I’ve been back working in the city for over two months now. I love the buzz of London with it’s fast walking and feeling of purpose but obviously I treasure having my time in the wild for several months a year.
There’s a fine balance between the wilderness and the city and it’s a tricky one the fact that I like to have both extremes in my life.
I’ve just come back in from a run. It’s time to get back on the fitness wagon after having a decent time off. It becomes such a conscious decision to be active when living in the bubble of London. That’s the great thing about expeditions – you are constantly doing your own version of yoga, pilates, aerobic, anaerobic and strength sessions. The same goes for senses, in the wilderness you naturally use more of them as part of a survival instinct.
From the moment one wakes up in the tent, you are stretching muscles, squatting, bending this way and that way, lifting things, fetching water from a far etc. A much more natural way to be moving than hitting it hard for an hour every day and staying sat down for the other 23 hours of the day. Doesn’t that just sound shameful when said out loud?
Saying this however, I did enjoy my run. I darted around people and cars and found it pretty fun to do so. What got me was the stench of pollution whenever a car went by. The noise of those damn motorcycles that are so loud you can’t think.
That intoxicating smell reminded me of what it was like to return to civilisation after having spent so long in the mountains in Cordon del Plata in Argentina.
In the modern world, most of our senses are neglected as our world is so visual. When our senses are desensitised we don’t pay attention to the little things that make up our world.
In the mountains of Cordon, we spent considerable time at 5000m where the landscape is barren and few things live there apart from some birds of prey and the occasional scavenging fox.
As Tim and I descended at the end of the trip, more shrubbery appeared and our noses suddenly had overwhelming smells. We could now smell every single shrub and locate where it was. Every species had a different smell. It went on, we could smell horses before we could see them, smell the earth, the running streams and even the vineyards miles away that we were slowly approaching.
It wasn’t until we were in the truck on the way back to Mendoza that these senses got too much. When we had been hiking down, the smells were pleasant. It was the smell of life and growth. Entering the city was the smell of poison. Petrol fumes and the lack of life filled the air.
Our eyes took over from smell. We noticed all of the adverts, the lights, the signs trying to make us buy things. Our world has become stupidly visual and it’s all about meaningless things.
The smell of pollution is not one that is good for the body (let alone the planet) and we need to get rid of it now. Losing the little senses like the ability to smell all the goodness in the world is such an unnatural thing. Being reminded of where our roots are and what the smell of life smells like is something I wish we could all experience.