Back to Planet Oz to find my new book waiting on my doorstep. Yay! A year in the making and it feels like an elephant pregnancy, but finally Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges is here. I think it looks great – but I would do! It should be in bookstores, newsagents and Tourist Info Centres in the region before the end of the month – let me know what you think! You can also buy it direct through Woodslane’s online bookstore or other online booksellers. It retails for $29.99 and includes 40 great walks. Alternatively, if you are in a cafe or other outlet and would like to stock it, let me know and I will put you in touch with the publishers. Now, finally, onto Melbourne for Dogs….
Posts Tagged ‘walking’
Posted in Bushwalking, Coastal Walks, Places to Visit, Travel, Walking with Children, Walks, Walks with dogs, tagged Bellarine Peninsular, Brisbane Ranges, Geelong, guide books, Travel, Victoria, walking, walks on 01/16/2013 | 4 Comments »
I’m on the last leg of my trip before heading home, and my son and I are staying in the ancient town of Ortygia, Siracusa, at the southernmost tip of Italy. Today we headed north for a close up look at the largest volcano in Europe: Mt Etna. At over 3300m tall, Mt Etna hasn’t once stopped erupting in its 200,000 plus years of existence, and what looks like a symmetrical cone from the coast (very much like Mt Fuji) is in fact a grumbling, steaming, spewing volcano with hundreds of different cones all over the place. The most recent major eruption was in 2001, and the cafe we had lunch at, which is about 2000m, was partially covered by the lava flow from that eruption, which stopped at its walls – literally:
We did a short walk around the rim of one of the smaller cones, in a group collectively called the Silvestri Craters which are 2000m above sea level, and despite it being mid winter, noticed the air was ‘simmering’ down one slope, adn the ground was in fact very warm to the touch – nice to keep your toes warm on a cold winter day!
Getting up to Mt Etna is easy if you have a car – it’s only a short drive from Catania – which has been covered in lava flows numerous times through antiquity – though the resulting fertile soils bring people back, and Etna is now famous for its wine, pistachios, honey and lemons grown around its base. You drive through the most extraordinary rugged lava fields: an incredible moonscape which stretches as far as the eye can see once you are above the tree lines, and the steam which bellows from one of the top cones bulges across the skyline.
As far as walking goes, you can either walk up the cones from the refugio at 2000m, or catch the cable car (when it is operating) and then 4WD truck. Above 2900m you are required to be accompanied by licensed guides, as despite extensive monitoring, the volcano is still unpredictable and very active with new fumaroles and lava vent explosions happening with no notice. In addition to the higher level walks, as you come to expect anywhere in Italia, with its extensive networks of hiking paths, there are a large number of signed ‘nature trails’ throughout the national park, which also take in the native chestnut groves and wild birch forests at lower levels. Covering an area of over 300 square kilometres, there are a number of quite distinct geological and floral zones on the volcano, and each cone has its own characteristic activity – be it flows, steams, smoke, ash or occasional lava explosions. You could happily spend many months exploring and walking here – one day certainly wasn’t enough.
Posted in Places to Visit, Travel, Walking with Children, Walks, Walks with dogs, tagged bogs, Dartmoor, Merrivale, moors, standing stones, stone circles, Travel, walking, walks on 01/03/2013 | 2 Comments »
My wanderings around the UK this (northern) winter, have brought me down to very wet, but always beautiful south Devon countryside, to visit friends. The only solution for socialising in the current inclement (think floods, driving rain, more floods) is to meet up at some of the country’s gorgeous pubs, so we had every excuse we needed to find our way to the Dartmoor Inn at Merrivale, high up on sodden and windswept Dartmoor. Just behind the Inn is the old Merrivale granite quarry which once provided the stones for London Bridge. Just a short walk from the Inn across the saturated moor, are some remarkable groups of standing stones (think Stone Henge but smaller and wilder) and double stone rows thought to have been placed there over 4000 years ago, though noone is really sure what prupose they served: celestial alignments to help with planting, burial sites or other sorts of ritual seem to get the most votes.
Dartmoor itself apparently has more than 70 stone ‘rows’, standing circles and towering standing stones on various sites. Merrivale is the largest and most diverse site on the whole moor with a number of parallel double and single stone rows, a stone circle, menhir (standing stone) and burial chamber.
As fascinating as all the stones were, probably the most interesting part of the walk was coming across a Dartmoor ‘quaver’, surely the nominee for the weirdest bog-effect in the world: somehow the dense peat matted together in places to hold bubbles of water under its surface, and walking on it was somewhat like walking on a bubbly water bed. Utterly bizarre.
Posted in Coastal Walks, Places to Visit, Travel, Walks, Walks with dogs, tagged Hill walking, knoydart, munros, scotland, Travel, walking, walking in Scotland, walks on 12/31/2012 | Leave a Comment »
Well, the night before this glorious day, the water pipes froze in the ground here, it was THAT cold. But in the end, despite it being the second week of December and the rest of the UK wallowing in the wettest year on record, I walked in t-shirt sleeves under blue skies and above expansive views across the sea to Skye. In fact, it was so picture-perfect, that I can’t help but include lots of photos in this blog, to give you a sense of why this place is so special.
Though the sunlight hours are very short up here in the Western Highlands (around 5 hours in all), I decided to have a crack at a hill walk up Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean (it rhymes with ‘heineken’ apparently: ‘sgurr korry na konniken‘). It is the big hulking hill that rises above the tiny town of Inverie (reached by boat from Mallaig), but is often overlooked for it’s more glamorous neighbouring munros, which were topped with snow. However, it has some hidden surprises – and it also gets the sun for most of the day, which is incentive enough in winter! A beautiful start steeply up through the mossy forests above Inverie, over the deer fence by way of a vertiginous stile, then a pathless clog up and up, and up some more through heather, mud and icy bog, with Inverie becoming progressively smaller below.
The sky was brilliant blue and the iced up heather spectacular, as you can see:
After a lot of puffing up the boggy hillside, you lose sight of Inverie below and make your way around the rim of the impressive hidden gully/gorge of Allt Slochd a’Mogha (seriously, don’t ask me how to pronounce that one!).
At the head of the gorge, you reach a totally unexpected high level pasture-land/bog, which gives you 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and lochs, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein, Bhein na Caillich and across to the Cuillins on Skye.
The final pull up the two summits of Coire na Choinnichean was not for me this day, sadly, as with the sun going down by 3pm and the rocks and ridges hanging onto their ice, I had to turn around and save it for another day. SO tough with it close enough to grasp….
Totally wild. Utterly spectacular. Very, very hard to leave.
Who’d have thought you’d come to Scotland in winter to walk in your t-shirt and get sunburnt? True! It was 1C yesterday but it was blue, blue, blue and not a breath of air. Mind you, sunrise wasn’t until 9am and I skated along the icy path from Inverie up over the hill towards Airor then bashed across the moors and hillochs further west past Glaschoille Loch for a view across to the impressive Cuillin skyline on the Isle of Skye in the distance. It’s really quite hard to get a sense of scale of the mountains in Scotland – they are so large, but when you are out in the wild, there is nothing to compare them to to give you a sense of scale. What looks like a half hour walk turns out to be 2 hours, and the going is harder as, for the most part, there are no paths: you pick your way amongst the bogs and burns and tussock grass.
I did discover there are distinct advantages to it being so cold that all the water has iced over: when yomping across a bog (there are lots of peat bogs around here), as long as you are relatively fleet of foot, the crunchy ice layer gives you just enough support to race across instead of sinking in the mire to your knees, as is my usual habit!
OK, so it’s about time I let you into a little secret. As much as I love walking in Australia, in all its shapes and forms, there is a special place in my walking heart for the west coast and highlands of Scotland. I lived in London for almost 10 years, and being from country-Oz, pined for a bit of remoteness from time to time. That took me on the amazing Caledonian sleeper train to Fort William, and beyond, to the very special Knoydart Peninsula, north of Mallaig and opposite the Isle of Skye. It is only accessible via a very long walk in, or by boat, and the first time, almost 20 years ago, we walked in with all our kit and spent an amazing few weeks here climbing some VERY big mountains, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein (pronounced ‘lar-ven’). Since then, I’ve made it back every few years, and even managed to get hitched on a hilltop here at one stage!
This week, I am back for some winter walking, and loving it just as much as ever. Yesterday, while walking up to Loch Dubhain, the gales were howling, the sleet rattling on my jacket and the noise of the water crashing down the burns off the hillside was deafening. Even the deer were looking a bit startled to see a wild walker. But there was a glimpse of sun and I was rewarded with this beautiful rainbow. Fantastic.
I have recently done some ‘talking and walking’ for the National Heart Foundation, who have a fantastic Active Walking program, encouraging all sorts of people to get out together and go walking, through organising local walking groups. Today they had a meeting of coordinators from all over Victoria in Melbourne’s Albert Park, and I thought I would take them out to introduce them to one of Melbourne’s very special secrets – the ancient Corroboree Tree which is tucked away in the North East corner of Albert Park. Thought to be one of the oldest living things in Melbourne, this ancient old red gum is between 300 and 500 years old, and has been a meeting place for the local Bunurong people since before European Settlers arrived. It is still considered a sacred site and used by Aboriginal Elders for important discussions and cultural business. The Bunurong tribe (sometimes spelt Boon Warrung) were one of the four language groups who made up the larger Kulin Nation.
There’s a lovely little walk tucked in behind the historic Junction Cricket Oval, which wanders through bushlands, native grasslands and a small wetland, to find the tree standing unbowed almost against one of Melbourne’s main arterial roads – which was diverted around the tree during its construction. What stories this Old Man Tree could tell.
I have just had a couple of quick days in Port Moresby with my ‘day’ job, and found myself in a town where you actually can’t just get out and walk around, due to safety and security concerns caused by the ‘raskols’ – groups of unemployed young men. The situation is particularly bad for women: both locals and visitors. Everyone is hustled from A to B in cars with locked doors and windows wound up, as car jacking is not uncommon. In the evening, the streets are empty apart from groups of young men hanging around on street corners, and people don’t venture outside their hotels and homes, which are behind tall security fences. Fear can breed paranoia (and black humour: one of the expatriate compounds is affectionately known as ‘Camp S**t-Scared’), but of course many people do live there very happily and accommodate their lives around these constraints, and the Papua New Guineans I met were unremittingly kind, friendly and helpful. Outside of Moresby, the security situation is much different, and the country itself is fascinating and beautiful. However, it really struck me how I take the freedom to just go out and walk for granted, but that for some people, this is not the case. Papua New Guinea is actually home to one of the world’s most iconic long distance walks (certainly for Australians): the 100km+ Kokoda Track, which goes up into the mountains north of Port Moresby. A lung-busting pilgrimage for many of the trekkers walking in the footsteps of their WWII relatives, this demanding trek can only be undertaken with licensed commercial operators.
Posted in Bellarine Peninsula, Brisbane Ranges, Bushwalking, Coastal Walks, Geelong, Places to Visit, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking with Children, Walks, Walks with dogs, tagged Australia, guidebooks, Travel, walking, walks on 10/27/2012 | 2 Comments »
Well, here’s a bit of excitement (for me at least!). My next guidebook, Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges (Woodslane Press) was finally sent off to the printers on the 19th October and should be in stores by mid-December, ready for you to plan some lovely Christmas walks. It will retail for $29.95 and has 40 terrific walks to suit all sorts of abilities and interests. A big thank you to my terrific editors at Woodslane Press, and to my patient friends who joined me on many of the walks (Karen, Deb, Di and Fred – legends all!). Here’s a sneak preview of the cover, so you know what to look out for. Hope you enjoy the walks as much as I did!
Sometimes you just need to know when to give up! On my recent trip in North Wales, the day before I was due to leave was my last chance to have a go at climbing a tantalising little 653 metre hill in the Nantlle valley (in the foothills of Mt Snowdon) which had been laughing at me all week: it’s a minor peak, though it has an impressively long-winded name: Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd (no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either!). I’d managed to get half way up earlier in the week when I had a couple of hours spare and in glorious sunshine. As is the way, this day dawned damp and grey (though not cold) and the clouds had dropped onto the top of the hills, so the Nantlle ridgeline walk I had earlier thought of was out. Instead I thought I’d aim for the obelisk on top if Mynedd Tal-y-mignedd. The path petered out once I got up on the hills above all the ancient dry stone walls, but with a trusty ordnance survey map, I bashed through some heather, clambered VERY ungracefully over the last stone wall to cross a burn (creek), then slogged ever upwards to a knoll with spectacular views up and down the Nantlle Valley. And then the (horizontal) rain came. And the (gale-force) wind. And the rain and the wind together. And the cloud. And of course, as only happens on those British Hills, the world dropped away around me, and it was just me and the cloud (and did I mention the rain and the wind?). It fact the weather was so foul as to be ridiculous, and I couldn’t help but laugh like a mad woman! Talk about flash backs to mad walks of my misspent youth – it was fantastic! But, with visibility so low, after slogging onwards and upwards for another hour, I just had to bail, and head back down. Though – of course, as it turns out – just 100m short of the obelisk. Another day ….