May I state with gusto, it was good to get back on the horse (so to speak) and trek with confidence again. My trek last week fell somewhat short of expectations. Irrational or maybe somewhat rational fear kicked in as I trekked solo alongside the Hawkesbury River on the worst trek ever. This week, my last week of gardening leave, I decided to go out with a bang and smash out the 44km Six-Foot Track in the Blue Mountains over two days. This will be my longest multi-day trek since trekking the Tarkine, Tasmania in March 2017.
This time armed with all the essentials; a map, copious amounts of trekking snacks, cool weather gear and a girlfriend crazy enough to come with me. Off we set nice and early departing Central and arriving into Katoomba at nine in the morning. On arrival, we make our own way to the start of the track (a mere three kilometers from the station) by foot, how else? Before I knew it, we were clambering down steep steps and hopping over gushing gullies.
Walking from Katoomba – Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains we opted for a shorter day one and a longer day two, which I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing. We’d booked a night’s accommodation at the six-foot track eco-lodge which is a rough fourteen kilometers from the start. Rolling hills, fire trails and fence crossings spring to mind when recounting my steps. The strong scent of cow manure on the tip of the cool breeze felt both nostalgic and sickly. None the less, the sun is shining and our limbs are feeling great. We find a lunch spot along the way, which is harder than it sounds because there is a significant lack of look outs, scenic detours or hilltop views. When I say lunch spot, I mean a fallen down tree branch that looks capable of bearing both our weight. That is the only requirement at the eleventh kilometer stage. The last three kilometers to the lodge are tedious. We felt like hamsters on a wheel. The scenery, whilst differing from the start of the day was monotonous. Granted we were alongside the river so at any moment we knew we would be approaching the swinging bridge.
During the past four treks, at one point or another I would be thinking about snakes, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Well, on day one, I couldn’t get this one out of my way. It just lay there doe-eyed and stubborn. With the intent to sound confident dear reader (I wasn’t) I took a few steps back to give it some berth. (‘steps’ translates to: I ran like crazy) I was more than prepared to make a fifteen-meter detour around the damn thing through thick heath but Katie was convinced we could conquer the red belly black snake head on. (Childhood flashbacks consuming my thoughts) Katie takes a few steps forward and before I can say ‘MOVE!’ the snake scurries away. Even still, I sprint past where the serpent was sun baking until we are a comfortable thirty meters away. Gosh it seems I’ve been living in the city for too long.
As we approach the swing bridge we take the opportunity to have a break on the rocks bordering the river and dip our feet in. Cold is an understatement for the water temperature and we barely last twenty seconds before I’m convinced my toes have fallen off.
The swing bridge induces a mix of adrenaline and focus, the kind of focus when you’re really drunk and the bouncer asks you how many drinks you’ve had. You know you could act cool and normal but as soon as you look down or around you or heaven forbid look the bouncer in the eye, you know you’re toast. I’m sure most really enjoyed the bridge experience, I on the other hand wanted it to be over before it had begun.
We arrived at the lodge, bath in a trickle of cool water from a hand wash basin and put on every piece of clothing we had with us. The eco-lodge is off the grid and our hosts didn’t think ten degrees qualified putting the fire on. We huddled together over a beer and waited for the other guests to arrive before dinner. Kangaroo stew with sweet potato mash. Couldn’t have asked for better.
By eight in the evening, it’s head torches out and we’re all in bed. Our fellow walkers had arrived from Jenolan and it took them nine hours. Either they were slow and steady, they were catching Pokémon or they’re lying. I was hoping for option two, even though they were all in their sixties. They were training to trek the Kokoda track and decided trekking sixty kilometers over two days would sort them out. They’ll be heading back to Jenolan with us tomorrow, although by the state of them, I’m not sure they’re going to make it. I will say this though, they were bloody inspiring!
By six in the morning the six of us are up and at em! We choke down breakfast and chug on a large coffee all before seven. Katie and I are on the road by seven-thirty. We have twenty-nine kilometers to fill today – all largely uphill. And! We must get there by three-thirty to get our transfer back to Katoomba. No. Pressure.
The walk is long. Uneven. Unstable. Uphill and uninteresting. We walk for four hours without a break with no-where to bask for lunch. The track is (obviously) six-foot-wide and surrounded by thick bush. Thankfully the many kangaroos and wallabies along the path entertain us. Katie even found a fun game: rock jumping. It’s shame she had to find out the hard way, those cow patties really saw her coming (**eye roll, city kids). It’s at this point where I’m SO thankful I’m not doing this walk alone. It would be as boring as bat shit. We cross a few rivers and are thankfully able to keep our feet dry in the process. I spare a thought for our limber sixty-year old friends back at the lodge. If I can be still doing this when I’m their age, I’ll be pretty darn happy with myself.
On we go, and on and on. Until it’s two in the afternoon and I actually think we’re going to make it! A few consults with the map and fears go unrealized. The final ten kilometers feel so drawn out, they are without a doubt the most un-scenic!
We make it to Jenolan caves by two-fifty in the afternoon. Holy moly, I can’t believe we did it. We order a hot drink at the cafe and freshen up in the amenities. It’s a shame we couldn’t have stayed, apparently the caves are the ‘best in the world’. I have a sneaky suspicion they all say that.
We board the bus with street cred as we hobble onto the back seat. By five we’re on the train and by seven we’re back in the city. What a whirlwind of an experience. It’s advised to take three days for this trek, I think you’d be bored and you’d be better off spending more time in Jenolan or Katoomba if you can spare the time.
Overall; not my favourite but one hell of a training trek.
So that’s that! As I write this I’m officially unemployed. I’m on my second cup of coffee and I’m staring out to sea. I have a few days of freedom before the camino commences. It could be my last post for a while, so if you’re craving some camino #inspo jump over to my Instagram page for all the action: @whoislexiconnors until next time, hasta pronto (remind me to learn what that means!)