This morning, I took The Devil for a walk around the Tan, the Botanical Gardens here in Melbourne. Yes, you read correctly...The Devil. The Red Beasts and I took The Devil for a walk around the Tan.
Before you become too alarmed...this, here on my back, is The Devil.
Here's a closer look...
This 40 litre bag will carry everything I need for the next few months as I walk an estimated 2,083 kilometres along the Via Francigena trail from Canterbury to Rome. I am still finalising my packing list...this can be translated as I'm trying to figure out exactly how much I can fit in the bag and carry without breaking my back. I'll share the packing list once it is finalised.
A few weeks ago when I was deciding to walk this pilgrimage trail, I stumbled across and read a book called "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. Back in the mid-1990's at only age 22, in the wake of her mother's death, her marriage breakdown and recovering from her heroin addiction, Cheryl decided on an impulse to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave desert through California and Washington to Oregon state. Her journey took her some 1100 miles through the wilderness. She walked it alone.
Cheryl was an inexperienced hiker and whilst she researched and planned what she needed to take with her as well as the supplies she would need to send ahead to collect at various stops along the way, she severely over-packed her backpack. Everyone she met along the way who felt the weight of her backpack was completely surprised by its weight and the fact that she had managed to carry it as far as she had.
Cheryl nick-named her backpack, Monster.
Cheryl's journey was incredible and a life-changing experience for her. There are many things in her own story that make her feel like a kindred; the impulse to walk and to walk alone, being an inexperienced hiker, a classic over-packer and the overwhelming and lingering grief I have felt from losing my own mother when I was age 20.
So, in honour, of Cheryl, I have chosen a nick-name for my backpack. The Devil.
On my first practice packing of The Devil, I estimated that it weighed 10 kilograms without any water. Add 3 litres of water in my camel pack and that adds another 3 kilograms. That's 13 kilos I have to carry on my back for 2,000 kilometres. I should add here that all the forums recommend carrying no more than 10% of your body weight which means I should be aiming for around 6 kilos. But with the bag, a tent, sleeping bag and mat to carry already weighing a combined 4.1 kilos that's just impossible for me.
The Devil's official christening was a 16 kilometre walk in Healesville with my friend, Kate. In one of its heaviest-feeling moments I called it Satan but the name felt a little too evil for a Christian pilgrimage trail. We tried a few different names on for size and The Devil just seemed to stick.
At times, but not always, it feels like a devil weighing heavily against my back, causing discomfort and testing my tenacity and resolve especially uphill. Fortunately, the more I carry it, the easier it gets and the lighter The Devil feels. Over the course of the coming weeks and kilometres, I expect I shall become completely at peace with this devil on my back. If I don't, it's going to be a very long and wicked journey.