” and giving me her walking stick, she climbs further up. This small act of kindness, is all I needed and I get going. Going, going, going.

And even though the sun is already up when I reach the top – and team U.K. has beaten us to it – I am overcome with happiness. Diving into Erik’s arms as I start crying – again –, I immediately know that this was all worth it. The beauty is all the more profound for being so hard to attain. I stare out at the view, my first ever view that is this high up and was this hard to get to and has left me with such an amazing feeling of strength and resilience. And it is totally addictive!

We spend some time at the top, gazing serenely at the view, resting, then taking the mandatory pictures – need proof! – and start back down. We still have a long day ahead of us.

Down, down, down we go

Getting down is much easier and way more fun than going up. We sort of slide-glide-ski down and it is only now that I realise how much ground we have covered. The dark not only blanketed my resolve, but also the amount of time and distance we travelled. Strange things.

We get down and have a small breakfast. Then we go further down into the crater. I have not really had time to rest or sleep and as we are taking big steps down big boulders, I can feel that being this tired messes with my mountain-goat abilities. I fear I may fall and crack my skull open and it is this fear – that I am unable to shake – that is making me clumsy and slow.

Thank god for the hour we have for lunch. We are nowhere near where we need to be, but Luke decides we’ll have lunch here anyway, as we are progressing so slowly. I fall asleep within minutes and after about an hour wake up to the smell of another curry. I eat a bit – still not very hungry – and then I feel ready to go again.

We are making much better time now and we have some time to get to know Luke better. We learn about his family and farming in this arid region. More importantly we learn about his love for the mountain and his fiancée and how much he enjoys being a guide; getting people to the top. He jokes how I thought I was not going to make it, but he knew I was a “strong woman”; that could do it. I can tell he rather likes this joke as he laughs every time we say something about it.

This young man, who I didn’t trust enough to lean on, turns out to be a very strong and rather mature guide. Ready to get married like is normal in Indonesia at his age and at the same time embracing the new concept of leave no trace on the mountain – which no other guide seems to be doing. It feels weird to say, but in him I can see the blending of cultures in the best sense. We are very happy with our guide.

Hot springs

The one thing that does really surprise me, is that fact that Luke is afraid of water and doesn’t know how to swim. Coming from a country that has less of a coast than Lombok, but where everyone learns to swim at an early age, this takes me by surprise. I can’t believe he is so anxious about swimming, that he won’t even sooth his aching muscles in the hot spring we get to later in the afternoon.

 

Neither Erik nor I have any doubts about it: this water is heavenly – and surprisingly hot, although that shouldn’t be a surprise, given the fact we are swimming in a hot spring. We relax en swim and wash ourselves – heaven – and after just a little while we have to get going again.

We hike along the lake at the base of the crater to the other side and then start our second ascend of the day. Tiredness is starting to set in, but knowing we have a dinner and a bed – not to mention a beautiful sunset – waiting for us – makes us push our legs a little longer and a little harder one more time.

Up seven stairs

Luke tells us we only have seven more stairs to go. We eat some more cookies – SUGAR! CHOCOLATE! ENERGY! – and start this final stretch. The stairs are not really stairs but big ascending boulders about half my size that we have to scramble up. Panting we go and count down. Just six more to go, COME ONE, just five more, WE CAN DO THIS, four more, YES YES, three more, GRRR OK, GO, two more, OH MY GOD, just one.

And that one turns out to be bigger than all the other ones combined. By now, even Erik is having a tough time. All we can do is keep scrambling, no longer waiting for each other (I am ashamed to say, Erik is better at waiting for me than I am for him) but simply pushing, pushing, pushing ourselves one last bit until finally we reach our tent.

It is already in the shade and being completely covered in new sweat – so much for our clean bodies after the swim – we get cold quickly. We layer up again and walk just a little further to enjoy the sunset and the final rays of sunlight.

I cannot believe how long we have been up already and how long we have been climbing up and down this mountain. There were times where I felt certain I was not going to make it, but as with so many exertion: the mind wants to give up way before your body does. Today was a beautiful reminder of that fact, although I still realise I do have to listen to my body. My fear going down is testament to how much you need to rest at times, to get yourself safely back up.

And the rewards for all this hard work are amazing. In just 24 hours we have seen two beautiful sunsets and the most beautiful and amazing sunrise I have ever seen. Nature provides its own show and it is so much more rewarding to watch then any adventure series on Netflix. The aching in my muscles tells me I have worked hard to earn this peace and quiet and beauty and again I feel that this is addictive. This is what I want more of in my life! Now I just have to find a way to do that in my own flat pancake of a country…

THE WILD TRUTH – Carine McCandless

I’D BOUGHT THIS BOOK FOR ERIK AS INTO THE WILD IS ONE OF HIS FAVOURITE MOVIES, BUT WAS SECRETLY LOOKING FORWARD TO READING IT MYSELF. So, during our illness in Malysia I started to escape into the world of the sister of a man who inspired many vagabonds.

For anyone who is not that into independent movies turned into huge box office hits: into the wild tells the story of Alexander Supertramp a.k.a. Christopher McCandless; a young man who cuts all ties with his family to travel vagabond-style through the U.S. and challenges himself to become self-sufficient in the wilderness of Alaska, wishing to shed the false self. The challenge proves fatal, but in his death, Christopher McCandless inspires scores of people.

This book is the one where Carine McCandless aims to uncover the wild truth behind the reasons why her brother decided to cut himself loose completely. Sadly, the book disappoints. For anyone who has read the book “into the wild” by Jon Krakauer and seen the movie, the book contains little to no surprises. I never felt the parents of the McCandless children were portrayed very kindly or that is was a surprise that a young, ambitious and strong-willed man should want to be free from them. The only surprise: how long his parents felt a victim of the actions of Christopher.

Not bringing any surprises and really, detailing way more about the turbulent life of Carine herself, I felt the book was falsely marketed as being about the aftermath of Christopher’s death. Furthermore, Carine herself doesn’t appear to me to be a very likeable woman (as she portrays herself in the book that is). She appears to be a strange mix of being stubborn, pushing others to be like her and feeling victimised by other people’s action that sometimes have nothing specific to do with her.

Again, no favourite quote as I couldn’t remember any from the book and… I wouldn’t recommend this book to begin with.

 

 

 

HIKING RINJANI – DAY 1

“So, after hiking for 7 hours we’ll go to sleep, get up at 2 a.m. hike to the top, see the sunset, hike down to our camp, have breakfast, hike down the volcano and up it again at which point we will sleep and hike down to the village for another 5 hours and we’ll be done”. I grin at the camera, fully believing this is doable, but there is an edge to my smile. We have been sick not two weeks before and we are going to attempt to hike gravelly terrain for three straight days. Sounds like a great plan! Regardless, I am SO looking forward to this!

Arrival

A few hours before filming my own version of 3-op-reis, we arrived at Sembalun from where we would begin our hike. Halfway from the beach we’d been put in a new car with a driver that didn’t speak any of the languages we do – gotta learn to trust people on the road – and apparently, neither did the hotel owner, or concierge or however he was. Both men seemed very confused about us. “You from bookingcom?” they’d asked and I had assumed we’d be fine.

However, they kept looking at our papers, clearly trying and failing to read them and sounding very concerned. I decide to call the local number of the hiking company to see if everything is in order. She assures me we are at the right place on the right day and that our guide will meet up with us soon. I ask her to explain to our driver and hotel-man what we are doing here and to ask if anything is the matter. 5 Minutes of “aaaaah, ooooh ok” of the hotel-man and after him the taxi-driver, we are happily shown to our room – without explanation of what exactly was the matter. Our room is very basic and by now we are really trying not to be worried about the next day.

As we are having dinner – at the hotel, the hotel-man was sort of concerned about us walking off – the guide appears. This small Lombok 19-year-old is called Luke (really Lukeman, but Luke is easier for tourists) and still has stiff legs from finishing the hike today. I am not at all sure about him, but will quickly learn to trust his considerable ability in the days to come. He explains to us what we are about to do (the same story I repeat on camera – always wanted to present for “3-op-reis”) and then leaves us to sleep and get enough rest for the coming days.

Up up up we go

The next morning, we rise early to a rising sun to pack our day bags – we’ll just have to trust our big backpacks are indeed brought to the next hotel – strap on our hiking shoes and get started. We have a small breakfast and then Luke arrives so we can finally get started.

Like real hikers we sign the register – how I feel like a woman who hikes now! Realising of course that real hiker women probably don’t get this exited about signing a register – and realise we will be amongst the oldest people climbing the mountain. I wonder why that is. Is hiking for young college students, is perhaps Lombok more suited for young adventurous people? I’ll probably never know and don’t have much time to consider it, because after just one kilometre more we enter the gates of the national park and our hike up mount Rinjani has officially begun.

 

The first couple of hours we ascent at a gentle pace. The heat makes me sweat and I have to work out a bit, but this is great fun. After about an hour, my mind stops it’s incessant brooding, thinking, talking, chattering, worrying, exclaiming over every detail and settles into the momentum of our walk, gently ambling along, but not proving the rollercoaster maze it sometimes is.

We make good time and as we are overtaking the carriers (men of all ages, smoking like crazy and carrying up loads of up to 40 kilo’s on bamboo sticks while wearing flip-flops) we shout out “selemat bagi, apa kabar? Baik baik” – good afternoon, how are you, good good – and they laugh with us. Erik jokes he will beat them to the top, which they think very funny. A little while later we will have an hour lunch break and these man laughingly pass us again, shouting the same phrases and making it appear as some sort of mountain conversation we can all enjoy.

At lunch, we meet another couple that we have a lot of fun with. Tom and Sophie are two Brits who have decided to do this hike in their nikes (insert, walking down the street – mountain - with my nikies on). We tease one another and decide to make it a race to the top. It’s a friendly race and we will overtake one another quite often during the next few days.

Up up up even steeper, we go

After lunch, things start to get harder. The ascent becomes steeper and often I feel like am walking stairs made out of tree roots. The ground is dry dust and with every step we take a flurry of it takes flight. That sounds beautiful enough if you imagine sunlight slanting through it like pictures on Instagram will show you, but in reality it blocks my nose and because I have to use my hands to clime the tree root ladders so often, I soon have a dirty face that makes the porters laugh when they see me struggling along.

Erik meanwhile, appears not to have any trouble at all; his beautiful strong legs carrying him up the mountain like he was meant to do this. He encourages me to push myself and manages to make the porters chant my name in encouragement. “Addy, Addy, Addy!” It brings me to the top, but nearly in tears that I do not have the energy to spill, so I ask them to please stop. Let me get into my own little corner of misery that I know I will only escape by pushing myself for another hour, another half our, another fifteen minutes, another ten, five.

Getting to the crater rim

And then we’ve made it to the rim and although the struggle is not forgotten, it is forgiven, because this moment is already worth it. We get to our tent – thankfully already set up by our amazing porters (I am clearly not yet as tough as I’d like to believe) and have a rest, waiting for team U.K. to come to our tent (they beat us to the rim) so we can enjoy a well earned drink and come what we really came to do; enjoy the amazing view.

We can look straight into the volcano, seeing the lake and the tiny – well, seemingly tiny of course – active volcano in it. The mountain we are climbing continues on the other side and we catch glimpses of it through the deck of clouds that is passing us by as the sun is setting. I feel like I am in a kind of heaven, where I can nearly touch the clouds in much the same way as seeing them from a plane. The speed at which these clouds move up and down the mountain is staggering and only now am I fully appreciating why people always say that the weather up here – or up any mountain really – can change in a matter of minutes.

These clouds are bloody cold though, so I quickly pull on all the warm clothes I’ve brought, Erik no longer laughing at what he thought was ridiculous to carry with us all the way from Amsterdam, through Bangkok, Koh Tao, Kao Sok Lake, Georgetown, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bali/Ubud.

Dinner is a lovely curry with white rice and as I am taking a rather spicy bite a look through the gap in the clouds all I can think is “this is what I came here for; and it is perfect”. Feeling tired, but in a good way I am happy to see a view that will escape many people – conveniently forgetting that we are up here with about a hundred other people, like most nights during the hiking season.

Promise

I make a promise to myself then and there. I will make it to the top and all the way down and I will remember this feeling so back home I can find ways to incorporate this feeling in my normal life. I will find new ways of exerting myself and finding places of beauty like this – needless to say, by now that promise has already proven difficult to keep in normal ordinary life.

 

After dinner, it gets dark – and cold – quickly and we get into our thin sleeping bags, dirty but unable to get clean, so simply accepting the fact we’ll be dirty for another two days. I am scared the sleeping bags won’t provide enough warmth in the predicted 5° C night, but as I am reading my book – yes, I brought one with me on a hike, screw the tiny increase in weight – I can almost feel it radiate the warmth back to me. Putting in earplugs against the sound of the porters having a party and pulling my cap and hoody low over my head, I fall into a deep but fitful sleep. At 2 a.m. we’ll be awoken to start our ascent to the top!

Keep posted for day 2...