Highs and Lows of Travel

Travel is usually an exciting affair though I must admit, as I’m aging, it can be a bit daunting. We have just returned from a trip to Dubai to meet our new granddaughter, Livia,and I took the opportunity to duck over to Germany while so close.

Bathing Livia
Bathing Livia

Having a daughter working for Emirates brings benefits. But cheap travel comes at a cost. Standby is high risk and you never know exactly what might happen and so started our trip, which saw us waiting at Brisbane airport for 7 hours only to be sent home. We got on a flight the next night though, but I think all the stress took its toll. I’ve never been sick on a plane before, but our leg from Singapore to Dubai was a nightmare. I came down with a severe migraine and unfortunately for me, the pain becomes so intense that I start vomitting … and it doesn’t stop, not until the headache passes, which can take days. It was 7 hours of HELL! The crew and other passengers were amazing and really looked after me as did Chris. You can imagine how relieved I was to get off the plane, even though I had to be taken in a wheelchair to the Emirates Airport medical centre (amazing facility) to rehydrate and recover enough to get out of the airport!

But of course once recovered, it was all worth it to meet our little granddaughter and reconnect with our two grandsons. We have a daughter, Zoe and a son, Neal and his wife Lauren, living in the UAE. It is precious time with them, to understand their lifestyles and experience the extremes of Dubai – the multi-culturalism, 5 star shopping malls, the desert and other developments. This is the hottest time of the year in the Middle East – 40° to 45° and it doesn’t cool down much at night. You live in air-conditioning. So it was a relief, climate-wise, to move to the next leg of my journey, visiting my good friend, Birgit, in Frankfurt where the summer was more tepid. Of course, my anxiety levels were high getting back on that plane! Fortunately the trip was awesome and my travel-legs regained.

Lush Countryside
Lush Countryside

Germany is stunningly beautiful. What a place, breathtaking. Though I have been there once before, this time I fell in love. The countryside is so lush and despite the high population density, the landscape is dotted with forests and fields such that you have a sense of openness. I admire the German’s for their organisation, structure and dependability. The cities, towns and villages are full of character, history and interest. It was so lovely to stroll around the malls on cobbled streets with alfresco dining everywhere. I can’t wait to go back.

I returned to Dubai to see the family again and break up the journey home

Cobbled Malls
Cobbled Malls

(especially after what happened on the way over). All was good. Ramadan had started. State and Church are not separate in Dubai, so it’s law. You cannot be seen eating or even drinking water in public all day … interesting. The family decided to enjoy Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sundown). Many of the hotels cater for this special meal and it was an opportunity to appreciate some Muslim culture at its best. We had a lovely evening … until Lauren and I awoke at 4 am in the morning with vomitting and diarrhoea! The day before I was due to fly home! Can you believe it?

We recovered within a few hours fortunately and I was able to tackle the journey home – 2 kilos lighter than when I had arrived.

Tassie Adventures

The start

It was a perfect day when Chris and I set off to climb Cradle Mountain after a lovely restful night at the Lodge. I was really excited about this challenge because the track to the mountain is the start of the Overland. I wanted to re-live the excitement and apprehension I had felt in 2009 setting foot on the boardwalk, fully decked for six days hiking in the wilderness. We came across other hikers, struggling with the steep climb to the Cradle plateau, the weight of their backpacks dragging. I could sense their fear and trepidation as they wondered what the hell they had got themselves into.

I also wanted to take this challenge because Birgit and I had decided not to climb the Mountain (an Overland side trail) and I held some regret about that. The weather closed in that day in 2009 and you couldn’t see the top of the mountain so we rationalised the climb would not be worth it as you wouldn’t be able to see the view. Deep down, if I’m honest though, I was terrified about the Overland challenge before me and I was just too darned scared to give it a go.

Not today!

The first part of the day’s hike was enjoyable though challenging at times due to the ascent. But I was not really prepared for the clamber to the summit! The track disappears and markers, peeping out of strewn boulders, show the way. It is a scramble on all fours more than a climb and even using hands, arms and legs, sometimes it was a stretch to find a suitable line. All the while my heart was beating in my head such that I thought it might burst, with rests needed more frequently, the higher the ascent. Yes, I made it but it was a push and at times I was left wondering why the hell I liked to take on such challenges! I was glad Christopher waited and stayed with me through the most difficult sections. But what a view at the top!

We returned to the Lodge after 6.5 hours climbing, walking and descending. Everything hurt. Why had I thought that I didn’t need to prepare … that I was fit enough???  I wasn’t and I knew the next day’s challenge would be even more demanding. Thank God for a glass of wine … a justified reward.

Next …

I have to admit I was rather nervous when I awoke the next day. We prepared ourselves for the hike into the Walls of Jerusalem to camp and take a look around. We were delayed entering the park until the heat of the day, fully decked carrying 15-16 kilos each. Unfortunately we had no track maps and no idea what to expect.

It was worse than I anticipated. The first two hours were a sustained, steep and quite difficult climb. Was my heart thumping again? You better believe it! At times the pain in my chest had me wondering … my heart and lungs were working so hard. Chris was ahead and out of sight. He made it to the Trapper’s Hut in about an hour but retraced his steps to help me with my pack for 300 metres of the climb. I was slow and needing to rest more frequently trying to keep my heart rate manageable. Why did I think I didn’t need to prepare????

Two hours sustained climb and we emerged within the Walls. The track was easier  … pleasant even, except for our fatigue and the need to lug our packs to the camp site. We arrived at the Wild Dog camp ground in just under 4 hours! We were exhausted, me more so.

We had the camp to ourselves and ventured no further, electing to setup, rest and eat. It was a beautiful night though cool. I do love the isolation of camping in the wilderness. It is something special … makes you appreciate your surroundings in a way nothing else can.

Despite this, I did shed a tear that night as I went to sleep, wondering again, “Why the hell do I want to take on such challenges?” To make our haul into the camp site worthwhile, meant hiking around the Walls in the morning. But my fatigue and energy were such that I wasn’t sure I could manage it. I just wanted to hike out and have the adventure behind me.

Chris survived the night with no mattress. He padded the wooden platform with clothes and seemed to manage better than expected. No doubt the bottle of wine he’d carried in his pack helped!

After a good night’s rest, I managed to muster the courage to take a look around. We left our camp to explore the Walls. I’m glad I did, despite my reservations. The walls were spectacular imposing structures. We followed the Western Wall for a couple of kilometres. The track was easy and we had no weight bar water and light refreshments. We explored for several hours and as we returned to camp to pack up I marvelled at the scenery around me. I remembered why I made myself take these challenges. In making such an effort, I had been able to see and experience things beyond the reach of most people. Putting in some real work and pressing through some difficulties was the only way to experience some of nature’s majesty.

We packed up and hiked out. Yes of course it was easier going down hill but a sustained descent presents its own challenges and is hard on feet and knees. My God, we were glad to get back to the car, take off our packs and boots and move onto the less challenging aspects of our holiday!

Would I do it all again? Yes I would and will! I’ve learned that some rewards are only found by pushing through to new thresholds but next time I would definitely prepare myself with suitable training! The whole experience made me reflect on something my girlfriend Susy Goldner shared with me once. She believed such a physical challenge was fun in the preparation and planning and wonderful to share and brag about with friends and family afterwards but considered that the doing was not necessarily the best part. Maybe she’s right, but I do love being in the wilderness.

Though I’m tempted at times, I can’t stop pushing and trying. That would be like giving up … and that would be like getting old!!



Hiking at the Beach

Adventure, that’s what I was looking for – adventure – some way to break out of the humdrum of life. I wanted an experience that was difficult, a challenge, something I had to push myself through to achieve success. I wanted to be able to say, “I did it!” and yet, hopefully, have a bit of fun along the way.

And that is pretty much what Yuraygir coastal walk had to offer.

I met my three hiking buddies, Sarah, Susy and Lynn at the Blue Dolphin resort in Yamba late on Friday night the 25th November. My university unit finished, everything handed in … done! It was time for some fun.

I enjoyed the pokey bunk bed in our overnight cabin, as I knew it would be heaven compared to sleeping on Michelle’s Thermarest mat for the next three nights.

Having done the Overland in 2009, I felt fairly laid back about embarking on this adventure – just over 50ks in four days. Looking back, perhaps I was a little overconfident and could have prepared more. But the excitement was infectious as we strapped on our packs ready to enter the walk at the Angourie Surf Reserve on Saturday morning.

It was a perfect day for hiking, overcast and not too hot. Rain was threatening but we set off confidently, prepared to deal with whatever came our way. Though remote in sections, the walk touched small coastal communities along the way so we knew we had plenty of options to pull out if things went awry.

Day 1

We trekked between the beach and the national park walking track as we made our way to Lake Arragon. Spiders loved this track. It was a perfect width for webs to catch unsuspecting prey … and unsuspecting hikers. A face plant into a multitude of thick webs pulled up the lead hiker abruptly time and again; terrified a large hungry spider might jump surreptitiously into her hair or worse, onto her face. Spider-terror slowed the going.

The slow pace reminded me I was hiking with city girls … sigh.

But no-one likes a face full of spider’s web, so the lead hiker held her weapon of choice – a stick of just the right length – to down as many webs as could be seen as we progressed. We all took a turn and though it may be disputed, I believe I approached the task with the most enthusiasm and tenacity. After all, I am a bush-girl these days!

After hours of trekking it was a relief to step out on the open beach again. But to our dismay we confronted a fast flowing river! A double check of track notes and GPS only added to our confusion. This was not a planned river crossing. Regardless, we had to get across.

We gingerly picked our way through the fast flowing water. The base was strewn with rocks which made our footing unsteady. We each experienced a moment when we feared we might fall. A saturated pack on our first day would have been a hard start to our adventure. Once safely across we learned from another camper that Lake Arragon had broken through the sand wall the day before and was emptying into the sea. No wonder it wasn’t expected.

A welcome lunch break helped us recover from the 13k morning hike. As it was only midday we decided to press on another 5ks to Brooms Head. A great start with a first day hiking appetite of 18ks! We were ready to quit at Brooms Head though. Limping to our camp site we gladly set up our tents and kicked back for the rest of the afternoon. We deserved those beers from the bottlo! Though we were fully self-sufficient, how can you resist taking advantage of civilisation when you feel you really deserve it?

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep (as good as it can be in a one man tent with a thin mattress), we packed up the camp and hauled our packs onto our backs again. At first the pack felt fine and well fitting. I was ready to go.

The tide was against us so we opted to hike on the dirt road for a bit to avoid the soft sand. Sarah, had pulled a muscle on day one and, though dosed with pain killers, preferred to avoid the soft sand. We set off down the road to Sandon, expecting to cut to the beach via a four-wheel drive track on the way.

Well, this undoubtedly proved the most difficult sector for me. The pack sat heavy on my shoulders. It was a hot day, no cloud cover and no sea breeze to ease the temperature. We slogged down that dirt road until someone had to pee (thank goodness) and we took a break under a tree. My stomach was nauseous and churning. I couldn’t face the thought of food until I’d rested a while. I just sipped on my water bladder.

We missed the four wheel drive turn off and were nearly at Sandon when we finally emerged on the beach. We ripped off our packs and some of our clothing and took a well-deserved dip in the water. That cool sea water was healing to everything and restored some sense of joy in being in such a beautiful environment.

We took a break at the Sandon camping ground. Sarah’s pulled muscle was causing her some difficulty so, over lunch, we decided to camp there and take a break for the afternoon. This gave us some time to enjoy the river and the beach. We managed to push the anxiety of the Sandon River crossing out of our minds.

A swim, a sleep, a walk and a few games of President’s and Arseholes made for a perfect evening.

Day 3

A cool sea breeze had sprung up overnight which evaporated the dew – a great opportunity to pack away a dry tent. This coupled with a foreboding sky, galvanised me into action. I was up and packing up my tent in the blink of an eye. The girls soon followed my lead. We were packed and ready to move before we had enjoyed our breakfast. We wanted to get started early too, because we hoped to hitch a ride across the river with an early morning fisherman. The weather wasn’t looking conducive to fishing but fortunately, we had a backup plan – a canoe – but that would take a few trips with all of us and our gear.

At the mouth of the river, we surveyed the scene, the tide and our canoe option. A friendly fellow camper and fisherman came to the shore to inspect the tide. Our saviour, a knight in a faded blue singlet to the rescue! Robert kindly agreed to ferry us across for no charge. It really made a good start to our third day of hiking.

We made our way through the little Sandon fishing village expecting two options for our next 10ks. Sarah and I hoped to take the track and wrestle with spider webs as an easier option for her pulled muscle. Susy and Lynn would take the beach trek to Illaroo. But poor track notes and no track markers lead us all to the beach unexpectedly. No one wanted to back track.

The tide was on the way in so we set off down the beach, able to stick to reasonably hard sand for the first 5ks.

I quite enjoyed this segment of the walk, my body adjusting to the hike and the pack. The conversations with my fellow hikers were stimulating and varied. We got talking about poignant times in our life – embarrassing moments, funny stories. It all helped to take our minds off our sore muscles and aching shoulders.

Sarah’s distress became more obvious as we progressed and the soft sand began to slow us down somewhat as the tide crept in. Sarah’s limping was now unmasked. We took what weight we could from her pack and trudged our way to Illaroo.

Illarroo proved our favourite camping spot. It was beautiful and tranquil – well protected and well facilitated. Sarah, glad to take a load off her aching leg, declared she would pull out here. No more hiking for her.

Day 4

After much deliberation, Suz, Lynn and myself decided to leave our packs with Sarah and hike the remaining 16ks all the way to Red Rock. Sarah waited for her husband, Dean to retrieve her. Susy was tenuous with nasty blisters on her feet but felt brave enough to give it a go.

We set off with day packs, plenty of water and a supply of gel bandaids. Our pace was slower than anticipated, even without the packs. Poor track markings and track notes again created extra distance as we had to double back in a few places. But the tide was with us and we all enjoyed clambering over the rocky platforms around the headlands. It was tough to pass a couple of idyllic lagoons without a swim, but we felt the pressure of time.

The conversations deepened and time was forgotten for a while as we explored philosophical perspectives. At Wilsons Headland we checked our time and came, reluctantly, to terms with our over-ambitious goal for the day. The pain in Susy’s feet was becoming difficult to ignore, the tide was creeping in and we would not get to Wooli before midday. The tide would be against us from there.

Though disappointing, it was also a relief and gave us an opportunity to enjoy the sea once again, instead of rushing. Back on the beach, the cold salty swell was healing and soothing. There was no one else around – a suitable farewell to the Yuraygir Coastal walk.

The tide was creeping in and though it was motivating to see the Wooli township ahead around the bay, 7k’s was still a taxing walk in the heat of the day. It was tempting to jump into Dean’s Pajero when he and Sarah pulled up next to us on the beach. But no! We had to keep going and trudged all the way to Wooli.

The sun was hot and our bodies weary when we reached the campsite at Wooli. The hike was over.

No more protein bars! No more fitful sleep! No more trudging through the soft sand. Civilisation again; time for a cappuccino!

Leaving the beach and clambering into the car was disorienting. Perhaps I carried a twinge of disappointment (and maybe even guilt?) that we had pulled out a little early and perhaps even cheated on our last day by leaving our packs behind.

Whatever … that ice-cream tasted awesome and I really wanted to have a shower and wash my hair.

I had had an experience that was difficult. It had been a challenge and something I definitely had to push myself through at times. I could now say, “I did it!” … well almost. But by far the highlight was the unexpected bonding in getting to know some really cool women. Something about sharing such an adventure draws you together; a sense of trust that cannot be forged in any other way.

I look forward to our next shared adventure.

All the way up hill …

Dreams are mixed and confused: in a blur I arrive in the wrong t-shirt, run 10ks before the race starts … and other crazy stuff.

Chris is up before the alarm.
He’s more worried about timelines than me!
4.55 am and we are on the road.
A nervous start, shivering in the cold, drizzling Sunday morning at Killarney.
I check out the other runners.
Am I dressed appropriately?
They are all wearing T-shirts from another event.
Mental note: next race I enter I must wear the T-shirt from this race.
Makes you look like a pro, ha ha.
7:15 am the race begins.
I’m well back in the crowd as we start.
The air is imbibed with energy and hype as the runners surge forward.
The race is on!
I turn up my iPod trying to focus on my own pace.
“Keep control of your breathing,” I tell myself.
Everyone is going so fast!
I tune my mind into the Black Eyed Peas and turn up the volume.

The race now well in progress, more and more people overtake me.
Stricken, am I now the last in the crew?
All my training, hard work and determination for what?
To come last? Nooooooo!
Not that I’d trained to be a serious contender. I’d trained for endurance, to complete the task.
But I’m not prepared to be so outclassed!
I cross the 4K marker before I notice any markers at all.
Great news … I’m nearly half way there feeling no pain … yet.
At last, I manage to overtake two other contenders.
Relief … at least I won’t be LAST.
I slog away along the bitumen exhilarated to reach the 5K marker – half way!
Keep focussed, the real work starts at the 6K marker. That’s where the 10% incline begins.
My mind replays my mental training: “Head down, hold your pace to ensure control of your breathing, don’t look up, listen to the music and just KEEP RUNNING.”
I manage to overtake two more contenders as the ascent steepens!!
Definitely not LAST now. Phew!
I’m in the zone, that great place when running long distance.
It’s hard to describe. My pulse is elevated; my body warm (despite the constant drizzle); I’m focussed; in a rhythm.
Looking forward to the end but feeling good.
7K … 8K … 9K Hooray!
It’s nearly over.
I overtake another, much younger than me. Woo hoo.
Finally, I cross the line.
I look for the camera to snap off my photo.
Oh … the photographer has already left. Boo hoo.
My eyes scan for the clock.
I’ve been running for 85.25 minutes … but I made it!!!!!
I slow down, exhilarated. I achieved my goal.
I approach the car and the waiting Christopher, grinning.
He didn’t think I could do it, but I did!