Food and hydration for the beginner

A rather embarrassingly long time ago I was asked to put together some tips on yummy bush-tucker, aka the kind of food you might like to eat on a walk. I said I’d get onto it straight away…. I did, it’s just taken this long to complete! So my sincerest apologies to the reader who asked for it :/. I’ve decided to start off with dinner – cos it’s the big one. There are many ways of doing this, and I reckon a great approach is to check out what everyone else does and steal all the things you like to come up with your own food menu. I’ve tried to include a bit of a range that will give you an idea of what I found good from the I-can’t-cook or I-don’t-have-time perspective through to the I-have-a-dehydrator, I-want-yummy-food and I-want-to-know-exactly-what-goes-into-my-tummy end of the spectrum. But preparation time and taste aren’t all that it boils down to, there’s also weight and gas consumption involved. It’s up to you to make the call on what combination works best for you – these are just ideas that are perhaps best suited to those who don’t do much overnight stuff and want a bit of a place to start.

Preparation:

The quickest, easiest way to get a dinner meal is to buy one. If you’re really pressed for time, you can order online (can’t say I’ve done this!). There’s a few brands out there and many of the camping stores will stock back country, backpackers pantry or the outdoor gourmet country. I’ve had a few of these and found them rubbery, pretty average on taste, salty and have heard that for many guys they’re not big enough (they’ll buy a double serve). They’re cheap and easy on gas – add boiling water to the packet, let sit, and eat in 10 minutes. There’s always those easy pasta meals you can buy from any supermarket, which probably have a bit more taste, are cheaper and you can throw your own combination of veggies in.

A much better alternative to the bushwalking specific meals is Strive Food (https://www.strivefood.com.au), made by a nutritionist with calculated serving sizes. They’ve got to be the best pre-packaged meal out there for taste and cost (in my opinion). They are marginally heavier (130-150g single serve as opposed to 90ish grams) and take a little more to rehydrate, but a boil up, 10 minute wait, and reheat if needed works pretty well. My favourite would be the spaghetti bolognaise (even better it uses 2 minute pasta so it’s super fast), followed closely by the creamy vegetable pasta. If you shop in store they have ‘seconds’, which is all just about the packaging not the taste, and is another way to save a little bit of money.

Taste:

The best tasting meals are home cooked. If weight isn’t an issue and you’re on a short trip, frozen is a perfectly good option and I’ve used it before – just choose a relatively juicy meal so you don’t get it stuck to the bottom of your stove while reheating!

You can obviously cook from scratch, but this is pretty costly with gas and time (not what you want to be doing after a long hard day) and not very practical if you’re out by yourself (it’s more efficient if you’re group cooking). Fresh veggies also don’t last particularly long, and are hard to keep from getting squashed!

The best option for taste that’s also weight and gas efficient is to dehydrate your own meals. This does, of course, take a bit longer to prep at home, and requires some basic cooking skills! A few tips are to use super lean meats, get them minced, and dice all veggies nice and small. My favourite home cooked meal is definitely a lentil curry, although green chicken curry, spaghetti bolognaise, balti chicken and chilli con carne all taste amazing as well.

Weight:

As mentioned, the most weight efficient meals are dehydrated meals. But you do need to be careful that you don’t skimp on a few grams and end up hungry. Your own dehydrated foods are the best option for a reasonable weight as you can cater exactly to your needs (for instance, I’ll have 70-80g of whatever meal we’ve cooked up, and add 30-40g of rice, but will give Graham 100g and 50g respectively). Extra potato deb or couscous are both handy to have in the bottom of your pack too to bulk up your meal for a minimum amount of weight. To add a sense of fresh green veggies, dried peas are wonderful by day 4 of a walk and we’ve recently tested out Campers Pantry dried veggies – the mushrooms are very tasty! And if you’re worried about needing an emergency meal, you can’t go past 2-minute noodles for weight and ease (I’d recommend one of the spicy brands like Indomie).

Gas consumption:

The most fuel efficient meals (short of bringing a second lunch that doesn’t require cooking) are bought dehydrated meals. You only have to boil water once and they’re good to go (though a tad rubbery). Both Strive and home made dehydrated meals come in next. A boil, a 10-15 min wait, and a part-boil just to heat it back up are usually enough to get your meal back to normal. Occasionally minced chicken will still be a tad chewy, but not rubbery (that’s very important)! Cooking from scratch obviously takes a lot of gas. If you have the time, putting your food in water to soak before boiling it up also decreases gas consumption.

Extras:

There are a few handy extras you might want to consider:

Continental ‘Cup a Soup Sensations’: These come individually packaged in plastic-foil (not the papery kind) which means they travel excellently and don’t have an issue getting wet. AND, they taste delicious. Always a good starter to rehydrate or warm up with, especially while waiting for a meal to rehydrate. (You can of course use any kind of soup – I quite like the Miso soup you can get from supermarkets too!)

Chocolate: If you like chocolate, this never goes astray. Always rounds off a slightly salty meal with the perfect amount of sugar. Lindt balls are my favourite 😉 but they’re a bit bulky to pack, and if they get too warm they’re a complete mess!

Custard powder: A handy thing to have if you’re unsure about your serving sizes. Can fill you up that tiny extra bit if you’ve underestimated your appetite, and can be had hot or cold. If you’re feeling luxurious, a few strawberries go brilliantly with it too, or dehydrated banana!

Port/Muscat: For those who like a little drink, this one just seems to fit (though I’m aware it’s very much a personal preference thing!).

If you’re dehydrating your own meals, don’t forget extra salt, pepper, and some chilli powder – so much easier to make adjustments out there.

Breakfast:

Again, there’s plenty of options here. I now use 75g of quick oats, 10g of sultanas, some milk powder and brown sugar for breakfast. That does mean a hot breakfast (which I find a quite nice way of easing into the day), but it might not appeal to all. It’s easy to boil up 600ml of water, 300 for the porridge and 300 for a hot chocolate, and it’s pretty weight efficient. Other people I know do muesli or pre-boiled eggs (for the first few days, and egg powder thereafter). I just didn’t find either filling enough.

Lunch:

I have to say, I rather love my lunches on bushwalks. I’ll have anywhere between 4-6 vitaweets, spread with butter from a small tub (so much more palatable!), a slice of cheese for each vitaweet (off a block – pre cut slices are messy if they get hot), a chunk of salami (1-2cm), 3-4 cherry tomatoes (depending on how many were in the pack and how many days they have to last) and 3-4 sugar snap peas (as with the tomatoes). The cherry tomatoes and peas are a huge luxury, but they keep excellently (yes, even on 10 day walks!) and are just divine the longer a walk goes on. That all usually fits into a lunch box that’s a tad smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, although occasionally the cheese or salami starts off outside until after the first lunch (cos they don’t squash or break up).

A photo of my lunch from the Old River circuit walk. Had this for 9 lunches (plus an extra biscuit with cheese, which was in my mouth at the time I was taking the photo!)

Snacks:

This is where a lot of my food weight goes. I tend to go through three ‘bars’ a day on bigger walks. There’s heaps of options out there and they’ll all give you the extra calories you’re burning off. I used to go for the bars with the highest energy per weight, I now try to steer away from purely chocolate to more of the natural or ‘raw’ bars when I can afford them. Partly because they’re better for me, partly cos they don’t melt, partly because they leaving me feeling better and fuller for longer than pure sugar. Play around with your own mix of scroggin, beef jerky (home made is great!), dehydrated fruit or leathers, and lollies for when you need something extra.

Hydration:

Shotz tablets (or other rehydration tablets): these guys are great for on the track. Rehydration is one of the most important things out there, not just of water but also of essential electrolytes. If the electrolytes and water lost throughout the course of your walk exceeds your intake or body’s ability to compensate it can leave you feeling particularly crummy, with symptoms ranging from fatigue to nausea, vomiting and cramping. Shotz are the best brand out there (in my opinion), but the main thing is to use them if you’re doing tough, long or particularly hot or dry days. Some friends who have found cramping to be a problem also use a version that has a lot more Magnesium (you can get them from the chemist or Woolies), to great success.

A few bits a pieces, the two meals are green chicken curry and chilli con carne, there’s beef jerky, dried banana and strawberries, apricot leather, and dried mango

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Mount Dawson: 28 February 2016

Dawson GPS route

Dawson GPS route

As it just so happened, such a small and fairly insignificant peak, was to be a decent sized milestone – my 600th peak-bagging point! There was no worming out of it either, as I’d put it down on the bushwalking club program.

We prepare to set off into the green stuff

We prepare to set off into the green stuff

As the day approached, the 7 or 8 who had put their names down for what I had expected to be a fairly decent scrub bash with not much reward dwindled to 3. Oh well, it would be a small celebration with two of my favourite walking ‘buddies’ (as my niece would say).

 

We set off early – always better to err on the side of precaution – timing the drive perfectly with the rain. Even better, we drove as far along the road as we could have, giving us a much shorter distance to walk than expected.

We had views!

We had views!

We geared up, delighted to find the scrub was actually quite dry despite the rain we’d driven through. One surprise followed another and though steep, the walking was much more open than expected, and really delightful.

 

Up through the forest we walked, marvelling at the changes it underwent, and stopping to enjoy the views when we broke out of the trees (yes, there were views!). Once on top of the climb, we bee-lined in the approximate direction of the high point, deciding that a decent sized cairn must mark the highest point of the otherwise very flat summit.

An unimpressive summit, but a lovely mountain all the same!

An unimpressive summit, but a lovely mountain all the same!

Ben whipped out profiteroles in celebration and we enjoyed them together. We hadn’t done enough work and it wasn’t even slightly close to lunchtime for anything more substantial, so after a bit of a sit and chat we headed back down. We got a bit distracted with conversations of books and prison and all sorts of other things that we took 20 minutes longer for the descent than we had done for the ascent!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We mucked around on the way down – Graham just had to climb this bit of tree root

We had lunch back at the car, and headed home for one of the earliest return times I’ve ever had on a bushwalk!

 

All up: 3:23hrs with significant breaks, 3.7km, 392m ascent.

 

Stay tuned – I’ll be posting a bush-tucker post by request ;)!

Cathcart: 22 November 2014

GPS route of Cathcart Bluff

GPS route of Cathcart Bluff

This was to be a walk that got off to a bad start, but proved to surpass all my (very low!) expectations. Another night at work, and I raced off at 6. I wasn’t expecting either the drive or walk to be huge (2 hrs and maybe 2 hours each way for each), but wanted to be back early enough to repack for the following day, as I was down to lead a walk to Western bluff (that one was going to be much longer, with a 4 hr drive one way, and a 6-8 (or 9!) hr return walk).

Clouds on the way up.. they were more impressive than this, but I didn't get a chance to stop.

Clouds on the way up.. they were more impressive than this, but I didn’t get a chance to stop.

Driving along I enjoyed some very moody changing clouds, light and fluffy on top, dark and heavy underneath. I liked the metaphor. Probably a bit too much, and it was only in Kempton when I pulled over for petrol that I realised I didn’t have my wallet. What an idiot (ok, there were a few expletives inserted in that sentence that I’ve since removed). I had half a tank, which for me means about 200km. I checked the map, did some calculations. I might be able to get to the walk and back to Kempton, but still wouldn’t have enough to get home. Idiot!

Conversing… with new waratah flowers

Conversing… with new waratah flowers

Immensely annoyed at myself, I ignored a kind offer to wait for friends who would be passing in a little while on the way to a walk in the NE, and drove home. I half felt like ditching the plan, but by the time I’d located my wallet, got over the fact that I’d wasted 2 hrs driving, I figured I’d still have time for the walk. So off I drove again. The clouds were still there to keep me company, and as they slowly dispersed, so too did my anger and annoyance at myself (I don’t have a lot of patience for my own incompetence, inefficiency and waste).

Sweet reflections in a world of pink.. honestly, sweet to the taste!

Sweet reflections in a world of pink.. honestly, sweet to the taste!

This time, I had money for petrol at Kempton, and finally, by 10am, I was ready to start walking. I had about a 3km road walk to start with, relatively flat, and was kicking myself for not thinking of packing the bike (it would have been ideal!). Instead I thought about things as I walked, broke up the monotony by playing with macro and warratahs, and wondered what the walk would bring.

A boring road walk meant I had to find something to entertain me.. the macro came out, and I liked these leaves. Sometimes, it's all that's left. Old and damaged, but beautiful and deep.

A boring road walk meant I had to find something to entertain me.. the macro came out, and I liked these leaves. Sometimes, it’s all that’s left. Old and damaged, but beautiful and deep.

I knew little about it, and had assumed that once I got to the closest point on the road to the summit, I’d be off track and in scrub, and it didn’t look like such nice scrub to be in. So I dallied a bit (or a lot), and took a few photos of the glimpses of Blackwood Bluff that you got walking along the road.

The road.. somewhat unexciting! Take a bike if you can...

The road.. somewhat unexciting! Take a bike if you can…

On arrival at the point where I wanted to turn off, where my gps had a short bit of road branching off to the right (not very far at all, but it was better than nothing), I prepared myself for a scrub bash by taking rather a lot of time to photograph one very fat (or sick) grasshopper. But the time came to go, and so I set off. I wasn’t too surprised to find what might pass for an overgrown pad, but I wasn’t expecting the pink tape.. and then a couple of cairns!

My first glimpse, before I found the pad.. not looking forward to what I thought was going to be a scrub bash

My first glimpse, before I found the pad.. not looking forward to what I thought was going to be a scrub bash

Pure delight at an unexpected gift (and a pad through scrub is one of the best kind of gifts a bush walker can be given), and my mood lifted significantly. That the ‘pad’ was a little hard to follow, the markings intermittent in places, was only of concern in so far as it increased the chances of me walking off it. I figured that even if that happened, I was still better off than I’d expected.

One rather ill looking hopper

One rather ill looking hopper

But I was to be pleasantly surprised again, when after a little while my head clicked into gear, and I got used to what signs to look for. Looking at my feet, and the clear bit of pad before it disappeared into scrub helped, as looking higher up or further afield met only with a sea of green and brown, and no discernible ‘path’ forward. I got used to the twisting and turning, and started to enjoy myself.

Hey!!! A cairn.. and tape.. brilliant!

Hey!!! A cairn.. and tape.. brilliant!

Then another surprise. Walking along I heard movement in the scrub, but not the light quick movement of a wallaby. A solid, steady motion. I stopped and listened, then caught sight of the culprit, a not so little wombat, with a fine chocolate brown coat. I moved forward for a closer look, and he, oblivious to my presence, continued towards me, down through light scrub and rock. He came to within a few metres before realising I was there, and galloping (as wombats do!) away.

My wombat friend.. only a few metres away, just before he bolted.

My wombat friend.. only a few metres away, just before he bolted.

I smiled, and continued on. A few hundred metres from the top and I broke out onto scree, another gift for the rock monkey in me! Up I scrambled, and yes.. was again pleasantly surprised, this time with better than expected views. In fact, I’d all but decided that being a low peak, it was likely to have a scrubby summit with no views at all. Not exactly so! The views were, admittedly, better on this bit of the climb than on the very top, but that was somewhat irrelevant.

Wooo.. on the scree, and hello Blackwood Bluff!

Wooo.. on the scree, and hello Blackwood Bluff!

I paused to take them in, enjoy the increasingly present sun, and just be. But as always, the summit was calling, and I went in search. The summit region is composed of lots of ‘mini peaks’ of rocky towers, light scrub separating them. So I went to where my gps said the top was, and found a little cairn, but not much of a view. Then figured I’d better check another, and headed further west, to a summit my gps decided was slightly lower, but with open views out towards Drys Bluff.

High point no. 1

High point no. 1

All bases covered, it was time to head down in an easy and unconcerned manner, happy with all the highly surpassed expectations! An echidna or two to make me smile as I left, and I was home at the very civilised time of shortly after 3, ready to pack for the next days adventures.

High point no. 2 and the view out to Drys Bluff

High point no. 2 and the view out to Drys Bluff

All up: 9.3km, 3.15hrs, 318m ascent.

One last one of Blackwood Bluff, on the way out

One last one of Blackwood Bluff, on the way out

Pelion West: 6-8 September 2014

Pelion West GPS route

Pelion West GPS route

I don’t know how to write this, or where to begin, because there is no start, just as there is no end. Sometimes, I suppose, you get to moments in life where something just has to give. I guess I was there. I was over fetching wood and carrying water. It was time to walk the earth. Alone. I didn’t quite know why, I didn’t quite know how I knew. I just had to go. So I did.

Pillinger.. the water was tempting!

Pillinger.. the water was tempting!

What I came up with, as I walked, sat, soaked in the sun and views, lay under the stars, was something along these lines. Walking (which is a lot of things to me, but I’m not even going to start on its importance, because I could write a thesis) is the one thing, and the mountains are one place, where no matter what, I feel as in control as one can be in the face of life’s uncertainties, of constant and often quite drastic change.

Pillinger's other face..

Pillinger’s other face..

The mountains and wilderness are the one thing that offers true sanctuary, true groundedness. Because while they can be harsh, but they do not betray, they do not reject, they do not judge, and they do not question. They accept, and in doing so they teach, indeed demand, self acceptance, respect and love, with no room for self doubt or pity. And from there, they encourage strength and courage, peace and calmness.

Rock, tree, and some bumps I'm looking forward to seeing more of!

Rock, tree, and some bumps I’m looking forward to seeing more of!

The mountains strip everything away, all that baggage you’ve taken on and insist on carrying around, and leave you naked and raw. The most truest, most elemental, version of the being ‘I’. Full of passion, dreams, wonder, joy, love and acceptance.

Just can't walk past Olympus without taking a photo here

Just can’t walk past Oakleigh without taking a photo here

This is what I went in search of, a regrounding/rediscovery of me, though I didn’t know it in so many words at the time. I did know that it was going to be a significant weekend. Which meant there wasn’t much choice about where to go. And the weather cooperated. So it was time to visit Pelion West.

As always, attention quickly turns to Pelion West. Maybe it's just me, but it does have a commanding presence

As always, attention quickly turns to Pelion West. Maybe it’s just me, but it does have a commanding presence

I first bought a map of Pelion West as soon as I got hooked on walking. Close friends had done a circuit from Ossa to Pelion West, and their tales of bivvying in amongst the boulders on Pelion West had piqued my interest, and my respect of the mountain. I wanted to meet it. But I was told strictly it was not a mountain to climb solo. Hmmm…

Colourful curls.. it was a curly kind of trip.

Colourful curls.. it was a curly kind of trip.

I respected the decision (in any case, Pelion West was NOT a name mum was going to forget anytime soon), and bided my time. I went in to the region for the first time by myself and climbed Ossa (for a stunning sunrise), Pelion East, Oakleigh and Pillinger. A year later, I was lucky enough to be on an unforgettable Pandani trip in to Perrins Bluff, which included sunset on Paddy’s Nut, a traverse over Thetis, and a fun little scramble up Achilles and Achilles Heel too. Always, always, Pelion West held my attention, and both my respect and desire increased. One day would come.. eventually.

Mum and joey.. though he's hard to make out here..

Mum and joey.. though he’s hard to make out here..

But no one seemed to be going, and other walks took prominence. By now though, I was just a little more experienced, and more importantly, felt more confident in my ability to handle myself in the bush alone. I still wasn’t sure about repercussions if anyone knew for sure that I was going solo so I stayed silent. I did contemplate inviting one other person, but they were otherwise engaged in another (equally crazy) idea of what constitutes fun.

Sun shining through fern leaves. I couldn't walk past..

Sun shining through fern leaves. I couldn’t walk past..The mathematician in me does like the fractal like patterns

I figured I was in this one alone, no one could help, though it turns out I was wrong on that account. Instead, I came out of it with the feeling like I might just have been gifted a very important friend (the kind I only ever thought existed in books), and the chance to right a different friendship. So that was what the walk was really about… though perhaps you’re reading this for an account of the walk up Pelion West, so I should probably oblige with no further digressions ;).

My back yard for the night.. I do have a soft spot for Paddy's Nut

Evening light on my back yard for the night.. I do have a soft spot for Paddy’s Nut

I do love driving in Tassie (though I don’t actually like driving per se), and this trip started off full of the usual wonders. Of particular note was the transition into and out of the patches of fog in the central highlands. I never know quite what it is about trees silhouetted between soft white sheets, or hints of colour returning to everything, now with so much more vibrance.. But it gets me every time. The new lambs and their antics as I flashed by also made me chuckle.

And in the other corner, there's Achilles and the mighty Heel.. Another soft spot (it's a wonder I'm not all goo!)

And in the other corner, there’s Achilles and the mighty Heel.. Another soft spot (it’s a wonder I’m not all goo!)

By the time I was on the mags spur road, I was about ready to be there already, and was cursing the long straight sections under my breath. But then I disturbed a wedgie, and curses turned into gratitude as he flew in front and above my car for quite a distance, down the middle of the very straight road. He was pretty big, wings spanning about 3/4 the width of my car. Now I had a smile on my face, the impatience was gone, and figured I’d get to the start whenever I did.

Two days off being a super moon.. was pretty super to me anyway..

Two days off being a super moon.. was pretty super to me anyway..

4 hours after finishing work I was changed and walking along the track. I’ve been in on the Arm River track a few times now, so it was old territory, but not at all boring. There weren’t the orchids to spot from last time, but the birds were still around. I listened as wattle birds made abrupt attempts to communicate with harsh regurgitative squarks, kookaburras chuckled somewhat derisively at them, but one thing led to another and they were soon laughing their heads off, while another chimer put in his four notes, each exactly the same. I joined the kookaburras, and kept on walking.

A frosty, chilled, muted morning does nothing to dampen my spirits.. Off to meet my mountain!

A frosty, chilled, muted morning does nothing to dampen my spirits.. Off to meet my mountain!

Sometimes I thought about the things I saw, heard or smelt, sometimes I just tuned out and put one foot in front of the other. I also thought about friends a fair bit, work a little, life a lot.

Then the sun shines golden rays and lights everything with warmth.

Then the sun shines golden rays and lights everything with warmth.

I remembered the last time I was here, each step bringing something else back, as if the memories were held in the earth, the trees, the rocks, waiting to be revisited as I planted a boot in reddish brown mud, ran a hand across coarse, lichen covered dolerite, or admired the way sun shone emerald green through myrtle leaves.

The two logs and mini cairn marking the start of the track.

The two logs and mini cairn marking the start of the track.

More work had been done on the section of track past New Pelion Hut, and with a smile and a shake of the head I remembered the track worker we’d met on the walk out the last time. I whispered another thank you, and kept plodding along. Lost in my thoughts, I startled a mum and joey who were eating grass by the track, as much as they startled me! We both paused, shared a moment, then went on our ways.

First views. Oakleigh and mist in the valleys

First views. Oakleigh and mist in the valleys

On arriving at Frog Flats I decided I was going to ditch the idea of walking to the river 200m past the turn off to Pelion West, partly because I didn’t know if there was a decent place to camp there, and (mostly) because right here, in front of me, was a perfect little spot, with views of Paddy’s Nut, Thetis, Achilles and Achilles Heel, and Pelion West. I just couldn’t go past it.

Inglis, Barn, Cradle, Emmett

Inglis, Barn, Cradle, Emmett

Excited, I dumped my pack, and got distracted by a pandani I wanted to take a photo of. Now I’d been especially careful on the walk in to avoid all puddles and bogs, because of the three (now sadly only two) holes in one boot, and the desire to have DRY feet for once. You can imagine I was none too impressed then, when circling this pandani plant to get an idea of the perspective I wanted, I placed a foot between two clumps of button grass to fall waist deep into an underground creek!

Ossa, Paddy's Nut and the end of Thetis

Ossa, Paddy’s Nut and the end of Thetis

With disgust and camera held high (thank goodness for reflexes) I extracted myself, gave up on the pandani, and stripped off. A nearby tree became my washing line, and I sought to make use of the last little bit of the sun’s heat while I pitched my tent and ate my lunch for dinner. It was somewhat futile, and as soon as the sun dipped behind Pelion West the temperature plummeted. A short wander and photos of the evening light and moon while my fingers still half functioned, then into bed with me.

And right in front of me, PELION WEST!!!! :D

And right in front of me, PELION WEST!!!! 😀

Boots came inside the tent, but I didn’t have high hopes. Sure enough, when I woke at midnight to check out the stars and moon, they were already frozen solid. Oh well. I wasn’t too fussed, and after waking and eating breakfast, I forced my feet into their unyielding form, tied them up as best I could (it’s hard to tie frozen shoelaces tight), and made for a hasty start.

Heading up.. the rock leaves an impression :)

Heading up.. the rock leaves an impression 🙂

The frost had sucked the colour, and almost, it seemed, the life, out of everything. It was cold, still, sound was muted and I paused to take it in. A little further around the track though, not even 15 minutes later, that changed in an instant. It was like stepping from one world into another, one where someone had just splashed a can of golden paint over everything. What had been monochrome became vibrant happy colours, warming to the eyes, skin, and heart.

More rock.. Kinda maybe like it a little bit!

More rock.. Kinda maybe like it a little bit!

I walked on, with an extra spring in my step. As always, when I approached the spot where I thought the track should branch off, I expected it way before I should have. But I know I have a tendency to do that, so I told myself I’d walk all the way to the river, and if need by, walk back again until I found it. I was going off info that said it was 200m east of the river (I can’t remember its name) and that I should be looking for two logs lying perpendicular to the track, with what looked like a wombat pad between them.

Layers of rock.. some pretty special ones ;)

Layers of rock.. some pretty special ones 😉

If you’re looking and alert, they’re easy enough to spot. The first one now has three small rocks on it too. It’s a definite pad, so up I went, glad to be finally ‘on the way’. The initial bit of pad is a bit overgrown and scratchy on the knees, but soon enough you break out and get half the views you know you’re in for. Pelion West stands sturdy straight ahead, and I liked that it didn’t shy away, hiding from sight until the last possible moment, as some mountains do.

The things the mountains make me feel..

The things the mountains make me feel..

After a honeymoon period, and the discovery of the Ossa-Perrins mountains over the ridge as you climb a little further, it’s back into scrub again. At least the pad was no longer frozen over, which I figured meant the rock was going to be fine too (it was, though understandably a little frosty on the southern side). I stopped lots on the way up, just couldn’t take everything in AND concentrate on walking, so I prioritised the former. I figured I had all day, and it wasn’t a race.

The snow was old and compact, only on the southern or sheltered sides.. easy to walk across too.

The snow was old and compact, only on the southern or sheltered sides.. easy to walk across too.

On top, I was grateful to be out of the overgrown track and onto solid, grippy dolerite.. I did a little dance/pirouette thing with arms spread wide in an expression of delight, appreciation, and a whole lot more, and then set about enjoying the views. After a bit, I figured I’d better go in search of the summit, and some more views. I did a mixture of following cairns and choosing my own way (though that often ended in long drops ;)!), and did plenty of ducking back and forth from one side to the other to see how the views had changed.

Pelion West summit, the Eldon range on the horizon.

Pelion West summit, the Eldon range on the horizon.

A short distance from the summit I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to settle a personal challenge and pull off a proper headstand on the edge of the cliff line, with High Dome and Frenchmans in the background. I’d been slightly frustrated that I’d made a less than impressive attempt the week before on Mueller, and had gone home to figure out the secret to a controlled headstand. I cracked it that night, practiced once a day for the week, by the end of which I was confident enough I could do one without overbalancing (wouldn’t have made a nice look) and hold it for as long as it took my camera to take the photo. I was pretty happy with the effort, and knew it’d make at least one person laugh.

I was there!

I was there!

Onwards I scrambled. Now completely at ease on the rock. The boulders were big, in spots as big as cars or even trucks, and there were some gaps that you wouldn’t be climbing out of if you fell, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been given what I’d heard. Or rather, perhaps I just felt more at home than I expected. I recognised the summit rock at once from photos I’d seen, and went for a scramble. Though it looks daunting, it’s not such a bad one to climb: longer perhaps than Achilles, but not quite as steep and with more holds/grip.

Need I say anything?

Need I say anything?

I had another play around with the camera and timer to attempt a terrible photo taken into the sun of me climbing it (proof I was there – not that I needed it, but still). And then I realised I still had a good chunk of the day ahead and had to decide what to do. I had initially thought I’d drop of the western end and head back down around the bottom of the cliffs (cos they’d look pretty impressive). But that was all in shade, the wind was a bit nippy and my fingers were already yellow and numb. It was also the shorter and quicker way down off the rock (and therefore down off the height and magnificent views).

Back across rock towards Pelion East

Back across rock towards Pelion East

So I reluctantly skipped a different way back for a sun bake on rocks out of the wind, and a very pleasant hour and a half or more gazing south. I still hadn’t had my fill when I decided I should probably start to wander back, so I had time to pack my tent, and walk back to New Pelion, hopefully before it got too late and too cold.

High Dome and Frenchmans

High Dome and Frenchmans

The wander was slow, but still it went too fast, and I was back at my tent before I wanted to be, but really probably at about the right time of day. I lay back into it, legs sticking out the door, and gazed at Pelion West, enjoying the warm sun on my knees and not wanting to move. But I did, eventually, and wandered back to the hut in a glowing kind of daze.

A slightly more subtle one of me in the mountains

A slightly more subtle one of me in the mountains

I was slightly surprised to find four other groups there (there’d been no one there on my way in) but it was also kind of nice to sit around and chat about the walks they were doing and had done. An unintended experiment in what happens when you substitute shellite for metho in a trangia for an inexperienced member of one party was promptly dealt with, and having had my fill of excitement for the day I retired early.

Pandani, Oakleigh and Pillinger

Pandani, Oakleigh and Pillinger

A brief interlude to experiment with more nighttime photos, and I was back in bed. As if to match my mood, the following morning was cloudy, but the light was still lovely. I reluctantly got ready, but knew there wasn’t going to be much prolonging things. So I said my goodbyes, and headed off, back to the car in a bit of a blur.

One last look on the way back down..

One last look on the way back down..

An ice-cream in Chudleigh on the way out, a chat to the shop owner about stars, an unexpected catch up and chat in Perth that left me smiling. Moody clouds and brilliant light accompanied the drive back, and I knew I’d found something of what I was looking for.

Back to Frog Flats.. a wave to Achilles

Back to Frog Flats.. a wave to Achilles

All up: 46.6km, 1959m ascent.

Could lie here forever.. do I have to go back?

Could lie here forever.. do I have to go back?

Evening light on Oakleigh

Evening light on Oakleigh

A final parting photo the following morning.. it mirrors how I feel, perfectly.

A final parting photo the following morning.. it mirrors how I feel, perfectly.

Kayaking: July 2014

Mist and early morning light on the Bangor Property

Mist and early morning light on the Bangor property

The plan for Sunday was a paddle, walk and paddle, with the intended destination being Mt Cawthorn in the Southwest. It was ambitious for a winters day, and perfect weather was going to be crucial. Ambitious enough that I’d initially expressed doubts to Simon, the organiser, over whether I’d be able to paddle fast enough over the distance we’d need to travel with my back the way it was. He reassured me, and a solution I was happy with was found when I asked Graham if he was going, and if I could share his double.

Reflections

Reflections

The weather didn’t agree however, and the fine day I’d had climbing Frederick the day before was not to be repeated. The wind was forecast to be 25-35km/h, with 80% chance of rain from 10am-4pm or something ridiculous. Plan A was called off.. Plan B was formed, pondered, and also decided unsuitable. A lot more last minute work on Simon’s part and Plan C was devised: A drive in to Bangor, just past Dunalley on the Forestier Peninsula, launch from Lagoon Bay, and paddle around to check out the Tasman monument (commemorating the arrival of Abel Tasman on December 3, 1642). There were also options to explore nearby islands if time/weather/people agreed.

The spiderwebs were beautiful

The spiderwebs were beautiful

I was still conscious of wind and swell, and the fact that I’m not an experienced kayaker by any means, nor do I know how to roll a boat. I actually sent Graham a message questioning whether or not I should go (he was, after all, the one who risked getting wet if things got rough, and he could still go in his single if I didn’t go). He convinced me otherwise, just, and once the double was on his car there was no backing out.

Diamond necklaces..

Diamond necklaces..

By Saturday night after returning from Frederick I was too exhausted to think about it any further anyway. I couldn’t even get my head around what I needed to pack (walking is automatic, kayaking requires thought!). So I left it for the morning, and headed to bed. I was rather annoyed to find myself wide awake after a few hours sleep, but still too tired to think about anything, so I resorted to sorting through and posting photos of the walk up Frederick. I finally drifted off, only to wake at 4am to my alarm.

Tree, cobwebs, mist in the morning.

Tree, cobwebs, mist in the morning.

I had to get up, I still had all my gear from the last weekend hung out around the house to put away, kayaking gear to pack, and lunch to make. I bumbled through it, deciding it might not be so kind to vacuum the floor at such an early hour (a good excuse anyway) and was ready to be picked up shortly after 6.

More mist, and by now, some very patient friends!

More mist, and by now, some very patient friends!

The drive was a bit quiet due to the mood I was in, but Graham managed to talk me out of it, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re around happy and bubbly friends who are excited about being together and going on yet another adventure. Jess was the only one who look positively terrible, and it hit me how easy it is to take her smile for granted. She had good reason, and Bec gave her what only Bec can give: a Bec hug (they’re different from normal hugs). I was glad Jess had still decided to come, and it was even more special to see her laughing and smiling later in the day.

Lined up, ready to be packed and launched.

Lined up, ready to be packed and launched.

We set off, a little late, but made good time. As the sun started to rise the day got really special. We drove past scores of trees, covered in dewy spiderwebs, that shined in the mist. It was really rather magical, particularly in those few moments when the sun had risen above the horizon and turned the mist and cobwebs a golden yellow. I should have listened to Graham when he insisted I ask to stop if I wanted to take any photos, but I was being stubborn, and we hadn’t discussed the possibility with Simon, who might have wondered where we had got to if we suddenly dropped off the back of the convoy.

Bec says it all in one gesture.

Bec says it all in one gesture.

Later on though, after arriving at the Bangor property and picking up the key for a fee of $10 per person, everyone else started to photograph cobwebs on fences or the beautiful misty views. It took me a while, but I reluctantly joined in… and then got a bit carried away. I was very much aware that it wasn’t my walk, and I was making everyone wait, and after getting bogged and losing my sandals in some smelly marshy stuff while taking photos of yet another cobwebby tree, I thought I should be a bit good.

Leaving the bay

Leaving the bay

A brief stop at a river to wash off my feet and sandals so that I didn’t make Graham’s car smell too badly, and one other to take some photos of reeds in front of mist (which I justified as being ok because it was Graham’s suggestion, not mine!). We drove past swans, sheep and belted galloways, and saw our first few sea eagles flying the skies. Already, any expectations I’d had for the day had been far exceeded.

Heading out to sea.. beautiful.

Heading out to sea.. beautiful.

A bit more of a drive and we found ourselves at a grassy spot to park, just above Lagoon Bay. The water was calm, the sand soft and damp underfoot, decorated with seaweed and heaps of perfectly whole abalone shells. I was ready for the day now. Boats off cars and down to the water’s edge, gear sorted and packed, skirts and pfds on, and we were ready.

Looking back as the others pass through the narrow strip of water between land and Double Rock (left)

Looking back as the others pass through the narrow strip of water between land and Double Rock (left)

Out we went, in our own time, enjoying the freedom of being on water. Bec glided past, paddle resting across her boat, arms spread out in a gesture that expressed what I think we were all feeling. And so, in that fashion we made our way out of the bay, keeping closish to the edge. A seal waved a flipper at us as we passed and cormorants looked on from their well inhabited rock, before we made our way between the land and Double Rock.

Seals.. there's three believe it or not!

Seals.. there’s three believe it or not!

Three more seals were spotted on rocks to our left, and we went to check them out. Narrow passages between the  columnar rock of Cape Fredrick Hendrick were very tempting, but I don’t think any of us novices trusted our kayaking skills enough to think about an attempt for longer than a few moments.

About to round Cape Frederick Hendrick

About to round Cape Frederick Hendrick

Slightly further around Simon spotted another sea eagle, perched on rock. We paddled over to check it out, and Graham decided it must just be a tree stump, because it didn’t move an inch. I agreed. But we were to discover on the way back that it wasn’t there anymore, so sea eagle it must have been!

Looking back

Looking back

And then we were paddling out across North Bay, the water nice and calm, disrupted by a decent sized splash just to our right that none of us saw but could only assume was another seal playing. We each paddled at our own pace, happy to be alone in our boats, but to also have the occasional chat with others as they passed. At one point we made a kayak raft of 5 boats, sour worms were passed around, and more laughter was shared.

Jess in the sun :)

Jess in the sun 🙂

A little bit of playful splashing, jokes on initiation rituals for Graham’s double kayak, and enjoyment of the place, activity and moments kept us occupied as we passed by Two Mile Beach and rounded Monument Point into Tasman Bay. Beaching on pebbles proved a tad slippery but manageable, and very quickly priorities turned to food and photos. I was really quite hungry, but kept finding things to photograph. A slice of Meredith’s home made muesli slice did the trick, and I indulged my desire to try and capture the orange and yellow lichen growing on rounded grey rocks before turning to lunch.

Peta.. perfect example of calm, effortless gracefulness.

Peta.. perfect example of calm, effortless gracefulness.

We sat in the sun on the pebbles, chatting away, munching on lunch, sharing dessert. Smiles all round had me smiling, and feeling that warm glow of perfect happiness. All done, we went to check out the monument, and a decent sized hut nearby, before returning back to the boats. The wind was up a bit, so we decided to just push back.

Bec and Visscher Island

Bec and Visscher Island

Though a bit ‘lumpy’, as Simon described it, I suspect the double was rather a lot more stable than some of the singles, and I was surprised to find I didn’t feel at all concerned, in fact I rather liked the feeling of rolling with the waves. The sea eagles were almost out in force by now, and one flew almost directly over head at one point. Quite special!

Part of our raft of 5.

Part of our raft of 5.

After rounding the choppy Cape Frederick Hendrick again we had the wind behind us, and paddling became a whole lot easier! The seals were gone, but another sea eagle was flying around Double Rock, and one was perched on a tree on the land to the right of it. Graham decided we were going to pick up the pace as we went through the narrow bit of water between the two, which was rather fun, especially when we caught a wave.

Pulling in to Tasman Bay

Pulling in to Tasman Bay

Once through, we were back in the shelter of Lagoon Bay, and decided to wait up for the others here. My back was aching by this stage, and I was glad of a break, even though there wasn’t much I could do to stretch it out. The four of us chatted about the day as we waited, and then together we cruised back in.

All up.. time for lunch!

All up.. time for lunch!

Packing up of gear and kayaks was interrupted slightly after Jess provoked Simon to the extent that he gave her a dumping in the sea. Later she nudged me, asking for a hand getting him back. We gave chase, but decided we needn’t waste our effort, as he still had to carry his boat back to the car. I figured I’d have time to help Graham with the double first, but for some reason I became the new target. Luckily I still had one hand on the kayak, and I wasn’t letting go!

Loved these lichen covered rocks!

Loved these lichen covered rocks!

Jess came to my rescue, turned the tables, and soon Jess, Graham and myself were all ganging up on Simon, and we had another chase.. also called off. Another go a little while later, and Simon finally conceded defeat and decided to walk down to the beach rather than have Jess and I carry him.

Close up

Close up

So the four of us walked into the water, which was not too cold after all the running round. Graham dived in, Jess had a go at Simon who eventually went under, and I was too slow in realising that I was the only one still dry!! Uh-oh!! Simon grabbed a leg, Graham an arm, and for a few moments I was balancing on one leg, being pulled in two different directions.

Simon and his monument

Simon and his monument

I thought I’d been given a break when Simon let go, but no such luck, he’d just decided to jump on my back. Time to go down it seemed..! I came up laughing, we all were. Crazy but happy. Completely soaked, out we walked together. Can’t say I ever expected to be swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter, but I’m especially lucky to have friends to do it with!

End of the day.. Con and Peta.

End of the day.. Con and Peta.

But the fun wasn’t over, and Jess soon had us playing frisbee (with the covers from kayak storage holes) while people finished packing and changing. Lots of fun, until we managed to lose one that just refused to be found (sorry Simon!). Another pretty perfect day.

Fresh dry clothes after our dunking, and a game of frisbee

Fresh dry clothes after our dunking, and a game of frisbee

Caving: October 2013

Cave entrance, looking out

Cave entrance, looking out

Another break from the usual adventures, this time it’s caving! I have been lucky enough to go once before, and loved it. So when I put out feelers asking who might be free on Saturday after 9 (yes, I had to work, but I wasn’t going to be able to walk on my usual Sunday and Monday off, so I had to get out when I could), and got an invite to tag along, there was no question about it!

 

Stalactites

Stalactites

We were intending to go to Mystery Creek cave this time, but the fact that it was still raining a bit, that there’d been a fair bit of rain already,  that you have to cross a river,  that water drains into the cave, that we had three kids with us, and that a group of Victorian school kids were killed when the cave flooded meant that a decision was made to go back to the Bradley-Chesterman cave. It was the same cave I’d been to before, and although that meant no new territory to explore or secrets to discover, it didn’t really matter because it was quite a different experience in any case!

 

Stalactites up close

Stalactites up close

I didn’t start the trip off too well, realising as we stood at the cave entrance and filled in the log book that I’d left my camera in my jacket pocket, which I’d kept on till the last minute before leaving the cars. In my rush to take it off and leave it behind I’d forgotten to take my camera with me. Great.. after a race back through the forest just to check that I hadn’t actually put it in my pocket and it had fallen out, I kept going with the others until I got too annoyed with myself, and begged for the key to the car. Somebody thought it would be funny to see how long it would take to make me cry. It didn’t come to that, fortunately, and once again I was racing back through the cave, then the forest, retrieved my camera, and ran all the way back. That was actually quite good, it meant I was nice and warm for the cold water.

 

Some tight sections

Some tight sections

While there was probably a similar amount of water in the cave to last time, in parts it was moving much faster, and there was a section full of foam that had been formed by water racing through the cave at some earlier point. There were also more cave spiders and crickets than I remember from last time. Oh, and our lovely little blood sucking friends, leeches!

 

A bit of mud

A bit of mud

The cave itself isn’t too long, and at the ‘end’ (the furthest we’ve been, as there’s a collapse which would involve being on your tummy in water, and probably not suitable for kids) there’s a ‘mud cave’ off to one side. It also involves sliding along on your tummy, but it’s just muddy, with no water. When you pop out the other end, you’re in a literal mud cave.. there must be rocks under all the mud, but the walls are just covered in it, and you squealch along in very muddy water or thick mud that threatens to keep your shoes. Hehehe… ah, why is mud such fun?!

 

Well and truly covered in mud by now!

Well and truly covered in mud by now!

Cave spider

Cave spider

Big kids and little kids alike had lots of fun, though I’m not sure why I seemed to be the primary target of the mud and foam wars! If you’re up for something different, and don’t mind small dark spaces, being wet and muddy, and the occasional spider or two, caving is great fun. I can’t wait to go back to another one, or even to explore this one past the rock fall :D!!

 

Forest fungi colours

Forest fungi colours

 

 

 

 

Snowshoeing: September 2013

First few steps

First few steps

This one’s a bit of a break from the standard… We didn’t climb any peaks that I haven’t already written about, but snowshoeing is something different that most people wouldn’t normally think to try, and it’s beautiful. Snow shoes, by the way, can be hired quite cheaply, so as long as you have the warm gear, you can have quite a fun day! It’s something I’d recommend everyone try at least once in life. It takes you back to being a kid, laughing at falling over in the snow, having a snowball fight (or three – no photos of that, as I was the main instigator), trying to walk backwards or sideways without falling, and feeling full of wonder and delight at the small enclosed soft white world of snow in which you find yourself. The perfect remedy after a depressing election day.

Got the hang of it

Got the hang of it

We set off, and were getting into our gear at the Lake Dobson shelter in no time.. we shivered our way along the Urquhart track, but by the time we broke out onto the road we were stripping off the layers, and throwing a few snow balls :p! A quick march up the road, a word of greeting to the SES guys who were practicing rescues, and we were off along the track. Still in our boots, with snow shoes strapped to our packs, as there wasn’t quite enough snow to warrant putting them on straight away. But as we got to the ski tow on the way towards the Rodway Range, the snow got a lot deeper, and after struggling with sinking in up to our knees, or at times further, it was time to put them to the test!

On the scree

On the scree

On they went, and we took our first few awkward steps, before getting used to the weight, the best way to move in them, and the big no-no’s :p! It doesn’t take long to adjust, and soon enough if you’re like me you find yourself running with joy, or even skipping!! The others were slightly more contained than me, and kept expressions of joy and happiness to smiles and verbal phrases, while I laughed and clapped and ran and skipped and lay down in the middle of it all… yes, for those of you who don’t know, I am the biggest, craziest nutter of them all.

Bit of snow, and bit of a drop

Bit of snow, and bit of a drop

We proceeded to enjoy the rest of the day, marvelling at the rock that looked like someone had taken out a piece of charcoal and sketched it then and there; at the way the wind caused ice to form in certain patterns, sometimes on the leeward and sometimes on the windward side of things; at the sheer beauty of it all, even though the whiteout limited how far you could see at any one time; at the isolation, the strength and sting of the wind driven sleet, yet the immense calm, peacefulness, and tranquility of the place, and its ability to transport you out of reality, into a surreal winter wonderland for the day.

Pure, pristine, beauty.. untouched and only seen by us

Pure, pristine, beauty.. untouched and only seen by us

We had flat expanses of snow interspearsed between the scree fields that make up the Rodway range, and though the going was much slower on the rock, and snow shoes surely can’t be designed for that, it was much faster and easier than without snow or snow shoes. I was surprised at how much grip they actually do have, though you have to put up with the unnatural and unpleasant sound of metal and plastic on rocks.

Rock, and ice patterns made by wind

Rock, and ice patterns made by wind

Extra special highlights (the whole day was a highlight really) included the challenge of climbing steep sections of snow without sliding down on your front, and the intentional sliding down on bums to get down steep enough sections of snow (much better than any water slide you’ve ever been on). Even falling over is fun, and it’s impossible not to laugh..

Icicles

Icicles

So next time there’s snow and you feel like a fun adventure.. consider hiring or borrowing a pair of snow shoes and heading out with some crazy friends.

The fun way down :)

The fun way down 🙂