I wiped my sweaty, weary brow as I paced my last hill-climb. Over four days of hiking from Denmans Cove on Tasmania’s south-east coast, I could see it in the distance. Dried eucalypt leaves crunched under my steaming hiking boots and my breathing heaved before Fortescue Bay peeked from the thinning scrub. I slowed, calmed my breathing and stood in silence. All that was left between me and this “finish line” was a quiet gratitude and calm. After hiking alongside crumbling, craggy cliff edges towering the depths of the Tasman Sea, a strip of salty, azure current lapped at the shiny shoreline. Aside from a handful of camper vans and tents, the echoing gargle from a sea eagle gliding above was calling me in.
Rewinding to a week prior, I recalled being edgy. I’ve always been a sure, natural and confident traveller. Case being, I’m known to pack in less than a couple of hours last-minute before I run out the door; energised by the adrenalin of unexpected surprises the next trip is yet to bring. This “energy” for travel has always intrigued me and my travel curiosity has always won out, thankfully! When I travel, I feel at my most immersed, mindful and restful.
For this trip, my preparation started off a little differently. I decided to go on my first four-day hike as a means to do something new and explore new travel ground for myself. While I put in the hard work through daily training and gradually building my strength to lug a 10-kilo backpack through Tasmanian bushland, my well-oiled travel self started to have doubts. Would I make it? Had I prepared enough? Eventually, an ever-growing fear started to creep through my mind like an unruly weed: “I can’t do this!”
News reports about the north-west of Tasmania being ravished by bushfires then started to headline news sites. Firefighters from the mainland were being flown in to help local crews fight the fires. Between fire risks, the unforgiving heat of an Australian summer and my building concern, this was a trip that seemed to have some odds stacked against itself. Should I go? My checking in point for the hike, the historic convict site of Port Arthur, elevated my concern. In all its haunting presence and remoteness, Port Arthur tapped phone reception out of range until my return to Hobart for my flight home.
On the contrary, all signs were clear from local park authorities to starting hiking. There were three nightly stops along the way for camping and refuelling, and my arrival was recorded by a park ranger stationed at each one. An evacuation plan was in place at each night stop. There were also small groups of hikers sharing the journey, including my husband. I needed to re-calibrate my mental tack for this trip – take it one day at a time, and tread with a little more caution than usual. Basically, keep my levelled wits about myself.
Fear can be a brutal beast and it had rattled me before I even took my first hiking step. Though, the walking notes I was given back at Port Arthur spoke through a grounding quote:
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Over four days and 46 kilometres, I discovered Tasmania’s imposing – and stunning – wilderness which helped me level out the intensity of fear in my mind. Soaring jagged peaks and giant, cascading cliff-lines helped with my perspective. The subtle prettiness of radiant wildflowers found in damp gullies reassured me with their resilience to thrive in ever-changing coastal conditions. Even a roving echidna waddled herself across my path high atop the jagged dizziness of the “Blade” shooting up from the churning sea below. Her sharp spines held high while sniffing out ants in between boulders, unperturbed by the metres of dolerite hanging below our feet.
Fear, just like travel or nature for that matter, isn’t always steadfast. As much as I travel to explore my curiosity, or to get back to nature, the risks will always be hanging there in the back of my mind. Sometimes, fear will gush through unexpectedly and rattle me. Though, if I can understand or observe what comes my way then I can stop to embrace what travel can teach me. It may, momentarily, involve embracing my inner steady caution.
How has a travelling experience helped you return to a travel truth? I would love to hear about your experiences and how you returned to your travel truth.