The day of departure loomed and I went into overdrive. Nine days is not long to plan and prepare for a trek of the magnitude I had set my heart on. I spent the final weekend in a rush of anxiety and elation.
I bought enough food to sustain me for the first two weeks of walking. I shredded cardboard boxes, removed every spare piece of packaging and placed the discarded paper and plastic in the kitchen sink. I had to empty it twice into the recycle bin outside the front door and bemoaned the waste of modern life.
I divided the food into separate ziplock bags, one each for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner for the first week. A further three bags held food for the second week. As hefty as they felt, I wondered if I had bought enough. Although I could put one foot in front of the other for days on end, I am no expert at living off the land and had neither the skills nor time to forage while walking.
I propped my ancient canvas rucksack against the sofa and pushed food and gear into its yawning mouth. In essence, I would be carrying my home on my back for weeks and months (if I got that far). House, bedroom, toilet, medicine cabinet, kitchen, library and home office had to be stripped down, miniaturized, and sealed from the elements.
After I had thrust all these systems down the pack’s throat, the body strained at the seams. Rose watched these exertions with the expression of pity, amusement and superiority that I knew so well. It conveyed, “As much as I love you, we both know you’re carrying too much.”
“Try putting it on,” she suggested, and leaned back in the armchair, ready for a good gloat. I gave the straps an experimental tug. The bag just sat there. I tightened my abdomen, adopted a nonchalant expression, bent my knees and exerted all my strength. I wish I could say that I swung it gracefully onto my broad shoulders as my biceps rippled like entwined pythons. Instead, my knees buckled and I staggered on the Persian carpet, wheezing and flushed.
“How does that feel, darling?” Rosa asked, twisting the knife.
“OK,” I gasped, adjusting the waist belt with some difficulty.
“Well! Looks like you’re ready to go then!” she remarked brightly. “How about a glass of wine?”
I eased the pack back down carefully. A floorboard creaked under it. I straightened slowly and tried to control my breathing.
“Good idea,” I said.