A few years back my dad asked me to walk the Overland Track in Tasmania with him. I'd never hiked much before, let alone a multi-day walk. But I said yes.
The Overland Track was a great experience. Great because I was 'off the grid' from devices for five days. Great because I had time with my dad. Great because I felt healthy. Great because the scenery and landscape changed every hour. Great because I took so many beautiful photos that ended up 'award winning'.
It wasn't all great, though - the hard hike up hills, the sore feet, the aching back, the tree roots to climb over after a long day. Eating dehydrated food, sleeping on a wood platform and using my smelly clothes as a pillow each night didn't add any luxury.
But when dad said he wanted to go on another hike this year, I jumped at the chance. I even organised it all. For all the negatives of multi-day hikes, the positives make it all worth it.
I looked at a few different walks and ended up deciding on the 100km Great Ocean Walk. Who doesn't love that area? I've done it by car, in the rain, and loved the idea of doing it again - at a slower pace. As my niece and nephew were coming with us, it seemed like a good idea to take the car rather than have to fly somewhere. All on our schedule.
What is originally an eight-day hike turned into a six-day hike for us with the aid of Walk 91 in Apollo Bay. They transport your big packs each day for the first half of the walk, so you only have to carry a daypack. It meant we could combine the first four days of the hike into two. They are long days, around 22km, but an easy grade.
That didn't stop my niece and nephew from bailing on us, though. Perhaps it could have been the reason? At the end of day three, they turned back to Apollo Bay on the shuttle bus. I'm not exactly sure why, but the sound of the following day - medium to hard grade walk in 39 degrees, probably didn't help the mind games. Can't say I blame them, I wasn't looking forward to it at all.
But, as it turns out, I am glad I went on. Despite the constant worry of fire, we made it to camp the following day and sweltered the afternoon away in the heat. Being away from the coast, no sea water in reach to dip in, I didn't know where would be coolest. The campsite shelter had no breeze, there was dappled midday light everywhere and the shade was swarming with flies and bugs. At one stage I settled in the tent, fell asleep and awoke in a puddle of sweat circling me. Glamour. I wish I could have stayed outside in the slight breeze but the ants, mosquitos and flies love me like devoted friends. Needless to say, my sleeping bag that night was used only as a footrest - and that was solely used as such because I had nowhere else to put it - and no way was I going to put it on any other part of my body.
Not all days were so hot, the following day it rained in the afternoon while setting up camp. I even got my thermals out. And then my loyal friends came back with a vengeance. Mosquito bites cover my legs, eating through my thermals, trying to match the sand fly bites all around my torso (from my yoga session on the lawn at Aire River two days prior). But the conversations and belly laugh with other hikers - a mid-age couple, three single friends and a newlywed couple on their honeymoon - was worth the itchiness.
Walking on the last day, edging towards the 12 Apostles, was foreign. The hum and drone of helicopters above doing their scenic flights and the hordes of tourists passing us as we walk closer and closer to the lookouts of the 12 Apostles was slightly disturbing. I didn't enjoy ending it this way. After five days in quiet and beautiful nature, having to share it with all the daytrippers, sitting on the only concrete block (strategically located just outside the toilet doors) at the Visitor Centre, wasn't the accomplished ending I had in mind.
Kissing and hugging everyone goodbye at the end of the hike, I realise how quickly connected you become to people without the presence of digital devices to draw your attention away. With only a book as entertainment, you look outwards to your environment. You enjoy the conversation of various people, the natural environment and, mindfully, your inner thoughts.
Who else feels this way when out in nature?