GOW – it’s just WOW!

A freedom and peace settle over me when I tie on my boots and shrug on my  pack. Hiking is a salve for my soul and my sanity.      Shannyn Steel

Multi day hikes while tough going at times are rejuvenating for me. Being on track with all the essentials on my back and my beloved by my side is one of the best ways for me to unwind, recalibrate and reconnect with nature. The Great Ocean Walk (GOW) allowed me to do all that, and more.

The GOW is located in Victoria, Australia, and runs through the Great Otway and Port Campbell national parks. It’s designed to be an eight-day hike through forest, across rocky shorelines and sandy beaches and atop exposed and rugged cliff tops, totalling 100 km.

We made the decision to complete the walk in 6 days, cutting down on the amount of food we needed to carry and also, allowing time for us to go off and explore other areas of Victoria.  Our GOW itinerary looked like this:

Day 1: 10 km from Apollo Bay to Elliot Ridge
Day 2 (combine days 2 and 3) 23 km Elliot Ridge to Cape Otway
Day 3 (combine days 4 and 5) 24 km Cape Otway to Johanna Beach
Day 4 14 km Johanna Beach to Ryan’s Den
Day 5 13 km Ryan’s Den to Devils Kitchen
Day 6 16/23 km Devils Kitchen to 12 Apostles (and back to the car).

To give an indication of time, we travelled at approximately 3 km an hour. Which is not terribly fast though perhaps an average speed. Unpacked I can walk 6 km in an hour at a moderate pace.

The memory I will hold of this walk is of its incredible diversity. Passing though so many different landscapes with varying vegetation and fauna was a highlight. Having to be aware of the tides to make river crossings and rock scrambles was a novelty for me.

The campsites are well set out. We pre-booked our sites. There are small numbers of official sites at each campground ensuring a comfortable stay for those on track. We met five other small parties on the walk but were expecting many, many more being the Christmas holiday season so we were pleasantly surprised by the peace, tranquility and chance to enjoy the remoteness of a wilderness hike.

Water was plentiful in the tanks at the campsites due to recent rains. It’s always advisable to carry water when unsure. There are plenty of rivers along the way, though I’d always recommend sterilizing your water, whether from tank or river, before drinking. Campsites were equipped with drop toilets, not the dreadful chemical, eye burning, smelly ones either, another pleasant surprise. Some of them had amazing views. Another added bonus is the no car access to the walk-in campgrounds, making for peaceful afternoons and evenings.

We hiked over the Christmas holiday period, that’s high summer in Australia. We had two very hot days and found them quite difficult to deal with, we drank more than three litres of water each on those days. It rained a couple of nights and was a little showery one morning, cooling things down. We watched fog roll in from the sea and also inland. Friends advise winter is bitterly cold, though those of you from the British Isles might not mind that.  I might advise a September hike – though Victorian weather is extremely variable and it’s anyone’s guess as to what conditions you might face in any season. Best to be prepared for all conditions regardless of when you walk.

The trickiest part of the whole walk was organising transfers.  Having driven from Queensland nearly 2000 km away we wanted to park at the end of the walk for ease of departure. While there are several options for transfers we were only able to connect with  the Timboon Taxi service. It cost considerably more than a bus trip but the convenience outweighed the price. V line buses run every second day and didn’t line up with our dates, another transfer service did not return calls so the taxi was a great option. We were collected from the Princetown Recreation Reserve, where we parked for the small fee of $20 for six days (7 kms from the end of the walk) and were driven back to the beginning in Apollo Bay. While we carried all our food and essentials our taxi driver told us tales of people providing him with shopping lists and paying him to make food drops at each campsite. Nicely extravagant! That’s hiking in style, for sure.

The Great Ocean Road is popular with tourists. It was built by World War I returned soldiers, 3000 in fact, who tackled the difficult terrain and variable weather to build a road that links the region’s coastal towns. The GOW ends at the very popular Twelve Apostles, along the Great Ocean Road, where the crowds are a little disconcerting after 6 days of wilderness but it’s a majestic end to a brilliant walk.

The Gunditjmara people, the traditional owners of the land, ask hikers to take good care of the land they walk on and wish them a visit filled with great experiences, so that part of their Country will remain with you in good memories. I will always have good memories of that beautiful country and am grateful for the opportunity to explore and experience it for myself. I’d like to share a little of it with you in a video my beloved put together of our time on the GOW.  Enjoy! 

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Inside a mystery box

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Image sourced from Lacy Lane

Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.  – Nina Dobrev

You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, ‘Am I having fun?’ – Christopher Meloni

Life is more fun if you play games.  – Roald Dahl

As a child I was fascinated by mystery boxes.  Being presented with a number of unobtrusive boxes and being tasked with choosing one to reveal either a welcome bounty or a dud souvenir was excruciatingly enticing . I delighted in the weighing up of possibilities and the anticipation –  would there be ultimate enjoyment or a momentary disappointment from having made the wrong decision?  Recently the tables were turned slightly. I was not choosing a box for a reward but rather I was put inside a mystery box and the ultimate reward came from escape.

My analogy is weak, I agree, so let me tell you a little about one of the most exhilarating  fun experience I have had in a very long time.

It all began with a shake down.  Phones and other electronic devices were confiscated and locked away.  A hood was placed over my head. I don’t go in much for blindfolds and I certainly don’t like hessian bags over my head but in the spirit of adventure and fun I played along.  We were led to our chamber and once our captor departed and locked us within we removed our bags to find we were in the dark bowels of the Butcher’s Burrow.  We had 50 minutes to escape our fate and I had no idea how to begin. There were limited tools at our disposal and those that seemed to exist were sealed away with combination locks. Time was of the essence and the two of us had to work together to escape.  Our first objective was to find light.

I would love to describe in detail the steps we took to escape and the challenges we faced but that would spoil the fun should you attempt this yourself. The Exitus escape rooms are an exciting addition to the adult fun arena.  The room we visited is part of the entertainment at Strike Bowling in the city of Brisbane but they are popping up almost everywhere.  Each room has a theme where minimal clues are given and teams must use their wits and combined brain power to solve the puzzles confronting them. The goal is to escape before the nominated time is up.  You can ask for clues – using the iPad that is supplied or the mobile phone that links directly to the administrator.  Beware – there are time penalties for clues.

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Before entering, I was a little apprehensive.  The thought of being locked in an unfamiliar room for close to an hour, sent my heart a flutter.  What if I felt claustrophobic and too confined, what if I  needed to get out?  Those thoughts soon passed and then a sheen of sweat broke out as I wondered if I would know what to do. Would I be able to solve the puzzles?  What if I needed maths? I need not have worried.  Precautions are in place in case of panic – the mobile phone allows for an instant exit should you need it and the puzzles, well, while they initially  seemed unsolvable, once an instinctual need to ‘escape’ kicked in the fuzziness of my mind was miraculously unlocked and I forged ahead.  Good news too – no maths needed.

My adult son and I worked exceptionally well as a team.  He had been in an escape room before and had some sense of what was required so with a little guidance we set about our task with the pressure and weight of a ticking clock as a constant motivator. We each had our moments of clarity and success and often times it was our combined collaboration that saw the different clues uncovered and puzzles solved.  Teams of up to six can enter the rooms.  I would have found that a little difficult; coping with too many personalities and noise may have rendered me incapable of clear throughout but it may also add to the fun for many.

We escaped, triumphant.  In our last three minutes, holding our final clue we were stumped.  We tossed around ideas, tried various options but relented and asked for a clue.  We weighed the alternative – time penalty or eviction without resolution.  We chose to finish the puzzle.  Surprisingly we were on the right path and probably would have gotten to the end point unaided but that ticking clock forced our hand.

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If you want to experience the difference between fun and enjoyment but don’t want to jump out of planes, travel too far from home or spend a fortune; try escape rooms – they are loads of fun and worth every cent. The warm after glow will provide you with plenty of lasting enjoyment once the thrill of the moment has passed.

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Celebrating life with a Love List. Do you have one?

Life isn’t a matter of milestones but of moments.
Rose Kennedy

Excited and full of anticipation.

Excited and full of anticipation.

I recently completed a three day hike. Not a long hike compared to others I’ve done, but it’s one I’ve long wanted to do.  When I first visited the Australian Blue Mountains, about ten years ago, and fell in love with the area I declared that one day I would walk the Six Foot Track.  The 45 kilometre walk is both incredibly scenic and historic. It was constructed in the 1880’s as a bridle track from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves and it is indeed six foot wide to, originally, allow two laden horses to pass.

What’s this got do with a Love List?  Well, when I completed the walk I shared a photo of celebration with friends and commented that I’d ticked another item off my bucket list.  A wonderful friend of mine shared my delight and suggested that I call it a Love List instead of a bucket list.

“What a great idea” I thought.  A bucket list focuses on the inevitable end of one’s life (which is not in itself a bad thing of course but the connotations are somewhat negative and conjures a sense of quiet desperation) whereas a Love List encapsulates life and energy and the present. A Love List is more of a celebration of living rather than trying to beat the clock.  I like it!

I have a list of places to go, challenges to complete as well as fun activities I’d like to achieve sometime in the near future. From that larger list I created a smaller list to focus on this year. Reflecting on my 2014 Love List this Easter season I realise I have officially achieved several of those goals and I am delighted.  Many of the items on my list are small, fun things such as visit my Nana every three to four weeks, take a photo a day and practice yoga three times a week. Other items require a little more planning such as visit Mon Repos, near Bundaberg, to see the Turtles laying their eggs. Something I’ve been meaning to do since I lived there 20 odd years ago.

Completing the Six Foot Track walk was one of those larger items on my list.  As I was travelling back from the Jenolan Caves to Blackheath after the walk it hit me that I’d just met a long held dream.  I had actually completed something I’d spoken about for years. I realise it isn’t climbing Everest or finding a cure for cancer but this small achievement left me momentarily speechless and full of emotion. Now, I feel a great sense of satisfaction and I’m enjoying the warm after glow of achieving a dream.  I’m allowing myself time to savour the moment before deciding on the next “big” adventure I’ll manifest.

Satisfied and elated at having achieved a dream.

Satisfied and elated at having achieved a dream.

Having a Love List gives me something out of the ordinary to work toward, to look forward to and to dream about. It keeps me motivated, excited and full of anticipation.  It’s a way for me to celebrate life. Do you have Love List?  I’d like to hear one or two of the dreams you have on yours.

Committed to creating more life adventures,
Shannyn