A pair of block-heeled sandals and a broken toenail was all it took to introduce me into the heady world of hiking.
Any hiker (except maybe, Lady Gaga) would emphasise the importance of wearing the right foot gear to tackle the uneven hiking trails and to break any impending fall down a slippery slope (or two).
So how did I arrive at this fashion faux pas in the middle of a Tasmanian hiking trail, wearing unsuitable footwear and nursing an injured toe that so desperately needed some rest?
Weekend getaway trip to Launceston
I was due to check in for a major surgery in a few weeks and was feeling a bit nervous about it. To take my mind off the upcoming surgery, my husband arranged a quick weekend getaway trip to Launceston, a beautiful riverside city in northern Tasmania, Australia.
We didn’t know much about the city, except maybe that it was about two and a half hours away from Brisbane if we took a direct flight there. We figured that we would plan our sightseeing once we arrived there.
It was late spring, and winter hadn’t set in yet, so we didn’t have to worry about packing too much warm clothing. The only thing that I needed to pay attention to was one of my big toenails, which had accidentally been “smashed” while I was tending my garden a few days before the trip. It was healing well but I had to make sure that I didn’t bump into things or worse still, drop something directly onto the nail. The impact itself would send me writhing in pain onto the ground.
Planning our holiday — only on arrival!
We arrived in Launceston on a Friday afternoon and a cab took us to our hotel. After checking in, I browsed through the tourist brochures, determined not to waste away the holiday sitting indoors. I wanted to spend a good chunk of our time that weekend visiting the main tourist spots and enjoying the beauty of this city.
It was already late in the afternoon so it wasn’t easy to book a tour at such short notice, but I persevered. Finally, a local tour company agreed to pick us up from our hotel on Saturday morning and take us on a tour to the Cradle Mountain, a popular and scenic mountain area about two and a half hours drive from Launceston. Conscious of my injured toenail, I asked the tour operator whether we would need to wear special footwear for this trip. To my surprise, he said that wouldn’t be needed and I distinctly remember him saying something like even slippers would be fine! Somehow I was a bit suspicious of his advice yet relieved since all I had anyway was the strapped block-heeled sandals that I was wearing. As for my husband, he was wearing a pretty decent pair of sturdy shoes so at least we didn’t have to worry about him.
On Saturday — the day of our trip to Cradle Mountain — I did however remember to bring along a pair of socks with me, just in case my injured toe needed the extra protection on that day.
When we arrived at the Cradle Mountain, our tour guide (not the same guy whom I had spoken with on the phone the day before, and who only noticed my footwear and my toenail injury moments later) invited us to walk on the hiking trail. The trail was a good 6km or so around the mountain (about two hours of rigorous walking), and ended at the same spot that we would start from. There was an elderly couple who had joined us in this tour. Figuring that the walk might be too strenuous for them, they opted to stay at the starting point and enjoy the scenery from there.
I was nervous but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to hike for the first time in my life. I told myself that I just had to make sure that I held my husband’s hand really tightly and let our tour guide lead us through the terrain. I immediately took off my sandals and put on my socks, then put my sandals back on again. It was quite a comical sight — thick white socks and strappy black sandals were a true fashion faux pas but I simply didn’t care. I was just glad that my toenail was warm and well-protected. I figured that I would be fine as long as I placed my weight squarely on my block heels and watched the ground carefully while I was walking.
Hiking in heels
The hiking trail was quite an adventure. We encountered rocks and boulders at a pretty early stage, and these were to “grace” our path throughout most of our hike. (Good thing that they were firm and it wasn’t a rainy day!). We also enjoyed the impressive views of the mountain and Dove Lake.
Throughout this time, I walked slowly and held my husband’s hand whenever there was a steep or potentially slippery climb or descent, or if the path was strewn with rocks and needed special manoeuvring to get around them. At no time did I attempt to run or rush even though at times I just wanted the hike to be over. After about two hours, we finally returned to the spot where we had started.
Would I hike in heels again?
I would not recommend hiking in high heels to anyone, and I most certainly would not attempt to do this again. Why go through the trouble of trying to balance and gain a firm footing on the ground in high heels when we can wear appropriate footwear specially designed to tackle the uneven walking trails?
Looking back, I wonder how I managed to press on in my high-heeled sandals. Call it sheer desperation, a lack of time (it was, after all, a short weekend trip), or the curiosity of finding out what hiking is like, but my one-off “extreme hiking” experience did show me a few things about life.
Sometimes, it is only during our challenging times that we are forced to stretch our potential. It is in these times that our resilience is put to the test. Not only did I press on toward our destination, and build my physical stamina, but I also got to admire the beauty of my surroundings while hiking. I also noticed the quiet strength of my husband. Although a man of few words, he always had his hand ready for me to grab so that I didn’t slip or fall. We didn’t have to talk much — just a simple eye contact was enough for him to know when I needed him.
I was pleasantly surprised at myself. I went back home feeling confident to face my upcoming surgery. I reminded myself that if I was able to hike around a mountain in high heels and with a broken toenail, I sure would be able to come out victoriously on the “other side” after my surgery. And that is exactly what happened.