Experience second-hand (arguably the best way!) the natural highs and surprisingly infrequent lows of hiking 100km straight on this year’s Oxfam Sydney Trailwalker. Read on if you dare, you never know, you might be inspired to join in next year!
The Oxfam Sydney Trailwalker Begins
When the 6:15am train from Central Station pulled into Hawkesbury River, we were given the first taste of that crisp, morning air. A slight shiver ran through our bodies as energy began building and we edged ever closer to the Oxfam Sydney Trailwalker’s starting time of 9.00am. Everywhere I looked smiles were plentiful, knowing that what lay ahead for each person would be an effort beyond comprehension.
Thirty minutes prior to the 9.00am start, a gentleman from another team approached our team and offered us some trail mix. It was at this point I realised that we were all in this adventure together.
Vibes were at an all-time high as we crowded underneath the Oxfam Trailwalker starting line…
Five – four – three – two – one, and we were off! We were cheered on by the awesome volunteers (dressed as The Incredibles) and those who made the journey all the way to Brooklyn to see off their walkers.
Kilometre after kilometre accumulated as we looped around to a section of the Great North Walk with Parsley Bay in view. Talk between the teams was done without a puff, smiles still beaming and probably no blisters (yet) for anyone. Jerusalem Bay provided a stunning backdrop before we arrived in Cowan. The smell of Muogamarra Rural Fire Station’s brilliant team cooking up a sausage sizzle wafted along the trail and oh, how inviting it was. They fed the hordes of hikers in the hundreds.
Pushing on from Muogamarra, we entered one of the most difficult parts of the hike and got to test out our hard training coming into the Trailwalker. Reaching Berowra was a relief but we had to push on quickly to avoid tricky rock-hopping in Lyrebird Gully under darkness.
Arriving in the suburbs of Mount Ku-ring-gai, head torches were on and beaming as night set before us. The volunteers of Mount Ku-ring-gai provided us with a well needed energy boost, fuelling us with cheering and chocolate!
Dinner Time At St Ives Showground
Bobbin Head was now in sight as we weaved our way along the edge of Cowan Creek, which was dotted with distant head torches. Bobbin Head Picnic Grounds would be the main rest stop, where our support crews cooked up dishes of pasta and hot beverages and the volunteers made sure that we were fighting fit and ready to tackle the next part of the hike.
As night truly fell, stars shone above the pristine Gibberagong Track and energy and morale amongst teams remained strong. Trekking to St Ives showground would be everyone’s first real night hike. St Ives showground was the place to chill out as midnight struck. Some decided to rest until the morning while others kept pushing on into the night.
Into the early hours of Sunday morning the teams, varying from 3 to 4 members each, arrived at Frenchs Forest after a hard few hours in the wilderness of the Garigal National Park. The gradual incline of Heath Track had taken some walkers as its victim. The Trailwalker had begun taking its toll on the bodies of the brave but with just under 30 kilometres to go, Tania Park was in sight.
Dawn Chorus At Middle Harbour Creek
Stars shone at their brightest as teams glued together to get through the hardest part of the night. Lines of newly formed teams marched through the beautiful Middle Harbour Creek. After a few hard hours on sore feet and tired eyes, the night sky faded into signals of the new day. As birds continued their morning rituals, echoing off sandstone cliffs, the mental wall had been hit and we were desperate to get to Davidson Park. We knew our support crews had coffee and bacon & egg rolls waiting.
Hurting more than ever, but hungry for the finish line, grins couldn’t be wiped from the faces of those pushing on through Bantry Bay’s stunning creeks and rock features. After climbing through a tight rock squeeze, Ararat Reserve appeared.
The Final Push To Tania Park
The ever-energetic and enthusiastic volunteers greeted us at Ararat Reserve along with our wonderful support crews. One last restock of supplies and it was off to the finish, the last 10.3km through Burnt Bridge Creek and into the streets of Balgowlah. The sight of the ocean and its crystal clear waters was tempting but it had to wait.
We weaved our way around Sandy Bay and Clontarf Point before climbing into Dobroyd Head (with one last fall before Tania Park). We’d done it. We’d finally reached the finish line of what had been one crazy, up and down, and for some tossed around, journey through some of Sydney’s most spectacular trails.
The green arch of Oxfam was now behind us. Teams, hand-in-hand, continued to cross the line that had seemed almost impossible to reach thirty hours ago. Once you combine just the right mix of volunteers, support crews, officials and the courage of each team member, anything is possible.
On the day, it’s never going to be 100km. It felt like much more, what with blisters, sprained ankles and that unavoidable mental-wall. But pain becomes tolerable when you realise it’s all for a good cause and people’s lives are going to improve because of you.
To the volunteers, officials and every single team member… Thank you!