We are Explorers began in Sydney as the 6 o’clock club in 2013 as a way to get together with friends and discover the world around the city we call home. The Extremophiles are a group mates doing the same thing in Townsville, Queensland. To think there are groups like this popping up around the country excites me to the core, so I caught up with Jess Hopf – one the founding members – to see what makes them tick! [Photos courtesy of Nicholas Murphy and Jess]

Who are the Extremophiles?
The Extremophiles are a group of friends with a desire to take full advantage of what the outdoors has to offer. We are from wonderfully different backgrounds, which makes the group very diverse and interesting. We meet up every weekend to explore, socialise, and challenge ourselves. Whether it be a weekend of climbing, diving, riding, exploring, or just admiring waterfalls, everyone is always incredibly enthusiastic. To record our trips and encourage others to go out and have fun we started The Extremofiles Blog.

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Why did you start this community? Are there lots of opportunities for escape around Townsville?
A few of us met through a now defunct climbing gym and started spending our weekends climbing together. Sharing the same sense of adventure (and humour) we quickly formed close bonds and our little group grew as found others who were keen to dedicate their weekends to exploring around Townsville.

There is actually quite a lot of opportunities for exploring and escaping around Townsville, and further abroad (North-east Queensland in general). The main thing is that you do need a reliable car, 4WD is better. The easy to access waterfalls and swimming holes/creeks are the most popular, and often quite busy on weekends, but with a little creativity you can find some spectacular places that are a bit more secluded.

It’s seem like there’s a growing trend towards experiences over things. Would you agree? if so, why is this?
Not entirely. We feel that there is a growing recognition that gaining experiences is more beneficial that acquiring things/objects, but society has a long way to go before this become the norm. There is certainly a strong subculture of experience seekers, but perhaps the image of being outgoing and adventurous is more sought after these days than then actual lifestyle. While we do share our experiences on social media, we do this with the hope that it inspires others to get out and have some fun.

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Do your trips cost much to do?
We are all poor so we try to keep the trips as cheap as possible. Roughly $50-60 for an average weekend (food + petrol), and no more than $100 if we do something fancy that requires permits, long drives, etc. We usually split the cost of fuel and main meals amongst us, which helps keeps the cost relatively low. Admittedly the gear we use costs a bit, but if you are missing something someone else in the group probably has a spare they are happy to loan you while you raise the funds to get your own gear.

Who comes along on your trips? Are you all hardcore adventurers or regular Joes?
There is a group of about 15 of us who come out on a regular basis, and maybe a core group of about 6 who are always keen and able to go out, every now and then a new person or friend of a friend joins us. It is an interesting question whether or not we are ‘hardcore’ adventures. If you were to ask the average Joe who was aware of what we do as a group they would say yes, but then again we are not spending every day climbing snow-capped peaks or sailing across rough seas. We have a wide range of backgrounds, from soldiers with years of military experience, to recreational and commercial guides, and those who’ve never done anything really outdoorsy at all. Mostly we are people who are keen to spend our spare time challenging ourselves and exploring new places.

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What sort of adventures have you been on so far? Any standouts?
In the beginning, most trips were centred around climbing, but lately we have started doing more exploration and camping/hiking. We have travelled all around the Townsville region to see gorges, rivers, climbing areas, rainforests, wildlife, waterfalls, beaches, boulders, islands, people and plants.
A stand out trip for some of us was a long-weekend trip to Cairns in 2014, where we experienced the local food and music scene, rode the mountain bike trails, and explored the climbing and swimming in Barron Gorge. We even tried to set up a rope swing off a bridge but the late hour ruined our enthusiasm. It was a 4 day marathon of experiences and new places.
Another stand out trip was a camping/hiking weekend in the Paluma Ranges, behind Townsville. A full account of this trip is in the blog post ‘Turtle Island Soup’ on The Extremofiles site (theextremofiles.wordpress.com).

What adventures do you have planned for this year?
The rest of this year is going to be an interesting year for The Extremophiles! A couple of us are moving to the Blue Mountains to get our climb on, another group are going to climb Mt Rainier over in the USA, a pair of us are going to road trip up to the Northern Territory, and we have group trips in the planning stages for Mt Arapiles in Victoria, and Castle Hill over in NZ. Of course those left in Townsville will continue to explore and climb around the area.

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Love it. Finally, you’ve got a max budget for the weekend of $100 (about the same as an average night out). How would you spend it?
Since we are pretty good at exploring on the cheap we would either pool our resources and go and explore a new area further away from Townsville, or save our money to buy shiny new toys (which we would promptly dirty up on a weekend trip!).

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