Monthly Archives: November 2014

A walk in the rain – Mt St Leonard, Healesville

 

A cloudy day for a walk

A cloudy day for a walk

Not every day can be a perfect day for a walk.

But sometimes those crappy weather days can be pretty nice.

A friend and I recently walked up Mt St Leonard, near Healesville, about an hour’s drive out of Melbourne.

It’s just over a thousand metres high and great for a climbing workout that’ll have you huffing and puffing.

The day we decided to climb it was cold and wet.

The forecast was for the rain and cloud to clear during the day and we thought by the time we got to the top the clouds would have cleared and we’d be rewarded with fantastic views.

Unfortunately, the weather gods weren’t with us, and the rain was heavy and the cloud dense just as we arrived at the summit.

We sheltered under the observation tower at the top briefly before deciding there was no chance of the weather changing any time soon and we headed back down … carefully on the now very wet and slippery trail.

While we didn’t get much in the way of views during the walk, the low, misty grey cloud through the trees created a quiet, serene atmosphere.

It also made us focus on what was close – the smells of the forest, the tweet and twitter of birds, the colours of the trees and the wallabies and lyre birds that scurried into the bush at our approach.

So for me, while wet, cold, grey walking days can be uncomfortable, they can also be as enjoyable as the warm, blue sky days.

The walk up and back took us about five hours. The trail is a wide, easy to follow track with well marked signs when it diverted to a walking track.

And steep. Very steep, especially towards the top. Be prepared for sore legs afterwards.

A blistering time

After years of bushwalking I’ve yet to discover an effective way to prevent or fix blisters.

I copped some pretty bad ones on my last walk at Wilsons Prom that left me hobbling around for a week and it made me wonder whether there really is a way to stop them.

I feel like I’ve tried everything but nothing’s worked.

Here’s a bit of a list of what I’ve tried to no avail.

  • Wearing two pairs of socks – just made my feet hotter and sweatier.
  • Bandaids – eventually lost their stickiness and rubbed off.
  • Fancy moleskin patches – again, rubbed off.
  • Trying to build up sticking plaster around the blister – again, rubbed off.

One thing that kind of worked was sticking plaster straight onto the “hot spot” where it feels like a blister is forming. But I found this only works on the heel where there’s plenty of skin for the plaster to stick to. It still eventually rubs off though. And it’s not useful for toes or on the side of the foot.

I suppose one problem is much of my walking has been in Tasmania, where you’re guaranteed to get wet feet. And when that happens, little will stick to your skin. Plus trails are rough and the movement of your feet twisting and turning on uneven ground encourages rubbing.

Of course, walking in thoroughly broken in boots does help. But if you’re walking 20km a day in them, I doubt that alone will keep you blister free.

At the moment my only strategy to deal with blisters is telling myself to “toughen up, princess” and carry on. There’ll be plenty of time to get your feet back to normal after the walk.

If anyone’s found any effective ways to deal with blisters, I’m happy to hear them.

My mangled feet after finishing the South West Circuit in Tasmania

 

Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse

I’ve always wanted to stay at a lighthouse.

Wilsons Prom lighthouse

Wilsons Prom lighthouse

These lonely, isolated outposts on remote coastlines have always intrigued me. Exposed to harsh weather, perched on cliffs or rocky outcrops, there’s a certain romanticism about them although I imagine they were also incredibly difficult places to live and work for the keepers who maintained the lighthouse. Stories of how they made most of their situation always intrigue me.

I finally got my chance to stay at a lighthouse recently at Wilsons Promontory, where the old lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been opened up to hikers.

 

Wilsons Prom National Park is about three hours drive southeast of Melbourne and is one of Victoria’s natural jewels. The coast and beaches are spectacular, as are the forests and bush you hike through to reach them.

The lighthouse cottages have been wonderfully renovated.

There are three self-contained cottages – the large, head keeper’s cottage, and two others, one for couples and another for groups.

My friend and I stayed in the old head keeper’s cottage, which has four bedrooms (I think) with bunk beds and a large kitchen, sitting room and showers and toilets. Luxury compared to my usual camping!

As we didn’t need to carry in a tent or stove, we had plenty of room in our backpacks for good food – no dehydrated stuff this time. We had smoked salmon pasta for dinner our first night and falafels and couscous the second night with nice cheese and crackers and pastes for nibbles. Lunches were wraps with cheese, cured meat and fresh salad stuff.

Another reason for staying at the lighthouse were its resident wombats. Wombats are one of my favourite Australian animals and the opportunity to see them wondering freely around the cottages was something I couldn’t resist. And I wasn’t disappointed, as you’ll see in the photos.

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It’s quite a slog to get to the lighthouse. We took the most direct route, from Telegraph Saddle, along the dirt service road used by rangers. It doesn’t go all the way to the lighthouse though thankfully. The final 3-4km to the lighthouse is along a walking track that follows the coast through tall forest. Possibly the toughest part is the last 200-300 metres to the cottages, up a very steep concrete path from the rocks where stores used to be unloaded. It’s about a five to six hour walk in.

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We arrived about 4.30pm and the wind was blowing strong and the ocean was rough. Thick fog came rolling in and the lighthouse almost disappeared from view.

The next day we did a 20km day walk to South Point, the southerly most point of the Australian mainland. It was a funny day weather-wise. To the west of the lighthouse the sky was clear, but to the east the fog hung heavy and thick. Out to sea you could hear the fog horns of passing container ships. The fog eventually lifted in the late afternoon and the views were clear when we had a tour of the lighthouse and climbed to the top.

Our third day dawned clear and the wind had died down. We had all day to get back to the car so we decided to walk back via Waterloo Bay and its beautiful white sandy beach. We had great views of the coast and looking back to the lighthouse, and saw a whale breaching in the distance. That was an unexpected bonus!

All that walking had one downside – blisters. I was wearing my Scarpas which haven’t been out for a while and it felt like I was breaking them in all over again. Not a good thing to do when walking 20km a day. By the end of the walk, heading up the last hill to get to the car at the saddle, every step was painful. My left small toe was the worst and it felt like a blister had formed on top of another blister if that’s possible. A week later and it’s finally gone down and back to normal.

But the trip was worth it.