Just like our first prehistoric ancestors, our body was designed to be on our feet for most of the day; but today, most of us are sitting down in our offices all day with minimum movement; we barely walk just to get to a mechanical method of transportation were once again, we sit-down. We became sedentary and numbed to what is out there, outside in front of our eyes.
We need a physical distance from our everyday life; something that breaks our routine, life is all about balance. Let your brain relax, go out wondering, daydream and have fun! That is the only way to ease yourself and really connect with your mind.
The necessity of hiking has always been part of human evolution. Long ago, after the first settlers, we started to understand about farming and animal breeding, allowing us to produce abundance of food; at that point, hiking still was part of the everyday activities, as humans still needed to hunt and gather. Now, with all the different means we have at our disposal, hiking is seen as leisure and I think something was lost in that "process". We hike for well-being, sport or just for fun and that is very good, but we sometimes forget what being out in the nature really is. Our past relatives were nomads, they knew the importance of nature, they had to walk great distances on a regular basis to find food and specific nutrients to support their needs; they talked to nature, they communicated with plants and animals, there was more of a spiritual exchange between living things, I think we've lost that, now days everything is different and we take it for granted. Every time we go out and see a mountain, hills, a park, or just any scenic place, we should wonder; how will it be like to be on top of that mountain? What is up there? What feelings may I experience being surrounded by so much trees? Which live organisms live up there?
Our body was designed to walk and we can go out and find that out; let’s take a hike!
I started off early, waking up at 4 am and drove a bit more than 2 hours to San Carlos, one of the biggest cantons in Costa Rica and home of the Arenal Volcano, but this time I wasn't looking for the colossal grandness of the Arenal; instead I wanted to explore some of the neighbor inactive volcanoes. Luckily for me I have a friend who lives in Ciudad Quesada, San Carlos most populated city and he was going to guide me on a hike, through the mountain towards the skirts of the "Platanar" Volcano.
Without much planning or special gear, I put my cheap rubber boots on over my sand socks, a weird combination that has been proven to be the perfect fit for me during long hikes. We packed 2 litters of water each, though we knew we had to cross a couple of rivers, so water was covered. Some small snacks and peanuts to boost our energy on quick pauses; a good idea during hiking is to pace yourself and do regular quick breaks, instead of few long stops.
In no time, after a nice walk along dairy farms, we were deep inside a rainforest; the quick change of temperature was nicely welcomed, as it dropped down some degrees and a special breeze cooled the surroundings; but don't get to comfy, Costa Rican weather can change in just a few minutes, so always be prepared for anything (sun block and a raincoat at least). This time we had a perfect climate, even though it seemed to be a bit cloudy in between the treetop gaps.
We expected to see some monkeys, maybe some small reptiles; but we only managed to see rests of a weak hallucinogenic plant craved by sloths. As we went deeper, the size of the trees became impressively tall and I couldn't stop wondering how small it made me feel vs. the vast perspective of where I was hiking. It got me thinking; what is the purpose of the small insects around me? Why do plants and flowers live here? What do animals eat around here...What is our purpose here on Earth? We might not have the answers to most of those questions, but neither the rest of the living things that surround us know; we just know there are organisms living together inside a chain where everything coexists together as one and no other is more important that the other, everyone needs everyone to survive, so maybe the key for us humans is to work as one with nature so that we can have a better understanding of why we are here. All of these questions are answered by the fondling leaves up in the trees, the soft breeze that barely penetrates the dense forest, the flowing water underneath the ground, aggressively making its way through cave systems looking for a way out and become a spring that will irrigate everything outside around chirping birds who break the solitude and silence by whispering cognizance.
Nature's message is loud and clear, but one must listen and that is why I enjoy hiking so much; it keeps your body fit and your mind free, but there is another level on how we can operate during hiking besides the physical plane. There is also the spiritual realm, that can teach you how to be present in the moment; try and pay attention to your breath, center in your bodily consciousness, be completely mindful and become aware of your inner intentions to connect with something greater than yourself.
We can hear we were almost at our destination; soft sounds of small river rapids warned our arrival and though we didn’t catch a glimpse on any animals, we took our time to enjoy the ride, even though my friend warned me the destination was going to be epic. At that point I was almost in a trance on that green landscape; it was as if I could see nature's knowledge. Nature's been here before us, and it knows about the healing powers that can clear our mind of off stress and makes us focus on what it is really important; life, but not the everyday’s trivialities that we try to get a hold on our existence. Hiking is how you sharp your senses through the mighty winds way up on a mountain; it will not only give you the comfort of cooling you off after hiking all the way up. It will caress your skin with great assimilation, making you one with the environment; it will go deep through your pores, leaving an increased level of gratitude that your brain will produce high levels of serotonin, and the happiness it creates will be so intoxicating that its power and majesty will make you aware of an even greater beauty of whatever landscape you are submerged in. This is the calling of the Universe and it will give answers to any busy mind.
Hiking is not a race, it is an affair to move and what matters is to enjoy the ride, not necessarily the final destination. Take your time; remind yourself how small we are. Appreciate the landscape and try to have some perspective of where you are in the Globe. Free your creative mind by look into the tiny details of nature. Stop. Breathe, what scents do you smell around you? Close your eyes. What do you see and feel? All these are key for a spiritual breakthrough, but also you might be surprise of what you find in the way.
Story & Photos by Juancho Otalvaro