I got to the airport 2.5 hours before my flight this morning only to discover I don’t clear customs until I reach Sydney. I think the lady at the check in thought I was a bit simple as she kindly explained that I’ll need to get the shuttle to the international terminal in Sydney then check in again with Air Canada. I think I looked puzzled.

Both my check in luggage and carry on are over the weight limit but she ignored the additional kgs on weigh in and hopefully I’ll sneak through with the carry on.


As you can tell I’m killing time taking photos of my breakfast and my view of the aeroplanes.


I always get a weird feeling at airports. It’s like you step out of reality for some time and sit in this kind of limbo land until you reach your next destination. It’s a kind of no man’s land where you know nothing significant is going to happen until you get off the plane. Or is that just me?


I’m in my own airport bubble eating raisin toast. The earlier I get to the airport, the more likely I am to be rushing last minute to get to the flight. Still 1.5 hours to kill. Surely I can fit in another coffee and a quick nap perhaps?


I’ve been told I’m obsessive compulsive when it comes to packing, which is why on a Friday afternoon I’m zipping up my suitcase for a Monday morning flight. My OCD did not alert me to the fact I can only check in one 23kg bag on the flight until just recently, which of course threw my idea of what I was taking into slight disarray.


The contents of my pack so far… still missing a significant amount!

I’ve decided to put my pack and all of the contents pictured above in a suitcase to keep it protected and to hopefully squeeze more items inside. I’ll then take a smaller bag as carry on with all of my non-hiking clothes – the ones I won’t set fire to at the end of the trip.


Suitcase with pack and hiking gear…


Suitcase with everything else shoved on top!








I expect to be in pretty good shape by the end of today and will start going over my TO DO list again tomorrow. Being Easter weekend most people are off for a few days so I’ll have some time to get into the groove of being on my own for five months. Am strongly considering putting my e-reader back on the list of things to take!


At least the cat’s around to help me pack!

Outback cooking

I finally cooked a real outdoor hiking meal today in the backyard using my stove. The wind was pretty fierce, blowing my measuring cup and plastic bag across the garden. Good training. I used a recipe I thought of walking to the train station yesterday, nothing fancy, just oats, coconut, cinnamon and LSA. I would also add powdered soy milk and some kind of sweetener (coconut sugar?) for the real gig.


Highly technical ingredients.

I mixed up one cup of oats, 1/4 cup coconut, a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon and some LSA. Then I took all the elements into the garden for the test run.


I’ve nailed lighting the stove at least.


Waiting for the 1 1/2 cups water to boil.








I’m still trying to get through it all. One cup is WAAAAY too much and considering I’ll have to carry out any uneaten leftovers I’ll be going with 1/2 cup moving forward. The other very helpful lesson I learned was when I sealed my container to shake up the water and contents, boiling water and oat juice came seeping out the sides spraying all over me. Won’t be repeating that.


My leaky container after a good shake.


The final product.












Conclusions? Very easy to prepare and package but I feel pretty disgusting after eating it. Sugar or sweetener needed and keep up the variety, I can see this getting old very quickly.

A week till takeoff

It’s been quiet on the blog front this week as my To Do list slowly depletes and I become more and more anxious to get out there and put this planning into action. I’ve been churning through the mundane doctor, dentist checkups and focussing on strengthening and resting my back. This weekend was the first since January that I didn’t get out and hike, partly to rest my back and to focus on the important people I’ll be leaving behind.

One more week to go. My list of things to do while I’m still in Australia is minimal, but the items left have been sitting there for weeks:


– advise bank I’m travelling OS

– suspend health insurance

– look up best mobile phone network in the US

– put music on iPhone

– print docs including travel insurance, flight itineraries etc

– review and action hiking notes from Sydney

– figure out what the current snow levels are and what they mean for the trip

– get fat

I’m currently enjoying the last point on the list while reminding myself to eat GOOD fats, so I’m not sure the burgers, chips and ice creams I’m consuming apply.


All part of the training regime.

I am getting nervous, but more so impatient. I need to get out there now, unemployment and too much time to focus on the trip is driving me a little stir crazy. The pressure will be on in Vancouver to get my food purchased, dehydrated, sorted, packaged and boxed along with my maps and trail notes in the 10 days I’m there. This truly is the quiet before the storm.

One month to go!

With exactly one month to go until I step foot on the PCT and only two weeks until I depart Australia, things are starting to fall into place. Today I received two essential items for the trip, my permit to hike and camp along the PCT and, my thought to be missing Caldera Cone stove.

PCT permit

PCT Long Distance Permit

The fourth in a line of permissions and permits (Entry into Canada via the PCT, California Campfire Permit & US tourist visa) the PCT Long Distance Permit allows me overnight access anywhere along the trail and permission to travel on alternative trailheads to reach resupply towns.

The permit came with a letter from the Pacific Crest Trail Association, outlining some of the fire regulations and their backcountry best practise, whilst congratulating me on my decision to hike the trail. The letter was inspiring, ending with a line I thought really summed it up: “the Pacific Crest Trail exists because people like you have translated their passion into action.”

Caldera Cone stove

Trail Designs Caldera Cone stove set.

The stove has arrived just in time to start practising some basic cooking in conjunction with developing some kind of meal plan. It’s extremely light weight, due to the fact the pot is small enough to fit in a dolls house and the rest of the pieces fit inside a plastic caddy which doubles as a cup and bowl. I had read on many blogs that you can make  your own similar stove at home using an aluminium baking pan as a windshield and a soda can to burn fuel in. I didn’t expect Trail Designs would ACTUALLY make the burner system out of soda can!


My weeny non stick cooking pot (pictured right).

Caldera Cone stove 2

Trail Design’s alcohol stove made from a Diet Ginger Ale can.


Great North Walk – Thornleigh to Cowan (Day 2)

With my feet up on the coffee table it’s hard to believe the anguish I was going through earlier today climbing up and down the gorges inside Berowra Valley Regional Park. 14km felt more like 40km with the amount of climbing involved in this section of the hike.


The Great North Walk goes all the way from Sydney to Newcastle (approx 300km).

I woke at 6am to kookaburras and buzzing mosquitos and after completing my back stretching ritual, started packing my backpack before taking down the tent. The Crosslands campsite was actually only 10 minutes down the path but there was another school group camping there so I was thankful I had my own quiet spot.

20130311-205338.jpgAt Crosslands I met a Chinese man and his elderly father who were also planning to hike to Cowan. They were enquiring as to where the trail started so we walked to the beginning of the track together and I left ahead of them, hoping they wouldn’t catch up too quickly given the father had to be in his 70’s.

The climbing was TOUGH! There were many parts where I had to fold away my hiking poles to hold onto the rocks and haul myself and the extra 1/4 of my weight up. There was one particular climb which just never seemed to end. I was muttering obscenities under my breath and would have yelled so the whole valley could have heard me if my two friends weren’t close behind me.


Ground level looking over Berowra Waters.


The view over Berowra Waters after another hideous climb up!








I took a quick snack and toilet break at the base of Berowra Waters and was surprised when my two Chinese friends were sitting there happily eating their lunch. The younger man only spoke basic English but after expressing to them what a tough climb it had been he just laughed and nodded. His father hadn’t even worked up a sweat! They insisted I take the rest of their food because I obviously looked like I needed it. On one hand the juicy apples looked delicious, on the other hand the thought of carrying any extra weight was too much! I compromised and took only one giant apple, and some kind of preserved beef snack.


Some of the tricky rock climbs.

Despite my whining this was a truly stunning walk. What it did teach me was that every ounce of weight DOES make a difference, and that I’ll need to be meticulous when packing, especially if I’m expecting to carry seven days of food as opposed to just two!


Two days worth of food.


What was left over.

Great North Walk – Thornleigh to Cowan (Day 1)

I crawled into camp tonight like a wobbly four legged spider, walking poles flailing in front and my legs dragging behind. Today was the most challenging 20km walk I’ve ever done, add a 14kg pack and 9 hours of walking and you can understand why I fell short of my actual target.

I’ve stopped about 30 mins from the Crosslands Reserve campsite, in a little clearing with no facilities just beyond a group of young women on a canoe expedition. There are a few freaky noises outside the tent including growling, scratching, the odd branch snap and a whole host of activity going on in the reservoir I’m next to.

Today was full of adventure, lunch with a group of lizards after a quick dip in the lagoon, an encounter with a tree snake, walked through a rifle range amid the sounds of gun shots, getting lost a couple of times and setting up the tent while fending off swarms of mosquitos! I snacked all day and now don’t feel like eating dinner plus I haven’t peed since lunch which means the 3L of water I drank wasn’t enough. Luckily when I finally reach the Crosslands campsite tomorrow I can fill up my water bladder.

The ground is pretty soft so I haven’t bothered blowing up my sleeping mat. I’m just lying on it with my sleeping bag on top. It’s so hot I doubt I’ll need my -10 degree bag!

I may venture out to pee before bed and will hopefully avoid the anaconda in the river and the growling gremlin outside!









The countdown is on!

Aside from downloading topographic maps on my iPhone, mending holes in my tent mesh, purchasing random bits of gear on mum and dad’s credit card, creating complex resupply spreadsheets, practising my daily back and glute exercises from the Osteo and planning my first ever solo overnight hike, my time in Sydney has been quite relaxed.


My new French Foreign Legion style hat for the desert.

I am suppressing some pretty major one month to go anxieties which vary between ‘I’m almost there’ to ‘holly crap there’s still so much to read, plan and do’. In the last week I’ve settled on a start date for the trail (Thursday April 18), secured a lift to the Mexico/US border (thanks to Don and Donna in San Diego), finally purchased travel insurance from World Nomads (who did confirm they would insure me for the trail), booked a car in San Diego, secured pick up from Vancouver airport (thanks BJ), educated myself about bear safety, and hiked with my ULA pack for the first time.

On Friday mum and I walked from their apartment in Manly to the Spit Bridge (approx 7.5km) along the Manly Scenic Walkway. I carried my pack with about 4L of water, tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and clothing, weighing close to 8kg.

IMG_2245My lower back was still giving me grief so the walk there was quite painful, requiring two Nurofens to keep me going. The scenery was beautiful though and we past at least a dozen lizards along the way. It took us 2.5 hours to get to a little cafe near the Spit Bridge where dad brought us a homemade wrap for lunch (won’t be getting this kind of service on the trail) and we enjoyed a COFFEE (still not sure how I’m going to live without it).

Dad drove mum home and I tackled the return journey solo. I used hiking poles going back which made an incredible difference to my speed and the pressure on my back, getting me home in 1.5 hours. Tomorrow I’m going to set off on a two-day, 34km hike starting from Thornleigh to Cowan.


Stunning views looking back towards Manly.


The ULA pack and solar panel in action.


Mum and I ready for some serious hiking alongside shirtless joggers and mums with strollers.

No stove in sight

Everyday this week I’ve been waiting for the postman to deliver my Caldera Cone Stove from Trail Designs in the US, and sadly the night before I head to Sydney it still hasn’t arrived. It’s disappointing because the solar panel I ordered at the same time came a few days ago, plus I was planning to do my FIRST EVER solo overnight hike up there with my main pieces of gear (now minus the stove).

Canada permit

Approved to enter Canada via the PCT.

I did happily receive my permit to enter Canada via the PCT in the mail today though. I’ll need to decide what to do with this precious document during the hike. I think most people send it to their last resupply point in Washington before crossing the border. My biggest fear is that it could possibly get lost in the mail. I think people also send their passports to their last resupply point but this makes me even more nervous, and considering I’m not a US citizen I think I’ll need my passport and visa on me at all times anyhow.

It’s now less than a month before I’m on the plane to Vancouver. I’m going to do some serious planning, training and bits of gear purchasing over the next week with only mum and dad to distract me. When I get back to Melbourne I’ll have 10 days to go! Frightening!

Fairfield to Bentleigh (along the Outer Circle Trail)

My weekly hike today was more like a walk, however it was the toughest one so far on my body. Not only because it was the longest, but because I was terribly equipped was an ordinary overweight backpack.


Start of the trail in Fairfield.


Relieved to find this was in fact a marked trail.










Trail over the Yarra River.

The Outer Circle/Anniversary Trail is an 18km stretch of paved bike/walking trail from Fairfield to Hughesdale Station. This walk appealed to me because Hughesdale is close enough to home to walk once completed (5km). However, what should have been a 23km walk, turned into 27kms after some iPhone navigation issues which resulted in me taking the wrong turn at a crucial junction and having to backtrack.

The trail has a few road sections but I was surprised at how complete and continuous it actually was. An hour in, I emptied my entire 3L bladder and saved only one water bottle simply because my pack was so incredibly awkward and heavy to carry. This helped a little but the pains in my lower back had already taken hold, forcing me to walk VERY slowly.

There was a severe lack of public toilets along the trail, especially after my standard pre-hike coffee. I was in the process of sizing up some bushes when finally I found some kind of scout hall/cricket club/abandoned council building that had their public toilet open. Glorious!


Survival kit

It wasn’t long after the quick bathroom break when heat, pain and mental exhaustion started to take hold. I pulled out all the stops, Nurofen and my iPod being the main remedies, to get me through the more monotonous part of the walk.


The trail in all its glory.


And again.












The trail is probably better for cycling than walking, although for distance training it wasn’t bad. I think my back pain and feeble meandering made it less enjoyable, however I still got a kick out of self portrait photography, and my favourite section, the ‘Urban Forest’.


ME, taking a break.


ME, inside the Urban Forest.








Strangely towards the end of my walk my body seemed to loosen up a little. Could have been the Nurofen, the lighter backpack or the walking stick I acquired, but by the end of the trail I managed the final 5km walk home without too many complaints. After an icepack, a warm bath and an appointment with the Osteopath tomorrow my back and body should be good as new!


Saved by the walking stick.


The end of the trail, no bells or whistles in sight.