There are many questions in life that are difficult to answer.
Such as why do people drive like maniacs on the way home from work?
How come seemingly incompetent people get so far in politics?
And when will people realise My Kitchen Rules is totally scripted?
But by far the biggest, I'd argue, is why do people put themselves in situations they don't have to be?
And, of course, there is no answer to that question because, as this column attempts to prove each week, that's life.
And last weekend that's life had me navigating through snake-infested, stinging nettle-riddled terrain with nothing but a compass, topographical map and rapidly dwindling bag of lollies on a two-day bushwalk up the back of the Hunter Valley.
As Maxwell Smart might say, "and loving it".
Actually, the love came and went, depending on the exertion.
The constant was the question, WHHHHHHHHHYYY?
Why didn't I sleep in? Why did I get up at 5.30am? Why did I suspect the heavy fog on Hexham swamp was an omen for the horror movie to come?
Actually, the reason I didn't sleep in was I lay awake all night waiting for the alarm to go off (don't you hate that), dreading what the weekend had in store.
But I was in no doubt about that either, due to the training manual we'd got. The main meal on the menu was hard yakka.
What sane person would sign up for that? Me, as it turned out. Oh well, no pain, no gain, I guess. Or was that brain?
Anecdotal evidence from the car park in Wollombi, where we assembled for final insertion up country, suggested I wasn't the only one who rode this emotional roller-coaster the night before.
From a brief chat with our experienced bushwalking facilitators, I realised there were two types of people in this world: those who've conquered (insert exotic mountainous overseas location) at altitude, with heavy packs, snow monkeys and maybe a touch of scree (look it up).
And those whose bottom lip starts quivering when they talk to such people.
The good thing about hanging out with experienced bushwalkers is you learn stuff.
Like how to master a compass (not to mention quivering lips).
A compass is not, as you first think, the lost piece from your Ouija board. But it can put you in contact with the dead if you don't read it properly.
When the Duke of Ed student from up the road lent me hers with the words, "I love this thing", I'd thought HSC stress had really kicked in.
But now I know what she means.
A compass is an amazing device steeped in antiquity that gives its user an unreasonable sense of righteousness about which gully to stumble down in the bush.
It's also really handy if you have to stumble back up that gully and start again.
It's amazing how group dynamics work in this situation. Consensus is essential. And the one thing I found the group can agree on is that pain is bad.
Consequently, if you send your group down the wrong gully, you can safely assume your turn as group leader is over.
Effective conflict resolution may see you get a go on the radio. And if spirits are still flagging after that, have a mintie.
Given what's at stake (getting lost), you start paying very close attention to all those red squiggly lines on the topographic map. They represent pain.
They also reflect the ageing on your face.
You certainly need your wits about you.
Generally to work out if the map is upside down.
Mental effort is also required to get a tent up. Particularly after six hours making like a very sweaty wombat in the undergrowth.
In retrospect, putting a tent up would have been a challenge without the delirium. But delirium helped with sleeping in it later that night without a bath.
A bath was never going to happen anyhow because any water available was drunk.
Being drunk might have helped, now that you mention it, to take your mind off the storm that brewed that afternoon. And yes, maybe it wasn't a good idea to set up in a riverbed.
But being drunk wasn't going to help next morning when you had to pack up and do it all again. Only this time, up steeper hills.
Yes, these are the mantras of hardcore bushwalking - uncertainly, fear, discomfort. Don't forget venomation . . . I mean invigoration. Reality can bite, so carry a tourniquet. Otherwise you may find yourself in "da shit".
Speaking of which, the "protocols" for these aren't for the squeamish either.
Particularly over breakfast. I'll never look at a "burrito" the same again.
Bushwalking is a great leveller. In fact, it will flatten you if you don't prepare properly. Which in turn creates an appetite for knowledge (but not burritos).
Oddly enough, exhaustion and sweat are a great recipe for camaraderie; camaraderie being a French word meaning "I can't feel my legs".
I can't really explain why I put myself in this situation, but I reckon if I get the opportunity, I'll go there again.
If I can work out the bearings.