Wanderlust

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” ~ Rumi

I’ve always loved walking. As a child my first impulse whenever we went somewhere new was to explore the surroundings. At High School I signed up for the ‘Bushwalking’ activity and was disheartened to find it was filled with students who wanted to escape from school, smoke and do other non-walking activities. As an adult, my husband and I would drag our three children on hikes through National Parks, around sea cliff tracks, overnight hikes carrying packs, and anywhere where there was a hill, a track, rocks, and gorgeous natural vistas.

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When my mother died and I knew I was returning to live on the Mornington Peninsula I planned to walk the trails of the Two Bays Walking Track in order to deal with my grief and loss. I knew the beauty of nature would heal me. The peace and solitude, alone with my thoughts amidst the hush of the bush and the music of the birds, gave me space to think and feel. As my father became ill and declined, these daily walks gave me strength to keep up the care for him until he too passed away.

The Two Bays Track is gorgeous. Full of twisted tree trunks, sun shining off sea glass, clouds spinning, the wind shaking it all alive, while birds flit and sing. The running group that we are member of choose a section of the track each weekend to run. I am content to walk and take photos. It fulfils my constant desire to continue to walk the trails and enjoy the natural beauty I see, and it sustains my soul.

In March this year my husband and I went on a trek for 7 days along the Overland Track in Tasmania. It had been on my list of walks to do for many years. We had done both ends of the track in earlier years. Despite the injury I caused to my knee during this walk, I loved the experience. Being out in nature was glorious, away from roads, cars, electricity, screens, signs, commercial crap, and the entire mindless busy everyday world we live in. I loved the clean beauty of the vistas of mountains, rocks, cliffs, trees, forests, moss, cold, fragrance, quiet, snow, sun, wind, colour and textures. The wild raw untouched beauty cannot be matched by man.

Recently I went along to see the movie Six Ways to Santiago with a friend at a local cinema. I have read about the Camino Trail and although I find it intriguing I don’t really have a desire to walk it; perhaps because it is not entirely ‘in nature’ but winds through villages. I do not feel the need to go on a pilgrimage, and the numbers of people doing the walk puts me off a bit. One may ask why people are drawn to do such things, and the people in this documentary suggested that it is for: appreciation; movement; meditation; accessing creativity; friendship; talking; and thinking. And for some there is the religious appeal as it is historically a Christian Pilgrimage.

Mark Sisson lists the 17 health benefits of walking and suggests “it keeps your buttocks engaged with the world.”

So while I thought about walking and why people do it and how it has a positive effect on the mind, I wondered what to title this post. While waiting for an interstate flight, browsing the bookshop I found and bought the book Wanderlust : Find Your True North by Jeff Krasno. Its irresistible blurb reads,IMG_6084

“ Wanderlust: an irrepressible desire to travel the world, practice yoga, eat locally, live sustainably, consume ethically, be creative, and build community around mindful living.”

Yes, my quest continues and is in alignment with so many others.

Walking the Overland Track in Tasmania

If you were looking for a description of the Overland Track walking experience in Tasmania you could easily find many written and photographic books on the subject. And while in this account, I will not attempt to write a blow-by-blow (step by step) description, it must be emphasized that any second-hand account will fail to provide you with the actual experience. You must immerse all of your physical body and senses into the scene in order to appreciate it fully.

Overland Track signpost March 2015

Overland Track signpost March 2015

From a distance the landscape can appear grey, dull, olive green, and even boring. Up close the colour and diversity of plants, flowers, rocks, mosses, bark, fungi, water, etc., arrest the eye continually. Just when you relax thinking you have seen all there is to see, suddenly a new intricate variety appears and stops you in your tracks. I was amazed to see a toadstool I’d never seen before – pale red and green with a frilly white skirt. I only saw one.

The sights are awesome. Towering mountain crags where eagles dive for fun. Tolkeinesque mossy green forest paths that wind around the roots of 800 year old trees. Vast alpine plateaus where yellow button grass hide tiger snakes and shy furry animals. Waterfalls in full flight. Lakes too cold to dip a toe. Rocks, trees and flowers arranged by The Master Landscape Gardener, and then dusted with fresh falling snowflakes.

The fragrances were intense. The nutmeg aroma of wet wild Sassafras. The gin and tonic spritz of the celery top bush. Eucalypts, Myrtles, Banksia, King Billy Pine, Beech and more.

The tiresome experience of pushing your body along paths full of rocks, mud, water, tree roots, steps, streams, and leeches, in driving rain was a challenge experienced by all in the group.

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

The Overland Track Tasmania March 2015

We signed up for the ‘chardonnay version’ with Cradle Mountain Huts. We had a bed in a warm hut at the end of every day. Our packs did not need to carry food, or bedding or tents or cooking gear. Our guides led us, cajoled us, cooked for us, and cleaned the huts after we left. Our guides were awesome and extraordinary individuals proud and passionate about this unique environment and Tasmania in general. The huts were warm, had hot showers, drying rooms for our wet muddy boots and clothes. We had three course dinners with local wines. It felt like the privilege that it was.

I wrote a haiku for each day in my mind. I took photographs galore. We were touched by a tragic incident halfway along the trail reminding us of the need to be careful in this remote wilderness. Out of network range the guides used the satellite phones to call in the Air Ambulance helicopters.

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Jetty at Lake St. Clair Tasmania March 2015

We pushed on. My knees struggled to complete the journey and did so with tape strapping and walking poles. At last we arrived at our destination all too soon – Lake St. Clair on Day Six. Lunch on the jetty waiting for the boat to pick us up, we basked in the warm sun, appreciating the journey.

I recommend this experience BUT be prepared for a difficult walk where EVERY footfall must be decided before it is actually taken.

What’s your dog’s name?

Visiting the pristine Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria last weekend, I was happily soaking up the peace, gazing at the gorgeous vistas, deeply breathing in the natural fragrances, running along Norman Beach, taking dips in the crystal clear waters, and wondering what else makes me love this place so much.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Then it hit me – THERE ARE NO DOGS!!! Hallelujah! PERFECTION! And further to that thought; no dog owners trying to convince everyone how adorable their mutt is and how it wouldn’t ever possibly bite or snarl at anyone. Yeah right!

Please Please Please powers of bureauracy never ever ever allow dogs into Wilsons Promontory National Park. No matter how much they try to convince everyone that it would be a fair thing.

What’s not fair is that so many people are not obeying local laws thinking their lovely smelly slobbering fleabag is the exception to the rule. Our beaches are plagued with them. Dog non-lovers (and there are a few of us) are ignored and forced to share our beaches with dogs at all times of the day despite the rules.

Recently I was sitting near two little girls on the beach on a hot summers day and a lady was blatantly walking her dog along the beach without a lead in the middle of the time of day when dogs were not supposed to be there at all. The little girls father was out in the water with his little boy, and a long way away in terms of supervision or protection of the little girls. One little girl said to her sister, “I’m scared of dogs.” The other sister replied nastily, “Get over it.” The point is that the little girl should not have been made to feel scared at the beach. She should have been able to enjoy the experience unthreatened. If something had happened the father was too far away to be of any use whatsoever. But that is another issue.

So beautiful Wilson’s Promontory I will keep returning to have my soul renewed with natural beauty quietly confident that it will continue to be a sanctuary, not only for the Australian wildlife that lives there, but also for the people like me who do not share a liking for dogs.

Walking in nature

One strategy I intentionally employed with the objective towards handling the grieving process and retaining a positive outlook on life is to walk in the natural environment.

I know that just being in amongst nature, absorbing the sights, sounds, textures, and smells lifts my spirits and reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things.

I love the chaotic unpredictable asymmetrical and beautiful variety of nature’s garden: the choir of bird calls and insect buzzing; the extensive palette of green; the movement of leaves, grasses and dust particles; the unusual flowers; the occasional animal; and the absence of manmade ugliness.

Susan at Pillar Point

So I did and it has. I’ve walked the trails of the Mornington Peninsula and recently some of the rugged walks at Wilsons Promontory. The vistas at ‘The Prom’ are awesome (in the true sense of the word). The greens, aquas, and turquoises of the crystal clear waters sparkle like a precious gemstone. The wind roars like an oncoming freight train. The rocky monoliths stand in perpetuity – daunting shapes remembered from my childhood visits. The beauty fills my spirit and soul. Petty squabbles dissipate. My love of life abounds.

Back in December as I sat in the hospital room beside the waxen corpse of my deceased father on the morning he died, I received the words into my head “Just enjoy your life!” I’m sure this was a message for me from my Dad’s departing spirit, as he knows my serious nature more than most.

Tidal River Duck Race

And Tidal River is a place where adults can let their inner child run free. The group of people we went with really know how to enjoy life with childish abandon without the need for alcohol or drugs. They are a bunch of mostly retired fitness nuts. So we had running relay races on the beach. We rode the waves on body boards. We had a duck race and a boat with egg passenger race on the river. We laughed. We looked for wombats at dusk and rose at dawn with the birds. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, walked and ran the trails, and relaxed in water holes in the river. We had a heap of fun.

So yes Dad I am getting on with enjoying my life.

Rest your eyes

Imagine this:

Fluorescent green hills rolling back in staggered repetition and dotted with sheep and cattle. Yellow daffodils in random clusters here and there. Skeletons of winter trees with dusted suggestions of spring coloured buds about to bloom.  Silver sheens of bursting dams spilling over into cascades of  urgent streams and flooding rivers making the wild ducks happy. Chilli chocolate coloured earth. A dark backdrop of virgin bushland with tall trees. Yellow wattle trees in bloom. In the distance craggy grey monoliths with an icing of snow appear momentarily when the veil of clouds shift with the gusts. Patches of blue sky now and then. Add an arch of a rainbow.

Close your eyes. Visualise this scene. Breathe and sigh.

Now open your eyes. What do you see?

Traffic. Buildings. Walls. Concrete. Signs. Lights. Street lights. TV screens. Computer screens. More screens. Cars, Trucks. People. Queues. Roads. Poles. Wires. Writing. Instructions. Rules. Demands. Advertising…….

Close your eyes again. Visualise the first scene once again. Rest your eyes. Appreciate the natural world.  Reunite with your soul. Feel the tension leave your body.

This scene is not fictional. It exists. (Even the rainbows!) It is Tasmania.

Day 7 046

Saturday unplugged

I enjoyed a perfect Saturday on my day off. It began early on a cold winter’s morning as the sun came up. Donning cycling gear, then extra layers for warmth, we set out into the chilly morning. A group of us cycled our regular route past paddocks blanketed with fog. We shared a BBQ breakfast to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday.  By this time the sun was up but providing no warmth as we shivered and chatted grasping our warm drinks.

Later my husband bought some fishing gear at a local shop. We climbed aboard some big cruising motor boats in the display room dreaming of escape. Then we went for a coffee and a stroll along Mornington pier. People were enjoying the cold sunny day, fishing, learning scuba diving, walking their dogs, and looking at some dolphins swim by through the flat silvery waters of the bay.

fishing_for_salmonAfter lunch we went to a surf beach further down the Peninsula. While my husband fished for salmon, I took photos, wrote, read, and still tried in vain to soak some warmth from the cold sun. Only a few other people braved the beach and the sea was too calm for surfers. The quiet was intermittently punctuated by the roar of the waves as they broke directly onto the sand.

I walked to the rocky headland following some tiny plovers as they trotted along the wet sand looking for food morsels as the waves retreated. I thought about being unconnected from the internet. I thought about the freedom and liberty I take for granted as my birthright. My awareness of world events brought to my consciousness by the electronic media. It is depressing to hear about recent events in Iran and the sudden death of Michael Jackson, melting ice caps, the financial recession, swine flu, and more world events. Twitter effectively plugs us into the conversation, but how much can we bear?

from_the_headlandMy Saturday was peaceful, glorious, in the world, active, and so much more. Who needs drugs to get high when life is so good? And I wonder why anyone would voluntarily enslave themselves to ridiculous doctrines decreed by others. I guess that’s what the people of Iran are fighting for. I pondered these things as the fog crept slowly towards the land from the sea.

As the sun sank towards the west I noticed some sprays of water in the distance. I thought it was probably birds diving for fish. But as I continued to watch I realised it was a group of whales spouting water as they surfaced. They swam in our direction and passed by about one kilometre from the beach. Their huge dark bodies cresting out of the water and occasionally a large fin or a tale could be seen momentarily. If I had been at home with my eyes glued to a screen I would have missed this rare and awesome sight.

Later at home we cooked a curry for dinner – no fish. We watched Before the Game and then a game of AFL football on TV. This was an enjoyable and perfect way to spend a Saturday in winter away from work, computers, traffic, and worry.sun_setting