I have recently been struck with a deep love of this country, overwhelmed by the ancient beauty held within. Australia is home to the oldest surviving people group in the world, the Aboriginal people, who have been on this land for 75’000 years. It was through learning of their story and culture, the Dreaming, and the connection they have to creation which opened my eyes to the wild and truely breathtaking land I also call home.
This love has lead to an abandoned compulsion to get amongst nature, and so about a week ago I asked a friend of mine if she’d take me on a nature walk/hike, and she was kind enough to say “Hell yeah!”
Driving down to the Coal Coast only takes 35-40 minutes from Sutherland, and you watch in excitement as your surroundings slowly change from the bustle of suburbia, following the thick, tree-lined boundaries of the National Park, and are birthed into a horizon of dark blue waves, lush green bush and sleepy little coastal towns.
Our first walk was the Wodi Wodi track, just after Stanwell Park, marked only by a small carpark on the left, and an aged wooden sign across the road. The picture above was taken from that carpark - a breathtaking way to start a morning trek!
We were welcomed to the base of Mount Mitchell by a thick, green carpet of native grass, and a gentle incline starts to cause the breath to deepen slightly. The Wodi Wodi track has a varied landscape - grass, hardened dirt, rock, stairs, sand and steep inclines, so make sure to wear enclosed shoes with a motherload of grip on the soles, otherwise you may just end up with a sprained ankle (like me)!
The terrain changes, and the gentle walk we were so pleasantly strolling along became a much more demanding incline, the grass beneath our feet transformed to rock, dirt and burnt orange clay. Gum trees taller than buildings encircle and shaded us - just as we start to break a delightful sweat - and our ears rang with a surround sound of singing cicadas. As much as I yearned to look around and take in the majesty of it all, the uneven ground commanded my concentration just to stop from falling.
Before long we arrived at an intersection - Wodi Wodi to the right, or the Forest Walk to the left. This day we chose the Wodi Wodi track, and this is really where we exerted some serious hiking energy. Almost immediately we were climbing up stairs, some steep, others shallow, some natural, others man made. I found that a little bit of fear rose in my chest at this point, second guessing the ability of my body. It was then that we mercifully stopped the climb for some water and to catch our breath. Why I love about hiking is that it demands your attention, body, mind and spirit. Upon reflection, as much as this section of the walk was a challenge, it was probably my favourite part as you’re forced to engage your Perseverance and Endurance. The only time in my everyday routine I practice endurance is in enduring the traffic on my way to and from work, so this walk is a wonderful way to exercise these character traits in a different environment.
Twenty minutes of climbing and sweating later we decided to take a longer break. To the left of the track sits a rock formation, an almost-cave. Stunning sandstone rock juts out of the side of Mount Mitchell, a jasper jewel strewn among the emerald. Walking along the outcropping, its amazing the colours in natures pallet. Burnt oranges, golden yellows, sea-foam green, purple the colour of eggplant and pure, pure white - all woven together in a wave of solid, living art. I couldn’t help but run my hand over the formation in reverence and awe.
BTW: Pitted dates make for the PERFECT trail snack.
Mother Natures caramel packed with carbs to keep you hiking strong!
We rested here for about fifteen minutes, sipping water, laying on the cool stone, watching the cicadas flit between the tops of the trees, almost being deafened by their songs - they’re so loud! The longer rest was one of the best decision we made that day, giving ourselves the opportunity to sit, rest and be present with nature. It was a gift to our bodies and minds.
Another ten or so minutes of climbing and the track starts to even out somewhat, and after the rest we took, it was nice to just stroll through the bush and brush, noticing the beautiful intricacies of our land and our incredible Creator God. We found that praises to our great Father fell from our lips naturally as we walked, just as creation cries out in praise to God, we joined in with their song. The path became a bit sandy in parts here, with a rock step or two scattered around, and I found a wonderful duality of focus in my mind - drinking in the breath-taking beauty of the bush, whilst keeping a mindful eye on my step!
When we reached the top of Mount Mitchell, the trees cleared, the land fell away, and we were left standing atop a cliff face, in open-mouthed awe of the scene before us. As much as I wanted to raise my camera to snap the scene, or pick up my phone to put it on the ‘gram, I just put it all down. Sitting with our legs dangling over the edge, the feeing of being so very small came over me. All I could do was shake my head in wonder at what I was seeing, at what I was surrounded by - the sheer, overwhelming beauty of it all.
I took a deep, satisfying breath, and allowed child-like wonder to break upon me like an ocean wave…
After a while we turned around and went back down the Mountain the way we’d come.
The hike took us about an hour and a half all up, and earned us a lovely dip in that big blue ocean. We climbed a much steeper hill for a breath-taking view of the Sea Cliff Bridge, but for my account of that rollercoaster of emotions, you’ll just have to tune in next time!