CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Monday, 11 April 2005

Doing that which you fear most

image Despite the fact that we whine over petty things incessantly, most of us live much more comfortable lives than we will admit.

We are often reminded what wimps we are for staying tucked up inside our cozy comfort zones too and, I shall not argue with that.

Hardly any of us actually have to face decisions that affect our very survival and, I suspect, even less of us will willingly face the very things we fear, unless extreme circumstances force them upon us. The unprepared certainly shouldn't do it voluntarily on a whim!

Yeah, of course this is the idiot thing I did yesterday, but it was a "character building" experience and I did come out of it alive and feeling pretty chuffed with myself for the small achievement.

I, like many people, have a fear of heights. Well, no, it would be more accurate to say that I have a fear of falling arse over tit, which really translates to a basic fear of (or wish to avoid) PAIN.

Behind a rail at the top of the Empire State, I wasn't afraid. In the helicopter hanging about over the top of it, I was exhilarated. Put me at the top of an ordinary staircase or a shallow slope with no handrail or safety net and my heart races, while my legs freeze in panic.

(To be fair, this isn't totally irrational: I did seriously hurt myself when I slipped on a slope outside the house in the rain - much to the indignation of the two cats I was carrying in baskets at the time - and I did once break my tail bone falling down open stairs.)

So, there I was walking the dog on a fine Sunday afternoon yesterday. My greater fear actually, would be the pain of having to say goodbye to her any earlier than is necessary, for which I attempt to push my own exercise envelope a bit for the sake of her needs.

We took the dirt track up the valley and normally, at about the half way stage, we cut across the fields and come back down the paved track that leads to the house. We had never been to the top of the track, because it doesn't go anywhere. It ends about 50 yards from the road at the top and those last 50 yards look (to me) totally vertical.

Even before the track ends, is a "point of no return" for me, because it becomes too steep for me to be able to look, let alone walk, back down and, I think sensibly, in all of the six years I've lived here, I had never, previously, ventured past that point.

Well, yesterday, about 200 yards in front of us was an old couple. I'd estimate in their 70's. Old guy in a cap, with whom I shall assume was the Missus: a plump "mumsy" lady in an old fashioned blue frock and cardigan. Locals, not tourists. Certainly not equipped for mountaineering and, they walked up effortlessly. Awe, well, what have I been worried about? Follow them!

And, stupidly, I did. Despite the fact that I was perfectly conscious that Canarians, even ones in their 70's and beyond, are actually mountain goats on two legs, while English "city girls" ain't!

At first I thought I was being quite sensible. I knew that as we got higher up the track, where it was usually untrodden, there would be fresh tracks to follow where they had walked through the usually untouched undergrowth. I combined this with trying to remember which ways they had turned relative to landmark bushes, etc.

And when it was clear that the track was going nowhere else, I spotted the recently disturbed grass on the 10 foot incline, which, I kid you not, was no more than 2 degrees off the vertical. I was already above my "point of no return" and about to go up this too?

So, I sent the dog up first to pull me and scrambled on my hands and knees behind her. The old couple had WALKED up this!

At the top of this, was a flat area, but it was surrounded with a high wall on the up side. It was overgrown and I could see no evidence to suggest anyone had disturbed it recently anywhere. I could truly see no way out to begin with, I couldn't see where to go up, I couldn't get back down and the old heart began racing in sheer panic.

OK, time to calm down, look around and figure this out methodically.

Probably the worst that could have happened if I'd been stuck in that mess was that I'd have spent a couple of hours (or a night) on a ledge, until someone eventually heard my pathetic whimpering.

This would have been more painful to my dignity than anything else, although the five cats sitting outside the house waiting for their tea might have been pretty pissed off. (And all five of them were out by the side of the road waiting for us when we did get home.)

Eventually, I found the clue, some flattened grass immediately above, to the left of the 10 foot vertical I'd scrambled up earlier. This was up the side of a 4 foot bank that was completely vertical and led onto a severe slope above it. You have to be kidding.

So I sent the dog up first, again and virtually climbed up her lead!

After that, we had a tiny bit of flat area with some vines, a terrace wall to climb and finally a dog-leg of path that led to the road. That was maybe 5 degrees off the vertical too, no more and I am not exaggerating. Dog went first, I did it on all fours.

Thank God for the dog. She certainly saved the last shreds of my sanity and what tiny bit of dignity I had left after this expedition. :)

Holly couldn't see what all the fuss was about. A couple of times, I swear she looked at me in disbelief, thinking what a wimp, but she was excellent following all my instructions of *up*, *wait* and *pull*. She got extra hugs and treats, because I really couldn't have done this without her.

How did we get back down to the house? Round the very gradually sloping main road - on the other side of the road from the drop - and back up to the house from below. It was a LONG walk.

So, I've got grazed and bruised knees like a playground five year old, I ache everywhere and it wasn't exactly elegantly executed, but I did it! I feel bloody stupid, but still justly proud. :)

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