Extended time on the trail gives us chance to have quality chats with mates, be present with nature and conquer personal challenges. It can also push us to learn as the challenges of hiking come sharply into focus. Rach Dimond shares some of the sparkling insights gleaned from her time on NSW’s Green Gully Track.
As far as I’m concerned, the Green Gully Track is one of the best, if not the best, multi-day hikes NSW has to offer. With 65km of hiking over 4 days, my friends and I had a lot of time to think and a lot of time to learn which has resulted in these wisdom nuggets I’ve thrown together for you to munch on.
1. Blisters Are A State Of Mind
After a decade of hiking and a dozen pairs of shoes I am confident in saying that, after a point, any shoe will give you blisters.
For me this tends to occur on day two or around the 30km mark and for some reason, I am always surprised. I chalk this down to how amazing my feet feel in my current setup during my usual weekend jaunts and not my denial about impending pain.
So here it is: blisters hurt but they don’t have to. Just don’t think about it. It’s a simple yet effective strategy. Also never stop. Once you stop, getting started again is near impossible.
2. Walking Sticks Are No Joke
I’m embarrassed to admit that I always thought I didn’t need walking sticks. On day two of the Green Gully Track you are faced with a 900m descent, first along crazy steep fire trail and later along a very slippery ridgeline. They were essential during the creek navigation of day 3 and assisted our ascent out of the valley on day 4.
By far the best part was the stick burning ceremony we held on our last night; true bush magic. The difference in energy output is pretty amazing and my legs are definitely a lot less fatigued afterwards. I have picked up sticks on every hike since.
3. Uphill > Downhill
Unpopular opinion alert: uphill is WAY better than downhill. I cannot stress this point enough. Yeah your lungs will scream and your heart might try and jump out of your chest on the uphill but that is nothing compared to the pain in your quads from a slow controlled descent and the bruises that form under your toenails as they constantly jam into the end of your shoes.
In fact the only good thing about downhill is grossing your friends out with videos of your toenails as you pull them off.
4. Wine Is Heavy
This seems obvious, but it needs to be said. I have never done an overnight hike without a bottle of wine stashed in my pack, decanted into a wine-preserving bladder of course. However, for any hike longer than a couple of days I will be leaving it behind. It was delicious but it wasn’t worth the extra kilos*. If you really want a nip, take some whiskey.
* I may have carried a full bottle of wine for each day. You do the math…
5. Gaiters And Shorts Are A Winning Combination
Two words. Breezy knees. It’s a truly delightful feeling on a hot summer hike. Bonus – you will look legit. The stinging nettles that littered the banks of the creek proved a nuisance, but like my blisters, I’ve learned to ignore the pain.
6. Bugspray Is Your Best Friend
This probably doesn’t need explaining. Blowflies, sand flies, mosquitos, leeches and ticks. Do yourself a favour and buy the strongest formula you can get your hands on (I’m a big fan of DEET) and thank me later.
It’s important not to get insect repellent in the water though as it’s as disruptive for waterborne wildlife as it is for airborne bugs. So if you’re planning on swimming, hold off until afterwards and cover up with long, light-coloured clothing instead.
7. It’s Okay To Cry
Look, sometimes you are overwhelmed with beauty and a single teardrop runs down your cheek. Sometimes you are hot, sweaty, tired, sore and frustrated and the ridgeline that you are descending just won’t end and your eyes start leaking fluid and you pretend to rest and drop to the back of the pack so no one notices and then let it rip and that outburst of emotion keeps you going. Later you will find out you fooled no one but they are such good friends they pretended they didn’t know until the last night when you have all had a few too many brews around the campfire.
8. Having A Good Snack Game Is Important
You know what makes everything better? Food. You know what makes everything better while you are hiking? Easily accessible on-the-go snacks to satiate every craving while you walk.
9. Sleeping Bag Liners Are Underrated
During a multi-day jaunt, the chances are you’ll get pretty ripe. You won’t notice and neither will your friends, not until you reach civilisation and have that first glorious shower. What you don’t want is that sort of grime and stank hanging around in your sleeping bag (which is often expensive and seriously annoying to clean). Enter sleeping bag liners. Relatively cheap, easy to clean and in my humble opinion, heaps more comfortable than the inside of my sleeping bag. Does anyone else stick to the inside of their bag?
10. Salami Will Make Your Mates Jealous
10/10 guarantee any omnivore in your circle will be mad jealous about your tasty, calorie dense, easy to prepare lunch. The best part is it packs so well. The key is buying good quality sticks from a reputable source. My fave is the Lithgow Salami Man. The salami is gluten free and the produce is free range. If you contact him he can also tell you the best way to prepare and pack your salami stick. Bonus: He is a really cool guy.
So there you have it. Heed my advice, learn from my mistakes and basically just remember to have fun and adventure your own way.