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!

My (updated) Camino Packing List.

My (updated) Camino Packing List.

In my previous post I mentioned I’m voluntarily walking 800kms across Spain and as the two month before departure date looms, I’m feeling more and more pressure to secure my camino packing list for both piece of mind and practice trek purposes.

After reading an abundance of books, blog and forum posts I’ve come to the conclusion that pack weight is the most important thing to first time and repeat pilgrims alike. Making sure the pack size and weight are within 10% of one’s body weight is much harder than it sounds and as such I’ve created my version of ‘camino essentials’. I guess reading it in print will make for a more practical procedure of culling anything without purpose. So here goes, and by all means feel free to make comments as I head into the unknown.

Clothing:
1 x Shorts
1 x Long Pants
2 x T-Shirt
1 x Long Sleeve Shirt
1 x Fleece
2 x Underwear
3 x Socks
2 x Bras
1 x Bathing Suit
1 x Dress
1 x Hat
1 x Poncho
1 x Rain Jacket & Pants
1 x Teva Sandles
1 x Merrell Boots
1 x Sarong
1 x Towel

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My Trusty Teva’s

Sleeping:
1 x Sleeping Bag Liner
1 x Sleeping Sheet
1 x Ear Plugs

Toiletries:
1 x Toothbrush & Paste
1 x Multi-Use Soap (for clothes, body & hair)
1 x Hair Brush
1 x Deodorant
1 x Nail clippers
1 x Moisturiser
2 x Essential Oils (Peppermint & Rosemary)
1 x Lip Balm
1 x Packet of Tissues
1 x Hand Sanitizer

First Aid Kit:
1 x Compeed Plasters
1 x Panadol
1 x Anti-Inflammatory
1 x Anti-Histamine
1 x Sewing Kit (for Blisters)
4 x Safety Pins

Electronics
1 x iPhone & Charger
1 x Headphones

Misc:
1 x Cotton Bag (for walking around town)
2 x Water Bottles
2 x Spork/Knife
2 x Walking Pole
1 x Zip Lock Bag
1 x Sunglasses
Passport
Credit Card/s
Pilgrim Credential
Travel Insurance

I’m yet to actually weigh the above, both because I’m frightened to realise it’s actual weight and also because I don’t own scales. I’m sure there could be some opportunities to drop off a few things from the list but I’m nervous as to what it might mean to do so.


{Segue alert} As a side note, if you’re curious to learn where the feature image is from this week, it’s a photo I took at the MONA museum in Hobart, Tasmania. The artist Wilfredo Prieto created an entire room filled with 6,000 empty, white covered books. I kind of love it, there’s so much information fed to us daily, but it’s all completely empty. Except for this blog of course…

Oh! and speaking of books {another brilliant segue} if by any means this post has inspired you to learn more about the camino, below is a list of all the books I’ve read on the Camino de Santiago thus far:

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho ~ Some thing for everyone

Walking Home by Sonia Choquette ~ A daily recount rather than an actual story

The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit by Shirley Maclaine ~ My least favourite on the list

I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling ~ I’d like to watch the feature film, it could be better than this book

What the Psychic Told The Pilgrim by Jane Christmas ~ The most humorous on the list

My Husband Made Me Do It by Margaret Wilson ~ A close runner up to the most humorous

Sinning Across Spain by Ailsa Piper ~ My favourite on the list

A Million Steps by Kurt Zoontz ~ Just okay

On the Primitive Way by Landon Roussel ~ A reprieve from only reading about the Camino Frances

The Journey In Between by Keith Foskett ~ Just okay

Travels With My Donkey: One Man and His Ass On A Pilgrimage To Santiago by Tim Moore ~ Not my style and didn’t finish it

The Year We Seized The Day by Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles ~ Currently reading (plenty of chuckles)

By all means, please comment of how you think I’m doing so far with the packing list and wish me luck in my final weeks in preparation for five weeks of the unknown…

Top 5 short walks in the Tarkine, Tasmania

Top 5 short walks in the Tarkine, Tasmania

To me the rugged coastline, rainforest and arid planes were the essence of the Tarkine, Tasmania. Huon pine, button grass, thick seaweed upon lapping shores, myrtle and sassafras define the smells and sounds.

And yet, no one has really ever heard of this beautiful place in the small state of Tasmania. It’s true, Tassie is on the map, so to speak. But when I’d previously heard about Tasmania, I’d have thought of vineyards, seafood and isolated beaches on the eastern coastline. When in fact, the west truly has just as much to offer, they’re just not getting the same tourism dollar. Well, not yet anyway. Enter, you. I’m hear to tell you, there is an abundance of things to do on the west and north regions to satisfy every traveller – and you don’t just have to be an overland trekker to know that. Nature lover’s combine, this is the place for you! Alas, this blog isn’t about to start a crusade for Tasmania to open more café’s on the west coast. I’d like to share with you some day treks I recently checked out, all in the name of ‘bleasure’ (combine business and pleasure and… you got it!)

Read on for my top five short walks within the region well known to locals as the Tarkine.

Mt Donaldson (near Corrina)

This was probably the most challenging of the five, so I’ll start here. Starting by the Savage River the walk begins in a tall forest. The fallen leaves carpet the path as the branches allow for only a few beams of sunlight to dart through. Within an hour you’ve left the forest long behind and you’re making the ascent along the surface of the mountain. You are mostly exposed to the elements from here on in, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The narrow gravel path winds and loops along the face of the mountain and a wide-open, button grass plateau is largely what’s on offer. The view gets more and more breathtaking as you keep on and slowly the Pieman and Whyte rivers come into view (see below). Anyone craving connection will be very happy upon summiting this mountain as even Vodaphone had reception on the top (a great feat mind.) The walk should take you anywhere from four – five hours with a decent break on the top. This walk wasn’t too challenging and fine for anyone who is capable of walking that long. The walk wasn’t too steep, however trekking poles are always a great idea to alleviate pressure on the joints.

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Montezuma Falls (near Tullah)

How on earth could one visit Tasmania and not see Tassie’s tallest waterfall? It had to be done. Full disclosure – it’s not that impressive, it’s one hundred and four meters tall and I’ve honestly seen better, but it IS a lovely walk and the waterfall is a nice prize for making it to the end. The return walk should take you roughly three hours return depending on how many selfie’s you want to take at the bottom of the falls or how dare devilish you feel on the (narrow) suspension bridge. What makes this walk so interesting is that the track follows the historic route of the former North East Dundas Tramway right to the base of Montezuma Falls. The walk is choc-a-block full of moss-covered heath with a scenic rainforest backdrop.

Pieman Heads, South Coastal Tarkine (near Corrina)

This walk will be liked by all, firstly because it involves a one and half hour river cruise down the Pieman river. It’s not only relaxed and tranquil, it’s educational and scenic (I mean, have you seen the feature image??) Your MV Arcadia captain will be able to point out the difference between a male and female Huon pine, multiple birds and points of interest along the way. Once you arrive at the river mouth, you’re spat out and left to your own devices (with a guide of course) which was a spectacular experience knowing and feeling just how remote one can actually feel after living in a major city for 10 years. The rugged, jigsaw like and almost daunting coastline stretch for as far as the eye can see (especially if you’re comfortable scrambling to the top of a few rocks.) You really can walk as little or as far as you like, with your guides assistance through the terrain. Expect pebbles, uneven surfaces and a generally pleasurable walk. The most fascinating insight on this walk was stumbling upon Aboriginal midden sites. Shell midden sites are where Aboriginal people have left debris after finishing their meal. Substantial deposits have grown over time as generations have used the same area time and time again. Some middens are apparently meters deep. Wow!

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Arthur River Coastal Tarkine (near Smithton)

Another coastal walk, you wane. Yes! Of course! Take a walk (or two) from Arthur river to Couta Rocks. The best surprise I found on this trip was arriving to find a plaque with “End of the World” inscribed, with the following poem below:

The Edge of the World

North West Coast Tasmania

“I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity.

To be washed by the Ocean of Time.

It has shape, form and substance.

It is me.

One day I will be no more.

But my pebble will remain here.

On the shore of Eternity.

Mute witness for the aeons.

That today I came and stood.

At the edge of the world.”

Brian Inder

Which, I may just be in love with every single time I read it, over and over again. The coastal walk today is again, as close or as far as you please without a guide required. We walked to Couta Rocks and stopped for a lunch break and swim in between. The crystal clear waters were enough to tempt me, although to be honest, it doesn’t take much these days. We would have walked around seven kilometres in total as we shuttled along the coast. To any ocean lover, this place was an absolute haven.

 

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Trowutta Arch (near Edith Creek)

How short is too short to mention a short walk in this blog? You’re about to find out. Fifteen minutes is all it takes to reach Trowutta Arch and oh my, how worth it to make the effort to see what’s on the other side of this one. The ‘Arch’ in Trowutta Arch is a natural occurrence created by the collapse of a cave and the creation of two sinkholes either side of it – one dry and one water-filled. The walk through here felt like where pixies might migrate to for the summer, or where Alice from Wonderland might frolic. It was simply magical.

So there you have it, it might sound too whimsical, maybe not intense enough or maybe a little boring in text. But seriously I must persuade you, this is a special little place on this earth and I have for certain, left a little piece of my heart on the coast, at the edge of the world, in Tasmania.

Motorcycling 2,000kms through India: A Story of Love.

Motorcycling 2,000kms through India: A Story of Love.

You may wonder why anyone would want to motorcycle over 2000kms across India, let alone a five-foot tall woman. Back in 2010, I wondered the same thing. I mean, I didn’t particularly like motorbikes; I never owned one, I’d only really rode one a few times before and I certainly didn’t have any grand plans to make this two wheeled heap of junk a partner in my daily commute. But it did happen and this story starts like any other travel story: the search for love.

I’d studied yoga for many years and more strongly in the leading months before my departure. I knew that I wanted to dig deeper into the untapped world of Ashtanga and thought this opportunity would give me access to knowledge and wisdom from elder gurus. It all seemed so enchanting and exotic. You must remember I was a country girl from NSW, living in Melbourne and this country India sounded so far away and so removed from anything I’d ever known – it had to hold the secrets to my burning questions. Questions like: What even is love? How do I find it? Where and who cultivates it and what on earth am I doing wrong that I can’t find it.

So in June, 2010 I embark on a journey to India to seek the answers to my questions and to have as they say an adventure of a lifetime. I mean I was 23 years old how could it not be?

Not to drag myself down in too much detail, I didn’t do quite as much research as I possibly could have. For starters, India in June is the height of summer and just maybe the ashrams wouldn’t be open at this time of year (they weren’t) and maybe it was just a little too hot to be down south in Pune (it was).

On arrival I did what any sane person would do, I flocked from Delhi, flocked from Agra and Rajasthan and kept on flocking until the temperature was bearable enough to sit on a chair without sweating helplessly. I landed in Manali, a small town located in Himachal Pradesh where I stayed put.

You may be wondering where the motorcycle part in this story fits in, I am getting there believe me. I stayed in Manali for a month and enjoyed nature at it’s most daring; it was overgrown, luscious and the towering peaks of the Himalayas would watch our every move. It was magnificent. But there was an itch that wouldn’t resolve with a simple scratch. The itch became larger and larger and before I knew it, I’d met an Australian boy in the mountains who was crazy enough to join me in the motorcycle ride from Manali in the north all the way down to Kerala in the south. As it turned out, he was also from a small town in NSW, and he also had some pretty big questions he was hoping to have answered by India. We purchased our own motorbikes in Chandigah and started out almost immediately. I still can’t believe I was the owner of a 2000 Yamaha 135CC RX motorbike for just $350 and unfortunately I still haven’t successfully learned what that all means. My list of necessities for a bike back then constituted: Was it a nice colour and did it have a horn?

I couldn’t tell you what drove me to want to take on the challenge, and I certainly can’t tell you about any emotional affair I have with motorcycles either. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ridden on one since.

We rode to Delhi before deciding our next steps: the idea was to get to Kerala within two months and yes we would need the Indian train system to help us get there on time. Our bikes were packed and loaded onto an overnight train to Mumbai before our real adventure began and by that I mean, the problems and joys that later evolved. Our first 100km day (which should technically only take an hour, but took us six) involved millions of beady eyes watching as I, yes a women, navigated her way through town after town. How I revealed my shoulders after my sarong had slipped the twelfth and final time before I gave up on it. How every time I rode past a small child in these tiny provinces one would drop their jaw and mouth the word WOW!

Eventually the problems we had with the bikes took their toll on us emotionally, mentally and physically. We drove past freight trucks, tuk tuks, motorbikes and cars daily; people would take photos of us and laugh at us. I had issues with my clutch, my headlamp and we both encountered frequent tire punctures. Every time we’d fix one thing, another would hopelessly fall apart. We experienced sore tummies, vicious mosquito bites and a few fevers here and there. There was dust up my nose, under my nails and in my pores in a mere moment on the road.

But it wasn’t all bad, and just as quickly as I felt defeated, I quickly felt on top of the world. I overheard a man say “a girl riding a gear bike, cool” I felt like the talk of the town. The assistance from strangers we received and the countless chai tea’s they would offer us was poignant. A world of extremes, in a place of chaos, there was always someone to help us, using their phone to call for assistance, giving directions or maybe just an education on culture. How every time my clutch would fail my companion would shout: “you’ve got this, just skip to second gear” whatever that meant.

But just as I was enjoying myself I’d feel low again. How women on the streets, in hotels and sometimes in restaurants would shake their head at me hoping I was at least married. How every time I would ask someone a question, they would provide an answer to my companion instead of me.

I guess this stirred something bigger in me than I ever could have anticipated. I was educated, I had a degree (my companion didn’t), I had a job (my companion didn’t) I could drive and speak eloquently when spoken to by an adult. Why could I not be spoken to? ‘Don’t worry about it’ my companion would say, just ignore them. I guess another question about love I should have asked was whether you could hate someone and love them at the exact same time?

I guess this was one of the reasons I wanted to give up on the adventure. I was tired, my bike kept failing, too many eyes would watch me and try to take my photograph.

I had to draw from the only life experiences I knew: I had to finish this. For me and for all women alike. All I knew from my past life experiences was to at least try. Whether it was completing an essay at University, or running a race at gym or maybe just having the last word. I had to do it. I had to keep going.

My goal was to be lying on a beach in Kerala with a week to spare cocktail in hand, that I would feel enlightenment at the end from enduring such an emotional thunderstorm.

But mostly I guess I wanted to learn more about love, and by doing that I did fall in love. I fell in love with India; it’s crazy and confronting conditions. It’s power cuts, rock infused and graveled roads and many, many potholes. But also it’s beauty, it’s traditions and it’s ever-curious residents. This was the real gift because I learned that opposites are just as important in travel than they are in life and in love. You must have the good and the bad: the hot and the cold, the poor and the rich, the generous and the selfish. All of the contrasts are what makes it so beautiful, so enriching and so thrilling.

There is a lot of love here I mean have you ever heard about the Taj Mahal and it’s purpose? I loved it all, the comfort of a friendly smile from another woman, a hug or a wave. I came here to learn about love and for a spiritual enlightenment. Instead I’m enlightened by a contrast of Punjabi, Tibetan, Nepalese, Kashmiri and south Indian people, each with their unique set of cultural regimes, and opinions. I came to learn about yoga moves. Instead I learned about compassion, patience, to be open-minded and to let go and to be proud to be a woman. I got to see the real India, the cruel, rude, staring, loving, smiling and waving India. My love for these people, this country and myself and everything that comes with that has changed me.

We travelled from Mumbai to Goa, onto Karnataka and Kerala and eventually found Fort Cochin. This was our final place with just a few days to spare before flying out. I didn’t get to lie on the beach for a week, but I did lie by a pool for a day and that was enough. I did go to an ashram, just not for yoga. I learned about meditation and what a hug could mean for some people.

And at the end of the day, if there is one little girl, one tiny little woman in India or maybe, just maybe here in Australia who felt inspired by me taking on the adventure as a woman, then I’d done a pretty damn good job.

Happy International Women’s Day!