Tasmania 2 – Mount Wellington (kunanyi)

We love climbing mountains. You may have noticed. The first morning of our trip, as we drove into Hobart, I saw what is locally referred to as the Organ Pipes on top of Mount Wellington and told James: I want to climb that one. He told me not to get my hopes up, but turns out, yes, I was going to climb it.

I am not sure how to document the experience! We have hundreds of photos and it was such an incredible experience. How can I possibly simmer it down to a blog post? Basically I am going to take you along the hike with me… there’s going to be A LOT of photos (it was 18km after all!).

Start of the hike. I am full of glee because I got to choose the first mountain we are climbing.


Waterfall crossing. Look right…

Look left…

First of two echidnas we saw!

Normally I don’t bother to make my pictures clickable. But I’m going to try and remember for most of these because everything soooo beautiful.

We met these gorgeous spiders (update: they are Nicodamus peregrinus). They have these fascinating abdomens that are like black-turquoise opals, and bright red legs. James got some great macro shots of them, I must eventually get them off him and insert here, mine will have to make do in the interim:

My head, with the Organ Pipes right up in the top right hand corner:

Sphinx Rock Lookout (with James, who due to walking faster than me, is determined to photobomb everything I try to photograph).

I loved these plants, similar to broom?

The view from the lookout (Organ Pipes to the left! yes, I’m going to climb up on top of them!)

As we reached closer to the Pinnacle track, it got a lot colder and started to rain.

Then the sun would come out intermittently. I was taking my rain jacket off and on again every other minute.

The landscape changed constantly too.

Target up ahead! (this also makes me realise how long this post is going to be… we still aren’t even half way there).

This picture may look like it was taken on an angle, but it was not.

Hazy view, not quite Hallasan levels but making me think we won’t see much from the top!

I’m aware I probably need to post fewer photos of these craggy mountains ahead of me, but I just… I just love them!

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Selfie time

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First crystal of snow…
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Suddenly a lot more snow…
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The Pinnacle!
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At this point the wind was gusting over 110kmph and the snow was stinging every exposed part of me — my face, but also my calves! I watched great big men struggle to stay upright! I squealed as the wind whipped snow into my eyes, and I hugged the rocks as we clambered up to the highest point.

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Like a boss despite the howling wind!
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Leaning back against the wind – you can see my boots lifting off!

Then minutes later — this is the view!

We were following a loop which meant we didn’t have to walk the same way back — more landscape changes.

You can’t tell in this picture but it’s now starting to snow again, and the wind was still whipping around us, hence the stylish condom effect.

Getting well snowy!


Ok! That’s enough snow, let’s switch to flooded rainy paths! Definitely reminded me of Hallashan, this one…

The sun is out again…

and I’m obsessing over the lichens everywhere:




Another path presents itself just as the clouds go in.

Waterfall crossing again

Some time after this point I realised I hadn’t seen James in ages. He’s normally way up ahead and I don’t necessarily have him within sight, but generally he stops every now and then for me to catch up. I feel first faint annoyance, then mild anxiety, which prompts me to call out for him, because I am feeling quite isolated all of a sudden. Calling does nothing and my thin reedy voice seems to carry about as far as the next tree. I should pause and mention that my feelings about Tasmania’s landscapes are marked by a film called Van Diemen’s Land, which is famous for its bleak, untouched landscapes, surrounding desperate convicts who are completely lost, and who hack each other to pieces and eat each other as they desperately try to find… I don’t even remember what they were trying to find. ANYWAY. Rosie anxiety begins to evolve into actual panic that I’ve lost James and maybe he’s hurt himself somewhere or I took the wrong path, hah, hah, irrational anxiety is so amusing. I had started crying and wailing Jaaaaaaames, before I finally caught up enough for him to hear me and coming running back, convinced I must be in grave danger given my blubbering wails. Thereafter we held hands until I had regained my cool and my independence. Also we are almost done!

Second echidna sighting!

This one was less blasé and hid from us (in plain sight) under some bark.

And that’s it! Congratulations, you just blog-walked 18km up Mount Wellington and back down again, in rain, wind, sun, and snow. To come still: Mount Amos and Wineglass Bay.

Preparing for a trek: Part 3 – What to bring

This is more of a list of the things that I find invaluable for hiking. Even though I don’t have many treks under my belt, I nearly always go on long hikes wherever I travel to, so I have a few tips and tricks. I haven’t covered off the backpack; to be honest I don’t feel I have enough experience to give advice on choosing a backpack and there are a lot of variables, but I’ll think about it and come back if I have any tips that spring to mind other than don’t get too big of a bag as you will be tempted to put more into it, and whilst 12kg seems acceptable on the first morning, even by the first night you’ll have thrown out anything you can because it will seem so ridiculously, unbearably heavy when you’re going up a mountain. Pack it, then unpack it, remove everything that you can survive 3 nights without, pack it again, wear it for a day-long hike, and then purge some more.

Clothes:

Merino everything.  No, seriously, just keep layering it until you’re warm. James taught me this and I was sceptical at first because I get rashes whenever I go near wool, but merino is different. It’s warm in cold weather, it’s breathable in hot weather, it doesn’t get stank, it washes (even in the machine) beautifully, it’s lightweight, it bundles down very small without crumpling, it’s soft, and it’s a beautiful natural fabric. I have so much Icebreaker in my wardrobe and I only wish I had more.  So ladies, find an Icebreaker outlet or shop around online, because even if you think it’s too expensive, in terms of cost per wear it is cheap (as you’ll be able to wear it daily, for years, even when you’re back home):

–       A merino travel dress: this may seem surprising as a “trekking” item, but actually it’s so wonderful to be able to crawl into it after a day of hiking, and it’s warm and soft and, dare-I-say-it, pretty, whilst generally being fairly modest when you are in more traditional parts of the world. You can also wear it to travel in as it doesn’t crumple, and you can wear it to go out of an evening without feeling frumpy, and you can sleep in it and hike in it and generally just never take it off. I have three. Expect pictures below, at a later date, of me frolicking in various environments in my Icebreaker dresses.

–       1 merino zipped hoodie

–       1 merino vest

–       1 merino long-sleeve t-shirt

–       1 wind-proof and water-proof hooded shell (I have a super lightweight one from Patagonia that zips down into its own pocket and I love it)

–       (if trekking in winter: 1 down jacket)

–       1 pair merino leggings

–       1 pair hiking trousers

–       1 pair shorts (some people go for the type of trousers that zip into shorts. I have never found a comfortable pair that looked decent but I’m sure they exist. My hiking trousers do have little snaps to turn them into capris though).

–       Underwear: unsurprisingly I have a merino sports bra that I love, which is simple and cheerful and doesn’t look sexy. It’s supportive yet comfortable enough to sleep in and it doesn’t get stinky… you’re unlikely to want to change bras much when you’re in a tent halfway up a mountain. I’m of the smaller-chested variety so I have no advice on bras for big boobs, sorry! But I’d imagine you also want something that is comfy and supportive but not crazily so – you’re not running, so you don’t need to strap them down too much. 2 bras is generally enough, one to wash and one to wear.

–       As for knickers – get something lightweight, that will breathe, won’t chafe (ohhhh the chafing… I’ll admit there have been hikes where I ditched underwear rather than chafe) and that will wash and dry quickly overnight. NO COTTON. Again, trust me.  2-3 pairs (and if camping, I don’t change them unless I need to, cos I’m gross/practical like that).

–       Socksalready covered in part one. To recap… merino! 2-3 pairs of hiking socks.

General:

–       A hat – preferably an actual hat and not a baseball cap, because the brim of the cap will not protect your ears or neck (or at least it can only protect one of these at a time, as I can testify).

–       A scarf – I am a redhead and I need a scarf no matter what time of year, but most of all in summer, to protect me from the sun. When it’s really hot, you can soak a scarf in cold water and wear it over your head and shoulders to keep cool. Other scarf functions: impromptu towel; tent for shade when you’re taking a break; extra sheet for bedding or rolled up as a pillow; folded into a handy carry bag; mask when walking through stinky, smoky or insect-infested areas; eyemask when napping; skirt or shawl when bare legs or shoulders are inappropriate; protection from burning hot pleather seats on a bus or tuk-tuk… and many more. Get a nice huge lightweight scarf and never let it go.

–       Sunglasses

–       Headband. This can be the type for warmth, or just to keep your hair out of your eyes/face/everything, especially if it’s windy and you don’t have the kind of hair that can just be tied back. Get one that’s adjustable (like this) so that it’s never too tight (headaches) or too loose (useless and easily lost).

–       Flip-flops – if you’ve ever travelled, you probably know this, but have a plastic pair of thongs stashed away. If you can bear it, Crocs are actually heaven after a day of trekking in boots. Full disclaimer: I cannot bear it, and have never fallen to the Crocs, but instead watched others enviously, and once borrowed my mother’s whilst on the Camino which is how I know just how amazing they feel.

Sleeping:

–       Silk sleeping bag liner. This is a MAJOR one. A MUST-HAVE. They are fairly inexpensive (I’ve seen them priced from 9 Euro to AUD $50 but I got mine for I think AUD $25) and they will revolutionise your experience. Their basic function is to make your sleeping bag up to 5º C warmer… which is nice… and they are much more easily washed than a sleeping-bag, so you can basically keep the sleeping bag cleaner and enjoy the “clean sheet” effect regularly. But I love them because:

  • They are soft and silky and nicer to lay in than most hostel or camping bedding
  • I find I get itchy skin from the detergent used on most sheets and the silk is a great (and hygienic!) barrier
  • When it’s hot, I can lay on the bed in just the silk liner rather than sheets (ideal when you don’t want to be naked cos of sharing a room with other people)
  • When it’s TROPICAL levels of hot I lay on top of it as it doesn’t hold sweat the way cotton does
  • I tend to get paranoid about mosquitos and bugs crawling on me (don’t judge! everyone’s been there at least once in their lives!) and I can relax when I know I’m safe in my silk bag
  • When there definitely are mosquitos around, I can hide inside my liner completely sealed off!
  • It also makes a great scarf (especially on sunburnt skin or when you’re drenched with rain) and you now know how much I love scarves
  • It can be wrapped around you under other layers for extra warmth, even when wet.

–       Earplugs. Never ever travel without earplugs. From bustling crazy cities, inconsiderate hostel room-mates, villages where the dogs bark.all.night.long, and even the startling silence of camping in complete isolation from the civilised world… you’ll never know when you’ll need them. I bulk buy them and then stash them in every pocket and bag for easy access in the middle of the night or on a long train-journey.

–       Eyemask if you’re a bit precious like me. I don’t always use it, but in my travels 80% of the places I have slept in, from tents in Bhutan to serviced apartments in Seoul, had nothing to shutter out the bright early morning light. This can be a good thing if you need to get up, but if you desperately need any sleep you can get, then I find eyemasks from Muji to be my favourite – reasonable price, soft to wear, don’t get sweaty, and block out the light quite effectively.

Toiletries:

–       Sunscreen – I love this affordable moisturiser from Nivea that’s SPF 30 and is instantly absorbed, soothing dry skin at the same time. Then bring any basic SPF 30 for arms, neck and legs, and a chapstick with SPF. If you’re in the mountains, you’ll get a lot of sun, and regardless, you’re outside all day long. This is obviously a guide for the ladies, so ladies – do it.

–       Bug spray – check online to see if strong insect repellent is available where you’re going (top tip: there’s none in Sri Lanka). Get something small and easy to apply; if it’s windy, spray into your hand and then smear it on.

–       Bite-eze or whatever it’s called – because despite everything you will get bitten by something. I have this Burt’s Bees one that I like; I think it’s mostly placebo with camphor and whatnot to distract from the bite, but it just makes such a difference when feeling assaulted by mozzies! And don’t scratch, but you knew that…

–       Body glide/ silicon anti-chafing gel. Great for ladies because bras, knickers, and thighs chafe very easily. As discussed in Part 1, also valuable for keeping your feet blister-free.

–       Wet wipes, and a ziplock baggie for disposing of them. Wet wipes are so useful but unlike toilet paper, not at all biodegradable, so make sure you have a dedicated “bin-bag” and don’t dump them in nature.

–       Travel size toothpaste and toothbrush. More ziplock bags. Lots of ziplock bags.

–       A small travel towel, mostly just as a gesture. Washing is unlikely to be a priority unless it’s really hot and you’re really sweaty and you have access to showers, and if it’s really hot you’ll dry off quickly anyway.

–       Haircare: Be prepared to have crazy hair. Maybe you’re luckier than me, but I have no idea how to avoid crazy hair when trekking. Sorry. However if you’re staying in hostels and have access to showers then it’s better to carry a little bottle of shampoo (in a ziplock, of course) and then use that to clean your underwear in the shower as well. Shampoo seems to be a superior surfactant, as it foams up quickly and rinses out easily without damaging your clothes.

Other stuff:

My friend asked me about travel guides, and whether to go for paper or ebooks. My advice is: download all the ebook guides you can find, but always travel with a paperback Lonely Planet. I find ebook guides can be frustrating and you can’t flip through them and randomly fall upon information the way you can with paper. I love ebooks but also sometimes you have no electricity and you need a book, either for guidance or for sheer sanity as something to read when you’re stranded at a remote train station for 7 hours; Lonely Planet guides are designed with this in mind and always have anecdotes, bits of history, and of course a phrasebook integrated.

If you are trekking with a smartphone (switched on sporadically, on airplane mode, so you can use it as a camera, ipod, map and perhaps even Runkeeper…) you will want to make sure you can top up the battery with a travel charger. I have an ANKER external battery, which can feed a power-hungry iPhone 5 multiple times over the course of a week.  I used my iPhone as a camera and took hundreds of photos daily during my trek in the Himalayas, as well as reading ebooks or listening to audiobooks during the long, cold, dark evenings, and even in the cold my ANKER was enough to last me for days. James used his iPhone and an ANKER and it was enough to track our trek through a GPS app.

Preparing for a trek: Part 2 – Training

As mentioned in my introduction, this is advice for people such as myself who are somewhat active but definitely don’t have the conditioning to walk 10-20km a day for several days and not suffer.

The podiatrist may have suggested this also, but it’s worth seeing a physio just to get a good understanding of any weaknesses you have. In my particular case, my deep glutes needed work, and my hip flexors were doing most of the heavy lifting. A physio will be able to give you a few exercises to help you build strength in the areas that matter, and you want to start doing them as regularly as you can, probably every other day.

Cost: a physio session is pretty affordable; around $70 in Melbourne, and then you can do the exercises alone at home. You might want to invest in a foam roller or a strength band, but they aren’t essentials by any means.

Physio exercises combined with some strength training and stretching (I find ashtanga yoga is great for both) will really help you along the way, but the real training of course comes through getting plenty of walks and hikes in. Don’t worry about speed, at least when you begin. What matters is distance and endurance, and it’s preferable to prioritise shorter walks back-to-back on consecutive days, than to worry about regularly hiking 20km. However, if you’re trekking at altitude (over 3,000m), get in as much cardio as you can, whether it’s walking at a brisk pace to keep your heartrate up, cycling, running or swimming,  because the stronger your cardiovascular system, the less you will struggle once you’re up there. Read up on how to acclimatise to the high altitude here, and visit your doctor for some Diamox (and any vaccines you may need) just in case.

Depending on how far you can currently walk without even noticing (as in you don’t feel sore the next day), you will want to ease into it. Before you build up a training plan, pull out the itinerary for your trek, and look at the distances you will be covering. A perfect example is my friend’s upcoming Peruvian trek:

–       Day 1 – 11km

–       Day 2 – 12km

–       Day 3 – 16 km

–       Day 4 – 4km

The longest day is 16km, so she’ll want to make sure she can walk 16km comfortably, but currently she doesn’t walk at all, and certainly not in hiking boots. So we want to start with gentle 4-5km walks on flat ground and gradually build up, peaking at 18km around 4 weeks before her trek, and gradually increasing back-to-back walks and hikes, so that by the time she flies out, she’ll think nothing of doing 10km several days in a row or 40km in a week. It will be a lot more challenging up in the Andes of course because of the altitude, but she’ll have a solid base.

For those of us who work full-time pretty much the only way to get more walks in on a daily basis is to walk to work. If you can plan a 4-5km path to work, this is a huge bonus. If you live closer than that to work, you may want to take public transport further away from home, or integrate a loop via a local park. Of course if you live further away, get off the train/tram/bus when you’re 5km from work. It’s perfect because you can walk in and commute home (5km a day) or both walk in and walk home (10km a day, with a nice break in between). You can walk home and then walk back in the next day – back to back walks. And if you’re too tired one day, you can make up for it the next. 5km shouldn’t take much more than an hour and so it’s generally not a huge impact on your commute. Of course, you’ll want a workplace with some facilities (showers = awesome, although hopefully you won’t work up too much of a sweat just walking) and you’ll probably want to stash work clothes at the office to change into.

On the weekends you’ll get to do the real deal: mountain hikes, huzzah. If you live somewhere with easy access to lots of mountains, lucky you! If you don’t drive (as is my case) then it can be a bit of a challenge to hunt down a mountain range with trails and public transport, but in Melbourne we have Mount Dandenong.  Make sure you scope one out and then make good friends with it, because you want to get in one big hike at least once a week. Again, start low with 5-7km and then increase slowly. You’ll probably feel you can do a lot more but the aim is to gradually build your strength, without injuring your body. Breaking boots in at the same time is a great way to slow you down. Get plenty of incline in wherever you can, if you’re going to be trekking in the mountains.

Whenever possible, carry a backpack on your hikes. When you first start, it will probably just hold your change of shoes and some water, but get used to carrying a decent amount of stuff (include fuel – I love packing a couple of sandwiches, fruit pouches and a cereal bar, as they all taste amazing on top of a mountain).  Even if you’re doing a trek where guides are carrying your gear, you will need a day pack, and it grows exponentially heavier as the day progresses.  So don’t overload your backpack but make a point of always having to lug one around on your walks. It’s lovely to walk without one, but you are unlikely to escape it on a trek, so get used to it and you won’t feel the pain so much. As for water, I personally love camelback-type water pouches as it means I don’t have to stop every time I want to grab water.

Once you start hitting the 10-15km length hikes, you’re facing a bare minimum of 3 hours out on trails. Some days it goes fast, some days it goes slow, so you may need some excitement to incentivise you. If so, I hope you have a smartphone, because that’s my secret:

1 – get an app like Runkeeper to track all your walks, whether your daily commute to and from work, to your beautiful hikes out in the mountains on the weekends. I love seeing all the kilometres add up, and checking out the maps. Seeing a bar graph and squiggly lines announcing that I hiked 16km in 4:12:55 hours and burnt 1077 kcal makes me happy, and it might well cheer you up to know that despite working 5 days a week you squeezed in 23km of walks between Monday and Friday.

2 – get some podcasts. Glorious nature is all well and fine, but when you’re trudging along the same city road for the 19th time that month… you need a little distraction. I find listening to music can affect my moods in strange ways, but listening to spoken word podcasts about travel, science, history or even just comedy makes a walking commute more entertaining. Also audiobooks work well; David Sedaris – get all of his oeuvre!

Don’t forget to taper as you approach your departure date. Once you’ve peaked in distance, slowly scale back and decrease distances a little, and concentrate on getting plenty of back-to-back walks in so you’re used to walking on tired legs. I find getting ready to go travelling means I’m too busy and stressed to get many hikes in and if you’re flying long haul you will probably be wiped out anyway. Relax and try to enjoy the excitement of what’s coming!

 

Preparing for a trek: Part 1 – Your feet

Disclaimers (optional reading but required for any piece of advice anyone puts out on the internet): I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am not a professional ANYTHING, and this is not professional advice so much as a list of things that worked for me. It’s the result of experience, consultations with a couple of physios and podiatrists, and learning from other people such as the magnificent, extremely well-travelled James. This advice is also written with a certain demographic in mind: mine, ie. a not hugely fit, not massively experienced traveller in her late twenties/early thirties, who wants to go trekking but who also isn’t used to living rough and has a couple of idiosyncrasies such as a dislike of being cold, itchy, sunburnt or in significant pain. With all this humbly in mind, I have been asked for advice in the past, based on a couple of short treks I did (two weeks alone on the Camino, partially documented here and here, and 5 days in the Himalayas with James, briefly mentioned here). I also have done a fair bit of hiking and travelling so again, not an expert, but more experienced than many of my acquaintances. So, please accept my disclaimers and I apologise if you are much more knowledgeable than me and would like to correct anything I get wrong.

Now let us begin, hopefully a good 3 months before your trip. I’ve broken it down into three sections: Your feet Training, and What to bring. And, because I’m a bit of a Type A kind of girl, I’ve also put together an 18-week training plan. I may come back and add in photos later, but my priority is to get all this up first.

Part One: Your feet (also the most important advice of all).

If you’re preparing for your first trek, before you consider ANYTHING else – the question is: Do you own a good pair of hiking boots? Because if you don’t, you want to get a pair and start breaking them in as soon as possible. Good doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, but they need to be the right size and a comfortable, fairly snug fit when wearing hiking socks.  If the answer to this is, Yes – good for you! You can skip most of the rest of this section. If you are reading this though, chances are you don’t have the right boots yet, but before you run out and buy them…

Have you ever seen a podiatrist? Now, this may seem overkill, but many people actually have a less than ideal situation going on with their feet, especially when in sports shoes, and if you’re about to spend several consecutive days hiking, you want your feet to be in top form. You may have slightly collapsed arches or a tendency to pronation, and not even know it – but a single visit to a podiatrist will generally equip you with a better understanding of how you walk, and how to walk better. For maximum efficiency, bring all your shoes with you so they can see how you walk – your running shoes, the work shoes you wear every day, the boots you defer to in winter, and off course the hiking boots if you already have them. The podiatrist will quite likely get you into orthotic soles to stabilise your feet, and wearing them daily will strengthen your ankles as you prepare for your trip.

Cost: The total cost will vary depending on where you are and how much you’re prepared to fork out for the orthotics, but it’s a worthy investment.

Now, once you have your orthotics (or a bill of clean feet from the podiatrist), head to a camping shop, armed with the orthotics and some thick socks. Socks are just as important as the boots – you want woollen socks, slightly contoured and padded, designed for hiking. Icebreaker make fantastic ones; my favourites are ones I found in Spain, but they all have in common a high percentage of wool and contouring – the contours will stop the sock from slipping and the reinforced padding protects against blisters. NO COTTON. I know we have been brought up to believe cotton is a lovely natural fabric, but it’s not lovely when you’re sweating. And artificial fibres may feel nice while you’re hiking, but they get stinky and stay stinky – trust me. Go with the woollen ones (merino is the best if you find wool itchy and uncomfortable).

Cost: Outlets or online stores will generally have affordable merino socks; you only really need 2-3 pairs (one to wash, one to wear, and one for when both are wet and you really need dry socks).

Getting someone knowledgeable to help you fit your boots will be a major asset, and if there’s no-one other than some teenage part-timer, it’s worth coming back later. You may end up dropping several hundred dollars on your boots and you don’t want the wrong ones. Whether you end up buying from the shop or taking notes and buying them cheaper online is up to you, but the advantage of buying from the shop is there will be a return/exchange policy, which gives you some time to stomp around at home and work out if they are a good fit. Choose shoes with a good strong sole – after walking for a few days, normal soles feel about as protective as tissue paper when your sore feet are walking on a gravel path. Trial them with the orthotics and socks, going both up and down an incline (most shops have a little mini-hill to climb up and down). Take your time.

Cost: I would expect to pay AUD $160 for a decent pair of boots, you might find cheaper offers online though. Also I ended up paying AUD $220 for mine and I have no regrets.

Now you’ve got your boots, you’re going to need to break them in. You can soften your boots up a bit by holding them, toes to the floor and then repeatedly flexing and bending the soles. Don’t worry, it won’t damage them, and it will soften up the stiff soles so they are more gentle on your feet. You can also experiment with the way you lace them, to reduce pressure on different parts of your feet.  Obviously the real breaking in involves wearing them in. The training plan comes with a Boot-Breaking plan, but it can be summarised as:

  • Wear them at home for at least a week first.
  • Then start taking them on walks: a short trip to the supermarket, a brief walk around the block.
  • Then the first couple of kilometres of your training walks/hikes, before swapping them for your running shoes.
  • Even once you start doing longer hikes in them, keep your running shoes in your backpack just in case.

Just in case of what? Well the gradually increasing walks will take care of building strength in your feet so they don’t feel like they’ve been attacked with a meat tenderiser, but of course you also are looking to avoid blisters. The seams inside your boots, your sweaty socks chafing against your skin, or the general weirdness of learning to walk with your ankles fully supported mean that you are likely to get blisters. However you can avoid this by pre-emptive use of blister protection band-aids. Within the first few days of breaking in your boots, you’ll know which parts of your feet get red and sore from wearing boots. Get hold of the little doughnut-shaped pads for protecting corns, and before your hike, place them strategically over the bony bits of your feet and toes. Make sure the skin is clean and dry, and heat up the pads first by rubbing them between your hands before peeling off the backing. Then after they’re on, a dusting of baby powder will help keep things dry and prevent them from catching on the inside of your sock. You can also use an anti-chafing silicon-based gel to protect your feet – I find this useful if you have just a little bit of rubbing but nothing really painful, and it’s probably more effective once your boots are more broken in.

Cost: The corn-protection plasters can be a bit expensive if you’re getting through a dozen a week, so keep your eye out for special offers and bulk buy. The gel can be expensive but you’ll be able to use it for other things too…

Source: My Camino hike was done completely unprepared in running shoes. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in so much pain in my life as I was by day 4.  My Himalayan trek was done following all of the above advice (after researching online, talking with podiatrists, physios and sports doctors) and I never gave a second’s thought to my feet. You can pick and choose which of the above tips to follow, but trust me that you do not want to spoil your hike because you’re distracted by the pain in your feet…

fly july

I have not been terribly assiduous about updating these past few weeks. I had to cut back on cycling after a 65km ride destroyed my sit-bones, making it impossible to climb back onto my bike (even now a full 2 weeks later, I can’t ride for more than a few minutes, despite having a new saddle and some special padded bikeshorts!). I have broken up with Bikram, for reasons I’m not entirely clear about myself other than not feeling like I’m in the right space to make it work at the moment. James-the-superhero was supposed to come back from Afghanistan for 10 days but sadly it was cancelled days after it was approved, which is disappointing. And whilst I’ve been walking lots — an average of 20-25km a week — it’s nearly all been walking home from work in the evenings, so not actually worth reporting on.

I have finished my ceramics classes and will do a post on that soon, I promise! I’m starting school again on the 29th of July so I have a lot of reading to do in preparation. It’s been a welcome break as I’ve been put in a management position at work and really have not had the headspace for studying in the evenings, but I’m going to have to snap back into it as there are hundreds and hundreds of pages to be read in the next 2 weeks!

Today I have been spurred into updating because I finally went for my first run in ages and ages. I have swallowed my pride and downloaded a “Couch to 10k” app, as it’s just not realistic for me to come back from injury and trust myself not to push too hard. This morning I ran/walked along Merri Creek — I’m so lucky to live just 5 minutes’ walk from the river — and realised how much I needed some discipline in my approach. The first run is super basic: 5 minute warm-up, then for 20 minutes alternate 1 minute running with 1.5 minutes walking. EASY, right? and it felt so amazing to be running that I was always annoyed at having to switch to walking. But I would not have been able to maintain running for 20 minutes — especially as I’m excited to see my running pace was 4:30min/km!!!

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I was kind of naughty in that when the timer on the app said “Cooldown: walk for 5 minutes”…. I ran another 2. And that is precisely why I always hurt myself. So I am going to try and stick to this programme, with the goal in mind not to be running 5km in a few weeks, like I know I could be, but to be running without injuring myself… which I’ve never succeeded in doing before.

candy floss skies

I haven’t had much time free to do anything worth reporting on recently, although I suppose I did the usual things in more extreme blocks: Bikram, multiple days in a row! Cycling so hard my tire burst! Writing an essay in 36 hours! Working lots and lots!

Things have eased off a little though, and I’m hoping to start having adventures again soon. I have been doing my porcelain classes, but I’m saving all the photos for a single post at the end when I’ve got the final results. It’s been hard to get enough exercise because of how long and busy my days are, but I have been walking the 7.5km from work to my home whenever I get a chance (ie, if it’s not ridiculously late or ridiculously wet). Yesterday I was walking home as the sun set and the skies were just amazing, a baby-blue backdrop with wisps of hot pink fluffy clouds tangled in the branches of trees. I was listening to my new favourite musician Luke Howard, a Melbourne composer whose album is appropriately entitled “Sun, Cloud”, and his delicate and uplifting music filled my ears whilst my eyes couldn’t take in enough of the stunning skies. I kept thinking about taking a picture with my iPhone but felt silly to stop in the middle of the rushing crowds around me and I thought photos wouldn’t do nature justice… eventually I did pull out my phone though, and I’m so glad I did. These are all taken in a bit of a rush, next to the Arts Precinct and by the river, and whilst they aren’t as fabulous as the real thing… it’s nice to have something to show for it. I do love Melbourne.

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This is one I particularly like, with Flinders St Station doing its best impression of the Musee d’Orsay.

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Plans for the weekend: a session of ashtanga yoga at my old studio, as I have found an old pass with 4 classes still on it. I’m a tiny bit apprehensive about doing ashtanga after 6 months of Bikram as they are very different, but it’ll be good to do a different kind of yoga. I dreamed last night that I was running again and I really can’t hold out much longer, so anything that strengthens my legs is A+++ in my book! And then tomorrow I will mend Gary’s flat tire with Amy and hopefully squeeze in an afternoon ride to visit friends in Surrey Hills.

first day

Today was my first day at my new job. It’s kind of weird how un-flustered I was, considering how I knew nothing about the company, nothing about what work I was doing, nothing about anything other than my ex-ex-boss (aka my re-boss) was giving me a job. I just had to turn up, smile, and learn whatever was expected of me.

I checked in with myself for any anxiety or nervousness or apprehension but none could be found, just the vague disgruntled feeling of “Pff. Work.” And so with that, I got off the tram in my pretty new dress and snazzy new jacket and walked towards my office building in the midst of a crowd of other office workers.

My day dragged by; my boss took me for coffee and told me his strategy to get me promoted to management as soon as possible; I tried as best I could to take an interest in the work I’m going to be doing and to be friendly and charming to my new work colleagues (although the boss said not to get too friendly as he plans to have me managing them within a month or two). I took a 15-minute break in the sunshine and checked my Facebook.

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Getting out of work though, my evening seemed all the sweeter. I met Rebecca for (too many) galettes at Breizoz, and then we went for one of our lovely long walks.

J’ai tout mangé!
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I love Melbourne. It’s good to be here.
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