Why I won’t be going back to Tidal River

Sometimes camping really sucks.
Like when the campsite you’re at has had a wedding booked at it and the frigging nightclub music doesn’t stop until 1.30am.
That was my recent Saturday night at Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory with a friend after we’d just walked over 20km on blistered feet (to be the subject of another blog) and were looking forward to an early night and a long sleep. But it was not to be.
Even with earplugs it was impossible to drown out the racket. The dull thump thump bass of a DJ’s beats were constant. At every pause between songs we silently wished that was the last. We were disappointed often.
Tidal River is a very popular campsite, with families as well as walkers and holiday makers there. Few would have got a decent night sleep this night.
There’s something utterly incompatible with this scenario. A beautiful natural location, managed by Parks Victoria, the government organisation charged with looking after our wilderness areas, hosting a loud, intrusive wedding and reception.
I realise there may be a view that parks should have to pay their way. But to the detriment of what makes them special? And disruptive to other users?
Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson and won’t be going back to stay at Tidal River. And I’d recommend anyone thinking about it to carefully consider what they may end up experiencing.

Climbing walls again!

After a break of a couple of years I’m back climbing.

It’s something I’ve done off and on for about 20 years. The thing about climbing is you need someone at the bottom of the rope to belay you, to hold and tighten the rope if you fall, stopping you from falling. And if you’re going to do it outside, you should go with people who know what they’re doing – ie how to tie knots and set up ropes safely and securely.

So the off times have been when I haven’t known anyone who likes climbing, or has the right amount of knowledge, or just the time to do so. The on times when circumstances have aligned and I’ve have found the right people.

I’m back on again after an old friend originally from Germany moved back to Australia.

I find climbing a great combination of a physical and mental workout. Physical because you’re using your arms and legs to climb the wall, and mental because you need to think about how best to get to the top.

On the wall

On the wall

You can’t just muscle your way up. You need to think how to place your feet, where to put them, which holds to grab and how to hold them. You need to be efficient in your moves otherwise you’ll tire quickly.

And that’s one of the things I like most about climbing. The best climbers aren’t necessarily the ones with the biggest muscles. The people who get up quickly and make it look effortless are actually small and lithe and are economical with their movements. They look like they flow up the wall.

I climb at an indoor gym although outdoors is the best. At the gym you’re using colour coded holds to determine your climb while outdoors you use anything and everything to get yourself to the top.

The shoes.

The shoes.

Plus being in the outdoors in the fresh air, amongst the trees and birds, just makes everything better. But if you’re going to go outdoors, you also need equipment, which can be expensive. And as I said earlier, know what you’re doing. Because while climbing is a safe sport, it’s only safe if you make sure you follow safety guidelines religiously and don’t cut any corners.

So if you’ve never tried climbing, give it a go. It’s a fun bug to be bitten by.

 

 

Salomon Series, Anglesea

Last weekend I did the final Salomon Series trail run for 2014.

It was at Anglesea, a seaside town on the way to Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road, about an hour and a half drive from Melbourne.

Again, I was doing the long course, which this time was 23km – a couple more than last month’s long course of 21km at Olinda in the Dandenongs.

And what a spectacular day it was for a run.

IMG_0977

The morning was cool with a chill breeze but the sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue.

It didn’t take long to warm up when the race started.

The first six or seven kilometres were along the firm compacted sand of the beach under tall cliffs topped with bush that we’d be running through on the way back to the finish.

The ocean was calm and the gentle breaking of the waves on the beach was a steady, hypnotic soundtrack that was a nice distraction from my huffing and puffing as I jogged along.

The course went over a set of rocks that slowed things down a bit as some runners were a bit unsure of the uneven, sharp surface, and then up a headland that took us into coastal scrub and along twisting, turning single trail.

I’m not ashamed to say but the first big climb was a tough one and I fast-walked much of it.

The course then took runners up and down through the bush until the final few kilometres had us running along the top of the cliffs we’d run under at the start.

The view out over the ocean was spectacular. The water was a deep blue and completely calm and flat. Anglesea’s houses in the distance were a magnet to the finish.

Finished!

Finished!

I crossed the line in two hours, 15 minutes and 19 seconds – faster than my time in the Olinda run, which was a couple of kilometres shorter, but hillier. I finished around the middle of my category.

Anyway, now that the Salomon Series is over, I’m kind of left wondering what to do next. I’ve got all this fitness now and need to do something with it.

A friend is suggesting the Melbourne Marathon in a few weeks. Hmmmm, maybe.

Some of my favourite multi-day walks

A few weeks ago Australia’s Outdoor magazine published a list of the top ten multday walks in the country.
I was quite chuffed to discover I’ve done six-ish of them – Queensland’s Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island and Fraser Island Great Walk and Tasmania’s Overland Track (a couple of times), Eastern Arthur Range (I’ve done some of the Eastern Arthurs walk – into and up Federation Peak and out), Western Arthur Range Traverse, and South Coast Track.

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The list made me think there’s plenty more walking I’ve got to do and also about what would be on my list of top overnight walks.
So while the ones I’ve mentioned above are certainly in my list of top walks, here’s a few others that have made an impression on me and I’d recommend.

1. Mount Remarkable, South Australia – Walking through the eastern side of this park presented some beautiful landscapes that, for me, are the picture of what I like to imagine the Australian bush is. It’s a romantic picture but one I like to daydream about. Open spaces dotted with big old gnarly trees and massive blue skies overhead. If you time it right and go around when the area gets rain, the ground is covered by a blanket of green grass and the streams at the bottom of steep gullies are running.

Mt Remarkable National Park

Mt Remarkable National Park

2. South-west circuit, Tasmania – This was my most recent big walk and it was the subject of some of my first blog posts. It had everything – amazing coastal views, challenging terrain, beaches, mountain ranges, strenuous walking and the feeling of utter and total independence and being away from everything.

On the South West Circuit

On the South West Circuit

3. Mount Bartle-Frere, Queensland – This was the first overnight walk I ever did on my own. I had no idea what I was doing but it started a lifelong passion for the outdoors. I was living in Atherton, my home town on the Tablelands in Far North Queensland at the time, and walked from the western side of the mountain. The mountain is covered in dense rainforest. So dense that when I went off track for a bathroom break, I had a moment of panic when I went to return to my pack I’d left on the track and couldn’t find it. After some deep calming breaths and a careful retracing of my steps I found the track again. I don’t think I’ve felt a sense of relief like that since. The climb is a physical challenge but apparently the view from the top is worth it. The weekend I was at the top it was covered in cloud and I didn’t see a thing. Here’s a link to a map of the walk.

4. Walls of Jerusalem, Tasmania – One of my favourite places in Tasmania. Passing through Herods Gate into the walls is like walking into another world. You’re surrounded by high imposing peaks – King Davids Peak, The Temple and Solomons Throne are just some. Then walk down into the penicil pine forest of Dixons Kingdom and its old trappers’ hut and resident wallabies. Wonderful.

Solomons Throne

The Temple

5. Blue Gum Forest, New South Wales – Another early bushwalking experience that showed me the beauty of the Australian bush. A beautiful stand of tall blue gums in the Grose Valley in the Blue Mountains. It was saved from the axe by a group of bushwalkers who bought it in the 1930s to save for future generations. Inspiring bush and an inspiring story.

Salomon Series Run – Olinda, Dandenongs

It was a cold foggy morning at Olinda in the Dandenongs last Sunday for the third race in the Salomon Trail Running Series.

Foggy winter morning in the Dandenongs

Foggy winter morning in the Dandenongs

I was doing the long course, 21km, and we were the first wave of runners to go.

The run was due to start at 8.30am and everyone waiting for the start was rugged up in their pants and puffer jackets until the very last moment.

Thankfully it didn’t take long to warm up when we were finally waved away.

It was a pretty tough course.

There was a lot of steep descent at the start and in the early kilometres. The course seemed to just keep going down and down. I kept thinking “what goes down must come up” so I didn’t go too hard, thinking I’d try and keep something in reserve for the climb back to the finish.

The trails were pretty good – a mixture of wide dirt track, fire trail and single track. They meandered through tall trees, ferny gullies and past gentle streams. I had to keep reminding myself to look around and take in the scenery every now and then instead of watching the ground all the time or heals of the person in front of me.

I was able to run at my own leisurely pace for much of the run. But when the climbing started, it certainly slowed everyone down. Long queues of runners (well, walkers actually) formed on the single track sections with few chances to overtake.

It was a little frustrating at first as I’m pretty good at hills but then I thought there was no point stressing about it. It was a nice day to be out and about and used the opportunity to get my breath back.

As much as I enjoyed the run, I was glad to get to the finish when I did. The juice was running low. But I was happy with my time – 2 hours 16 minutes – and I’m looking forward to the fourth and final race of the series at Anglesea in a few weeks.

The end!

The end!

A walk in the Bunyip State Park

I’ve been looking for new places to walk around Melbourne and while scrolling around Google maps came across a big patch of green called Bunyip State Park.

A quick Google and I found the Parks Victoria notes for the park and it looked like a place worth checking out.

For those unfamiliar with what a bunyip is, a mythical Aboriginal creature, here’s what the Parks Victoria notes say:

The legend of the bunyip

Beware of the Bunyip, a dark furry animal with a round face, small ears and fiery eyes that glow in the dark!

 According to the Aboriginal people, the Bunyip or “Buneep” (as spelt on early maps which show the river, first cattle run and township) is a spirit that punishes bad people.

Local Aboriginal people believed the Bunyip lived in the swamps of the Bunyip River, and therefore avoided the area. Many early settlers, believing this story, never pitched their tents near a ‘Bunyip hole’. People were also careful not to make ripples when collecting water. This upset the Bunyip.

The park is about 65km out of Melbourne and about an hour drive from the city through outer suburbs, small towns, farmland and then forested bush.

We didn’t pick the best day for a walk unfortunately. It was cold, drizzly and the sky just low grey cloud. But it was possibly for the best as the track notes said the area is used by trail bike riders and as we didn’t see or hear any, maybe the weather had kept them away.

It looks like one of the main features of the park is a collection of large, smooth rocks called the Four Brothers Rocks. Apparently there’s a nice view from them but when we got there the cloud was still low and thick and we saw nothing but grey.

It would have been a nice spot for lunch but it was cold and the ground and rocks were wet and it was drizzling so we decided to carry on walking.

Anyway, we had a nice day wandering along foot tracks and dirt roads and I’m keen to go back and explore more. Plus the many tea houses with coffee and cake in the Dandenongs on the way home are another attraction and temptation.

 

A cyclist’s lament – Drivers failing to indicate

Why is it so hard for some car drivers to use their indicators?

It’s that big handle thing sticking out from either the left or right of the steering wheel. And to pass your driving test, I’m pretty sure you have to use it when turning at corners and intersections and when changing lanes.

So why do some drivers seem to forget those are the rules? Do think everyone should just give way to them and that the road rules don’t apply to them?

It’s infuriating. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve nearly been cleaned up by a car changing lanes without looking and without using their indicator.

I’m a cautious rider and keep a very wary eye on cars around me. I pretty much assume every driver could do something stupid – like turn without using their blinker – and adjust my riding to suit. I ride slowly, keep my hands on the brakes ready to jam them on, and try and leave space between me and any cars ahead of me. I’ve been lucky so far and managed to get through unscathed the close calls I’ve had.

But really, when drivers whinge and moan about cyclists who don’t obey road rules, how about they look around them and their fellow motorists.

When they whinge about riders not getting fined for riding on footpaths or whatever, how about drivers who don’t indicate.

If police and the government really want to revenue raise, start pinging people for failing to use their blinkers. In Victoria, it’s a $148 fine.

Oh and by the way, yes, as a cyclist, I always indicate my turning intentions when I’m riding, even when there’s no traffic around out of habit.