The Camino Fisterra & Muxia – A Recap

After a fairly exhausting (emotionally, mentally, physically – all the good stuff) arrival into Santiago de Compostela I was apprehensive to linger. And truly it was an apprehension built on fear – fear of stopping, fear of letting go, the fear of ending – compelling me to continue. I had four days up my sleeve and I was not interested in resting. Try as I might I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d made it all that way, a type of surrealism that crept up on me, disillusioned that each day I was getting closer and closer, nearer the finish line. And yet, I felt unsettled. Incomplete. Like this wasn’t supposed to be the end. And so without much thought or logic, I swiftly apologised to my feet that the rest day I had assured them was coming, was in fact another five days away. Four more days of walking sounded like a remedy rather than a reprimand. Besides, the ocean was calling.

And so off I went, I checked out of the pension, a real treat after many a night sleeping in bunk beds inches from newly acquainted walking companions. The twelve o-clock pilgrim mass was a must and something I felt my camino needed for perspective purposes. It was. A few goodbyes later, I turn my back on the cathedral and I’m making the journey towards Fisterra (literal translation: The End of the World).

Most people walk the Camino Fisterra in three days, and there are no hard and fast rules on where you should stop to break it up. I had no idea, just that day one would be short and the final two would be long. Well, that was the plan anyway.

Those of you who have remained devout will have already read my previous blog’s following the Camino del Norte & the Camino Primitivo and the day by day count continues on from here. If you’re time poor, all you need to know is that I started walking in San Sebastian on the north east of Spain with the intention to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela, some eight hundred kilometers (and a few million steps) to the far west of Spain.

Last FACTZ:

Did you walk alone? Sometimes, but not always.

Were you ever without food and water? Sure, but not for long.

Did you get blisters? Were you injured? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get blisters, but no I was lucky elsewhere.

Did you use a guidebook? Yes, but it really wasn’t necessary

What did you pack? Read it here!

What did you miss most from home? My family and Moo!

Would you recommend I walk the camino? Without question.

Here we go…

Day 29, Word of the day: Emotional

Distance: 22km From: Santiago de Compostela To: Negreira

Day 30, Word of the day: Loved

Distance: 57km From: Negreira To: Cee (Taxi to Fisterra)

Day 31, Word of the day: Zero

Distance: 15km From: Fisterra (Taxi to Cee) To: Fisterra

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Made it to the End of the World!

Yep, you’ve read correctly – I technically cheated, then I technically undid the cheating by completing the journey properly. Why? Because two very special friends who double dared me to join them in Fisterra on Day 30. And, I guess other than not wanting to spend my last few nights alone, yolo. Did fifty seven kilometers feel worth it in the end? Yep, wouldn’t change it. Would have walked seventy three looking back, if only I had just a few extra hours up my sleeve.

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Arriving at Fisterra and seeing that zero kilometer mark felt like home to me. Feeling my lunges consume potent ocean breeze felt like breathing for the first time. A sense of awe inspiring peace washed over me and lingered just long enough for me to feel the effects of this one ‘hellofa walk.

The Camino Muxia

After arriving at Fisterra, everything (most things) was put into perspective and perhaps if I weren’t alone I would have simply stayed put but alas, I continued the last thirty odd kilometers to reach Muxia (moo-shia). Indifferent to whether the film The Way ended here, I decided just one more coastal walk should fill me with enough joy to last that twenty four hour flight back to a wintery Australia.

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Is it really the last day?

Overall, it was pleasant but not overwhelmingly beautiful. I was misinformed to thinking it was a coastal walk the entire way, when in fact it was really the last few kilometers.

Day 32, Word of the day: Fin

Distance: 33km From: Fisterra To: Muxia

Along the way I met eleven Catholic priests all walking together, now if that isn’t a good omen on a Catholic pilgrimage, I don’t know what is. They were kind to no end and feeling the warmth of complete strangers was the cherry on top of one beautiful experience. The following morning they invited me to join their convoy back to Santiago to which I obliged and said one of the many goodbyes of the journey. Upon arriving back in Santiago de Compostela, it looked the same and sounded the same, but it absolutely felt different. No more emotions, nor more fear, no more uncertainty. I was finished. Done. Completo. Fin.

So there you have it. My camino.

Hope you enjoyed.

xoxo.

 

 

The Camino Primitivo – A Recap

The Camino Primitivo – A Recap

If you enjoyed the blog last week on the Camino del Norte, I hope you’ll enjoy this next edition; everything Camino Primitivo. It’s not hard to tell from the name that the primitivo is the most organic of the many camino’s throughout Europe. The primitivo, also known as the original way, was the first recorded pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in the 9th century. Starting in the city of Oviedo, Asturias this route wraps around daunting mountain ranges,  sends you head first into delicate forests, rolling countryside villages with a sometimes eerie woodland interlude.  As you cross the border into Galicia, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views of whats to come and while there is still a decent amount of concrete to work through, the majority of your walking is soft underfoot.

What can I say, the Camino Primitivo felt different instantly. It had a different aura about it, a different vibe and that aura was potent. When it came to splitting from the Camino del Norte I wasn’t too sure I wanted to leave lapping shores, surfing prospects and sandy feet behind. But I’m glad I did, the hills were calling and I was ready to put my walking poles to good use.

What I enjoyed most about the Camino Primitivo was without question the rugged landscape. What I enjoyed least was the weather. Naturally, Galicia endures copious amounts of rainfall and even in June & July, this was no exaggeration. It rained most days. Great.

Facilities in general were a little more sparse, this meant pushing another 5km to get to the next town was virtually impossible. It did however make for genuinely getting to know your fellow pilgrims. A camino ‘family’ you’ll hear mentioned frequently is particularly easy to cultivate on this camino.

I mentioned last week I kept a journal throughout in the attempt to remember the experience. Writing has always been a cathartic process to assist in daily decompressing and this experience was no different. I dedicated a word a day to represent the walk, people or place. Below is my recap of the Camino Primitivo. But first:

FACTZ

Start: Oviedo

Finish: Santiago de Compostela

How many days: 11 days

How many kilometers: 320km over the Hospitales Route

Facilities on the Camino Primitivo were a little more sparse, but I didn’t really see this as a negative. One of the best things about this camino is that there are less retail and hospitality opportunities along the way, and while this can be daunting for some, those who need to take frequent breaks will merely be required to store some extra food in their packs – it really is a positive thing.

Dear reader I urge to to continue for the wonders of this camino are written all over each step taken, each breath exhaled and every moment in between. Continuing on from last week…

Day 18, Word of the day: Wind

Distance: 24km From: Oviedo To: Grado

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So close, but so far!

Day 19, Word of the day: Unexpected

Distance: 31km From: Grado To: Bodenaya

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One of the many babbling brooks

Day 20, Word of the day: Torrential

Distance: 24.5km From: Bodenaya To: Campiello

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Did someone order more rain?

Day 21, Word of the day: Wow

Distance: 29km From: Campiello To: Berducedo

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The hills most certainly are alive

Day 22, Word of the day: Steep

Distance: 20km From: Berducedo To: Grandas de Salime

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As far as the eye can see

Day 23, Word of the day: Glorious

Distance: 28km From: Grandas de Salime To: Fonsagrada

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No matter how small the town, there’s always a church!

Word of the day: Day 24 Panoramic

Distance: 33km From: Fonsagrada To: Castroverde

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Peace and quiet!

Day 25, Word of the day: Boring

Distance: 22km From: Castroverde To: Lugo

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More concrete? Really?

Day 26, Word of the day: Boo

Distance: 32km From: Lugo To: As Seixas

Day 27, Word of the day: Surreal

Distance: 33km From: As Seixas To: Pregotono

Day 28, Word of the day: Thank-you

Distance: 36km From: Pregotono To: Santiago de Compostela

Our daily routine as pilgrims is almost identical; wake up, eat something, walk, eat again, walk, eat again, wash your clothes, sleep. Then do it again, and again, and again. Dare I say it, I was scared to finish, to not be walking daily, my body was not only used to it, but actually enjoyed the motion, the mobility and the challenge. Which is why I couldn’t stop in Santiago de Compostela, I had to continue, to keep walking. I had 4 days up my sleeve and I was not going to stop now. I continued on out to Fisterra (literal translation: The end of the world) and then Muxia. Join me next week for the final camino edition!

And before you ask; arriving in Santiago de Compostela was an experience I’ll never forget. On one hand you’re extremely proud and relieved to have made it, meeting many along the way who may have had to discontinue due to various reasons. And on the other you’re sad, almost mourning the fact that after tomorrow, you’re no longer a pilgrim: You’re a tourist, in a city, sightseeing. It’s overwhelming.

I’ll never forget that feeling of arrival, that heaviness in my chest, that joy in my soul.

Until next week, xoxo

 

The Camino del Norte – A Recap

The Camino del Norte – A Recap

Why hello, long time no see! It’s been an overwhelming few months since returning back from my camino. What started as an idea to merely shuffle across Spain in fact turned out to be an epic 922km traipse from San Sebastian to Muxia. (If you have no idea what I’m on about, check out my last camino blog here.)

In fact, let’s be honest overwhelming is a bit of an understatement. A lot has been happening and it’s been tough to keep abreast of all the updates. For starters; I started a new job, I moved house (over the bridge, gasp!), I reclaimed my four legged fury friend: Chad and I’ve been trying to comprehend the internal shifts a 922km walk can do to a person.

I guess my first thought coming home was “what on earth will I do with my spare time now?” when every resting second was consumed pouring over camino blog posts or podcasts. The need to plan my next adventure was tugging at my sleeve (and quite rightly, still is).

What did I take away from this experience? Honestly I’m still trying to figure it all out. My experience felt somewhat polarising compared to the books I’d read or the movies I’d watched. I guess my experience was similar in the sense that it was hard work, tiresome at times, delicious in moments and peaceful to no end, in fact if i had to use one word to describe it i would use the word peaceful… not what you’d expect huh?

There are a lot of loose ends I’m still piecing together, but we’ll leave that for another day. I was thankful to speak with Dan Mullins upon completing the pilgrimage, Dan hosts: My Camino – The Podcast, (you can listen to my chat with Dan here if you’ve got some time) which really helped to expand my thoughts and acclimatise to my new life post camino. I’ve caught up with Dan since and I think meeting fellow pilgrims, especially ones as gracious as him, really allow you to discover that being a pilgrim really is like being a member of a tribe, something I’m grateful to feel apart of.

So, before I pour my heart out over the high’s and low’s let’s go through the key facts, below I’ve listed a day to day recap of the stages I covered across the Camino del Norte, I’ll come back to complete my notes about the Camino Primitivo and the stunning walk out to Fisterra & Muxia later.

FACTZ:

Start: San Sebastian, along the Camino del Norte

End: Muxia, along the Camino Muxia, joining from the Camino Fisterra

How many days: 32 days

How many kilometers: 922km (not counting the thousands of steps consumed when lost and once actually arriving at ones destination for the day)

Pack weight: I can’t be too sure, around 8 or 9kg with water and food

I wrote a journal each day as I was sure I would forget the names of places and people met. Truly it was a good idea, I was only ever in a town for just one night and so names of places left my mind as quickly as they entered. For each day I chose a word to represent that day… I don’t know if it helped for me to decompress after a day or just to remind me of certain sections… either way, they’re listed below with a photo to describe the place, people or setting.

Any questions or comments, please ask! I’m more than happy to help any future pilgrims in their planning – knowing first hand how useful previous pilgrim advice could be.

Enjoy!

Day 1, Word of the day: Ecstatic

Distance: 26km ~ From: San Sebastian To: Getaria

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Only a few more to go…
Day 2, Word of the day: Mud

Distance: 22.4km ~ From: Getaria To: Izarbide

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Flysch: A geological phenomenon
Day 3, Word of the day: Pine

Distance: 30.6km ~ From: Izarbide To: Muntibar

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Little yellow flecha to guide the way
Day 4, Word of the day: Relentless

Distance: 30.4km ~ From: Muntibar To: Larrabetzu

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Tortilla & Beer…and then more beer.
Day 5, Word of the day: Space

Distance: 14km ~ From: Larrabetzu To: Bilbao

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The Guggenheim…better out than in I always say!
Day 6, Word of the day: Asphalt

Distance:28km ~ From: Bilbao (train to Portugalete) To: Castro Urdiales

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Scallop shells guide us through the city landscape
Day 7, Word of the day: Compliment-Sandwich (Great, Constructive, Great!)

Distance: 33km ~ From: Castro Urdiales To: Laredo

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Sand = Shoes OFF!
Day 8, Word of the day: Sandy

Distance: 24km ~ From: Laredo To: San Miguel de Muruelo

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Are you following me?
Day 9, Word of the day: Heaven

Distance: 28km ~ From: Muruelo To: Santander

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Surfed here…it was my FAVOURITE day!
Day 10, Word of the day: Rogue

Distance: 34km ~ From: Santander To: Boo de Pielagos

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Should have only taken 3 hours, but I went the long way via the coast…worth it though!
Day 11, Word of the day: Energy

Distance: 36km ~ From: Boo de Pielagos (train to Requejada) To: Comillas

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Gaudi never ceases to amaze!
Day 12, Word of the day: Laugh

Distance: 28km ~ From: Comillas To: Columbres

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If I walk down, that means I have to walk up…should I?
Day 13, Word of the day: Why

Distance: 24km ~ From: Columbres To: Llanes

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Very hard to get lost…except when deep in contemplation

Day 14, Word of the day: Drizzle

Distance: 30km ~ From: Llanes To: Ribadesella

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The mid-morning savor
Day 15, Word of the day: Adios

Distance: 31.5km ~ From: Ribadesella To: Sebrayo

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All roads lead to Santiago

Day 16, Word of the day: Mist

Distance: 24km ~ From: Sebrayo To: La Vega de Sariego

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Open every day… except for today!
Day 17, Word of the day: Itch

Distance: 27km ~ From: La Vega de Sariego To: Oviedo

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Made it! 471km down, only 451 to go!
Well, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed! The Camino del Norte was a lonely experience, mostly meeting with other pilgrims at meals times. It gave me plenty of space to get into my own rhythm and sneak in a few museum/Gaudi exhibitions. The weather was tumultuous. One day it would be divine & another it would be a disaster. I learned to let go and just put my head down and get on with it. The Spanish culture, language and pace of life continues to inspire, intrigue and delight.

Until next time, xoxo

Trekking the Six-Foot Track, NSW

Trekking the Six-Foot Track, NSW

May I state with gusto, it was good to get back on the horse (so to speak) and trek with confidence again. My trek last week fell somewhat short of expectations. Irrational or maybe somewhat rational fear kicked in as I trekked solo alongside the Hawkesbury River on the worst trek ever. This week, my last week of gardening leave, I decided to go out with a bang and smash out the 44km Six-Foot Track in the Blue Mountains over two days. This will be my longest multi-day trek since trekking the Tarkine, Tasmania in March 2017.

This time armed with all the essentials; a map, copious amounts of trekking snacks, cool weather gear and a girlfriend crazy enough to come with me. Off we set nice and early departing Central and arriving into Katoomba at nine in the morning. On arrival, we make our own way to the start of the track (a mere three kilometers from the station) by foot, how else? Before I knew it, we were clambering down steep steps and hopping over gushing gullies.

Walking from Katoomba – Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains we opted for a shorter day one and a longer day two, which I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing. We’d booked a night’s accommodation at the six-foot track eco-lodge which is a rough fourteen kilometers from the start. Rolling hills, fire trails and fence crossings spring to mind when recounting my steps. The strong scent of cow manure on the tip of the cool breeze felt both nostalgic and sickly. None the less, the sun is shining and our limbs are feeling great. We find a lunch spot along the way, which is harder than it sounds because there is a significant lack of look outs, scenic detours or hilltop views. When I say lunch spot, I mean a fallen down tree branch that looks capable of bearing both our weight. That is the only requirement at the eleventh kilometer stage. The last three kilometers to the lodge are tedious. We felt like hamsters on a wheel. The scenery, whilst differing from the start of the day was monotonous. Granted we were alongside the river so at any moment we knew we would be approaching the swinging bridge.

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The view: About 70% of the way.

During the past four treks, at one point or another I would be thinking about snakes, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Well, on day one, I couldn’t get this one out of my way. It just lay there doe-eyed and stubborn. With the intent to sound confident dear reader (I wasn’t) I took a few steps back to give it some berth. (‘steps’ translates to: I ran like crazy) I was more than prepared to make a fifteen-meter detour around the damn thing through thick heath but Katie was convinced we could conquer the red belly black snake head on. (Childhood flashbacks consuming my thoughts) Katie takes a few steps forward and before I can say ‘MOVE!’ the snake scurries away. Even still, I sprint past where the serpent was sun baking until we are a comfortable thirty meters away. Gosh it seems I’ve been living in the city for too long.

As we approach the swing bridge we take the opportunity to have a break on the rocks bordering the river and dip our feet in. Cold is an understatement for the water temperature and we barely last twenty seconds before I’m convinced my toes have fallen off.

The swing bridge induces a mix of adrenaline and focus, the kind of focus when you’re really drunk and the bouncer asks you how many drinks you’ve had. You know you could act cool and normal but as soon as you look down or around you or heaven forbid look the bouncer in the eye, you know you’re toast. I’m sure most really enjoyed the bridge experience, I on the other hand wanted it to be over before it had begun.

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You’ve been warned.

We arrived at the lodge, bath in a trickle of cool water from a hand wash basin and put on every piece of clothing we had with us. The eco-lodge is off the grid and our hosts didn’t think ten degrees qualified putting the fire on. We huddled together over a beer and waited for the other guests to arrive before dinner. Kangaroo stew with sweet potato mash. Couldn’t have asked for better.

By eight in the evening, it’s head torches out and we’re all in bed. Our fellow walkers had arrived from Jenolan and it took them nine hours. Either they were slow and steady, they were catching Pokémon or they’re lying. I was hoping for option two, even though they were all in their sixties. They were training to trek the Kokoda track and decided trekking sixty kilometers over two days would sort them out. They’ll be heading back to Jenolan with us tomorrow, although by the state of them, I’m not sure they’re going to make it. I will say this though, they were bloody inspiring!

By six in the morning the six of us are up and at em! We choke down breakfast and chug on a large coffee all before seven. Katie and I are on the road by seven-thirty. We have twenty-nine kilometers to fill today – all largely uphill. And! We must get there by three-thirty to get our transfer back to Katoomba. No. Pressure.

The walk is long. Uneven. Unstable. Uphill and uninteresting. We walk for four hours without a break with no-where to bask for lunch. The track is (obviously) six-foot-wide and surrounded by thick bush. Thankfully the many kangaroos and wallabies along the path entertain us. Katie even found a fun game: rock jumping. It’s shame she had to find out the hard way, those cow patties really saw her coming (**eye roll, city kids). It’s at this point where I’m SO thankful I’m not doing this walk alone. It would be as boring as bat shit. We cross a few rivers and are thankfully able to keep our feet dry in the process. I spare a thought for our limber sixty-year old friends back at the lodge. If I can be still doing this when I’m their age, I’ll be pretty darn happy with myself.

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Uneven. Unstable. Uphill and uninteresting… except for this one tree!

On we go, and on and on. Until it’s two in the afternoon and I actually think we’re going to make it! A few consults with the map and fears go unrealized. The final ten kilometers feel so drawn out, they are without a doubt the most un-scenic!

We make it to Jenolan caves by two-fifty in the afternoon. Holy moly, I can’t believe we did it. We order a hot drink at the cafe and freshen up in the amenities. It’s a shame we couldn’t have stayed, apparently the caves are the ‘best in the world’. I have a sneaky suspicion they all say that.

We board the bus with street cred as we hobble onto the back seat. By five we’re on the train and by seven we’re back in the city. What a whirlwind of an experience. It’s advised to take three days for this trek, I think you’d be bored and you’d be better off spending more time in Jenolan or Katoomba if you can spare the time.

Overall; not my favourite but one hell of a training trek.

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Need a pit stop? There is a winery on day one (only open weekends)

So that’s that! As I write this I’m officially unemployed. I’m on my second cup of coffee and I’m staring out to sea. I have a few days of freedom before the camino commences. It could be my last post for a while, so if you’re craving some camino #inspo jump over to my Instagram page for all the action: @whoislexiconnors until next time, hasta pronto (remind me to learn what that means!)

The Worst Trek Ever.

The Worst Trek Ever.

If you thought this was going to be some sort of click-bait type title to get you to read all about my most joyful experiences trekking throughout Australia, you would be wrong. Not even close. This week, week three of gardening leave I decided I needed a lighter walk and opted for the easiest and closest one I could find near Sydney. I plan to stay in Newcastle this week and this one seems perfectly situated, right in the middle of the two cities.

Finch’s Line & Devine’s Hill Loop.

Travelling to Wisemans Ferry mid-morning after a delicious sleep in, a very long black and a crispy croissant. The car is packed for a glorious few days in Newcastle including; surf board, trekking boots, skateboard (you never know) and Birkenstocks (gotta love a mild autumn.)

Upon parking at Wisemans Ferry, I stare blankly at the front seat where the guidebook sits unassumingly. Should I read the content? Should I take any pictures? Other than ogling at the map, the distance and the title, I unashamedly look away knowing this will be the easiest walk on the books. Easier perhaps than the well marked Taronga to Manly beach walk I did two weeks ago, or the Coast Track or even Kosciuszko? Knowing how well marked they were, I forgo caution and piss into the wind.

I board the ferry, ripe with the ingredients of fresh air and silence. It’s free, much to my surprise and very efficient. Feeling jolly, I ask the helmsman which way I should start. Why should I care less, this is the easiest walk they’ve got. He points vaguely towards Devine’s Hill and off I go. Walking along tarmac for about 500m before actually starting the trek, all before I see my first roadblock. A closed fence. I bound over the padlocked fence one leg after the other, “No-one can stop me!” I scream valiantly to myself. I turn back to witness my not-so triumphant opponent with a pedestrian track parallel to the fence. “Ah shit” I mutter.

And off I go, oh how I walked. Not a soul to be overheard, not a footprint to follow: except my own, I later discovered.

This is of course, the old convict trail located in Dharug National Park for those less informed. (I knew nothing of this before the walk, so don’t feel bad if you are less acquainted.) Constructed between 1826 and 1834, the Great Northern Road was the largest public work attempting to join Sydney with the Hunter. This section is sealed off from motorised commuters to preserve the track and thus is strictly for walkers, horse riders and mountain bikers only, hence the fence, it all makes sense now.

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Built by hand.

It is so charming to walk at ones own pace; to stop and sigh, to reflect and to consume all that can be. The slow burning incline is full of facts, memoirs, stories and sentiments. Really, there couldn’t be more factual information and I immediately sigh knowing I didn’t need to read up on this walk at all, I have a surplus of data. It’s a shame Vodaphone couldn’t rise to the occasion, but who needs google when the faint breath of ferry fumes are lingering on the wind?

And, from there, things got better, more remote if you will. I pass just one lady and her daughter at the start and I realise I haven’t passed anyone else for over an hour. That is odd, surely.  I reach the top of Devine’s Hill and switch onto the Finch Line, a wide ridge running parallel to the Hawkesbury River. I have shifted the focus of the walk from a leisurely stroll to a serious hunt to spot a koala, I stop and pause every few steps to see if I can find one high up among the eucalyptus. To no avail, on I walk.

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How lovely, a dense bush.

A few clearings later, I find a crossroads; one with a fallen down tree across the track and another with a sign post describing slippery rocks. Hmmm. I opt for the latter and the view takes my breath away (note: feature image). The hues of autumn are truly magnificent from way up here.

It appears there is no way down from here and so I opt for the former of the two and climb over the rotting tree trunk. Off I go. Off. Into silence. Seriously, where are the other walkers? What was that noise? Don’t be silly, keep on going not far to go now. Shouldn’t I be looping back by now? I passed the ferry ages ago! Oh shit! I’ve missed a turn off… but where was the sign! (From here, you can read my internal dialogue, the dialogue of a person who was so close to the end of the track, about 2km to be exact, but a person who panic’s is a person who isn’t thinking rationally.) I opt for google maps to help me out; this is what I see:

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What. The. Crap

Well. That’s just great. My fear increases. I’ve missed the path somehow. And then. I make the cardinal sin. Something I never, ever do. I turned back. I pace back, quicken my gait, the clouds are threatening a month’s worth of rain over three days, predicted to commence any second now. My mind shoots to what I’m carrying. It’s okay; calm down, you have a sandwich, a banana, a poncho that can be constructed into a tent should you need to stay the night, which you definitely will at this rate; that is of course if a bush bandit (not sure if a thing) doesn’t come out and snatch you away. All of a sudden I’m actually frightened. I make it back to the cross roads and search for a path near the slippery rocks… I actually contemplate scaling the rocks, a mere two hundred meter scramble. Thankfully sense kicks in. I turn back again, again opening google maps. Where the hell is this stupid blue little line track? And why the hell is there no sign! I retrace my steps a final time (in the right direction) before giving up hope. I resign to the fact that NSW National Parks must have spent all the allotted money on signposting the Devines Hill walk with nothing left for this one. Why? Why didn’t I take a picture of the map in my guidebook? Argh!

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My demise came moments after taking this.

It’s two in the afternoon, I make a judgement call not to call the police (insanity rising) to report the sign issue or my own stupidity and stomp back along the way I’ve just walked for the past 3 hours. A simple 11km walk soon turned into 15km after my epic misjudgement.

Ah sigh! Let’s put this one down to 99% of the blame on NSW National Parks and maybe 1% on me, even though we both know that’s beyond fair. I make it back to the ferry by three in the afternoon and hang my head in disappointment, I can’t believe I just did that. I cant even use snapchat, instagram, facebook or chrome to lift my mood (would they anyway?)

The drive to Newcastle was sombre, the clouds roll in and out with a few droplets of rain, no downpour was to come at all. A massive oversight by the weatherman, somewhat like my mid-walk reaction perhaps.

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Seriously though, where are the koala’s?

The lesson here is: Read. Take pictures of maps. Take sufficient supplies. But above all: DON’T PANIC. Oh, and if NSW National Parks could fashion a sign soon, I think that would be helpful too.

Until next week, my final week of gardening leave and I’m going out with a bang: The Six-Foot Track in the Blue Mountains. I have been advised this is both incredible and dull, from separate sources. I will report back in due course.

Trekking Kosciuszko, New South Wales

Trekking Kosciuszko, New South Wales

Greetings from week two of gardening leave. I can’t say I feel entitled enough to deserve this amazing (paid) break, but I sure am grateful for it. It feels oddly unsettling knowing I won’t be working for nine weeks (for five of those I’ll be camino-ing) particularly when it was unexpected. Alas, I digress! This week Moo and I decided to tackle the tallest mountain in Australia, Mt Kosciuszko. After all, it was our three year anniversary and so, why not eh?

With a mere two weeks left before the Charlottes Pass gate is closed for winter, we felt this was an opportune time to go, and hey, maybe we’d luckily get another repeat of the Cradle Mountain Trek and walk in snow again? (hint: that was sarcasm) Not wanting to wait and find out, I check the forecast and it appears we have clear skies. Moo can’t take any time off work as he’s just started a new job (rats!) so we’ll be attempting this feat over a weekend.

We set off Friday afternoon, in the peak of rush hour, we are immediately sandwiched between commuters and lorries. I cuss and curse, I would say every 30 seconds, Moo would retell it was more frequent. It takes us a good two hours to break free from the mecca of Sydney traffic and get on the open road. A pit stop in Goulburn and before we know it (five hours later) we’re in chilly Jindabyne.

Depending on what route you want to hike, you could also stay in Thredbo. I have my eyes set on the Main Range Track and due to sheer proximity, we perch in Jindy.

We rise early on Saturday and apply layer after layer. This fair weather walker is not used to such degrees and as such has brought enough clothing to cover a juvenile netball team for such conditions. Charlottes Pass is a hop, skip and 40kms from Jindabyne. So as Willie Nelson claimed it, we were ‘On the road again..’ Upon pulling up we sneer at a group of young British hikers and aim to leave as soon as physically possible to place ourselves as far as possible from them. Why are they so loud? Why do they never have any Australian friends? Why do they not integrate? I guess the same could be said about Aussies in England, but I’d like to think that’s not true. To our joy, the Main Track is a measly 22.5km loop, which means: no small children! Yippee!

From Charlottes Pass you have two options as to how you’ll reach Kosciuszko, the Summit Track (a return track) or the Main Range Track (a loop). Opting for the latter, we set off down hill and feel minuscule immediately (see feature image). The mountains surrounding us are all consuming and our urban shoes feel a provincial soil underfoot. We reach a stepping stone ‘bridge’, which dares me to test my waterproof shoes, but the frosty, biting wind make me second guess the idea. From there, it’s up, up up! For what feels like an hour or two. We pass Blue Lake, which, if I had my time again, I would absolutely forgo the extra rest and take the additional 2km return walk to see the lake up close.

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The path to Blue Lake

You’ll witness three other peaks along the walk; Carruthers Peak (2,142m), Mt Townsend (2,210) and lastly Mt Stilwell (2051m) however let me state, it’s impossible to get lost along this trail. Once past Blue Lake, prepare to whip out the tissues, my guide book didn’t lie when it states the ‘wind that can make eyes water, noses run and teeth ache’ in that regard, it didn’t disappoint.

Further up you go before hitting a glorious plateau stepping parallel to Carruthers Peak. **Walker listen up, this was the most beautiful section of the entire walk, dare I say it, even better than the summit itself. So, take it in. Find a wind protected rock and perch yourself here for an extended pit stop or lunch break.

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As far as the eye can see…

Approaching the summit, you can hear the crowds congregate, human interaction lingers on the wind and I immediately think: take me back to Muellers Pass! The spiral-like track up to the top is accessible for all, I really wanted it to be more challenging to feel more rewarded up the top. Upon reaching the top, all 2,228m of it, dare I say it, it’s a little underwhelming!

Not wanting to be near other humans for too long, we kicked on to Rawsons Pass. Here is where the Thredbo walkers will meet the Summit Track. We continued on left all the way to Seamans Hut, an adorable shack with firewood, snacks, a billy and a safe haven should you find yourself stuck here in dire conditions. Crossing the Snowy River a final time we meander along the Summit Track all the way back to Charlottes Pass. It’s a rather long and exposed track, quite flat with a scenic backdrop. The old snow-gums here will have you stop and stare quizzically. The autumnal colours of shrub, low bushes and moss carpet guide your way.

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The adorable Seamans Hut

Upon completing the trek, treat yourself to a crispy Kosciuszko Pale Ale and one heck of a feast at Bacco Italian Restaurant, Jindabyne. There’s no website, so you’ll just have to trust me!

Overall, a beautiful day walk, mind the tumult of other walkers. A long way to travel, yet a sight for sore eyes. A grand landscape with little protection. But above all, the closest I’ll get to heaven from the little land down under.

Until next week…

The Coast Track – In one day.

The Coast Track – In one day.

It’s been quite some time since my last post and if you detect a certain laissez-faire approach to my next few posts here’s why: I’ve recently been placed on gardening leave. After resigning from my job I was told to go home for the next four weeks, suspended from work. I have no access to emails and have no scheduled meetings. I’m literally paid to answer the occasional phone call whenever troubleshooting may be required. To an adventurer this is quite literally a golden ticket to cram in as much as possible over the next twenty eight days.

After a very fortuitous catch up with a dear friend from Melbourne, I went home reflecting on just how to spend the next four weeks of my life. And just how to make the most of it. A fellow adventurer herself (we actually summited Annapurna Base Camp together back in 2010) she gifted me something that could not have been more perfectly timed. A book. She gifted me a ‘Top Walks in Australia’ guidebook by Melanie Ball. Happy thirtieth she blurted just as she revealed what was soon to be my inspiration source for the next few weeks, months… years?

As I flipped through the pages under New South Wales and mentally calculated how many walks I could fit in, my phone is instantly put to use with multiple safari tabs open for various train and bus timetables. I didn’t get past page eight until I found something to suck my teeth into. The coast track, in the Royal National Park just south of Sydney would be my first epic day hike. I say epic because it should really be tackled in two days at 28.7kms. But this wayfarer is heading off to trek 800kms in just under five weeks time and is in need of some training. And so, the goal was set. Week one of gardening leave goal: Master the epic day walk!

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Not a bad view for a dip…

Read on for my tips on how to tackle this epic day walk:

What is it? What are you on about?

Starting in Otford and wrapping up in the picturesque town of Bundeena. Admittedly you can walk in either direction, but this way felt more natural for me. Also! Did you know the RNP is the second oldest national park in the whole world? That’s pretty darn jaw dropping if you ask me!

How did you get there?

Not wanting to be stranded with the car 30kms away, I opted for public transport. I caught the direct train from Central to Otford (about one-hour and a half)

What did you take with you?

A heck of a lot of water! About three and a half litres was suffice. I wasn’t looking so I can’t be too sure now, but I don’t think I saw anywhere to refill water bottles. Lunch accompanied fruit and energy bars. I took a rain jacket, first aid kit for sore feet (the real saviour) and headphones (second saviour)

Did you use a map?

The track is very well signposted, so no I wouldn’t recommend you take a map. Full disclosure, I did get lost and headed inland to Garrawarra Farm right at the start which added significantly to my day’s step count. This unfortunately meant I missed out on walking along the coast past South and North Era. I walked on tarmac for a solid hour to get back onto the coast track not wanting to retrace my steps. I popped out onto Garie beach and continued north from there. I’d like to blame NSW parks for re-developing the footpath which was disorientating for me…But let’s be honest, I only have myself to blame. Stick to the coast and you can’t go wrong!

Any POI’s? (Point of interest)

So many! If figure eight pools doesn’t take your fancy, how about the famous Wattamolla rock jump? Ever heard of Wedding Cake Rock? Do you like chasing waterfalls or hopping over sandstone rocks? This walk is absolutely beautiful with so much to see and soak up.

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The infamous figure eight pools, at low tide.

How did you get back home if you started in Otford?

Easy! Take the quaint ferry from Bundeena to Cronulla (thirty minutes) and then the train back to Central from there (one-hour)

Are there toilets along the way?

Yep! Every tree is a lava-tory (that joke may not translate, but is obviously hilarious.) There are bathrooms at Otford, North Era, Garie, Wattamolla and Bundeena.

Sounds good, but also hard! Did you want to quit at all?

Ummm… Absolutely! Like, three times to be exact. I think the hardest part mentally was knowing that once you started and had passed Era beach, there are no other options than walking; no train lines, no buses or coaches. You are literally in the middle of the park with no-way out (unless hitchhiking takes your fancy) without making it to the end, which made it pretty daunting. I first wanted to quit when I’d made the wrong turn at the beginning. After an ugly tarmac walk I finally reached Garie beach having already eaten my lunch and all my snacks, I here realised that I was only a quarter of the way done, ouch. I wanted to quit at Wattamolla, knowing I was only half way done and it was already two in the afternoon. Here is where I saw a helicopter land (delivering infrastructure for the new foot path) where it took all my strength not to ask for a lift. I wanted to quit at Marley beach as the sun was beginning to set and my legs and feet were burning, increasing with every step. My body was starting to feel weary and I was pushing too hard to get to the Bundeena ferry wharf for the 5pm shuttle, not wanting to be stranded for an hour with sore feet, smelly clothes and a hungry stomach.

What got you through?

Music, the jaw dropping coast line and the feeling of achievement (super cheesy, but true.)

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I like big rocks and I cannot lie!

Tips?

Download a podcast or two before arriving (phone signal was patchy), take more food than you think you’ll need and have a back up plan if you can’t continue. It is without question that this would be more enjoyable over two days instead of one. But I felt pretty damn accomplished once I’d made it to the end.

Overall it took me eight hours to complete the 32kms and I can’t imagine ever wanting to walk another step further. I took frequent but short rest stops however I wished I had more time to take a dip at one of the many tempting watering holes. One in particular where I felt compelled to loop back on myself to witness the famous figure eight pools (just near Burning Palms, our feature image) which ultimately added to the length of the day.

Any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

All in all, I guess this gardening leave thing is pretty darn fun after all! Looking forward to what hike I’ll tackle next, and by all means, if you have any suggestions they will be greatly appreciated!