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.

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!

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.

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.

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!

Why I’m voluntarily walking 800km across Spain…

Why I’m voluntarily walking 800km across Spain…

Last year I made the bold decision that 2017 needed something epic. Something big, something new and challenging, something so gigantic it’s going to leave a substantial imprint in my life forever. And so, I decided that this year, I would voluntarily walk 800kms across northern Spain… for fun!

For some of you, this will come as no shock, this epic adventure has actually been done countless times before. In fact millions of people make this commitment annually. It’s just that no-one I know is crazy enough to actually attempt it. This epic adventure also has a name: The Camino de Santiago aka The Way. The Camino is a religious pilgrimage route whereby pilgrim’s from all over the world walk from varying starting points that all lead to the same destination: Santiago de Compostela.

I can hear your questions already! Are you looking to find yourself? But you’re not religious, or are you? Are you seeking a spiritual reawakening? I thought you had to be Catholic to do that. What the hell are you thinking? (that last one I’m sure will come from quite a few of you!)

Legend states that the remains of apostle St James are within a shrine inside the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (field of the stars) and walking all the way to witness this means a lot of stuff to a lot of people and no, you don’t have to be religious to walk it.

Some people walk as penance, some for enlightenment and others like me for the physical and mental challenge. They say that the Camino is a concoction of thirds. The first third is for the body, the second third for the mind and the final third for the soul. I can’t say what I believe in just yet – all I know is Spain is calling and this is something I NEED to do.

So! When am I going? I leave in early June and I’ll have 5 weeks to reach Santiago de Compostela. I can see you doing the math in your head as you read, so let me help you out: that equates to 22km per day, every day.

How did you find out about it? Back in 2013 I spent a month in Spain. I went there with an aim to practice my Spanish, learn about the art of siesta and learn some history along the way. During my time I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona (where the feature image came from, although my friend Jess is the true owner of this one), San Sebastian, Granada, Seville, Tarifa, Cadiz & Madrid.

I didn’t get to meet any pilgrims back in 2013, but I read this book: Sinning Across Spain by Ailsa Piper. It was then that my mind tolerated the idea, but promptly parked it for another day to dream about. Instead of starting down south like Ailsa I’ll begin in San Sebastian, my favourite place in Spain and will walk the Northern route (Camino de Norte) until it tears off and the original way commences (the Primitive Way) which is the oldest route, first taken in the 9th century. In Spain alone there are approximately 9 pilgrimage routes, but anyone who knows me will vouch for my love of the ocean and so walking along the cliff edges of Spain’s most northern coast line was too tempting to pass up.

Follow my journey from Sydney to Santiago over the next few months and please, please leave some tips if you’ve walked the way yourself.

From here, wish me luck!

Trekking the Kokoda Track, PNG

Trekking the Kokoda Track, PNG

8 months of planning, 3 months of training, 1 week of final nerves in disguise of a countdown. Here we go!

Back in 2014, I took on the initiative to rally up a group of 5 other mildly nuts individuals to trek the Kokoda Track in PNG. As an Aussie, it’s sold as a right of passage and having completed it, I can’t argue with that. I’ll aim to detail my experience as best I can without boring you to tears on every detail and bowel movement.

I guess the first thing that goes through your mind on signing up is: What exactly am I in for ? It’s so hard to know what to expect. Will it rain? Will anyone get sick? Are we really ready? But, I guess that’s what makes it all so exciting, the unknown.

After an unnecessary loss of our baggage, which took just long enough for us to realize, if the bags do not arrive today we will not be trekking tomorrow or at all given our tight agenda. It seemed our bags were more inclined to visit Cairns than Papua New Guinea and decided to take a detour, much to our amusement. Not.

Day 1. First up was an early morning flight to Popendetta. A frightened flyers nightmare, the plane holds a mere 30 individuals as we brace for our 45min over rugged terrain. On arrival we jump into the back of a jeep; it has no seat belts, no roof or walls, no seat at all really.  I prefer it tenfold to the toy plane we just disembarked from. We head to a supermarket to pick up supplies, then on to meet the rest of our crew. Stan will be our head guide, Rocky is our Australian organiser and my porters name is Gillip. He looks the most cheeky, so I feel it’s a good fit.

For those considering taking a porter, here’s my advice: Your day bag shouldn’t really exceed 7kgs if you weigh anywhere from 50-70kgs. So if you do a practice go at packing your bag, including your tent, sleeping bag, clothes and accessories and it’s well over 7kgs – get a porter. I promise you it will be more enjoyable and your knee joints will thank you later.

A quick stop off at the war museum, realizing everything that was 1942 and we’re off, we’re really trekking the Kokoda Track! We walk through the infamous archway (feature image) to commence.The trail this afternoon is heavily exposed to the sunlight and is mostly flat, we only encounter one steep section before finding our camp for the night. Tonight we stay in Daniki. The taste of choko vine coming back to me as I write this. Word of the day: Chicken Highway Biscuits

Day 2. The trekking today is pretty casual. Not too hard just yet, so try not to get into a false sense of security like we did.  We learn about ‘flat rock’, where Australian soldiers were operated on as they were wounded. It’s literally a flat rock in the middle of the jungle. I shudder at the thought. We reached camp quite early today to have a fully clothed ‘shower’ under a running drain pipe where I’ve never felt so clean. Mind you, the odour coming from my feet tell a different story. I think I actually went to bed at 7pm tonight, both being a sore loser and an inept camper in general became the better of me. Tonight we stay in Alola. Word of the day: Luscious

Day 3. The early morning rain makes it hard to fulfill our morning routine. Instead we pack everything ready to go before breakfast. On the first morning it would take me at least 5 minutes to roll my inflatable sleeping mat, now on Day 3, it barely takes me 4. Getting there. The trail today has by far been the hardest, today is supposed to be the 4th hardest day, whatever that means but we make the most of it with short and frequent breaks.

Arriving into camp the rain is bucketing down and it’s actually quite cold for once which makes everything harder. Today I realize my porters name is actually ‘Calleb’ and I feel like an absolute monster. To shower this afternoon we must take to the very heavy stream near the campsite, my guess it was barely 5 degrees, freezing! There were a LOT of screams, and that was just from our guide Rocky! Tonight we stay in Templeton’s Two. Word of the day: (Hiking)Poles

Day 4. Today was the third hardest day. The rain has stopped and we’re in good spirits. I’m glad I trained as hard as I did after today’s challenging peaks. Especially seeing as we start the trail with a heart pumping ascent to wake the legs. Each day feels like we’re walking just a little bit longer and today has definitely been the longest. The sun was beating down on us today, which made for some weary hikers. The afternoon decent was the biggest we’ve tackled to date so with each step comes an abundance of concentration. Today’s the day I’m glad I brought walking poles to stabilise my every step. By the end of the day we’ve conquered 2 big upward hills and 2 big downward hills. Mentally, this was a toughie and certainly made us tired as ever coming into camp. We’re welcomed warmly by the locals as they sing and lay flower necklaces over our weary heads. It is the best feeling knowing tomorrow is our rest day and we stay up late playing cards to celebrate our efforts. Tonight we stay in Efogi. Word of the day: Dehydration

Day 5. Rest Day. Half way. There were two reasons we had a rest day. One: because our guide Rocky had a special relationship with the villagers in Efogi and wanted us to get a more cultural experience, besides, who wants to rush through without meeting an actual Papua New Guinean? Two:SOS Unleashed sponsored me and they gave our team an abundance of sporting equipment to donate to kids along the trail at our own discretion. We’d given out plenty of gear before arriving into Efogi, but we knew we wanted to hand out the majority of goods to the local school.  Today was such a treat, I even dry-shampooed my hair for the occasion! The more time we spend along this track, the more trivial my life seems back home. Weight loss regimes, the latest clothing, cosmetics, other peoples ego and pressures to get Botox – believe, me I almost got suckered into that one. (By the way, I’m not judging, it’s just that I was 27 years old at the time and it seems absurd to look back on.)

We walk to Efogi 2 to visit the local school and hope to play some sports games with the local kids. Before we do, we’re split into different class rooms to either teach English, share stories about what it’s like in Australia, quiz their math skills or ask about their favourite sport. Try explaining what surfing is to children who have never seen the ocean. It’s hard.

The only bummer about the rest day: my body was able to rest. AKA realize how much pain it was in and I feel my calves for the first time in 5 days and they are aching to bits. The villagers teach us how to cut grass with a machete, I took four swings and found it exhausting, passing it back to the 60 year old woman as my cheeks blush with embarrassment. As the rain came in my porter Calleb dug a moat around the outskirts of my tent to stop it flooding. Heart throb or what? Before dinner we mosey over to Stan’s house to observe his wife preparing a ‘Mumu’ kind of like a Hungi with hot rocks, banana leaves and a whole lot more hot rocks. It feels special to be apart of, even if all we’re doing is watching. Word of the day: Community

Day 6. Today on our way through Efogi 2 we actually got to meet the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, a 90 year old legend who was responsible for telecommunications back in the day. I had tears in my eyes and I can’t really tell you why just yet but it was moving. Today the conditions were a very steep and slippery descent. Our porters need to walk behind us the whole day and grab onto our backpacks to hoist us back to vertical each time we slip (did I mention most of the porters are in sandals?) It started raining at lunchtime and didn’t really stop until we arrived at camp. The river water is so dirty on arrival we forego a bath, that multiplied by the handful of topless, middle aged balding Australian men was enough to turn us off completely. Once again, baby wipes come to the rescue. We did see Brigade Hill today with many Australian grave posts which made the day all the more moving and exhausting. Tonight we stay in Agolugu. Word of the day: (Fuzzy Wuzzy) Angel

Day 7. Today’s the day we’ve been talking about all trek: The day of 9 false peaks. Says it all really, my calves still wince at the thought of it. We pass a lot of other trekkers early on to learn they are eating entirely tinned food and walk from dawn to dusk to try and complete the track in 7 days, it sounds horrible to me. Our experience has been the complete opposite. We’ve had homegrown sweet potatoes, choko vine, fresh bananas and pineapples; it’s almost been gourmet! The day is tough but thankfully we get the bulk of the hard work complete before lunchtime. Our camp tonight was one of my favourites, on arrival we immediately head to the clear river (clear of balding Australian men I mean) and wash away our cares in the clean aqua. We have dinner around the camp fire and can’t believe it’s almost coming to an end already. Tonight we stay in Offi Creek. Word of the day: Spa (river swim)

Day 8. The last big, full day and I can say with confidence that today’s morning hill was the toughest ascent yet. It’s hot, humid, sunny and steep! And like any good uphill there is an equally decent downhill, which we endured very, very slowly avoiding slipping as best we could. We pass a group who have just started out, heading in the opposite direction to us. To have to ascend that mud pile we basically just skid down I have one feeling only: smug. Calleb treks today without shoes and my concept of complaining goes out the window. Tonight for the first time since we’ve been on the track, I sleep wonderfully the whole night through and don’t wake until morning. Tonight we stay in Good Water. Word of the day: Ascent

Day 9. We did it! It’s our last morning and we all stink more than words can say. I proudly roll my sleeping mat up in under 2 minutes and imagine how fast I would be if I was on the track for another 10 days? The final stretch uphill to Ower’s Corner feels longer than it should be. After another downhill we find a healthy flowing river, the only way to get over it: Through it. Just as I feel the river soak my underpants I regret not asking for a piggyback. The final uphill comes next and I feel like my legs and mind have already decided that it’s all done so they’re a little slow to kick into gear. We pass a handful of villagers who congratulate us as we take our final steps on the Kokoda Track. Passing through the archways was a tremendous feeling. We feel sheer relief and an overwhelming feeling of achievement. Lots of hugging and high fives before we jump into the back of a truck (which feels incredibly foreign despite being remote for just 8 days.) We head to the Bomana War Cemetery before being taken back to our hotel in Port Moresby. The shower I took on return was actually mind blowing. I used a face washer cloth to wipe down my upper body and it’s completely brown in minutes. The beer that followed was just as satisfying. The lady behind the bar recommends ‘Nuigini Ice’ as it’s ‘Just as good, without the hangover.’

We have dinner with the crew and I give Calleb my hiking boots as a thank you gift. I hardly thought I’d be hiking again (wasn’t I wrong about that!) and he would probably get better use out of them rather than sit in my cupboard.

My pillow feels like a marshmallow and the covers feel like sheets of silk.  Word of the day: Victory!

My favourite quote on the trek: “The only time you can be brave is when you’re scared.” Alex, our team member.

There you have it! A (not so) short tale of my experience trekking the Kokoda Track, has anyone else done it? Any questions? Leave a comment and keep on trekking 🙂

How my (self-imposed) 30 day yoga challenge changed my life.

How my (self-imposed) 30 day yoga challenge changed my life.

The rules were simple, complete 30 yoga classes in 30 days. If you miss a day you’ve got to make it up somewhere else.  All classes were attended at Body Mind Life Bondi (and no they didn’t sponsor me…I’m not nearly cool enough for that.)

I don’t know about you but I was/am/still am seriously over winter! I can’t go surfing as much as I like, I can’t train outdoors and I’m not even close to pretending like I was motivated to sweat it out with the rest of them in group exercise classes (errm a personal trainer, am I allowed to say that?) Instead I took another route, I’d let myself off the hook by completing a 30 day yoga challenge over the cooler months.

I did a range of classes over the 30 days from beginners to advanced and yin (which is pretty much holding a pose for an inexplicable amount of time) basically as someone who is pretty time poor it generally came down to which ever class I could fit in.

At first the most challenging thing about it was that I had to try and find an hour each day out of my hectic schedule. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to section out 1 flippin’ hour each day. This had to change. And here’s how it went down…

Something I hadn’t even realized first up was that I breathe way too fast all the time. The only time my breath is slow and controlled is when I’m sleeping…and unconscious so it doesn’t really count. It’s not something I thought was a big deal until I learnt how to slow down and control my breath.  Not only did it instantly calm me down but I found my thoughts suddenly became less important and my body became the forefront of my attention. Suddenly my quality of breath was deep and long and my thoughts were becoming shallow and weak.

“Yeah but did your body change?” was the biggest question on everyone’s lips over the course of the 30 days and I’ll be completely honest, my body didn’t change one iota. “Yeah, but surely you’re more flexible” was the second question and yes I’d say my flexibility was certainly up there with the Jane Fondas and Taylor Swifts of the world. But it wasn’t the most moving of results what was rather was that my mind had shifted and that’s a pretty powerful thing for a girl who’s stubborn and think’s she knows it all.

Something I always looked forward to was the savasana at the end (basically a fancy word for a nap) but to the yogi’s I quickly learned was the time where my body could relax from all of the physical exertions from the various twisty, inverted, contracting stretches. My body would scan itself for any remaining muscular tension and then would release it to promote deeper relaxation. Here I was thinking I was solving 1st world problems by abolishing Big Brother, where my body was doing something much cooler.
What was most impressive was my strength and endurance. Suddenly I’m able to hold advanced poses for longer, I’m able to attempt new binds (bendy, twisty holds) and I can officially say now that downward facing dog does actually feel like a rest than a chore because my strength has built to hold me up. And because I felt stronger, I felt more empowered , motivated and inspired to try new things not just on the mat but in my real life too.

5 things that changed my life

  • Sleeping better

Never, not once, did I not have a seamless sleep whilst on the challenge; I’d often take some magnesium each night before bed which worked a treat.

  • Stress levels,

Basically yoga lowers cortisol levels,  normally the adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to any type of crisis (i.e.: not updating a food pic on Instagram) which temporarily boosts immunity, but not for long periods of time so if we’re not actively trying to lower those levels daily you’re constantly putting your immunity at risk. I’d have to say I really noticed this one the most, I felt less stressed almost instantly, or rather knew how to handle the stress instead of it handling me.

  • Joint pain

Every other week I was zipping off to the Chiropractor to get snapped back into place and lengthened out. Needless to say, I haven’t seen him for months now. My joints are happier; moving well and there’s no longer any niggling pain in my lower back and hips from wringing out in twists and back bends.

  • Boost in erhm… sexual performance

I debated whether including this one…but here goes. Basically yoga increases blood flow into the genital area, which is important for arousal and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. Mentally, the breathing and mind control involved with the practice can also help improve performance. Whether my boyfriend noticed or not… I definitely did!

  • Flexibility/mobility

Essentially yoga works to lengthen your muscles, so you can say goodbye to feeling any tightness or stiffness. When you’re stronger and more flexible your posture improves and so does your mobility, pretty powerful stuff.

So there you have it, a life changing 30 days and it all happened over winter, who knew! A big shout out to the team at Body Mind Life Bondi, thanks heaps!

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