Getting back to basics in the bush through overnight hiking is a great way to put life into perspective. It also teaches you a thing or two about living sustainably.
I’m always enthralled by the prospect of hiking into the wilderness with everything you need strapped to your back. That is literally everything – food, shelter and clothing. Call me weird but I love the challenge of packing as lightly as possible and being a foodie, the planning that goes into to making meals interesting without hauling my camp oven in with me is a lot of fun. As you have to carry all of this in your backpack and then walk over varying terrain for vast distances, everything that you plan to place in the pack is scrutinised. You ask yourself constantly “do I really need this?” This is a valid question we should be asking ourselves all the time in normal day to day life.
My sister and I set out on an overnight hike with the aim to trek from Blackwood to O’Brien’s Crossing in the Lerderderg State Park in Victoria.
This is a 9km walk following the Byres Back Track which is essentially following the water race used during the mining years. This is a pretty good track to follow and distance to walk when you first start overnight hiking as it isn’t too hilly.
It was pretty warm when we set out late afternoon but the shade of the trees made for pleasant walking. There was plenty of talking to go with the walking which was a good distraction from the weight on our backs. Once we got into our rhythm, it just got easier and we started to really immerse ourselves into the surroundings.
Getting back to nature and being out in the bush – the smells, the views, the peacefulness – has such a meditative effect on you. It helps put you on a natural high and life’s ‘issues’ seem to have a new perspective.
You also really notice the impact climate change is having on our landscape. I did this same hike 2 years ago and I was really hit this time with how incredibly dry it is. Even the indigenous flora were showing the impacts of lack of rainfall. We didn’t see much wildlife either which we suspected was the result of lack of water…they’d be migrating elsewhere to survive.
We stop to refresh ourselves about two thirds of the way into our final destination, excited to try our well planned snacks of nuts, seeds and boiled eggs. A good drink of water and we were off again to reach O’Brien’s Crossing, our home for the night.
After a steep decline down to the Lerderderg River (it was daunting to think we had to walk up that hill the next day) we found a lovely little spot on the banks of the dry river. It was a relief to get our boots off and get our camp set up so we could indulge in out treats for the evening. Talk about simple pleasures!
Now for dinner. Two minute noodles with tuna in chilli oil never tasted so good! Followed by chocolate…thank god that doesn’t weigh much. It might have been accompanied with a small flask of whiskey which probably made things taste so much better but when you are about to sleep on the thinnest mattress of all time, anything to help that process is welcomed. Also accompanying all of this was quality time with my sister – we covered all manner of topics, getting almost to the point of solving world peace. But by 9.30pm I was beat and snuggled into my sleeping bag for an on again off again sleep.
I love waking up in the bush. Its early, its peaceful and it smells great. After the billy boiled a second time (I might have caused the first one to tip over just at boiling point), we drank copious cups of tea, ate brekky and covered more topics of conversation. We then we set off to explore O’Brien’s Crossing. There were a number of campers at the site as you can drive in – how novel. Also a couple of car load of walkers arrived, as this is a popular spot to start some really good day walks.
As we packed up our camp, you become distinctly aware of the waste you accumulate as you need to carry it out with you. We didn’t have a great deal and a lot of it could be recycled, but again it makes you extremely conscious of your behaviour and how it impacts the environment. I will endeavour next time to look at more ways to reduce this waste.
We farewelled our temporary home and made our way up the steep incline to return to the track that brought us in. It didn’t seem so daunting as the day before, with our loads a bit lighter and a night of rest. I may have been feeling a bit too full because my sister and I are known as the ‘Queen’s of Over Catering’ so morning tea of healthy wraps did make me feel more prone for a nanny nap but I pushed on through.
We set a cracking pace, this time not stopping for a break and knocked 20 minutes off our travel. Our treat for achieving this hike was a lovely lunch at the Blackwood General Store which was delicious.
So what did I learn from getting back to basics in the bush that will contribute to living a sustainable life? Well there are 5 key lessons:
- Questioning the need for ‘stuff’ – when it comes to material things, it really is an important question to ask ourselves ‘do I really need it?’. Often we make purchases of items that are used once and then thrown away. When you have to carry it on your back, that question becomes even more important but it is also valid for day to day living, particularly in our ‘disposal society‘ that we live in.
- Health and wellbeing – a lot of research has gone into the health and wellbeing benefits of being out in nature. We are spending more and more time in front of some form of technology and not moving around and it is literally making us sick. Getting outside and walking is a great start to maintaining a healthy body and mind.
- Basic survival – being in touch with what is happening in nature is critical to our survival. When we keep ourselves removed from what is happening in areas such as our food bowls and witnessing the changes in seasons, it makes if more difficult for us to adapt our behaviours to a changing climate. By modifying some of our lifestyle choices to work with the changing environment, we will all benefit from it in the long run.
- Managing waste – my bug bear! We buy, buy, buy with little concern about where all of this stuff ends up. With a little thought we can refuse, reuse or recycle instead of filling our landfills with precious resources. When you have to carry out your waste when you are hiking, you become very aware that it is everyone’s responsibility.
- Gratification – we live in a world now that is centred on instant pleasures. Research has proven that this type of pleasure through shopping and over eating for example brings us such short term pleasure. Gratification is the name of the game as it brings long lasting results. The gratification gained from 24 hours of getting back to basics by carrying all we needed to survive and spending time together out in the wilderness still brings me sense of achievement and contentment that can’t be bought.
Until next time……