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How do you walk 500 miles? Extreme hiker Sarah Marquis explains how pain gives way to pleasure during an epic trek through the wilderness.

Sarah Marquis will call her parents to let her know she’s coming to visit — and she’ll be there in a week. That’s because her preferred mode of transport is on foot, and from her house in the Swiss Alps to her folks up north is a seven-day, cross-country hike. She wouldn’t choose to arrive a moment sooner. “Walking is the perfect speed for us,” says Marquis, who believes that modern-day commuters, hurtling through the world at unnatural speeds, have lost a profound connection to their surroundings. Marquis has made a career out of walking extreme distances, up to 12,000 miles in one trip, and sharing her stories of endurance in a series of books and lectures. She describes her most recent expedition, a 500-mile, three-month-long trek through Western Australia’s Kimberley National Park.

The first step is simply being present. In June 2015, Marquis was dropped off by helicopter at the mouth of the Berkeley River, the starting point of her journey, in a desolate patch of “crocodile country” roughly 60 miles from the nearest town. “I had this amazing feeling of freedom mixed with fear, mixed with, ‘I have to get out of here, now,’” she says. For 10 days, she walked with a singular purpose to dodge crocodiles and reach her destination as quickly as possible. Gradually, her fear gave way to a growing awareness of her surroundings. “You start to notice little things in the landscape, like a nice little patch of grass that’s greener than the rest,” she says. The process is not so much a conscious struggle with fear, she says, as it is as a shift in focus to tune into strange, new sensations.

When you walk everywhere, every sense is heightened and attuned to unexpected pleasures. Marquis can pick up the trace scent of water from a distance of several kilometers. “The air is usually saturated with tannin from the plants, the trees and the grass, but as soon as you get closer to the water, the air becomes really sharp,” she says. “It’s difficult to explain.” As her sense of smell sharpened, so too did her palate — on this trip she had a ration of 100 grams of flour a day, and then she had to find all other food along the way. So the edible flowers of the Grevillea tree, for instance, were a sugary treat, until the nectar struck her as too sweet and cloying. Meanwhile, the bland heart of the Pandanus spiralis palm tree became one of her favorite wild delicacies. “It’s like eating a cookie,” she says. “Really. Now that I’m talking about it, I can feel the taste in my mouth.”

Tag(s) : #Inspiration, #Awarness, #Consciousness, #Nature
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