Welcome back to the Great North Walk (GNW) Mach II.
It has taken a while to get back out onto the trail, but it has been worth the wait. It delivers equal parts physical challenge and outstanding beauty. It is also a bit unique for me in that I haven’t been able to walk the whole thing in one go – an approach that always appeals to my linear brain.
The wet weather on New South Wales’ East coast has meant damage to the trail continues to occur and parts are opened and closed with regular monotony. Maybe all these stops and starts are teaching me to be supremely flexible!
Fill up your water bottle, we are off on Day 3 of the Great North Walk, slowly working/walking our way from Sydney to Newcastle.
Sadly, my Bondi to Manly adventure is done and dusted. It is such a glorious experience with every stage of the walk delivering stunning views, intriguing history and a wonderful opportunity to get the heart rate, and daily step count, UP.
Promotional Blurb: The masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre and made its author famous overnight.
An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Bruce Chatwin’s exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes. Fuelled by an unmistakable lust for life and adventure and a singular gift for storytelling, Chatwin treks through “the uttermost part of the earth” – that stretch of land at the southern tip of South America, where bandits were once made welcome – in search of almost-forgotten legends, the descendants of Welsh immigrants, and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy.
An instant classic upon publication in 1977, In Patagonia is a masterpiece that has cast a long shadow upon the literary world.Source
Earlier this year I made a rather extravagant statement about 2022 being my “Year of Yes”. I wanted to publicly and privately rebel against the endless ‘No’ and negativity of the last couple of Covid-impacted years.
If nothing else, my plan was to consciously change my mindset from one constantly limited by circumstances beyond my control, to one where I actively sought out things (read: travel adventures big and small) that brought me joy. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I am one of those people who thrive on experiencing new landscapes, cultures and challenges. Yes, I have my homebody moments too, but I always need to have something interesting sitting on the horizon or pencilled onto my calendar.
Sometimes I wish I was more content to take each day as it comes rather than forever looking forward, however, looking forward and being positive is exactly what my Year of Yes is all about.
Believe it or not, the Capertee Valley in Central West NSW is reported to be the second widest canyon in the World!
That’s a pretty big boast for a pretty small part of Australia, but even if it is not 100% accurate it still delivers when it comes to spectacular views and scrambling up Blackman’s Crown is the perfect way to marvel at those views.
Grab your hat, we’re off on a short scrabble and scramble to the top.
Manly Beach is one of the best-known tourist destinations in Sydney, but Manly is so much more than one big name beach. Walking the Bondi to Manly path revealed Sydney to me and delivered more hidden coves and glorious beaches than I ever knew existed.
If you are after some sun, sea and sand, head to Manly and take your pick of eight different beaches – all within an easy 15-20minute walk of the Manly Wharf.
Grab your sunnies, towel and sunscreen – we are off to absorb some Vitamin Sea.
I have been off the beaten track quite a few times in my life, but rarely have I experienced being so far ‘off’ that there is scarcely a track at all. What an adventure!
The Pipeline Track is a rather uninspiring name for a walk. Don’t be fooled. This path delivers breath-taking views of soaring sandstone cliffs plunging down into hidden valleys and breath-taking climbs to match.
Alas, today is the last day exploring the Bondi to Manly path. It has taken a while to find a window in the timetable to slot in this final glorious stroll and, perhaps, a small part of me was reluctant for it all to be over.
Grab your hat and water bottle, we are off for a short stroll around the North Head of Sydney Harbour.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? You do all the research, fill out the spreadsheets and lay out your gear all over the floor, weighing every item.
And then the perfectly planned plan falls over!
Yes, my 15-day Great North Walk adventure was turned on its head when, at the last minute as I was starting to stuff gear into my backpack, I thought I should check the National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) website for any alerts. And, you guessed it, wherever I looked and in letters writ large was ‘Great North Walk – CLOSED’!
The endless excessive rain that the East coast of NSW has experienced the last couple of months has created landslips, felled trees and generally made the path impassable. Bugger! Back to the drawing board.
With a little more research, I found I could walk the early stages through Sydney’s suburbs and that became my much-shortened Plan B.
The days are getting shorter and the sun is starting to lose its bite. Staring out my window, tinges of red and orange edge the trees…ahh, it really is looking a lot like Autumn.
The Blue Mountains in New South Wales is a gorgeous destination at any time of the year, but never more so than when all the deciduous trees are aflame with Autumn colours. As I just so happened to be driving past the turnoff to the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, it was an easy decision to turn right, park the car and wander a while.
Come walk with me through … the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens Mt Tomah.
Hiking the Great Ocean Walk (GOW) was an amazing experience. Full stop!
It was not easy and I am the first to admit that it was much more physically demanding than I expected. That doesn’t mean it is not worth doing, it just means that you need equal amounts of solid training, packing preparation and gritty determination.
Seriously steep climbs and heartbreakingly soft sand provided endless challenge, but Oh, the beauty. Wherever you gaze is a scenic wonder and most of that landscape can only be accessed on foot. A fair reward for all that effort.
Don’t let me put you off. This is a true adventure and here are my Top Tips for the Great Ocean Walk…
My feet had wings this morning as I set out on the very final stage of the Great Ocean Walk. I was filled with anticipation to finally see the famous Twelve Apostles in all their glory AND I had swapped my +16kg backpack for a featherlight daypack. Bliss!
I started walking just after 7am and it was cool and dark with heavy clouds. It felt like the path was all mine as I scooted the final stretch westwards.
The first part of our day was rated ‘Hard’ and I was bit apprehensive about how we would handle it as we were planning to walk the hard section plus 8km of the next easy stage. So, I pulled up my ‘big girl’ panties (or compression shorts) and stayed focus on the fact that tonight I would be stepping into a blissful shower and sliding into a real, live bed! Heaven!
Pack covers on and off we strolled in the misty early morning light.
We were determined not to repeat yesterday’s mistake (getting caught walking in the heat) and we were out of bed, and packing in the dim, early morning light. It is weird how it gets light so much later in southern Victoria. Thank goodness for head lamps.
Overnight we had made good use of the campsite shelter and left our packs, shoes and all our gear (except food) inside to avoid any dampness. Ah, the joys of having a campsite all to ourselves.
Yesterday we passed the halfway point…all downhill from here! 😊
The one good thing about finishing the day climbing up and camping at the top of a steep hill is that theoretically you do not have to face that climb first thing the next day…or that is the theory anyway. Theories can always be tested and proven wrong.
Today was our first normal day i.e. one stage per day. We were determined to have a leisurely start and savoured having the entire campsite to ourselves. We learnt though that starting late means that you lose some of the precious cool hours.
The body creaked and groaned this morning as I rolled over onto my back and contemplated the ceiling of the tent, and the day ahead. Slowly stretching out my legs, back and shoulders, I checked for sore spots, strains and sprains, but luckily everything was in order and nothing out of place.
The sun was rising and it was time to get up and get on with the day’s double-stage walk.
After thinking, dreaming and planning for so long, it was exciting to step out on our first real adventure for 2022. The wind buffeted us as we walked away from the protection of Apollo Bay township and the sand, whipped up off the beach, stinging our legs and arms. Loving the early morning views over the beach, the wind gusts hit out fully loaded (overloaded?) backpacks and we stepped sideways grappling with our hiking poles to remain upright.
It’s time to continue my love affair with the stunning Holtermann Collection – a 3,500-strong collection of glass plate negatives developed (see what I did there?) in the 1870s.
The Holtermann Museum in Gulgong celebrates the images that were captured during Gulgong’s roaring goldrush days in 1872. An extension of this excellent museum is a small brochure that takes you outside the museum’s walls and onto the historic streets.
Grab your camera and join me on the Holtermann Trail…
A few weeks ago I shared an overview of the Great North Walk – a +260km path from Sydney to Newcastle on Australia’s East coast. After a fair bit of reading, researching and scheming, it’s time to share my plan of attack.
Do you have any tips or tricks? Wisdom to share?
Even if you haven’t walked this route before, I welcome any do’s and don’ts when it comes to long hikes through the bush.
By now you may be well aware that I don’t mind a walk when the opportunity presents itself. Even better if the walk is through the Aussie bush and it is a path I have been meaning to explore for years.
When I was a kid, our family were keen waterskiers and we would regularly make the weekend pilgrimage to Burrendong Dam near Wellington in Central West NSW. The road would take us through Wellington, past Mt Arthur and its surrounding hills. Yes, I could have spent the journey admiring the scenery, but more likely I was jumping out of my skin with the thoughts of the day ahead filled with skiing and generally frolicking in the water.
Much time has passed since those days and now it’s high time we make Mt Arthur our destination, exploring the rough beauty of the Aussie bush.
The life of the swagman in Australia has long been romanticised through the famous ballad, Waltzing Matilda. Almost our unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda, celebrates the life of a man down on his luck (the swagman or swaggy), who decides to steal a sheep (jumbuck) from a rich farmer (squatter). The underdog has always been popular in Aus.
For the uninitiated, a swaggy was a man who had left home, predominantly in search of work. Often living a true hand-to-mouth existence, these men walked huge distances throughout rural Australia, knocking on farm doors, seeking food, work or both.
The term ‘swaggy’ referred to the swag that they carried strapped to their backs. The swag may have included an old blanket, wrapped in a strip of canvas that was then wrapped around any bare necessities they were carrying.
Rather than Waltzing Matilda, in reality the life of a swaggy was often cold, hard and hungry.
To continue my Year of Adventure theme, I am delighted to share with you a little-known walk that delivers an amazing blend of city hustle, harbour views, and a dose of suburbia, before it launches off into wild and pristine Australian bush, past hidden rivers, then lurching back into suburbia and swamping you with glorious ocean views.
Phew! What is this walk that includes a bit of everything?
When you think about it, it is the most pointless exercise. You cook, usually making a huge mess at the time, you clean up, you eat, and bugger me, if a short time later, you have to start cooking all over again.
Where is the fun in that?
My idea of fun is going for a nice long stroll in the bush. The flaw in my plan is that you need food to fuel that nice long stroll. When there are no cafes or restaurants within cooee it means I need to plan ahead.
So here is my very first attempt at dehydrating meals in preparation for our 6-day Great Ocean Walk adventure.
Voila! A very gruesome looking Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that bring the most joy. A stroll in the sunshine through historic streets with your significant other is hard to beat. Our ‘built’ history in Australia is relatively new in comparison to many other places around the world, but it is still fascinating to us Aussies and provides an excellent insight into our times past.
Join me for a gentle stroll along the goldrush-era streets of Hill End.
It has been way too long between adventures AND blog posts. Covid19 clipped my wings so severely last year that I simply had to stay home in lockdown and I completely lost my blogging mojo.
I have now decided that 2022 is going to be a year of domestic adventures and my Year of ‘Yes’. There has been far too much ‘No’ over the past two years (‘No, you can’t do that – No, you can’t leave home – No, your plan has been cancelled’) and that has to change.
So, it is Yes to adventure, Yes to positivity and Yes to new challenges.
Both large and mini-adventures are in the wind, and in the short-term one of the mini ones is a stroll, or more like a clamber, along the Great Ocean Walk trail.
Grab your backpack and your tent, we are off again AT LAST!
Book Title: Sahara – A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival
Author: Paula Constant
Promotional Blurb: A journey of love, loss and survival.
Having walked more than 5000 kilometres from Trafalgar Square to Morocco, Paula Constant finds herself at the westernmost edge of the Sahara Desert – and the brink of sanity. The wheels have fallen off her marriage and her funds are quickly drying up, but she is determined to complete the second stage: walking through the romantic Big Empty of Northern Africa to Cairo.
Sahara is the story of Paula’s struggle to overcome her innermost demons and take control of her journey, her camels and the men she hires to guide her through one of planet’s most extreme regions. Illness, landmines and political red tape stand between Paula and the realisation of a life’s dream.
Sahara is a thrilling adventure and a story of joy, heartache, inspiration and despair. But, above all, it’s a celebration of the human spirit in all its guises. Source.
Following on from my Bibbulmun Track Overview post of a couple of weeks ago, I am starting to firm up my walking plans and I am not afraid to admit that I am a little overwhelmed by the scale of this adventure.
Yes, I have walked 1000’s of kilometres across Spain, Portugal and Italy, but this stroll in the Aussie bush is a whole new kettle of fish or 18kg backpack.
Sadly, for me anyway, today’s stroll is almost the last in my series focusing on our Western Australian adventure earlier this year. This path, and its stunning views, was a fitting way to end our tour and, once again, opened my eyes to the hidden beauty of our sprawling country.
It’s a cooler and slightly overcast day today, perfect walking conditions, but don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.
I can honestly say I have rarely used the words swimming and sharks in the same sentence. Living over four hours drive from the ocean, I see it infrequently and have even less desire to swim, or even contemplate being, in the same water as a shark.
So what possessed me to change my trusted approach/policy when I reached Western Australia?
Unfortunately our Western Australian adventure is coming to an end. Before we wave goodbye to the deep reds of this remote state, we lace up our walking shoes for another couple of short walks in the Cape Range National Park.
Rottnest Island is a little gem sitting just off the coast of Perth, Western Australia. At just 19km² it is only tiny in size, but it punches well above its weight with so much to see and do. And who would have thought there would be so many ways to explore its highlights?
Grab your walking shoes, cycling shoes, paddles, lifejacket, swimmers and camera, we’re off to see Rottnest Island.
Book Title: Lands of Lost Borders – A Journey On The Silk Road
Author: Kate Harris
Promotional Blurb:As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved – that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician – had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.
Well along this path, Harris set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule. This trip was just a simulacrum of exploration, she thought, not the thing itself – a little adventure to pass the time until she could launch for outer space. But somewhere in between sneaking illegally across Tibet, studying the history of science and exploration at Oxford, and staring down a microscope for a doctorate at MIT, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks, leaving footprints on another planet: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. And where she’d felt that most intensely was on a bicycle, on a bygone trading route. So Harris quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Yule, this time determined to bike it from beginning to end.
Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped. Source.
There is nothing better or more exciting than arriving at a new place and it slowly unfolds, revealing its history and characters. In my humble opinion a walking tour, either guided or self-guided, is the perfect way to discover secrets, stories and often a little sadness.
Lace up your walking shoes, we’re off to stroll the streets of Perth.
The adventure through Karijini National Park continues and instead of scrambling, down, down, down into gorgeous gorges, today I am taking you on a scramble up, up, up to the very top of Punurrunha or Mt Bruce.
Grab your water bottle, slap on your hat and slop on some sunscreen. We are off to scramble up a bloody great hill…
I have noticed a bit of trend over the last 35 years or so with major revamps underway in big cities all around the World.
Perhaps it takes a few bureaucrats or planners who can see past the industrial buildings, the rundown and seedy infrastructure, and picture a public space that is both beautiful and functional. Elizabeth Quay is just one small example of this visionary approach.
It’s a beautiful day, let’s go for a stroll down to the water.
Promotional Blurb: “I’d never done anything crazy like this before – a pilgrimage walk. I was not a hiker, and I wasn’t a Catholic. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I was a Christian. On the last government census when I had to state my religion, I’d said I was a Buddhist, mainly because they’ve had such a hard time in Tibet and I felt they needed my statistical support.
I was also not an adventure traveller. For me, adventure travel was flying coach. All this backpacking and wearing of heavy boots and flying off to France to walk ancient pilgrimage routes was a new experience, and not one that made me feel entirely comfortable.”
And so Bill Bennett, an Australian based film director, sets off on an 800-kilometre walk across Spain to Santiago de Compostela, not sure why he was doing it, and not feeling entirely comfortable. His discomfort increased markedly a few days later when his knee gave out – so the rest of the walk was a “pain management pilgrimage.” But he kept his sense of humour, and his memoir is at times hilarious but also deeply moving, and insightful. In the vein of Bill Bryson and Eric Newby, The Way, My Way takes you on a unique spiritual journey, and gives you a hearty laugh along the way. Source.
A visit to a prison may not be high on everyone’s travel bucket list, but when it is an old prison, full of interesting stories, beautiful architecture and colourful characters then that is enough to push prisons to the top of my ‘must do/must see’ list.
Australia seems to excel at coming up with place names that are both unattractive and pretty unimaginative e.g. Dunn’s Swamp and The Drip. I suspect this is done on purpose to discourage hoards of visitors and to keep these slices of paradise for the use of only those in the know.
Don’t tell anyone about this, but I am about to take you on a glorious walk at The Drip.
That was our first question as we left our hotel room and started to explore Perth’s CBD. It was a weekday and during business hours, and yet the streets were virtually empty and the vibe was so relaxed it was almost comatose.
Book Title: My Midsummer Morning – Rediscovering A Life of Adventure
Author: Alastair Humphreys
Promotional Blurb: Seasoned adventurer Alastair Humphreys pushes himself to his very limits – busking his way across Spain with a violin he can barely play.
In 1935 a young Englishman named Laurie Lee arrived in Spain. He had never been overseas; had hardly even left the quiet village he grew up in. His idea was to walk through the country, earning money for food by playing his violin in bars and plazas.
Nearly a century later, the book Laurie Lee wrote – As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning – inspired Alastair Humphreys. It made him fall in love with Spain – the landscapes and the spirit – and with Laurie’s style of travel. He travelled slow, lived simply, slept on hilltops, relished spontaneity, and loved conversations with the different people he met along the hot and dusty road.
For 15 years, Alastair dreamed of retracing Laurie Lee’s footsteps, but could never get past the hurdle of being distinctly unmusical. This year, he decided to go anyway. The journey was his most terrifying yet, risking failure and humiliation every day, and finding himself truly vulnerable to the rhythms of the road and of his own life. But along the way, he found humility, redemption and triumph. Source
My love affair with this fabulous path continues although it is a little tinged with sadness as I get ever closer to my final destination, Manly Beach. But let’s not think about the end and just enjoy this stupendous walk for now.
Today’s stage was quite a surprise as it is more like a bushwalk than an urban walk. Who would have thought so much gorgeous virgin bush could be found in the heart of a city of 5.3million people?
I have done my best to be patient. I have knuckled down and focused on my business and house-type projects I have been putting off for too long, and I have tried to look outside myself to help family and friends with their projects too.
But as hard as I try to distract myself, I just can’t stop myself dreaming of stepping on an aeroplane and jetting off overseas for an exotic adventure.
And sadly, it seems that dreams and dreaming will have to do for years to come…
Promotional Blurb:The epic story of one woman’s 16,000 kilometre, three year trek from Siberia to Australia.
Not since Cheryl Strayed’s Wild has there been such a powerful epic adventure by a woman alone.
In Wild by Nature, Sarah Marquis, a National Geographic Explorer, recounts her extraordinary solo hike that took her literally from one end of the planet to the other. Over 1000 days and nights she journeyed through six countries, starting in Siberia and finishing up at a place of special significance for her – a small tree standing alone in the vastness of the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia.
Walking for three years, Sarah overcame almost insurmountable odds to reach her final goal, surviving Mongolian thieves on horseback who harassed her tent every night for weeks, heavily armed drug smugglers in the Golden Triangle, temperatures from subzero to scorching, lethal wildlife, a dengue fever delirium in the Laos jungle, tropical ringworm in northern Thailand, dehydration and a life-threatening abscess.
Sarah’s story is an incredible record of adventure, human ingenuity, persistence and resilience that shows firsthand what it is to journey as a woman in some of the most dangerous and inhospitable regions on the planet, as well as some of the most beautiful, and what it is like to be truly alone in the wild. Source.
Yes, I know the old saying that ‘it is a dull day when you don’t’. However, I am still a little boggled by all the questions this learning experience generated, and despite a lot of pondering, am still missing all the answers.
Maybe I am late to the party, but I thought that libraries were for books, papers, the written word?
Little did I know that the State Library of NSW has a vast range individual art works from the smallest portrait to the largest landscapes, over 100 000 architectural plans and 50 000 black and white art drawings.
Just when you thought Sydney Harbour couldn’t get any more picturesque, the path on Sydney Harbour’s northern shore leads us past yet more stunning architecture, pockets of native bush and teasing us with glimpses of turquoise waters and crisp white sails of skimming boats.
At last I had the time, energy, and the restrictions of Covid19 were staring to relax, to once again set out on the glorious Bondi to Manly path. So far I had only completed three of the eight stages and it was not calling my name, it was screaming it at full volume!
In the 12 months since I walked the early sections, major changes have been made. New signs popped up at regular intervals and a new app helped keep me on track if/when I became distracted by the beautiful scenery or the signs were not where I expected them to be.
Grab your hat and water bottle, and let’s enjoy some more stunning Sydney sights…
Give me the wide open spaces and country air any day. However, I know my biases make me blinkered and sometimes I need to ‘get over’ myself, and be open to what metro-areas have to offer. When I finally pause and do that, I am very often rewarded with some real gems.
The short hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse is just one of those special experiences revealing the hidden beauty tucked away in Sydney’s suburbia.
Promotional Blurb: The uplifting true story. A Sunday Times bestseller, shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize.
The story of the couple who lost everything and embarked on a journey, not of escape, but salvation. Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, the couple lose their home and their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset via Devon and Cornwall.
They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an unflinchingly honest, inspiring and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways. Source
Friday nights in our household are usually pretty relaxed with a few snacks and a cold beverage in hand to toast the end of the week. Going for a twilight paddle on a mild Friday night at Dunn’s Swamp adds a whole new dimension to the concept of relaxation.
Clip on your life jacket and grab your paddle, we are about to head down the creek…
While I would much prefer to be sharing travel blogs about walking across Spain or through the mountains of Nepal, if I can’t do that, the next best thing is to wax lyrical about some absolute gems we have here in Australia.
The Arthur Streeton exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW is one such gem and it is not to be missed!
Well, who would have thought it? Here we are ten months down the Covid19 track and the World is still in a holding pattern.
I put my hand up and admit to being one of those ‘Pollyanna’-types, at the start I was thinking that it would all be over in a couple of months and we would be back traveling and adventuring in no time. But, No.
It has been a year of travel sadness, disappointment and frustration. As much as I tried to rationalise this in my little brain that it:
is ‘just’ travel
is a first-World problem, and
is really an optional extra in life’s landscape,
I still couldn’t help but grieve for what could have been.
So, what did travel in 2020 look like? And will we ever be able to travel internationally again?
Lunch is my favourite meal of the day. Well, to be perfectly honest, every meal is my favourite meal of the day.
However, if it is lunchtime, nothing is better than lunch with glorious water views. Even better if you have to travel to lunch by boat with your head full of sea breeze and salty air. An excellent way to stimulate the appetite, as if that ever needs stimulating!?
Here…grab a chair, sit down, tuck in your serviette and let’s have some lunch and a wine or two in the tiny seaside village of Patonga.
Promotional Blurb: Two best friends, 500 miles, one wheelchair, and the challenge of a lifetime.
Friendship takes on new meaning in this true story of Justin and Patrick, born less than two days apart in the same hospital. Best friends their whole lives, they grew up together, went to school together, and were best man in each other’s weddings. When Justin was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that robbed him of the use of his arms and legs, Patrick was there, helping to feed and care for him in ways he’d never imagined. Determined to live life to the fullest, the friends refused to give into despair or let physical limitations control what was possible for Justin.
So when Justin heard about the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile trek through Spain, he wondered aloud to Patrick whether the two of them could ever do it. Patrick’s immediate response was, “I’ll push you”.
I’ll Push You is the real-life story of this incredible journey. A travel adventure full of love, humour, and spiritual truth, it exemplifies what every friendship is meant to be and shows what it means to never find yourself alone. You’ll discover how love and faith can push past all limits and make us the best versions of ourselves. Source
Canberra is a museum mecca. The Australian War Memorial, National Museum of Australia, the Royal Australian Mint, Museum of Australian Democracy and endless galleries will keep your brain active, mind boggled AND locked inside!
It’s time to get outside into the fresh air and explore Canberra on two wheels. A ride around Lake Burley Griffin, the centrepiece of Canberra, is just the ticket.
Growing up and going to school in Australia, the version of history we were fed was very English and very white. And that is just what we were expecting when we strolled into the Endeavour Exhibition – more of the same.
How wrong could we be?
It was about time that we received a more rounded version of our history and it was no less fascinating.
Book Title: From Snow to Ash – Solitude, soul-searching and survival on Australia’s toughest hiking trail
Author: Anthony Sharwood
Promotional Blurb: The incredible, inspiring story of a solo journey through Australia’s toughest and most beautiful hiking trail – the Australian Alps Walking Track – for fans of Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and anyone who dreams of iconic wilderness walks.
At the start of the hellish, fiery Australian summer of 2019/20, Walkley Award-winning journalist and suburban dad Anthony Sharwood set off on a journey. Abandoning his post on a busy news website to clear his mind, he solo-trekked the Australian Alps Walking Track, Australia’s most gruelling and breathtakingly beautiful mainland hiking trail, which traverses the entirety of the legendary High Country from Gippsland in Victoria to the outskirts of Canberra.
The journey started in a blizzard and ended in a blaze. Along the way, this lifelong lover of the mountains came to realise that nothing would ever be the same – either for him or for the imperilled Australian Alps, a landscape as fragile and sensitive to the changing climate as the Great Barrier Reef. Source
It is probably rare to read the words ‘giggle’ and ‘museum’ in the same sentence, but not if you visit the Behind the Lines cartoon exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.
This Museum, housed in Old Parliament House, hosts an annual best of political cartoons exhibition. The theme this year is ‘The Greatest Hits Tour’ with a not-so-subtle nod towards our Federal election held early last year.
No one and nothing is safe from the acid wit flowing out of the cartoonist’s pen and I am so pleased about that…
Promotional Blurb: A smart, funny novel of love, self-acceptance, second chances and blisters. Two misfits walk 2 000km along the Camino to find themselves and, perhaps, each other.
Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.
Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in north western Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?
In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover along the way.
My Thoughts: This is one for the camino walkers or the ‘camino curious’. Rather than a super-factual walking guide to the Camino in Spain, it couches the trials and tribulations of long-distance walking in the ebbs and flows of a fictional new relationship.
Martin and Zoe have an inauspicious meeting in Cluny, central France before they set out independently to walk South and South-west towards Santiago de Compostela. Zoe intends her final destination to be St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees while Martin intends to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
What their intentions are and what actually happens are two completely different stories.
I have read Simsion’s work before and did not really enjoy it and, if it the book wasn’t about walking a camino, I would never have grabbed it out of the bargain bin of my local Op Shop.
Camino first, quality writing second!
However, my estimation of him went clear through the roof when I read the jacket blurb to reveal that both he and his wife walked the Chemin/Camino from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, not once, but twice! That is around 2 038km over 87 days – twice! All of a sudden these authors had street cred! Or serious walking cred!
I may be a little judgmental, but the fact that both authors had experienced these paths firsthand meant that their writing had a little more authenticity. They had walked the endless hard days and enjoyed the warmth of new friendships and deep conversations.
This book will appeal to people who have walked the Camino and wish to reminisce about the Le Puy, del Norte or Primitivo paths. It will also appeal to people who would like an entertaining introduction to caminos in Spain or those who just enjoy a light read.
Prior to the Covid19 pandemic, I was due to fly to Spain to walk the Primitivo (plus a couple of other lesser known paths). I have also long dreamed of walking the del Norte route and now, I have the Chemin from Cluny to add to the wish list.
One of these days we will be allowed to travel internationally again and these dreams can come true.
This is a pleasant, easy read. Not world-beating literature, but it rolls along at a steady pace – a bit like a day’s walk – and the vast variety of characters are appealing and credible.
It is not good for those of us with itchy feet! I gave it 7/10.
Author bios: Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam Sharp.
Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has thirty years’ experience in perinatal psychiatry, and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her Natalie King: Forensic Psychologist series of thrillers are published by Text.
On the 25th of April every year, Australia pauses to commemorate ANZAC Day. This day takes the form of memorial services at the Cenotaph in every small town and village across the country, with very large and well-supported parades in our major cities.
An important part of the annual ceremony is the playing of The Last Post. A haunting bugle solo that never fails to bring chills and goose bumps.
Unlike once-a-year ANZAC Day, The Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is held every afternoon and, in my humble opinion, it is a must-do activity for every Aussie.
I had heard a little about the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and when planning a visit to Canberra, it was high on my list of things to do. Unfortunately, even though I was booking two weeks ahead, it was already booked out. Bugger!
Booking tickets prior to visiting is now required for all parts of the AWM. I even rang the AWM to see if I could beg a ticket, but no joy and they advised that we would just have try to our luck on the day. Oh well, not to worry. There would be plenty of other things to see and do.
After three hours of military history, death, destruction and a few small doses of humour we were just about overwhelmed with the whole AWM experience. As we headed across the empty grounds and towards the carpark, it was nearing the time of the Last Post Ceremony, and I suggested to The Husband that we should try our luck and check if they could squeeze us in.
We were rewarded with a warm welcome and ushered back through the doors of the main AWM building and into the Commemorative Area.
The Commemorative Area is often seen in promotional images for the AWM. It is a large open courtyard with a ‘pool of reflection’ running lengthways along the courtyard floor and overlooked by two long, arched verandas. These verandas are home to a seemingly endless Roll of Honour listing the names of 102 000 soldiers and service people who represented Australia and lost their lives in over 100 years of conflict. It was incredibly sobering to walk and read the names knowing that each bronze name represents a heartbeat and a life cut far too short.
Where the bronze alphabetical panels join each other there is small crack and friends and family are welcome to insert a small poppy next to the name of the person who is significant to them. The scarlet poppies add a brilliant flash of colour amongst the sadness.
As we slowly walked and read, letting the sheer volume of names sink in, I noticed a lady in tears as she tried to explain to her young son the seriousness and significance of all the poppies. I dug into the bottom of my handbag and gave her a packet of tissues. Probably not a 100% Covid19-safe action, but she appreciated it.
But, back to the Last Post Ceremony…
The Last Post Ceremony is the final activity held at the AWM before the close of each day and it is both solemn and powerful. I am getting goose bumps just writing about it many weeks later.
The light was fading and the air was taking on that early evening cool that gets into your bones as a respectful hush fell over the small (and well-spaced) crowd. The Master of Ceremonies stepped up to the podium, welcomed us all and acknowledged any returned service people in the audience.
Four wreaths were then laid at the end of the pool of reflection and a bagpiper accompanied the laying of the wreaths. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, bagpipes have a plaintiveness about them that makes everyone pause.
Colonel Frank Colley saluted and read out the story of Private William Charles Pinneger Brown. At each Last Post Ceremony a service person’s life is featured, bringing an immediate human touch to the event and ensures the audience focuses on the people of the war, rather than the guns, tanks and planes.
Private William Charles Pinneger Brown was born in 1885 in Adelaide, South Australia. Before enlisting in the 10th battalion of the Australian Imperial Force in May 1916, he was a carpenter, married to Ethel with a couple of young children. In December 1916 he joined the 27th battalion in the trenches of France, only to be killed a little over four months later by an artillery shell. He was only 31 years old. Although it was recorded that he died at Bullecourt, his grave has never been located due to the tumult of a moving battlefront and destruction caused by constant bombardment.
Private Brown was one 62 000 Australians who died during World War 1. That’s a pretty powerful number when you consider that Australia’s population in 1918 (by the end of the War) was only around 4.9million. A further 156 000 people were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner during the war.
The Ceremony then moved on the Ode. The Ode comes from For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
You could have heard a pin drop…except for a pair of larrikin white cockatoos who chose that moment to dive bomb the ceremony and generally create a raucous racket, screeching and squawking as they wheeled above our heads. I couldn’t help but smile at the Australianess of this and our endless desire to poke fun and not take ourselves too seriously. (I note that in the YouTube clip of this ceremony, the cockatoos have been completely edited out!)
A lone bugler stood to attention at the edge of the courtyard and played the forlorn Last Post. A moving and fitting end to the Ceremony. As the last echoes resounded around the verandas, the piper and dignitaries turned and walked into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the doors closed solemnly behind them.
What a powerful way to end a visit to the AWM.
Maybe war and military history is not your thing and I understand that completely. Can I recommend that you skip all the displays and body counts, touch screens and dioramas in the AWM itself, and just attend the Last Post Ceremony?
It is a must-do activity and a fitting way to remember those who have served our country – past AND present.
Lest we forget.
What: It is possible to have your own family member recognised at the Last Post Ceremony. Simply lodge a request on their website. Be prepared to wait though, as it may take up to three years for your soldier’s turn to come around. You can also lay a wreath during the Ceremony itself. When you arrive, see one of the ushers and they will tell you whether all the positions have been filled. You do not need to be a family member to participate and they provide the wreaths.
Where: Treloar Crescent, Campbell (a suburb of Canberra).
When: The Ceremony runs for around 20 minutes and starts at 455pm. Book your ticket here.
Why: To pay homage to those who made it possible for us to live in freedom and in peace.
How: We stayed at the Quest City Walk right in the heart of Canberra. The location was perfect with easy walking distance to lots of restaurants and shops. We booked via AirBnB and at $139, it was very good value. (As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.)
Who: All Australians – young and old.
Related Posts: For more information about what else to see at the AWM. Read on.
Related Blogs: If you can’t make it in person to Canberra, then watch the Last Post Ceremony broadcast live everyday on the AWM YouTube channel or Facebook page.
Read About It: For an interesting and heart-breaking read about a soldier in World War 1, grab a copy of Crack Hardy by Stephen Dando-Collins. The story relates to Dando-Collins’ great uncles who enlisted in WW1 and none were unchanged by the experience. Highly recommended. Go straight to Book Depository.
Promotional Blurb: What would move you to ditch your life and take off into the wild for five months? For Laura Waters, it took the implosion of a toxic relationship and a crippling bout of anxiety.
Armed with maps, a compass and her life in a bag on her back, she set out to walk the untamed landscapes of the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand, 3000 kilometres of raw, wild, mountainous trail winding from the top of the North Island to the frosty tip of the South Island. But when her walking partner dropped out on the second day, she was faced with a choice: abandon the journey, or face her fears and continue on alone? She chose to walk on.
For five months, Laura battled not only treacherous terrain and elements, but also the demons of self-doubt and anxiety. As the kilometres fell behind her, nature did its work, stripping away her identity and guiding her towards a new way of being. At the end of Te Araroa, it was the hard-earned insights into the power of nature, emotional wellbeing and fulfilling relationships – with others as well as with herself – that were Laura’s greatest accomplishments. She emerged ‘rewilded’, and it transformed her life. Source
With the whole Covid19 kerfuffle severely clipping my international-travel wings, a good alternate travel fix is to explore my own backyard and sights and sites last visited 40 years ago.
What possibly could have changed in that time?
While trying to recover from the shock of 40 years passing in the blink of an eye, I plotted out a break-neck-speed itinerary to visit Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
For the uninitiated, Canberra is the political capital of Australia and the seat of our Federal Parliament. Every school student in Australia, often during high school, is encouraged to make the pilgrimage to this political and bureaucratic mecca. Thankfully there are many more interesting things to see than just watching our politicians grandstanding during Question Time and as I planned our itinerary, I was determined to revisit a couple of places from my own (ancient) school excursion.
First stop, the Australian War Memorial.
Walking past military sculptures and memorial plaques, and up to the imposing façade of the Australian War Memorial, I knew I was in for a war inundation. I enjoy history and I especially enjoy learning about the times, and lives, of people who made our country what it is today. For better or worse, war leaves no place and no one untouched, even when those wars are far from our shores.
In front of the large ‘Fully Booked’ signs, the ushers were turning away tonnes of people and I was a tiny bit pleased that I had booked our tickets well in advance. The Memorial was all over the new normal Covid19 regulations with plenty of hand sanitising stations, additional ushers encouraging social distancing and handing out free stylus’ so you didn’t have to touch the touch-screens to access information.
After a quick stroll along the balconies of the Commemorative Area, we wandered into the Museum proper and straight into World War 1. World War 1 is a significant focus of this complex as the concept of an Australian war memorial developed straight after the war’s end in 1918. Charles Bean, a war correspondent and historian during World War 1, lobbied hard when he returned to Australia for some sort of memorial to act as a shrine to the memory of the men and women who served.
World War 1 was also especially significant because it was the first war our country fought as a federated nation. Australians did actively participate in the Boer War and other wars, but the First World War was the earliest call of the Mother Country (Great Britain) to defend democracy.
As I strolled the various displays I realised a LOT has changed over the past 40 years and many of the stiff and clumsy diorama models (cutting edge in their day) had been replaced or complemented by sound/light shows, touch screens and tactile displays. Far more appealing and interesting for school students and general visitors of any age!
From World War 1 we stumbled into the more modern wars of Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and East Timor (more of a peace-keeping mission than a war) before finally moving into the large display of World War 2 machinery and memorabilia. Yes, the lack of chronological order will not please the Purists.
There is no way you could see everything and read every description in your allotted two hours. I was very interested, but admit to becoming quickly overwhelmed by all the different dates and battles. I love the history, but do not love the equipment of war and the endless guns and tanks and planes leave me cold. I guess I am more interested in the human stories of both those who went to war and those who were left at home.
Soon our time slot was up and we were invited to leave the Galleries in the main building. No one was forcing us out, but we had to leave to make space for others to come in. Last stop was the extensive souvenir shop. If you hadn’t had enough war in the past two hours, you could buy some to take home. A poppy and a postcard were enough for me.
But we weren’t done yet…
In my flurry of organisation, I had also booked us in to the Anzac Hall, found behind the main War Memorial building. This is a smaller space with a focus on audio-visual shows. They have three presentations:
G for George: About WW2 bombing raids over Germany
An aerial dogfight from WW1,and
Submarines sneaking into Sydney Harbour during WW2.
But I was done. I was all worn and warred out.
Standing on hard surfaces for three house straight was exhausting and my brain was full-to-overflowing with dates, battles, body counts and questionable leadership activities. Perhaps if you lived in Canberra you could make multiple short visits and ‘do’ one war at a time. That way you would have time to process the who, what, where and when. I wouldn’t bother trying to work out the ‘why’.
I walked away from the Australian War Memorial in the early evening dark impressed by what I had seen, but shaking my head at:
The devastation and senselessness of war.
The unnecessary cruelty and barbarity of some people during wartime when they put aside any sense of shared humanity.
The fact that no one really wins. Everyone is hurt in some way or other. Even the victors pay a high price.
Do we really learn from places like the Australian War Memorial? Does it, even in the smallest way, stop us from doing it all over again?
Or do we simply say ‘how sad’ and step back into the comfort of our freedoms and democracy, and do it all again?
The Australian War Memorial is lobbying hard for a $498million redevelopment and expansion. I wonder, is that really necessary? Don’t we already have enough in place to honour the memory of the brave?
What do you think? Commemoration? Or Glorification?
What: The Australian War Memorial has three main areas to visit: The Galleries, Commemorative Area and Anzac Hall. It has extensive landscaped grounds with sculpture, memorials, military equipment and a coffee shop. Entry is free.
Where: Treloar Crescent, Campbell (a suburb of Canberra).
When: Open from 10am-5pm, every day except Christmas Day. We visited during Covid19 and it’s now a requirement to book your tickets to the different areas in advance. Book in here.
Why: For ordinary people like me, the ‘why’ is to understand more about Australia’s involvement in a whole range of wars, as well as commemorate the service and sacrifice of others. For the military buffs, the Australian War Memorial would be like having all your Christmases come at once.
How: We stayed at the Quest City Walk right in the heart of Canberra. The location was perfect with easy walking distance to lots of restaurants and shops. We booked via AirBnB. (As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.)
Who: The Galleries appeared to be highly accessible for everyone. There are stairs up to the Commemorative verandas, but perhaps there is a lift somewhere – which I didn’t see. Their website is not clear on physical access.
Related Posts: For a little more military history, but on foreign soil this time, read about our visit to the Pearl Harbour Memorial in Hawaii. An amazing site.
Related Blogs: For another person’s perspective on the Australian War Memorial, have a look at Why You Wander blog. She visited pre-Covid19 and mentioned the availability of guided tours. That would be an excellent activity.
Read About It: For an interesting and eye-opening read, grab a copy of Well Done, Those Men by Barry Heard. He talks about his experience in the Vietnam War and massive personal repercussions afterwards. I never really knew much about the Vietnam War and how the soldiers were treated when they got back to Australia and this book, with some gentle humour in places, explains a lot. Highly recommended. Go straight to Book Depository.
It is time for me to don the black skivvy, slide on the intellectual-looking glasses, and assume my movie-reviewer persona. Definitely not a hard transition to make when today’s movie review relates to walking a camino in Spain.
Grab a cuppa and a couple of chocolate biscuits (you’ll need some energy for all that walking).
Pull up your comfy chair, sit back and relax, and step out into the Spanish countryside….
Friday night free-to-air television viewing in Australia features the usual reality TV shows, football or cricket matches (depending on the season) and endless repeats of American sitcoms and B-grade movies. The only bright spot for the horticulturally-inclined is Gardening Australia on ABC TV.
I do admit to finding these and other home/lifestyle shows to be incredibly frustrating as everything is so effortless and perfect. I can assure you there is nothing perfect about my house and garden and it takes a fair bit of effort to even achieve an imperfect state.
Despite that, I do admire the conversation generated by Gardening Australia, especially around the importance of backyard vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. Hence my desire to visit Pete’s Patch, also known as the Tasmanian Community Food Garden, at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
We have had a lot of time this year to sit back and think about our lives and how we may live them differently in the future. My wanderlust remains strong and once bans are lifted and it is safe, the first thing I will be doing will be to book my ticket to Madrid, Spain.
Here are five YouTube clips that I hope will communicate the joy of walking in Spain, the wonderful people you meet along the way and the sheer pleasure of being outside in Nature.
I know boat trips and cruises aren’t everyone’s thing, but in my humble opinion, there is no better way to blow the cobwebs out than to scoot down the stunning Tasman coastline, with the sea air pummelling your senses under sparkling blue skies.
Come with me as I step aboard a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys boat for a truly remarkable day out.
I was tempted to call this post “All You Need to Know About Walking the Italian Via Francigena”. However as we are all individuals, no doubt we all have quite different experiences of walking 1000km through Italy. Instead, this post has a more modest title.
Modesty aside, what I hope this post does achieve is a comprehensive summary of the planning, the actual experience on a day-to-day basis, and then the obligatory post-walk reflections. I also hope it saves you a bit of legwork as you tackle you own planning.
There’s a whole lot of mythology out there about walking a camino in Spain.
To you, it may appear to be an attractive romantic notion – out there strolling across the Spanish countryside, breathing in that fresh country air and restoring yourself at the end of each day with copious quantities of vino tinto.
It may also seem to be something well out of your comfort zone and far above your fitness levels.
This post will remove some of the mystique and hopefully a few barriers stopping you lacing up your walking shoes and joining the friendly flow of folk on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
It took a particularly wet and miserable Autumn day to keep me inside. As a rule I love rainy days as they happen so rarely in Australia and it was the perfect excuse to dust off my well-loved copy of the movie, The Way.
I put my hand up and admit that this is possibly my sixth or seventh viewing of The Way so obviously I am a bit of a fan. It never fails to create a sense of wanderlust and the urge to walk out my back door and just keep going.
But, how accurate is it? Does it really portray the highs and lows of walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain? Or is it all glossed over with a thick layer of Hollywood schmaltz?