I noticed a bumper sticker the other day which read “Failure is an indication of a weak mind”.
I remember thinking at the time that whoever came up with that probably had issues.
However, the thought echoed last weekend as I embarked on an epic bushwalk through a local national park.
I’m not sure it had anything to do with weak minds, but failure seemed imminent on many levels quite quickly.
Not the least, my inability to stop thinking about my vegemite sandwich.
The main course on what was a pretty meagre ration thrown together at short notice for what was going to be a reasonably arduous 12km slog through gorge country, dehydrating myself and putting the ligaments to the test.
Typical bushwalking details that tend to got lost in the go-forward that is the hallmark of getting things done at short notice.
It had started with the phone call to the third party friend who was up for it if we were up for it, and of course we were up for it if they were up for it.
How long again, distance-wise? 12km. Easy. How long again, time-wise? Five to six hours. Pfft! We should do it in probably … 5 to 6 hours. How long before normal bodily functions return, passing blood-wise? Let’s not go there.
Such confidence as we agreed to meet at point A so we could leave one car there and drop the second car off at point B so that when we’d slogged it out for the 5 to 6 hours we could nip back and get the car and go home and collapse. Such are the realities of bushwalking.
Things got off to a shaky start, however, when we missed the rendezvous at point A due to general vagueness about locations. Something about “you can’t miss it once you see the sign”. The problem being you can miss it if you miss the sign. Not a great orienteering omen, but you soldier on.
Then Google maps took a complete guess at point B and unnecessarily, nay, totally inaccurately, suggested we drive around for a full 30 minutes getting nowhere near where we were supposed to go.
Proof positive that computers are capable of taking human-like stabs in the dark at questions they don’t know the answer to. If only Siri had had a smart phone to ring another smart phone to determine where point B was.
Anyhow, we eventually got to point B and then struck off into the bush at the wrong entry point and very nearly lumbered down the wrong gorge before the general distrust among the group, I mean collaborative support, kicked into action and we second-guessed ourselves onto the right track.
Meaning we’d lost, or maybe added, an hour to the 5 or 6 we were going to spend trekking, possibly in darkness.
We weren’t trying to contemplate failure at that stage because that might mean we had weak minds.
If anything, we were hungry for success.
Actually, I was hungry for food. Approximately 200 metres into the trek.
It wasn’t a good sign as I knew fuel would be at a premium and that in my haste to get going, I’d rationed it down to the one vegemite sanga (with no butter), a very small apple and some carrot sticks.
Ah mental anguish - the perfect accompaniment for looming physical distress.
I knew it would be weak to woof it all down in the first half hour because there would be 5 or 6 more where I’d possibly, pathetically, try and bludge a water cracker off someone else. And that might mean failure, but only if someone didn’t give me a water cracker. Better to hold out.
But typically, in the absence of real food, my mind started ticking off all the things I could have brought.
Cheese, to offset off the luxurious vegemite, maybe a thermos of tea and some Tim Tams, a three course roast dinner.
Not great thoughts when you’ve got many rivers to cross, and muscles to pull, before you can seriously think about tearing into that pea-sized royal gala.
Then maybe give it another two hours and you can have a crack at the carrot sticks.
And then the pièce de résistance, a nice dry vegemite sandwich on some lonely rock outcrop in the middle of nowhere. Bear Grylls each your heart out.
Actually, I could have eaten Bear Grylls’ heart at that stage. Bear Grylls would have.
Bear Grylls eat your heart out. Actually, I could have eaten Bear Grylls’ heart at that stage.
In failing to block out those thoughts of food, I wondered, was I exhibiting a weak mind or had failure been a pre-curser?
Being fatigued, it was understandable I was confused.
All the while my body was exhibiting weakness in other areas.
But you push on under those circumstances because that’s the nature of forced marches, I mean bushwalking, I mean strong minds and stronger success.
The body held up until eventually we found that rocky outcrop, and I have to say, that vegemite sandwich never tasted so sweet.