By Eliza Hansford
Going on trek* for me was a tough decision as I knew I was going to struggle more than most people due to my ongoing health problems. I was seriously considering not going as I thought it would be too overwhelming to deal with and result in a miserable experience.
Finally I made up my mind a few months ago after being told by one of my friends that, as it was the right thing to do, I would be blessed and it wouldn’t be an issue for me. I hadn’t thought about it from that angle before so I decided to put my faith in the Lord and go, with a lot of prayer to keep me going.
My biggest concern was my love/hate relationship with food – I love it, but it hates me. I knew I wouldn’t have much control over what I ate as food would be scarce and I needed every last bit of it for energy to keep me going.
The first day was a huge struggle for me, as my body went into shock and by the time it hit 11pm my feet were on fire and I couldn’t walk another step. I pretty much turned into a zombie for the next few hours, stumbling to keep up with the cart. My feet were screaming, I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and I was exhausted.
When we finally stopped for the night well after midnight, I wanted so badly to collapse on a bed and sleep. But no! We had to unpack our cart, set up our sleeping quarters and eat dinner which was basically flavoured water and bread.
The second day I was dreading walking as my feet were in so much pain, but up we all got and walking we did. We were hugely behind schedule and had to face a boiling hot day over extremely soft and steep sand dunes. There were roughly twenty dunes and getting close to the end of them I’m sure everyone felt they were about to pass out.
When we finally were given the opportunity to stop (even though we had only reached the place we were supposed to finish at the night before), I was given a roll and a slab of cheese so thick it was bigger than the roll. I’m basically dairy intolerant, and I had two choices – to give away my cheese and eat only a small bread roll until dinner time came around, or eat the huge slab of cheese and risk the consequences of that. I opted for taking the risk and eating the cheese, which did make me feel mildly sick for a short time after, but very little considering the amount I had just eaten.
The food options continued to be like that throughout the final two days, which were nowhere near as tough as we rose early and finished walking before noon. I ate some things I would never usually touch as I knew I would have serious nausea (for example damper), but I felt great.
Each trek family was given a real pioneer family to base their family from, and our family was based on a little girl from Denmark called Bodil Mortensen who set out with another family to make the journey through mountains at the age of nine. She ended up being blinded by a snowstorm and eventually was discovered one morning frozen to death. Her family had no idea what had happened to her until they travelled the same journey the year after. Her bravery was very inspirational while I was on trek as every time I thought how hard my experience was, it was nothing to trekking up steep mountains in freezing blizzards with none of my family there to support me. Her faith and strength to make that journey for the gospel showed how much people had sacrificed to make sure the gospel is available for us today.
An important experience I had on trek was the connections and relationships I strengthened with the adults in my family. I created a strong relationship with Bishop Orth (lay pastor), my big brother, who I discovered a whole new side to after long conversations while pushing the cart together. I discovered how well he knew what was happening in my and the other youth’s lives and he understood the struggles I was having much more than I had expected. I developed a greater appreciation for the bishops in my life and the important role they play in my life. Even though they are a different generation to me, the experience and knowledge they possess can be a great influence and help in my life.
I managed to walk every step of the way with no stomach aches or nausea. As I was reflecting on the whole experience, the most important thing I got out of it was how it strengthened my testimony of the power of prayer, which was what I had done constantly before leaving for trek. Looking back on it there was no way I should have felt as great or manage to last the whole way as I did, and I know it was all to do with the blessings I had received from my Heavenly Father and the strength and help he gave me.
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
*Trek is an experience for youth in commemoration of the early pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The youth pull handcarts loaded with their provisions for 60km over four days. They wear 19th century style clothing and have food similar to that which the early pioneers would have eaten.