TUMBY BAY - About eighteen months ago a friend and I were talking about walking the Heysen Trail in South Australia.
It runs for a mere 1,200 kilometres from the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, through the Mount Lofty Ranges and on to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Range.
It’s not an arduous walk, nothing like the Kokoda Trail, just a bit longer. There is, however, some magnificent scenery along the way and, fortuitously, some great wineries.
The trail is named after the South Australian landscape painter, Hans Heysen, famous for his portraits of statuesque gum trees.
Unfortunately my friend got sick and we’ve had to shelve the idea until he gets better.
In the meantime we have both clicked over into our eighth decade.
No big deal, it was bound to happen, just not as quickly as we had anticipated.
Or so pointedly.
My friend’s illness is one of those nasty diseases that seem to particularly afflict older people and which require prolonged treatment.
I haven’t had his bad luck but I’ve noticed the rather sudden onset of uncomfortable and unexplained aches and pains.
For some reason I’ve developed a crick in my neck that gets worse when I drive too far.
My right knee also seems to have lost some of its padding and tends to grate a bit when I take the dogs for a run.
If I sit on the couch for too long I produce audible snaps, crackles and pops when I stand up.
I’ve still got most of my hair but there are some very suspicious grey streaks there that I didn’t notice until I looked in the mirror with my reading glasses on.
I thought I still had a blond mop. Not so it appears. My newly grown and very trendy goatee came out 95% white for goodness sake.
I’ve taken to wearing a hat when I go out in the sun because the liver spots on my face seem to be getting worse.
I also now wear a long sleeve shirt in the sun to cover the skin on my arms which seems to have got a lot thinner and crinkled; just the slightest knock will produce a purple bruise.
I wish I’d known this was going to happen because I would have taken notice of all the exhortations of the medical profession and started covering up a lot earlier.
And when I go into a shop I seem to get an automatic senior’s discount on everything. They don’t even ask to see my card.
None of this is particularly fair, I tell myself. It only seems like months ago that I was as fit and healthy as I was on the day I started work as a kiap in Papua New Guinea.
It has all been too sudden. Fit to frail in the blink of an eye. From Maserati to Model T in less time than it takes to change a tyre.
The only thing that doesn’t seem to have been affected is my mind. That wonderful organ still seems firmly locked in the 1960s. Yet my son and daughter raise their eyebrows when I tell them this.
Do it now, I tell them, don’t wait; if you want to do something don’t wait until you get too old.
Do they listen? Of course not. As far as they are concerned they are going to live forever.
Little do they know that ‘forever’ will arrive on their doorstep when they least expect it.
Oh well, one can but try.
Will I walk the Heysen Trail?
I hope so.
[I'd start from Parachilna Gorge in the north, Phil. It seems mostly downhill from there which rather fits the thrust of your piece - KJ]