All posts tagged: hiking

Fires, hiking, a horse, being a snail’s wife, chanting monks & more fires: farewell 2019

Hello again everyone, and Happy New Year! It’s been 2 months since I’ve written anything: a very busy, stressful, exciting, and terrible time. I’m dragging myself out into January, as is all of Australia. You’ve seen the tragic footage of fires. We’ve lost millions of hectares of bush and forest, not to mention maybe a billion animals, plus bugs, birds, butterflies and of course bees. Unprecedented calamity. Yet predicted back in 2007, if the government didn’t address climate change challenges… And a dangerously useless Prime Minister now, who has to go. But you can easily research all that, because I’m exhausted/furious by the political spin and denial, while regular people lose their entire homes (& sometimes lives). It’s overwhelming. Yet I am safe, and so are most of my friends, although those in Melbourne are wearing masks both inside and out of the house because their smoke pollution is currently the worst in the world. *sighs                  [But not too deeply] To be more positive, here’s a quick review …

Final Part Three of my short story ‘Earth’

Weekend reading? Part One and Part Two just a click away (500 words each). And here’s the third and final, based in Kakadu after my recent incredible off-track bush adventure: Their palms scraped skin across branches and boulders as they launched into the dark ravine. Down, down, down they slithered, heaving their bags ahead of them, legs protesting at the speed and brutality of the descent. A spiky pandanus drew blood across Kelly’s cheek, and Sam’s ankle twisted hard in the scrabbling, but at last they burst through the scrub to touch the smooth rock edges of the river again. Kelly’s whole body trembled as she stripped naked and jumped into the creek, gulping mouthfuls of water as she cooled down and almost cried with relief. ‘This is better than any Christmas ever, even as a kid,’ she yelled. Sam paused, then went on ahead to check the way forward, barely stopping to refill her bottle and guzzle. She returned with heavy steps. ‘I don’t wanna say this, but there’s another overhang coming up, so we …

Here’s Part Two of shortlisted story ‘Earth’

But did you miss Part One?? Don’t do that! It’s HERE Part Two: … Then Sam stopped, hands on hips, and squinted into the distance. ‘Shit, I don’t think we can get through along here after all. Let me look at the map and compass again.’ She frowned at the contour lines on the creased page, telling her a story of steep cliffs and gullies, without revealing the safest route. ‘Sorry honey, but the only way we’ll get past that massive overhang is to tackle the stone country along the top of the ridge. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle up there, which you can never solve. Brace yourself.’ Kelly clenched her jaw for a second. ‘I never knew off-track walking was quite this tough,’ she admitted. ‘Especially for old ladies like us.’ Sam smiled at the familiar joke, but her forehead worried, as they tightened waist straps and headed away from the water without looking back. Within thirty minutes, thighs screamed with lactic acid as they scrambled over boulders and fallen tree branches, …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? I needed a snorkel (Part 3)

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE & PART 2 HERE With over 20,000 square kilometres of bush in Kakadu National Park, we chose to stay as close as possible to waterways; the thrill of simply filling my bottle from the fresh creek did not wane. When we did have to ascend to the escarpment to get past an overhang, I noticed how instantly relieved I was when we came back to the river’s edge. Imagine those first white explorers, setting out from Sydney to see what they could find… the bush both delights and terrifies me, and water is an essential comfort. As you can see, the views were stunning, and these are all unedited, with no filters, just snapped on my smartphone. But I haven’t told you about the Big River Crossing Fiasco have I? *sighs So ‘off-track walking’ means there’s no path; you have to meander/explore/experiment to get ahead. Luckily my companion had lots of energy and enthusiasm for both map-reading and ‘I’ll-just-leave-my-pack-here-and-see-if-we-can-get-through’ reconnaissance missions. You can see it’s not an …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Don’t forget your key (Part 2)

Where am I/what am I doing? PART 1 HERE For 10 seconds, I ran the newspaper headline through my mind: “53-yr old woman succumbs to heat exhaustion while bashing through the untamed Australian wilderness, within 100 metres of fresh water & a clearly-marked track.” No. That is absolutely NOT going to happen. But shit: my water bottle IS empty; this backpack IS damn heavy; it IS over 30 degrees C (86F); & we are definitely NOT going the right way. ‘What are you doing G’ ask the readers of bone&silver again? Well PART 1 is here again. When I was offered the chance for this adventure, I jumped. Kakadu National Park is vast, and some locations even require a permit and key to a locked gate, as the Management team control the balance between tourism and protecting the diverse ecology and wildlife population. But guess what? We had both permit and key. So with 4WD vehicle hired, 12 meals faithfully dehydrated (incl a gourmet vegetarian gluten-free pasta dinner), and backpacks crammed (but with restraint this …

Bushwalking off-track in Kakadu? Pack a spare set of legs (Part 1)

I’m pretty fit, fabulous & fierce for Almost-53, though I say it myself. And last year I trekked in Nepal for a couple of weeks, so I certainly enjoy a challenge… But my most recent adventure was HARDER, even a little scary to be honest, and I didn’t even have to leave Australia. I did fly to Darwin though, up in the Northern Territory, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, with an experienced bushwalking companion. Where was I going? I was going ‘offtrack’. From the red dirt to the fire-blackened eucalypt trees via fertile billabongs and wetlands, Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres, and is World Heritage listed. It’s full of incredible wildlife and plant diversity, plus crocodiles. Like, truly wild, roaming-around-the waterways-doing-their-own-thing crocodiles. These signs are everywhere; it’s an Australian cliché that all our native animals and reptiles are trying to kill us… but sometimes, it’s kinda true! I emigrated to Australia when I was 20; the concept of crocodiles is somewhat foreign to me. But at literally every single creek …

When telling a lie is the best option, to clamber ancient rocks in Wales

“Come and stay in the holiday cottage with us; take a break from your Mum,” says my Aunty over the phone. I don’t need to be invited twice. Any excuse to hop on a train cross country- my favourite way to travel. My Aunt and her partner live in North Wales, but a family gathering is happening in South Wales, and it’s the perfect time to catch up with my cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, as they celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They’re staying near where Mum and her 3 siblings grew up, around Gowerton. I’ve never been there before: I’ll get to see the house they grew up in, the school they went to, and most importantly, the bays and beaches over which they gazed as they matured, following their dreams. But I’ll have to ignore the stab of guilt at not taking Mum with me. I know full well that she actually needs the stability of her routines in a familiar place, rather than the stress of travel and an unknown …

The final pictures painted by Tasmania herself

Good morning Day 3. Let’s hike 19kms, but only carry our heavy packs for the last 2 hours, as we head out along Cape Pillar, then back. It’s a deal. Let’s look at the grand, and the tiny. Deal. Along the way, we pass ‘story seats’; beautifully-designed places to stop and share a Nature + Art experience, with accompanying notes in the award-winning guide book (I designated myself the Narrator, and am forcing myself to not tell you a hundred fascinating facts about some of these views). We went through a variety of landscapes, saw three black snakes (all venomous yes: either Tigers or Copperheads), and relished the lightness of our daypacks. Then we saw a wombat! It was SO big, and we got so close; it just squatted there yawning and looking sideways at us; it reminded me of ’17’, when he’s come home very late from a party, and just wants to be left alone, but could also maybe handle a snuggle and watching a film in bed, eating a late brekky before …

Let these pictures paint a thousand words

Tasmania, I love you. And so do my three friends. You are wild, fresh, magnificent, and pretty much pristine. Your vistas are incredible, but oh boy do your boardwalks and ascents make big demands on calf muscles and over 50 bodies. Your lunch views suck, but we dealt with it. Our 15kg packs felt heavier and heavier as the day progressed, yet your beauty compelled us on. Plus there was nowhere else to go but forward anyway, so I tried to focus on the big picture, and small details too, like moss, or wombat poo (they only do it every 16 days, and it’s kinda cubed). Then we saw you, rising out of the bush like an oasis: Hut Two. We’d made the 11kms of Day Two of the Three Capes Track! Another day, another architecturally designed complex, including a viewing platform with telescope (but still no fridges or hot showers). There was a cold shower, but I’d rather stay grubby (or use a quick body wipe). The sunset skies were stunning. And good news: …

How to sleep (or not sleep) with a man in a cabin in the Tasmanian wilderness

So we took nearly 2 hours to walk 4.5kms on the first day of the Three Capes Track because we kept stopping to pee and/or take photos. Finally we arrived though, and here’s G49 (the birthday girl) perfecting her “Please-stop-taking-more-photos-for-your-blog” pose. The ‘huts’ were fantastic: built less than 2 years ago, all timber and colorbond (very typical Australian architecture), with stunning views, and well-equipped stainless steel kitchens (no fridges, plus you must bring all your own meals, and take out all your rubbish). Yoga mats and a foam roller were also provided, plus a pile of boardgames and packs of cards. But the best thing of course, was walking around without your pack!  We were welcomed and briefed by the ranger, who gave us a history of the site, the latest weather update, and an orientation re the next day’s walking (11kms). It all felt super organised and well-designed. Except for the sleeping arrangements. You see, up to 48 people can book to walk the track at one time, and the rangers assign the same numbered …