RAIN, HAIL & SHINE // Wilsons Promontory, Australia

These photos are from mid August, when I organised a weekend away in Wilsons Promontory National Park with a couple of other leaders from Melbourne Girls Outside. We spent two nights in one of the group lodges at Tidal River with 24 women from all walks of life who had come together to enjoy some hiking. I still can’t believe we pulled it off!

The weekend was a challenge for me in a number of ways, but I pushed through and am admittedly a little proud of myself. Physically, it was exhausting leading a 20km hike in the rain on Saturday, and mentally tough to continue on in spite of the terrible conditions. The constant socialisation required in the event was also hard for a socially awkward introvert such as myself, but I enjoyed the challenge and met some wonderful women I might never have crossed paths with.

Everyone arrived on the Friday night, and on Saturday we split off on to two different hikes. I co-led the longer 20km return trek to Sealers Cover. As mentioned above, the weather was not in our favour and it ended up being a very long, very wet hike that made a typically easy hike a very hard one.

At least we had some views of the beach when we arrived! Though after ten minutes huddling under the trees we decided it was best to keep moving so as to stay warm.

In the afternoon, after we had all dried off and warmed up, the skies cleared momentarily and a group of us wandered down to Oberon Bay to walk along the beach.

Wilsons Prom always brings back so many memories of my childhood, from family holidays, to school camps, and teenage weekends away.

On the Sunday, I co-led another hike up Mt Bishop, whilst a second group took on the iconic Mt Oberon. The rain was again not in our favour, and we were originally treated to the below view.

In the five minutes it took to walk along the final stretch of track to the main lookout point, the sky cleared and we were treated to stunning views over Oberon Bay below! We could see Mt Oberon from our lookout point and it was covered in clouds, so my fellow hikers and I felt very lucky to have had this brief view.

Oh, and then it started hailing sideways!

Whilst it was a tough weekend with poor weather, it was worth the effort and I certainly felt a sense of achievement coming away from it. The Melbourne Girls Outside community has been so great to be a part of, and has encouraged me to push myself further by becoming a leader. Hopefully I can fit in a few more hikes with the group before the year is out!

– Reanna

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TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD // Adelaide, Australia

I am beginning to take the approach of trying to squeeze in at least one hike on holidays and weekends away. It is such a wonderful way to visit a new area and explore part of the world you might otherwise have missed. Plus, the little bit of exercise evens out all the holiday indulgence, right?

On our way back to Adelaide after exploring the Barossa Valley, we detoured to Morialta Conservation Park. Located on the eastern edge of the city, the park is full of hills, greenery, and some stunning waterfalls. It is hard to believe we were only 15 minutes from the city centre!

We took on the Three Falls Grand Hike, which despite being 7km was described as a challenging hike that would take over three hours. Whilst there were some steep hills, we managed to complete the circuit in under two hours, allowing us time to grab some lunch before heading to the airport.

As the name of the walk suggests, the circuit passes three falls within the park. However, due to confusing signage (and possibly lack of research on my behalf!) we missed the second fall completely. At lease we had some stunning views of the first fall and Adelaide CBD to make up for anything we missed!

It was a great little walk that certainly woke us up out of post Barossa Valley stupor.

Looking through the trail hiking site for Adelaide, it seems there are plenty of hikes just a stones throw from the city. So if I am ever back, I will be sure to make my way up to the hills!

– Reanna

RADELAIDE & BIKING THE BAROSSA // Adelaide & Barossa Valley, Australia

Operation Explore Australia Before Moving Overseas has been going well this past year, with Chris and I ticking off sites around Victoria and interstate. Last weekend featured one such interstate jaunt, as we hoped over to Adelaide, South Australia for (another) sneaky long weekend with Chris’ sister and partner. Our three night itinerary was centred around a music festival and the Barossa Valley, but we managed a quick walk around the Adelaide CBD during our time in the city.

However, our journey to Adelaide was not without its dramas. I have mentioned a few times on this blog about my struggles with flight anxiety, and things have been improving for me in that realm. That is, until our plane was struck by lightening in the minutes after taking off to Adelaide! Long story short, our plane was fine but our pilot landed us back in Melbourne, which involved flying back through the storm, and it was probably one of the worst experiences of my life. Our flight was then cancelled, and we paid four times the price of our original tickets to get onto a later flight, but we did get to Adelaide in the end! At least it is an intriguing/traumatising anecdote to share in the future, right?!

But I digress…

In brighter news, the following morning we spend a couple of hours wandering the streets of Adelaide’s CBD, before heading to the Wayville Showgrounds for a music festival. The sun was shining, making it a wonderful winters day.

One of the best parts of the music festival was possibly the people watching. The amount of effort/glitter that goes into ‘festival culture’ is surely something that will be studied in in future generations.

Being the borderline retirees we are, we prioritised sleep over partying and snuck off before the end of the festival.

The next morning, we all piled into a hire car and made our way out to the Barossa Valley. We stayed at the Barossa Weintel in Tanunda, and quickly traded our car for bikes. The Barossa has a great collection of bike paths, connecting Tanunda to some of the many nearby wineries.

We had a wonderful afternoon, which involved more food and wine than I care to admit.

By the later half of the afternoon we were all convinced we were semi-professional cyclists, though our very old, rusted bikes soon put a dampener on our hopes of picking up any speed.

I should also apologise for the poor quality of my photos – I only bought my iphone on this trip for convenience, in addition to having carry on luggage only. My bigger camera did not make the cut! It is sometimes refreshing to travel without dragging around a bigger camera.

We had one final day in South Australia, which – you guessed it – involves a hike!

– Reanna

MOUNT ROSEA // Grampians National Park, Australia

Here is one last photo dump from our long weekend in the glorious Grampians. We were able to fit in one last hike before the drive back to Melbourne, and we ventured a hike that was admittedly 100% inspired by instagram photos from other Melbourne Girls Outside hikers!

After a few wrong turns, we started our hike to Mount Rosea from a very unassuming carpark on the side of a dirt road. The hike was 9km return, and took us up a winding, rocky path with non-stop views of the surrounding area.

The weather looked constantly on the verge of rain, but blue sky continued to peep through, and we were even treated to a stunning rainbow in the distant valleys!

Near the summit the track turned into nothing more than rocks with the occasional arrow. But that makes it more fun – until you loose the arrows and question whether you took a wrong turn!

The summit offered spectacular 360 degree views of the Grampians, looking down over Lake Bellfield and Halls Gap, and back towards the Pinnacle and the Balconies.

The sun was determined to break through, but it was horrendously windy at the top! After a few quick photos we had to make our way back down the path to escape the freezing cold, and avoid being blown off the edge.

I wish I knew a bit more about weather patterns and clouds. In the above photo you can see a strange, long cloud that was hanging low over the valley. My brother, being in the outdoor education world, always comes up with the names of strange cloud formations and what that translates to in possible weather warnings.

The hike back down was along the same path, and the rocky descent certainly did not do any favours to my knees!

I am so glad that Chris and I have been making more of an effort to get out and explore our home state before we pack up and ship off overseas. We are so lucky to have such wonderful natural destinations in our own backyard.

– Reanna

VIEWS & VINEYARDS // Grampians National Park, Australia

Our final stop of our tour of the Northern Grampians was the Balconies. This is hardly a hike, but more of a 2km return wander to some of the most stunning, yet easily accessible views in the Grampians. There are even some great viewing points from the carpark!

Despite a rather misty start in that morning, the weather was perfectly clear all day. By mid afternoon, we had fantastic views at the Balconies.

The below rocky outcrop is technically off limits, but as per usual it was still being used by visitors for photo shoots. I am sure it would be a stunning shot, but at a risk!

We had a peaceful afternoon and evening at our cabin in Halls Gap, before getting up early to join a local fun run. I don’t know what was going through my head when I let Chris convince me to run 12kms, but it ended up being a great run through the valley from Halls Gap to Lake Bellfield, aided by the stunning views.

After such a big run in the morning (for me anyway!) hiking was off the cards for the remainder of the day. We set out in our car and explored some the regions wineries, which were beautiful with the backdrop of the mountains.

That evening, we also stopped off at the dam wall of Lake Bellfield, which was just up the hill from our caravan park. I still have no idea what I am doing with my camera 99% of the time, but I do kind of love how these evening photos at the lake came out.

The dam wall provided an unexpectedly fantastic view back down the valley towards Halls Gap, with the Pinnacle up to the left.

Despite almost being winter when we were up in the Grampians, there were still plenty of visitors in town. Sure, it was a bit cold and we weren’t always guaranteed perfect blue skies, but it was still a great time to visit. Oh, and we got to fit in one more hike…

– Reanna

MT ZERO & HOLLOW MOUNTAIN // Grampians National Park, Australia

What’s that? More hiking content? I am back today to share our recent getaway to one of my favourite parts of the Victoria, the Grampians National Park. Located a three hour drive away from Melbourne, it makes for more than a quick weekend trip, so we snuck an extra day off work and treated ourselves to a long weekend. We stayed in the town of Halls Gap, which is a great base for exploring the region.

Having previously visited the Grampians and taking on some of the main walks, such as the Pinnacle and Mackenzies Falls, we decided to spend a day exploring the northern region of the park. We headed about 40 minutes north of Halls Gap to our first stop, Mt Zero. I have a strong recollection of hiking up Mt Zero as a child, and remembered it being an epic adventure. However, in reality it was a pretty easy 2.8km return trek from the carpark to the top of the below peak!

Despite the short distance, the view offered by Mt Zero is spectacular. We had relatively clear skies for our view back towards Mt Staplyton and Hollow Mountain.

After a quick decent, we drove a few kilometres down the road to Hollow Mountain, where we completed a further two short walks.

The first was a quick stroll to Gulgurn Manja, an Aboriginal art site. Meaning ‘hand of young people’, this site features a series of rock paintings that tell stories and lore of Jarwadjali people.

After a picnic lunch in the sun back at the carpark, we did the 2.2km return hike up Hollow Mountain. The walk towards the mountain took us past a series of cliffs and rock formations that were very popular among rock climbers. We watched a few ascents, before deciding that rock climbing was most definitely not for us!

We knew nothing about the track, and assumed it would be relatively straightforward like Mt Zero. After following the above trail for a few hundred metres, we were faced with some more rocky terrain, before eventually coming face to face with the below sheer rock face. An arrow pointed the way forward – up!

It ended up being a fantastic climb of rock scrambling, crevices, and eventually stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Not your average 2km stroll, but it was fun little adventure! Though of course, nothing compared to what the nearby rock climbers were taking on.

We explored the above rock cave/formation/terrifying balance act on the way back down. The trek back down the rocks we climbed up was slightly more difficult, but we safely made it back to our car in one piece.

Whilst not conquering any big hikes in the Northern Grampians, these series of short walks made for a diverse and fun day of exploration. There is so much on offer in this region!

– Reanna

52 HIKE CHALLENGE UPDATE // Melbourne, Australia

At the start of 2018 I decided on a whim to commit to completing the 52 Hike Challenge over the course of the coming 12 months. Well, almost 6 months in and and I have surprised myself by hitting the halfway mark! Throughout the past months I have spent most weekends outside on the trails, sometimes by myself, other times with Chris, or with a group of adventurous local gals.

I was worried I might fall behind once the weather took a turn for winter, but I have been pushing through and taking on a few hikes in the rain. I have also counted a few trail running events I have participated in, and managed to clock up a few hikes whilst traveling overseas.

As previously mentioned, I have joined a local hiking group called Melbourne Girls Outside. After participating in a couple of hikes, I surprised myself by taking the leap to become a volunteer leader for the group! I have led two hikes so far, which certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of having to step up, be organised and sure of myself, and be sociable (no small feat for this awkward introvert). They have both been incredibly rewarding experiences.

So 6 months and 26 hikes down, 6 months and 26 hikes to go!

Anyone else participating in this challenge? I am always looking for suggestions for hikes near Melbourne.

– Reanna