It starts with a single step
The longer the walk, the more precious the experience.
22 September 2020 | Health
Warm and kind, Erma Muller’s love for walking and hiking and her deep love and appreciation for life and all the people she holds dear to her heart is not only endearing, but also inspiring.
She first started walking when her children were almost out of school. First on her agenda was the Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail which she would later complete with each one of her children. Erma was hooked and in 2007 she completed the popular Camino Frances Hiking Trail of 800 km, completing the trail in four weeks and ending in Santiago.
“When I finished, I knew it was too short. The longer you walk, the more precious the experience gets. At the start everybody is in a hurry, but as you continue, you see people and their behaviour change.”
She completed several Camino’s, hiking through Spain, France, Portugal and Italy.
With her first Camino she felt how burdens and baggage “just fell off”.
“You just get rid of stuff. I came to understand I’m never as happy as when I put on my rucksack and just start walking.”
She describes her inner transformation as a flower slowly opening and starting to bloom.
“You work through your issues and priorities as you get rid of your inner baggage. You start to really notice the smallest things and the people around you, being intensely aware of your surroundings. You start to live mindfully in the present.”
With literally thousands of kilometres behind her, Erma embraces the feeling of accomplishment when she completes a trail.
She has numerous stories of people she met along the routes she has taken across the world. All share a common thread of enduring friendships, lessons learnt and memories shared, leaving her with friends across the world.
Of course walking is beneficial to your overall health, but it is so much more, says Erma who is also part of a group of women who once a year completes a hiking trail either in Namibia or South Africa and sometimes individually somewhere in the world.
Anyone can do it, it starts with taking the first step, says Erma. Age plays no role.
“While doing a long Camino in Spain, I met an 86 year old man who walked the whole route with a small rucksack. Though not walking 30 plus km per day, but 15 to 20 km per day. What an inspiration!”
It’s the interaction in her group of hiking friends, the care and reaching out to another and of course the fun and feeling of solidarity when they go on a hike, she treasures.
“Some of the women in our group was diagnosed with cancer, has heart problems or suffer from depression. Yet they took the decision to get active, take that first step and grab life with both hands.”
The ages of the women in her hiking group varies between 56 to 70 years, sharing a common interest in books, nature, a healthy lifestyle and close friendships.
To express their shared ideals and interests, once a year the group tackle a hiking trail in Namibia or South Africa or individually somewhere in the world from Turkey to Nepal to Europe.
“This way we experience not only nature, but share one another’s hardships and triumphs, strengthening our friendships and collecting the proverbial firewood for our old age,” says Erma.
She shares the words of one of the women and fellow hiker who is a cancer survivor and who find healing, strength and wisdom not only amongst her friends, but also in sharing a hiking trail.
“I wouldn’t have survived the shock of cancer and all it entailed without my friends. To hike along the West Coast with a group of women and just to be able to laugh and cry was the best medicine ever. My hiking buddies carried and strengthened my soul and my heart with their love and care. Through all our hiking tours I regained my physical and spiritual strength to take on the path my life has taken. We are there for each other, not only in physical support, but also as soulmates who support each other when one is hit by life’s storms,” the friend says.
Erma admits walking as part of a group has its own challenges. Not everybody is equally fit. Some power away, changing their steps into a jog, while others had to literally be “dragged”, says Erma.
“Injuries like sprained ankles, blisters and of course the normal moans and pains of getting older, all sometimes takes its toll.”
Outfits on the hiking trails present a unique challenge and adventure, like rucksacks chafing away at your shoulders and new hiking boots not really finding your feet and steps.
“Who sleeps where and with whom creates a special problem because some has a rather not so elegant way to snore!”
While walking, they share laughter, says Erma, but also the “deeper stuff” and often a tear is shed, either through laugher or crying!
In the evenings some would share stories and pictures around the fire, while others opt to head for their roll-up matrasses.
If they have to prepare their own meals, the women are divided into groups bringing out the friends’ competitive side, says Erma.
“Each group of course tries to up the other one with the end result the most wonderful dishes!”
Her advice is to “just start walking, taking that first step”.
“Just walk out your door and around the block. Don’t try to do too much at once, rather try to be consistent. The earlier you start the better, just put on your shoes first thing in the morning and get going. Find your rhythm and try to walk a little further when you can, soon you will find you enjoy it.”
She feels closer to God, when she walks, says Erma.
“It is an intense, mindful experience, you see and feel Him in everything. You get outside and it’s just you and Him, it’s your church.” – [email protected]