The Power Of Exploration

Words by: Sarah Petty
Photography by: Alexis Hancock

The state of tranquillity and clarity that occurs for hikers when partaking in long treks was profound for Alexis Hancock, who trekked the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea as well as Kala Patthar which lies along the south ridge of Pumori in the Nepalese Himalayas.

It was the first time she really found herself when trekking the Kokoda Track as it put life into perspective. Trudging through mud for ten hours a day in the sweltering heat, pushing your body past the brink of exhaustion with every step, although physically exhausting, Alexis found it mentally easing. It births a sense of focus and clarity…

What has encouraged Alexis to pursue long treks such as the Kokoda Track is the personal satisfaction that comes from being able to push herself in these harsh conditions and come out the other end filled with a sense of achievement. It is up to the hiker as to what pace they choose to set, how fast or slow they want to go, and how hard they choose to push themselves; everything is a result of their personal choices throughout the journey. Rid from distractions and out in the elements, there is nothing out there pushing you; it’s purely the result of sheer will power, and it’s incredible to see what the mind can do. Hiking isn’t about your physicality but your mental endurance in reaching each milestone along the way, describes Alexis.

The grit and determination to traverse at high altitudes has proven almost life-threatening for Alexis when she attempted to climb Kala Patthar in Nepal, however. Already 5,300 metres when her trek leader decided to change course, every metre in altitude made an immense difference. At almost straight-up incline for three hours, she crawled on hands and knees to persevere to reach the peak. She willed herself up the mountain and at the top, and burst into tears of overwhelm. 

“It was the most incredible thing in the entire world. I’d never felt like that in my entire life. I’ll never be able to recreate that feeling.”

Whilst hikers may travel far and wide to explore, Ronan Banks, another avid hiker, decided to explore his backyard. Traversing the Heysen Trail in South Australia, extending from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge, Ronan was on day 22 of his 58 day hike when we spoke. Calling from Bundaleer Forest Reserve, Ronan explained to me why people choose to embark on long journeys and treks across the globe, often solo. 

Ronan believes when you are going through your day to day, you lose track of the things that you truly enjoy and making the most out of life. As everything begins to get on top of you, nature can bring you back down and help you realise what’s important. With an abundance of time for self-reflection, Ronan explained how the simpler aspects of life seem to come to the forefront of your mind when traversing through nature without distractions. He revealed how he’s “…been spending a lot of time thinking about personal relationships, and how important they are and how [he] should give [his] family and friends more time.” Embarking on these colossal adventures, it is the experiences you have along the way which stick with you the most. Whether that’s staying in different caravan parks or cabins, or meeting hikers along the way, the smaller moments are the most memorable.  

Both Alexis and Ronan agree that undertaking these strenuous expeditions such as the treks they’ve experienced are a testament to an individual’s whole being, both physical and mental. The sense of personal achievement that comes from completing these hikes is addictive, which is why they both will continue to plan more of these experiences for years to come.

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