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

MAUKATERE // Mt Grey, New Zealand

Of course, my weekend in Christchurch would not have been complete without at least one hike. The natural scenery of New Zealand is such a draw card for visiting the country, and getting outside for a hike was absolutely the best way to do it.

I had originally just planned to spend an afternoon exploring one of the numerous trails at the Port Hills, but at the recommendation of our Airbnb hosts in Waipara, we took a small detour off the highway back to Christchurch to climb Mt Grey. Maukatere is the Maori name for the mountain.

The start of the 13km return track was located at Grey River Campsite, which proved to be somewhat difficult to find. After almost convincing ourselves we were completely lost following narrow tracks through pine plantations, we eventually reached the above river crossing and found a sign for the track!

The track was a fairly gradual ascent for the entire trip, winding through beautiful forests and along a small creek.

Occasionally we were treated to views through views through the trees, before eventually breaking above the treeline and being treated to absolutely stunning views of the nearby hills. And in the distance – snow capped mountains!

It was a further kilometre or two to the top trig point, where we had access to completely unobstructed views of the entire surrounding countryside.

The above photo is looking back over Waipara Valley, where we had spent the previous day biking and exploring wineries. It looked even greener from the distance!

And below, we could see all the way back to Christchurch.

Despite some overhead cloud, we had quite clear views. I imagine you would be able to see even farther on a sunny day.

Alright, maybe I went overboard on photos whilst we were at the summit! But how could I not?

Eventually Chris gave me the look, which meant it was time to put the camera away and get back on the trail.

We followed the same track back down through the forest, which definitely giving off Middle Earth vibes.

Our hike (or tramp, as the Kiwis might say) was definitely the highlight of our weekend in NZ. The views were so much better than I anticipated, particularly given I had no expectations at all and was merely following the advice of locals.

New Zealand, I will be back!

– Reanna

GREENERY & GRAPES // Waipara, New Zealand

During our weekend away in NZ we spent one night out of Christchurch in order to explore the countryside, and to check out the Cantebury wine region. After a bit of research, the small town of Waipara, located approximately one hour north of Christchurch, seemed like a great base for exploring the rolling hills of the countryside.

Waipara is probably more of a village than anything – I don’t think we even saw a shop in town! We stayed at a beautiful Airbnb set on a private winery, and hired bikes from the nearby Torlesse Wines. The Waipara valley features a wonderful little bike track that is perfect for venturing through the countryside and exploring a few cellar doors.

The weather was slightly gloomy looking, our bikes a bit rusty, and the track muddy, but we had a wonderful afternoon enjoying the green outdoors of the region. Oh, and the wine was pretty good too! We stopped at Waipara Springs winery for lunch and they had excellent platters.

The sun briefly came out whilst we stopped at our final destination of Black Estate, and we were treated to amazing views of the green hills and the sprawling valley.

Oh, and we found a resident black cat that we totally did not try and stuff in our backpack!

Waipara valley was well worth the short trip from Christchurch, and was easy to navigate on bikes, despite the mud due to the winter weather. I am not sure I have ever seen a place so green!

– Reanna

REMEMBER // Christchurch, New Zealand

Considering New Zealand is a quicker flight from Melbourne then it is to other parts of Australia, I have only visited once before (and admittedly, it was my first ‘overseas’ trip). When a long weekend approached in June, Chris and I took the opportunity to jump over the Tasman again to Christchurch.

I only had enough leave to extend the trip out to four days, but Chris stayed on another week and took ski lessons up at Mt Hutt. We spent two of our three nights in Christchurch, but spent most of our time out of the city.

Christchurch was devastated by earthquakes back in 2011, and the city is very much still recovering. The CBD was a strange experience, with brand new buildings next to abandoned ones, and plenty of empty lots being used as car parks. Above is the Christchurch cathedral, that still stands in ruins and serves as a monument of sorts.

A few other spots we visited paid homage to the aftermath of the earthquake. Above is the Cardboard Cathedral, a transitional church that is literally made out of cardboard. And below, the moving memorial of 185 empty chairs. The unofficial memorial was intended to only be temporary, but remains all these years later as a reminder of the 185 people lost in the earthquake.

On the morning before I flew out of Christchurch, Chris and I ventured out to the Port Hills, a range of hills between the city and the port town of Lyttelton. We had grand plans of watching the sunrise, but awoke to rain! Unfortunately this meant the sun rise was non existent, and there were no views to be had, we took a short walk through the hills, which was still a beautiful (though eerie… and wet!) experience.

I must have exercised some self control whilst in Christchurch, as these are all the photos I have of the city! But I certainly made up for it with the remainder of our time in New Zealand.

– 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