Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 6

A rare nice part of the trail, wide and flat…

During a nice stretch of flat path I was thinking about the perfect man. Forget flowers and chocolate, smiles, Champaign and even sex. For me, the perfect man (on that night) would be the one that would give me a bath, carry me to bed, massage me all over, feed me pizza, brush my teeth for me, bring me a painkiller and let me sleep 24 hours. That is why it is so hard to find the perfect man, depending on how you feel or what you do he has to be a completely different person!
Then came the dark. We found this nice fire truck track, large, flat, reasonably dry and short. There was only 1.5 km to go and we thought we would make it in 15 min, but soon after we thought it the bush trail was back with all the ups and downs and the night. Fortunately two of the girls had brought their walking lights. If you told me I would have to walk in the middle of the bush at night with just too little lights and four other girls a week ago, I would have told you in a charming phrase: NO F%$#$@$@$%$# WAY!

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Finish Line in the Dark

When it happened I didn’t even feel scared. So tired… so much pain in my knees and legs… there was no space for fear, except when we thought the dogs were coming. We saw the fabled lights at the end of the trail. It was a house from where we heard some mean dogs barking, they sounded like Rottweilers. A minute after something moved in the bushes. We thought the dogs were out and coming to get us. I’m glad to say it was probably some wallaby or something that was running away from us, not toward us.
And just then we found civilization!!! We still had to walk another four blocks to the car. Then smelly bliss…
– I can smell myself!
It was a disgusting smell. An overpowering mixture of sweat, mud, urine and all those bodily smells you get after too much exercise. My own smell was so strong I couldn’t even feel the others so I hoped their own smells were overpowering them so they could not smell mine.
We rode in silence, a blissful, tired, happy, silence. We did it, it seemed to say. We felt brave, powerful, determined and happy. But I felt happier then them… I am sooooo happy I’m not doing the 100km !

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I’ve made it to the end!!!

The dayssss after were pure hell. I could barely walk, although I had energy I had to walk with bent knees. The first day after I was walking like a mammoth, dragging my feet. Used the lifts with all the old ladies, but had to climb stairs in Redfern.
It was an “ouch” per step with me using the handrails as lifelines – without them I wouldn’t have done it.
The second day after was still made of pain, the knees felt a bit better but the muscles… oh my God! It was the old penguin day walking… old and decrepit penguin walk.
On the third day after I had been converted to a new and young penguin. But a penguin none the less.
Only on Friday I was truly recovered. About nature all I can think is: f@#@$ nature I don’t wanna see any for a long long long time!

(Orble Votes: 59)

Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 5

The commune with nature at a bushwalk is something to be … envied. Honestly I didn’t get to commune at all. At the beginning I was aware of nature, this mushroom, that tree, the wonderful sound of birds, the crickets, the rivers and the sound of water. It was doubtfully beautiful. And I did enjoy it. But it was such a hard walk I didn’t manage that special feeling I get sometimes of total and complete wonderment. The real “commune” with nature. I had to push myself the whole time so I couldn’t totally give myself to the moment.
After midway I was living in the future: the arrival, the end, the finish, the car, a nice bath and my bed. Oh, and pizza – very important.

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At some point I was asking:

– How many up hills are there, just tell me the truth, if there is another yet to come leave me here to die…

The leaders didn’t tell me the truth. Obviously. After a while I stopped asking:

– I don’t believe there is a Berowra station anymore. It’s a myth. I don’t care I can walk the whole night.

Really, there is a point of exhaustion you reach and go beyond. You can keep going until you die. My head felt light, my legs heavy but I could continue walking for an eternity. I didn’t care anymore if the trail was flat, going up or down, if there were puddles I would splash right in the middle of them, I could se we stumbled a bit here and there not being able to properly get the legs up to walk.

One of the girls joked with me:

– We have deceived you! We brought you here to kill you ! HA HA HA

– Ok, please do it soon and end the pain! I answered in a wail!

That friend that had been previously looking for the dead body had found another idea to chew on:

– What if we could get home and change to a new pair of legs. Rested ones. Some that would not be this painful.

She found an accomplice for the thought:

– Yeah! Then we could have different sets of legs with the proper muscles developed for each activity… like one pair for running…

– One for dancing!

We all joined in:

– One for walking.

– One for rollerblading.

– One to use mini-skirts with, perfect smooth skin over a nice long muscled leg…

We imagined a few more legs…

 (Orble Votes: 34)

Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 4

A lot of Bush: can you see how green and steep?

It is interesting how a walk like this makes you completely self-aware. You get a new conscience over your body. Things that you take for granted on your day-to-day world are vital then. Like food and drink. A little snack can be felt as a burst of energy so clearly it is not normal. On my normal days I have lunch when it is lunch time, a snack on my breaks, dinner when it is dinner time. In the adventure you don’t eat you control your energy supply. Same thing with water, I was never so aware of the hydration of my body, every time I got slightly dehydrated a mild headache started, it was the sign I was forgetting to drink. As soon as I got a bit of water in me, the headache was instantly gone.
We also tried a yucky thing called Goo, it looks bad but it tastes good. A small pouch with some goo that can only be extraterrestrial technology. An energy compost that gave us energy for a whole mountain climb with half a dose. Some sportist magic stuff, I only know it worked, although I also got a slight headache when it kicked in. The pain was gone in a few minutes and the energy helped a lot.
One of my friends felt that the Goo and one painkiller we each took were like cheating. The other explained: you will still have to walk, and climb, and get out of this bush, how could that be cheating?

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More Bush for you: Rivers and Trees all over the place…

My next delirious phase happened when I heard a highway somewhere… I could hear trucks passing:
– I’m gonna find the highway ( I can hear it) and take off my clothes (there is no way to get a ride looking this disgusting and a much higher chance being naked) and stick the thumb out and get a ride. I better make sure I negotiate the ride from outside the door, cause once the driver feels my smell … I’m not gonna accept a motorbike ride though, imagine being completely naked with a big helmet on your head… too strange.
By then I realised the peeing was another changing behaviour. At the beginning we were all clean prudes, looking for covering bushes to pee on, taking a tissue to dry ourselves and cleaning the hands with sanitary gel afterwards. After falling on a mud ugly stream, being exhausted, soaked wet, with knees that were ready to proclaim revolution on my body and proclaim total stop of all the machines, peeing was not an issue anymore. Anytime needed we just screamed to the others “peeing here” stepped to the side of the trail, undressed, bent, urinated, put the pants back on, all together with the underwear, in one go, and continued walking screaming this time: “done”. We would hold until uncomfortable so there was always someone else to pee with you, making each stop a very strange scene.

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I kept thinking with Nemo’s song in my mind: Just Keep Walking, Just Keep Walking…

The highway was gone, with no sign of ever it getting closer to us… so my next running away thought happened when we got to Berowra waters. I’m not sure why I didn’t beg the few fishermen on the way to take me with them. I guess that again I was deluded thinking we were almost there.
I saw some boats in the bay and decided it was a perfect solution:
– I will swim to that little boat and sleep there. Tomorrow I’ll find a way out of this no-where!

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(Orble Votes: 46)

Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 3

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Can you see the trail? No? This patch full of leaves, water, mud, going hill down, that is the trail!

Saturday had been a day of rain. That made the trails on Sunday rivers and streams, puddles, mud and hell. When we started we would nicely walk around the puddles of water and avoid getting our new trail shoes all soaked. When I fell to the first river all that stopped. I went across first and was helping everyone to cross when the little edge I had my foot on gave way and I fell up to my waist into the stream. Took me a few minutes to come out as all I had under me was mud so I had no support to hail myself up. I ended up like a koala around the tree trunk bridge we had gone over, laughing so much it was difficult to muster the energy to get myself up. Meanwhile my friend was equilibrating on top of the tree trunk, midway trying not to fall. For a few minutes she forgot about the dead bodies.
Not long after I forgot all about dead bodies too and started thinking of a way out. Looking to the vastness of trees, trees and mountains and thinking my only way out was at a helicopter… and I remembered that being rescued in the middle of the bush wasn’t probably going to be cheap. So I was trying to get my phrasing right in my mind: “rescue service? Yes? Well I need rescue… I won’t be able to pay it but I will sell myself for 10 years of slavery to anyone that comes and rescue me now!” I’m still wondering if I would have gotten someone.
– What kind of slavery? They would ask, half interested, I imagine by then I would be in loudspeakers with half a dozen phone operators listening in.
– Any. I can clean, cook and I’m so desperate I wouldn’t refuse even being a sex slave!
– I’m a nun!
– Oh, ok… can I still get rescued?
With that thought I climbed a few more kilometres, fell down another hundred steps trying to decide weather to do it or not. The problem was to get my mobile from my backpack… I couldn’t spend the energy!
On that note I have two things to say: specially designed trail shoes are a gift from heaven. When I heard that it was going to be a hard trail I went and bought new trail shoes in a Mountain sports specialists. It was worth every nickel. All of us had these and on top of feeling safe, not skidding, really feeling the grip they gave us, there was only one of us with a small blister. All the other feet survived unscatered.

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Good Trail Shoes are Essential Items

The second thing I have to say is about the backpack with the camel hydrations system I decided to get. I got the most comfortable one with the hose that brings the water to your mouth, you drink without moving a muscle. If you are walking one hour, it doesn’t matter if you have it, for 30km it is highly recommended. It avoids dehydration.

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It is easy to drink water without taking the backpack out. See the hose coming to the front?

That is why I really didn’t want to get the backpack out of my back to search for the mobile. Too much trouble! At the beginning of the walk I took all these pictures, after Cowan station there is only the one at the end. And that is because the camera was really easy to reach at a side pouch on my waist…

(Orble Votes: 40)

Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 2

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To give you an idea, this is where we started: water level at Hawkesburry River Train Station.

At the beginning you don’t stop, don’t puff, don’t breathe heavily and don’t say a thing. Not because you don’t want to, just to save face. By the end of the walk you don’t give a $#!^ for the face and do all of the above. Your reasoning goes from “I cannot let them down” to “I’m the perfect excuse they need for a stop, they can always blame the outsider that couldn’t take as much as them”… If they really wanted to stop and use me as an excuse I don’t know, but 28km later I didn’t care about the truth or anything else anymore.

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This is the view from one of the high points, see how high we were?

The long walk could be analysed in terms of phases of despair, they were all funny though. At first I was just thinking that when we hit midway I could go back. I knew we were going to pass through some train station. It turned out to be Cowan and we got there by lunch time. Unfortunately, by then, I felt confident, full of myself, I felt in excellent shape and thought that of course I could finish it. The sign said 8 km to Berowra and I could certainly do that. We met an older guy just before that said we could make it by 5pm, in just 3 hours… my mistake was to think Berowra was “The Fabled End” when it was Berowra Waters, still a long way to the train station where the nice car was waiting for us.
The initial phase was “the search for the dead body”. According to common knowledge dead bodies are always found by bushwalkers and early runners, so one of us kept thinking she was going to find the mythical dead body. She didn’t want to, but every time someone made an exclamation she thought there was one. We found blood, one pair of shoes, and some straps hanging from a tree, for her that was solid evidence of a dead body, even though the blood was the red goo one special tree eliminates when cut.

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The Bleeding Tree: doesn’t it look like blood?

Every time we started going up, climbing what was like stairs with steps half a meter high, we would wish we were going downhill. As soon as we started going down and the knees started suffering we would wish we were going uphill where we could use our hands to climb the steps. It didn’t take long for us to get smart and desire flat surfaces, flat long stretches of trails… pity there was none. It took us 8 hours and 45 minutes to complete the walk, in my calculation it would have been about this:
– 15 min at lunch time;
– 20 min total time of small stops throughout the day;
– 1 hour walking in flat trails, either at the top of the mountain or near the water at the ravines;
– 7 hours and 10 minutes climbing up and down.
I cannot say how many times we went up and down those F$##@#$@ mountains but I am sure it was at least seven. But then again, I don’t think you are imagining it right, I bet you are thinking nice steps although high ones. Nooooo, that is not the truth. The trail was rough. On total there were about 13 steps made of cement (steps not stairs). All the rest were rocks, earth, water and mud, and the eventual iron bar step, riddled in the stones, that you have to climb vertically.

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So happy to see Civilization! Cowan Train Station
(Orble Votes: 59)

Beyond all Sane Limits – Part 1

When you go through an adventure you cross the finish line a different person. It doesn’t matter what kind of adventure or how long it takes. Going beyond your limits does something to you, it is good, as soon as the pain goes away!

This is the story of a 30km bush walking at the Great North Walk.
I had a chance to experience that last Sunday. When my friend said she was doing the Oxfam walk with the Informa team I thought it was awesome. A great idea! I even went to the walk’s website to see if there was any team looking for people to join them so I could go too. When I started reading the information I realised it was 100km bush walking. That was when I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do this year; maybe next year… Anyway I told my friend I would go with her to some of the training sections on weekends.


Informa Walk on the Wild Side Oxfam Team

We have been walking from Mosman to Wynyard some mornings before work to start training. When she asked me: “we are going for a 30k walk on a Sunday, wanna come?” I quickly agreed and we moved on to other topics of conversation. After all we were doing 8km in the morning without breaking a sweat, I thought it would be challenging but nice. Basically, I was completely deluded.
It was only Wednesday last week that I decided to ask a bit more about it.
– Where are we going to walk?
– Oh, it’s a bush walk north of Sydney.
– Ok.
– It’s the hardest part of the Oxfam and we want to know how long it’s going to take us to do it. She said.
– I’m sorry???
If I was a little bit smarter I would have given up then and there. But I didn’t, in my imagination it was a bush walk with a lot of bush and rivers, crates, stones, etc. But in my imagination the world had only two dimensions, I forgot about “mountains Gandalf”…
As soon as it started I realised that there was definitely a higher plane there and was puffing on the first climb, not knowing that was easy as easy goes. I find it hilarious to compare myself at the beginning and the end of the trail in several aspects…
The adventure started full on, we left the car at Berowra station, to catch the train to Hawkesbury River station. We were buying the first ticket when we saw the train coming. We quickly made a system, one of us pressing the buttons: destination, single trip; the other feeding coins to the machine: one, two, three – The Train is Coming! – Four – Quickly! – Five tickets and we started running to catch it – not looking at the face of the girl behind hating us for having to buy five tickets at the last minute. I hope she made it too.
At the train we were chatty and noisy, the ride back home, in the car was on the other hand full of tired silence.

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On our first stop, 5ks down the road. See how happy we still were? I’m taking the picture.
(Orble Votes: 36)