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Sneaking in Adventure

I stop and drop my pack onto the dirt. The weight comes off my shoulders and my body groans in delight at the fact that I am now at the top of the mountain, and they can relax from carrying the heavy burden that is my pack. I suck in the fresh air, deep into my lungs and exhale. I just breathe better out here in the mountains. I know that technically I shouldn’t – as we go up in elevation the air thins and so we don’t breathe better. but there is just something about being in the mountains, with a 360-degree view of ranges that seem to go forever. Knowing that they will challenge me, scare me and test me; but also knowing that I feel home. I am 1922m up and the weather is perfect. It has been a hot climb up the side of the mountains. 12kms of being soaked in my sweat and cursing at the big steps and the added weight on my back with extra water. I have carried up 6L of water because I know it is going to be a hot one but also because I wanted the extra challenge of the weight on my back. I have only used 1L so far whilst climbing so I also know I am rather dehydrated already.

I walked past the hut, past the campers. I know a ‘secret’ spot just below the summit of the mountain where the grass is clear, and the view is incredible. I stay away from the crowds but there are only about 7 tents at the hut – not much of a crowd when I have just come from Melbourne. I look around my spot which is not protected at all, but I am confident that the weather will stay beautiful for me, and the wind will not take me over the other side of the mountain. Still, I tether my tent very tightly and find some strong rocks to also hold down the ropes where the ground is too hard to get my pegs into. I throw my pack into the tent and sit on a nice flat rock that I have found and lugged over to the tent, and I watch the sun start to colour against the horizon in the west. I sit until I cannot feel my toes because the temperature has dropped and still, I watch the sun, now well dipped behind the mountains and I marvel at the changing colours of the sky in front of me.

I boil some water and let my dinner rehydrate; I am hungry from today’s efforts and looking forward to my beef chilli and rice. I practically inhale it, licking the sauce from the packet that also couples as a bowl. I have forgotten my camp shoes and so I am sitting barefoot and as my toes go numb, I decide it’s time to get into my warm sleeping bag with my book. Instead of reading however I lie in the light of the moon that has now started to come over the east range – a stunning full moon that has me climbing out of the tent later in the night to see the incredible night sky. Words don’t describe the view of the night sky when you are camped up the top of a mountain – photos don’t show you anything and words don’t do it justice. I stand and stare until my toes are numb again and reluctantly climb back into bed, pulling a buff over my eyes to help me sleep – that’s how bright the moon is!

I sleep well, considering there is only about half an inch between my body and the hard ground, and I am cosy and warm in my sleeping bag. I wake to the sound of crows, who are egging me up so I can make breakfast and they can hopefully steal something. I climb out of my tent, and I am greeting with the early light that means the sun is starting to break. Just like that it’s ready to come up again and we start a new day. I dress quickly and start the short 1km hike up to the summit of Mt Feathertop occasionally stopping to watch the full moon over Mt Buffalo in all her glory.

It's cold and windy at the top but I am dressed for it, and I sit and watch the sun break over the top of the mountain range in the distance and provide a spectacular display of colours, welcoming me to this new day. I take a deep breathe and out and again I just know that I breathe better up here. The air is cleaner, the air fills my body with something that I cannot describe. As the sun starts her climb into the sky I head back to my tent and brew up some coffee. I still have 4L of water that I had carried up so even give my face a little wash. I have a solid day ahead of me and I will need 3L at least. I always have 1L of emergency water as a backup. If I break a leg and I need to wait for help I know I want water and I am willing to carry the extra weight for that piece of mind – especially when I am hiking alone. I set off across the razorback, already cursing that I have left my long sleeve thermal top on.

The sun has well and truly hit the sky now and the trail is exposed and hot. It doesn’t take long before I stop to strip off a layer. This is one of my favourite trails – I look in every direction and all I see are mountains. I feel on top of the world as I walk across the top of the range, singing to myself and smiling at the little things. As I hit the trail head to start my descent a few hours later I look around me and whisper a goodbye to the beautiful view of mountains around me and I start to go down, down and down. The Bon Accord track is steep and technical – which is a challenge without having about 16kgs on your back. The added weight puts pressure on my knees and my quads but I love the challenge of going downhill. It doesn’t take long before my quads are starting to shake, and I giggle at them. I stop for a pit stop and to eat something halfway down and sit on a tree stump watching the march flies try and attack me. They don’t bite me, thanks to my spray, but they hover around me like they are playing a game of chicken on the freeway. I hear a kookaburra in the distance and smile; its one of my favourite sounds in the world. I heft my pack back up and keep going, stopping not far down the track as I come across my first snake. Its just a baby but doesn’t seem to realise that it’s meant to move for me and is still for so long that I wonder if it is alive. I give it a gentle nudge with my hiking pole, and it understands what I want and ever so slowly its slithers into the bush. I spend the next 2kms thinking every stick is mumma snake until slowly I get the confidence to actually look up and trust that the snakes are sleeping.

Its hot; so hot. I am soaked once again, and I am drinking a lot. The breeze that was offering relief on the top of the range doesn’t exist anymore and at times I feel that it’s so humid I cannot get breath into my lungs. I know that I am getting close to the river and try and distract my mind from counting the steps until I get there. At last, I hear the rush of the water and I know that I have to be close. I start the steep descent down to the water and cry out with joy when I am finally standing on the side of the riverbed. I drop my pack and jump into the water, full clothed, still with shoes on. I lie down on the rocks and let the cool water envelop me and feel my body temp start to drop. It is one of the best feelings in the world. I sit, dripping wet on a log and eat my lunch. I am so hungry and don’t have much food on me. I curse myself for not bringing more snacks. I have an emergency dehydrated meal but I decide that I am only 6kms from the finish so I will take the hunger waves and get something at the end instead.

The last 6 kms are beautiful, and much easier. The easiest walking I have done all weekend. Perhaps its because the body knows we are almost finished, and the lower weight of the pack definitely helps. I debate with myself internally about whether I go straight to the pub with my pack or go to the car first. I catch a whiff of how bad I smell and decide, for the benefit of the other patrons, that I will go via the car. At last, I turn a corner and see my beautiful beast (car) sitting peacefully where I left her. I dump my pack into the boot, grab a summer dress from the back seat and throw it over my sports bra. A quick spray of deodorant and I am heading to the pub. I ask for a cold beer quicker than the bar tender can ask what I want and order a burger. Sitting in the air con inside the pub, the only patron that doesn’t want to sit outside in the beer garden, I watch the cricket and devour an ice-cold pint and a burger. The legs are still covered in dirt, my undies are still wet from the river, my hair is a mess, my face is sunburnt. Just try and wipe that smile from my face. Sometimes my adventures are short and I have to squeeze them in around work and family commitments, but they are always challenging, they are always fun and they always leave my body with that amazing feeling where its teetering between exhaustion and content. The mind – that’s totally in it’s happy place and already dreaming up the next adventure.

For now, its back to reality.

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Angela Esnouf
Angela Esnouf

You amaze me!


Thanks for sharing. It is a wonderful place. 😊

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