If you had told me a few years ago that I would become a mad keen hiker, I probably would have laughed in your face. I was not what you would have called an “outdoors person”, preferring to stay inside writing or reading than sweating up hills. This is still the perception that most people have of me. Of a woman scared to break a nail or a sweat. Apparently people can’t change, or perhaps it’s just that it makes people uncomfortable when they do.
I recently visited my best friend and her husband who made the move from Sydney to Canberra. Over the course of a week, we did numerous hikes and I realised two things – Canberra in Autumn is really beautiful and I love hiking. The fresh air, the quiet, the solitude – the ability to actually hear yourself think – it’s incredibly healing. Perhaps it’s the challenge, pushing my boundaries, the adrenaline of achieving something. We climbed Mount Ainslie, which afforded a great view of Parliament House, but by far the best hike we did was the Gibraltar Peak at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. I’ve never seen so many wallabies in my life – we literally had to navigate our way through them to get to the track. It was amazing.
There are so many beautiful hikes to be done in New South Wales. The other weekend I was in Blackheath at the Blue Mountains National Park for the Grand Canyon track. The walk takes you past waterfalls, creeks and stunning views. We set out early which I strongly recommend. Part of the beauty of the walk is the quiet and the solitude which can often be ruined by loud tourist groups. The walk takes about three hours and there are a lot of stairs. You don’t double back so be sure to take all the photographs you want first time round. A highlight was definitely walking under a waterfall – ok, so it wasn’t the biggest waterfall in the world – but it’s the first one I’ve ever walked under so I was pretty excited.
I find it difficult to shut my brain off and I have a bad habit of looking back a lot and dwelling on the past. I indulge frequently in the ‘what ifs’ and contemplate regret more than any one person should. I overthink and over-analyse everything, to the point where I feel as if my head might explode. Whether it’s the exercise, the fact you need to concentrate on not falling to your death or the overwhelming beauty – when I hike, it’s the only time I can silence my thoughts. When I hike I am completely in the moment, present and calm. There is something incredibly satisfying about completing a hike – it’s a beautiful exhaustion.
Living in and around the city, I often forget that such stunning and expansive spaces exist. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day that we often forget how important it is to take a step back and just take a deep breath. That’s what hiking is for me. One long, slow deep breath.
If anyone has any recommendations for hikes in New South Wales – particularly in and around the Blue Mountains area – let me know!