Throughout my final writing up period, I often woke up at 4.30am – usually from a horrible nightmare that involved forgetting to put the standard error bars into a plot or entering the wrong p-values in a results section. The morning of my last full day of post-thesis holiday, I woke up at 4:30am for a tour to Kings Canyon. I watched the sunrise (a theme on this trip) from the bus, and we stopped en route for breakfast at Kings Creek Station, where I opted for bacon, eggs, and toast cooked by the guys who also carry out the helicopter tours.
The canyon walk starts with five hundredish fairly steep steps. The tour guide freaked me right out before we started. She was all, “You need to be fit to do this walk. Don’t attempt it unless you exercise vigourously every day. You need to carry at least 3 litres of water. You need to have proper walking boots. You need to stop every 100 steps and take a break and tell me if you can’t go on, because you don’t want to be airlifted out of here.”
Oh man, I thought. I am going to die. I haven’t been to kung fu in three weeks. The only exercise I’ve been getting is running for the train.
Either I was fitter than I thought or our tour guide was overly-dramatic. I’m going to guess the latter. I got to the top (first, not that I'm competitive) and wasn’t even out of breath. I had a couple minutes of camera time before the rest of the group appeared.
I’ve never in my life consumed three litres of water during the course of a single morning, and regardless of how much salty bacon I’d had that morning, I certainly wasn’t going to try it while bushwalking through the Australian Outback, with the nearest toilet facilities located in a coach several hours’ walk away. I brought one litre, which I thought was somewhat excessive given that I was also lugging around a DSLR, and I drank not quite half of it.
Kings Canyon is not the sort of place that can be captured adequately on film (or digital memory card). I’m not even sure a 360 degree camera would do the trick. You need to be there to grasp the redness and the textures; the character of the trees that grow every direction but up, and the unexpectedness of seeing evidence of ancient marine life on one of the higher peaks.
It's been almost three weeks since my trip now; a month to the day since I submitted. Somehow, all the free time I was going to have without a thesis to write never materialized. I have my list of things to do post-thesis, but the books I wanted to read, the places I wanted to go, and the movies I wanted to watch keep getting pushed back as postdoc applications, manuscript revisions, teaching prep, and sleep fill my evenings and weekends. Yeah, sleep, life's second most boring activity after cricket. Totally wasn't on my list, but I keep getting to 10 or 10:30pm and finding that even a 40-minute TV show is too cognitively demanding.
At least the thesis nightmares have stopped. I'm getting more piano in and I'm back to kung fu. I spontaneously joined a friend for a cheap-Tuesday movie last week and met up with another friend on the weekend for pork rolls. I am rejoining the world of the living, little by little!