Tag Archives: Australia

1,000 Steps – The Kokoda Memorial Trail

A rather apt sign at the beginning of the 1000-step climb!

After a couple of muddy, soggy weekends on the motorbike, today I strapped on my hiking boots and a Camelbak and headed off to tackle one of Melbourne’s most challenging walks.

The Kokoda Memorial Trail, also known as the “1000 Steps”, is a daunting hike up 2.5km of extremely steep, slippery steps, twisting and turning through dense forest in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. As its name suggests, the trail is actually a memorial to the Aussie soldiers who fought and died on the notorious Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea in World War II. I’ve vowed one day to hike the actual 100-km PNG track (I’ll need to be a LOT fitter first, though!). Meantime, the 1000 Steps climb has given me just a small taste of what might be to come…

As I puff and heave myself up dozens of stony steps, slipping and sliding on damp autumn leaves and breathless in the humid forest air, I pass plaques depicting the lives of the soldiers who fought in Papua. I try to imagine what it must have been like for those guys doing such a steep trek, weighed down with equipment and fearing that at any moment the enemy might come charging out of the jungle on either side. As I pause to catch my breath, something bursts suddenly out of the foliage and my heart skips a beat… Phew, it’s ok – just a startled lyrebird foraging about in the undergrowth.

Halfway up the climb, my legs are killing me. (Note to self: need to do more lunges and squats at the gym!) My limbs are hurting big time, my throat is burning, and my heart is pounding. But the sight of every plaque spurs me on – hell, if those soldiers can do it, so can I! Other fitter climbers overtake me at speed but I’m too puffed out to care – and besides, I’m appreciating the scenery….

Kokoda Memorial Plaque

Oh the blessed relief when, on shaky legs, I make it up those final steps to the top. Taking rest in a clearing, it’s only a few minutes that I can really appreciate what a unique hike it is, made all the more worthwhile by its invocations of those brave souls of yesteryear. With Anzac Day just around the corner, it feels like a fitting and timely thing to have done.

And yes, one day I still hope to do the real Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea – but not until I’ve had a helluva lot more fitness training and preparation first!

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Australia’s Great Outdoors

Walking along the craggy cliffs at Point Nepean

Hi All! I’m writing this after a long weekend hiking the National Park around Point Nepean, about two hours’ drive from Melbourne.

This morning, I walked along the spine of the peninsula to the Point, a craggy cliff walk from which you can eventually view the heads of Port Philip Bay. Apparently this is one of the narrowest shipping channels in the world – and I can well believe it, as I watch the Spirit of Tasmania (the ferry that plies the route between mainland Oz and Tassie) cut its way carefully through the channel and out to sea.

Yet again, as I enjoy a full day out in the fresh air, walking pristine beaches and tasting the salt in the breeze, rambling overgrown tracks along the coast that are brimming with noisy birdlife and all manner of tiny creatures foraging in the undergrowth, I’m reminded of how wonderful it is to be in the great outdoors. This is my little corner of Australia. I come here a lot – a stone’s throw from where I live, it’s a great bolt-hole for when city life gets too much (which is most of the time, actually!). Getting back to nature like this isn’t just good for the health – it’s good for the soul. 

The Spirit of Tasmania sails through the heads at the entrance to Port Philip Bay

The outdoors is something Australia does really well, I think. Although only a couple of hours from the city, the beaches here feel raw, untouched, wild. The walks are well-signposted but still overgrown and rough, giving the illusion of tracks yet to be explored by human feet. And it’s peaceful – just the rise and fall of the waves against the shore, and  birds stirring in the bushes as I pass. A solitary hang-glider passes noiselessly overhead – up there with the seagulls, he must be getting a brilliant view.

After a weekend of walking, I’ve come back with renewed vigour to take on another trekking expedition this year. It’s been just over a year since my Sahara UNICEF trek in Morocco…definitely time to get the maps out and plan the next one!