It’s become a bit of a tradition that I always disappear early July into the bush on my own for some solo hiking adventures. I always try and schedule 2 solo hiking trips a year – it’s my reset for life and I need my alone adventures like I need oxygen.
One of my favourite places in the world is Wilson’s Promontory and so with snow falling in the Alpine region I headed back there this year in between lockdowns. With some campgrounds closed due to recent storms it was a great opportunity for me to try out some new campsites and I was like a kid waiting for Santa all week as I counted down the days, bought my food and packed up my backpack. My friends and family and colleagues all questioned why I was going away alone, was I staying with anyone, how could I contemplate hiking alone because it was too dangerous? Hubby knows I am as safe as I can possibly be with an emergency locator and GPS tracker and emergency gear on me at all times, and I know I am as safe as I can be whilst still satisfying my thirst for adventure.
Having started a new job, I couldn’t take any time off, so I wasn’t able to start hiking until Friday night. Having stopped about an hour out from the Prom I grabbed a coffee, did some last-minute emails before I lost reception and decided to pack everything ready. I was parked near a toilet block near a playground and opened the boot, pulling everything out and packing everything into my backpack to include some last-minute food I had bought on the way down. I noticed a Dad sitting next to my car watching his kids play on the equipment. My immediate thought was that here was someone watching me pack up hiking gear, whilst on the phone to my Hubby confirming where I was going to be camping and my expected times – I immediately got back in the car and moved to a quiet street and started again. Just the thought that someone could overhear me talking about solo hiking in the bush had my guard up. I finished up – loaded on some more layers of clothing as the temperature started to drop and drove the last hour to the Prom, parking up and throwing my heavy pack on my shoulders. I said goodbye to the car, hoping as always that she was safe from break-ins. I don’t leave valuables in the car, but I still don’t want to come back to smashed window!
It was already pretty cold as I started to head off. I only had about 2hrs of hiking to do to get to Oberon Bay and the sun was already dropping. I was prepared with my head torch already around my neck and as the darkness settled on me, the wombats came out and joined me in my plod. This was an easy trail, and I enjoyed the walk by the light of my headtorch, occasionally turning it off and just looking to the stars. They took my breath away – they always do in the bush. At one stage I had a scare as I thought someone was taking a photo in the distance, until I realised it was lightning off in the distance. I had checked the weather before I left, and I knew that a big storm was coming but I was hoping to just miss it. As the lightning continued to light up the distant sky I made the call to change campsites and head to Halfway Hut instead of Oberon Bay. I still had a little bit of reception so sent a quick message to Hubby, so he knew and kept going to Halfway Hut. By now I was walking hard because I know its horrible to put up a tent in the rain, but I also knew that Halfway Hut had a small hut that would offer me some protection if the storm was really bad.
I was so happy to arrive and see that I had the campsite to myself. I love having the camp to myself but also wondered if it meant the storm was going to be a shocker and no one else was silly enough to be out here! As I was on my own and it was now about 8pm I figured I would be alone all night, so I set my tent up inside the little hut, affording some extra protection from the weather. The hut is basic – Its 2 solid walls, one wall with a cut out section offering a window and then an open door that didn’t close properly. I set the tent up so that I was facing the door but could also see out of my tent window through the hut window – which gave me a view of anyone walking into the campsite. Bed always gets set up first – and feet are always at the door. This is a protection mechanism for me. If anyone tried to come through my tent door my feet are at the door so that I can kick them in the head. I also keep my hiking poles in the tent with me in case I needed to use them. I don’t actively think about this when I set the tent up; instead, it’s become second nature to me to have these instinctive actions when hiking alone. Why do we have these? Especially as women, why should we have to think about protection from strange men in the bush, why do we intuitively do these actions to protect ourselves? The rain started as I boiled my water for dinner, and I ate my Thai Curry (rehydrated) and had my milo whilst watching the rain pelt down outside the hut. I was very grateful for the hut and listened to the thunder and rain on the tin roof as I curled up with a book. Totally in my happy place.
The following morning was still and beautiful, but you could still smell the rain. I enjoyed my porridge and a coffee with the birds chirping around me and was packed up and hiking by 8am relishing in the sunshine as it washed over me. I was so happy to be dry, had a dry tent and bedding in my pack and a big day ahead of me. I was heading to the lighthouse, via Roaring Meg and some of my favourite single trail. I was only in trail runners for this adventure so felt light and free as I splashed through the puddles towards Roaring Meg, a campsite nestled in the trees by the river. I splashed in the river, washing my face, and filling up my water and then pushed on to the lighthouse.
The scenery as you come to the lighthouse is breath taking and I stopped often to take photos and watch for whales in the vast ocean. Despite still wearing a thermal top the sun was shining and keeping me warm. I climbed up towards the lighthouse and found a rock in the sun where I made lunch and told the crows to get lost as they circled me waiting for some food to drop. I left my pack on the rock, secured everything, and went up the steep path to the lighthouse where I just relished in the beauty of the expansive ocean before me. This was my reset. This is what I love about hiking. As I went back down to my pack, I saw the crows were trying to hard to get into the pack looking for food, but it was well secured, and I chased them off laughing. I say on the rock and meditated for 10mins before starting to feel the cold breeze chill me so I threw the pack back on and headed towards Waterloo Bay.
This is a decent hiking section, with single track that is largely overgrown, and I had to push through bushes and slop through the mud. I loved it! This part of the Prom is not as busy, and I loved that I didn’t see anyone until I arrived at Waterloo Bay. Getting to this campsite involves about 1km on soft sand on one of the most beautiful beaches. I chatted with Dad’s angel as the waves crashed beside me and came into camp surprised to see so many people there and also that a lot of the campsite was under water! This is one of the most popular camps which is why I wasn’t planning on staying. I topped up some water and pushed on to Refuge Cove, another 60mins away. I was now playing a game of hide and seek with the sun as it started to drop – the downside of winter hiking! It was getting colder, and I was hungry so munched on a muesli bar as I tackled the last of the day. My legs had been going all day and with 13kgs on your back it gets tough, and I was tired.
I arrived in camp just on dusk and quickly set the tent up whilst I still had light. The campsite is set up from the beach, yet secluded under the trees. I was joined only by one family who were finishing up their dinner. I threw them a hello and set up well away from them, eager to get dinner into me. Dinner was a rehydrated beef stew which was delicious, but then again – anything would have tasted good by now, and I curled up in bed with my book again, laughing when I heard the family screaming at a wombat that was trying to get into their tent. My food gets wrapped in a waterproof bag, including my rubbish to avoid the animals trying to climb in bed with me and get some of my goodies!
I was up at 5am with the natural body clock and decided that I would pack up and head to Kersop’s Peak for the sunrise. It was about 45mins away and I knew it would afford me a beautiful view. I packed up quietly, careful not to wake up the other family and re-traced my steps from the day before by the light of my headtorch. Due to recent storms I had to backtrack on the same trails today to Waterloo Bay again because the trails heading north were still damaged and thus closed so I couldn’t get through. I made it to Kersop’s Peak still in the dark and settled on a rock to make myself breakfast. I felt starving, having hiked on nothing for the morning. As I made my coffee the sun broke over the horizon and my face lit up with a big smile – it was an incredible way to start the day. I ate my porridge, drank my coffee, and snapped some pics with a big smile on my face. As the sun rose, I sat and meditated until it got so cold, I couldn’t feel my fingers. I opened my eyes and saw the weather closing in from behind me. I stripped off the down jacket and put on the rain jacket instead, quickly packed everything up and put my gloves on. The rain started as I walked down from the peak – perfect timing because I was now dressed appropriately and was moving so wouldn’t get too cold. I love hiking in the rain! I don’t particularly like setting up my tent or taking it down in the rain, but I love walking in the rain. It’s so beautiful and you feel so alive.
I had about 4.5hrs of hiking back to the car – Back through Waterloo Bay but instead of going along the beach like the day before I headed inland cutting through Telegraph Junction before climbing the hill back to the car. By the time I got to the car it was very wet and very cold and I stripped down, grateful I had left warm and dry clothes in the car for the drive home. I was hungry but a muesli bar wasn’t going to cut it so I jumped in the car and drove for an hour to Fish Creek, stopping out the front of the bakery and almost drooling. A toasted sandwich, a piece of cheesecake and a hot coffee and I was feeling much more human.
After getting home and having a hot shower I curled up on the couch with my dog and hubby and a glass of red wine telling him all about my adventures. The news came on; stories of a lady being killed by her husband, a lady hit by a bus walking across the road, a man bitten by a shark, and I shook my head. Here I was being told by everyone not to hike in the bush because it was too dangerous, being alone in the bush was not safe – and yet here were people going about their daily lives, and just like it was cut short.
Life can change in the blink of an eye – don’t let fear stop you from having that adventure.