Bushwalk: Appreciate the present

This past weekend I went for a bushwalk with my friend Brendon Walker (he of the FatDadSlim fame) from Cowan to Brooklyn in the Ku-ring-ai National Park, North of Sydney.

Jerusalem Bay
Jerusalem Bay

It was another early morning start for me (just like it was for the Half Marathon, the Sutherland2Surf and the City2Surf. Why do all these events require waking up before the sun? At least it’s peaceful waking up at 5am – it allows for quiet contemplation of the task ahead without interference). I met Brendon on the train, and we discussed how things are going, and the foibles of getting up late, missing alarms and what we packed for the walk. Neither of us had done this particular walk before so could only really compare to our bushwalk earlier in the year on the Uloola Track (from Waterfall to Audley in the Royal National Park).

View towards Sydney
View towards Sydney

It was a cold morning. There was mist in the valleys, but most importantly, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The track itself starts off quite rocky and heads downhill immediately after you cross the bridge spanning the F3 freeway. Within 5 mins we were in the middle of the bush, and barely heard anything other than the sounds of nature – birds, insects and the natural sounds of the bush. We made it to the start of Jerusalem Bay in pretty good time, but most of it was downhill. The quietness and tranquility soon left us as the drone of distant freeway traffic began to be audible for most of the walk.

It took me about 30 minutes to get into the groove during this walk – where I forget what’s happening at home, what others are up to, and begin to immerse myself in the surroundings. There’s a metronomic sense of being part of a ‘machine’ when you’re working, commuting, consuming, and going about your normal duties on any given day. Once you let those things go and appreciate the present, the real, primal rhythm of life starts to come back to the fore. Brendon and I had many conversations, chats and musings along the way but inside I was thinking proactively about how to get out do it more; how to get others (including my boys) enjoy bushwalking; and also the wonderfully different perspective you get from being in such a tranquil, natural place. I truly get ensconced by the environment – the smells of damp bush, the gentle breeze that rustles the leaves and the sunshine breaking through the trees to light your way. I often envisage living in a place with an outlook to some spectacular scenery, not unlike what can be seen in the pictures throughout this post. (My pictures are all located on Flickr)

Patterned path
Patterned path

We passed many Oxfam TRAILWALKERS getting in some training before their 100km in 48hours journey on the 28th/29th August. We did not know why there were so many Trailwalkers out. Brendon said ‘I’ll look it up when we get home’, to which I replied ‘Why do we feel more comfortable finding information from the web when we could just ask the next person to come along the trail?‘. I countered and said “let’s just ask the next trailwalker we see“. These days it seems looking things up on the web has become synonymous with searching/finding answers; however don’t overlook the opportunity to reach out and connect with another person. As it turns out, the trail we were on is the start of the 100km Oxfam trailwalk – the fellow we asked had actually slept in and also asked us if we had seen the rest of his team. Serendipity?

We passed many people who said “oh you’re doing it the hard way”. Our view was ‘What’s wrong with doing it the hard way?’ Neither Brendon or I had known there was an easy or hard way, our journey was decided and we stuck with it. Ultimately we felt warm fuzzies knowing we started the hard way and if we ever come back in reverse, we’d have an easier time of it (but that was not the point of the exercise). One of the trailwalkers commented to me ‘You must be one of the happiest people on the trail today’ (after I conquered a fairly large rock in one big jump :-)). This got me wondering about the nature of compliments – do people give compliments as a way of saying ‘I see this in you that I’d like to see in myself’? The fellow who gave me the compliment may have wanted to be the happiest person on the trail that day but saw it was me – did he secretly long to be? When giving compliments, is the intention (deliberate or subconscious) a way of saying ‘I want to be that way, too’? Check out my short video and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Who, then?
Who, then?

At about the half-way point, the track widens out and becomes a fire-trail (wide enough for vehicles to traverse) and signified the start of a 6km walking trail as opposed to a bush track (climbing rocks and navigating obstacles). Referring back to the earlier comments, we can see why our way was the hard way – Starting from Cowan, you’re navigating through the bush; the rest of the track is simply following the (wide) path. Civilisation (in the form of power lines) became a frequent occurrence along this stretch of the track. Check out the cryptic sign on one of the posts (in the pic, right) about who should operate the lever. The main challenge on this part was to seek out little guideposts with small arrows pointing the way – I got the feeling you wouldn’t get too lost following a fire-trail!

Brendon soldiered on quite well with his dodgy knee and one of the other comments made to us along our walk was that there was a pub at the end of the walk where we could get a meal and a cooling beverage…further proof we were heading in the right direction! The final part of the walk was the most difficult as it was very long & steep descent. Did I say it was steep? And long? A couple going in the other direction looked worn out before even doing 1km!

Steak burger & beer
Reward

Stopping for lunch at the pub was the icing on the cake; we’d done the 11km walk the ‘hard’ way, seen some awesome views from various vantage points and had great company during the walk. The early morning starts can be difficult, but the reward is well worth it. I recommend a bushwalk to everybody of any fitness level – not just because of the health benefits of exercise, but also to appreciate what we have in our own backyard and taking some time out of the every-day. I’m also sure more people would have a greater appreciation of nature – something we could all do with. 🙂

(note: all my pictures from the walk can be viewed from my Flickr page)

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