…I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees...
...roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all…
I am a part of all that I have met…
(from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’)
Yes, in Tennyson’s words, we trekkers “cannot rest from travel,” we roam “with a hungry heart,” and we often become “a part of all that [we] have met.” Trekking can do that to you; restless, hungry, and highly affected by it. It’s why trekking is so popular.
The term ‘trek’ dates to the mid-1800s settlement of South Africa by the Boers of Dutch descent. It originally meant “to travel or migrate by ox wagon” in Afrikaans (Boer Dutch). Beginning in 1835, more than 10,000 Boer immigrants set off from Cape Colony as internal migrants into the interior of the country on what they called the ‘Groot Trek’ (Great Trek) seeking new lands to settle. In this original sense, a trek was a one-way trip, difficult at best, to some far off point seemingly of no return...
In today’s terms, internationally, a ‘trek’ is a long and arduous journey, expedition, or hike, on foot (or, at times, by some less convenient way). In the Himalayas it means an extended walk in the mountains from somewhere like Pokhara (into the Annapurnas), or Lukla (to the Everest region), and back. It’s no longer a one-way trip, nor migration to settle new lands. And the ox wagon has been replaced by the backpack, or porters, ponies, or yaks to carry your gear, making the adventure slightly easier and exotic.
One who treks is a ‘trekker’, an ambitious hiker or rambler. And sometimes trekkers are called ‘trekkies’, not to be confused with those trekkies singularly defined as avid followers of ‘Star Trek’, the popular sci-fi television series.
Now, the restless Dutch have come up with a modern day ‘Groot Trek’, the ultimate in adventure travel. But it’s not by ox wagon, nor on foot, nor to such familiar destinations as Everest, or Muktinath, Dolpa or Jumla; nor is it confined to the mountains, not even the mountains of the moon. Rather, it’s a trek, long and arduous, across the solar system itself. A Dutch company called Mars One has recently announced planning for one-way trips all the way to the Red Planet.
Their Internet announcement reads, in modern terms, something like what we might imagine the hype around the original Groot Trek to have sounded almost two centuries ago, only grander:
Human Settlement on Mars in 2023
Mars One is a not-for-profit organization that will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn, and grow. Before the first crew lands, Mars One will have established a habitable, sustainable settlement designed to receive astronauts every two years. To accomplish this, Mars One has developed a precise, realistic plan based entirely upon existing technologies. It is both economically and logistically feasible, in motion through the integration of existing supplies and experts in space exploration...
Someone has surely said (or if not, I say it now) that life is one great long trek, up and down, in fits and starts, with various destinations looming on the horizon, which, when arrived at, rarely seem fulfilling or sufficient. Thus, the conclusion to one trek is often the start of another. But, not for the ‘trekkies’ on Mars One. The requirements to join this expedition include resiliency, adaptability, curiosity, creativity and resourcefulness—with no prospect of return. This new ‘Groot Trek’ is a reality show like none other.
If you have such other world ambitions, sign up now! n