Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pleasantly Surprised

Why am I pleasantly surprised??? Yesterday I walked around 30 kms up and down hills and through a variety of terrains and I am actually pleased to report that I feel great today, no sore or stiff muscles.

Julia and I caught the train at 6.60am to Otford where we met our cheery leader (volunteer from the Royal National Park Association (NPA)) and three other ladies who were joining us for the days trek to Waterford.

Introductions made, we were off at a cracking pace up a steep incline (I think the group leader was just sorting out, our fitness level to start). Soon we were on the top of a rise overlooking the ocean down to the The Cliff Bridge and could see in the distance glimpses of Wollongong. Throughout the morning we walked along the cliffs, up hills, across grassy knolls and sandy beaches, and yes our fearless leader kept up the cracking pace. No time for my usual happy snapping with the camera every time I saw something that caught my fancy. As we paced it out the group got to know each other between puffs. They were all keen walkers and one other group member was heading off to Nepal in the next two weeks. She had been there before on a number of times so I was keen to learn as much as I could from her.
We stopped for morning tea on a rock platform, refueling before we clambered up another steep hill. Each climb was worth it though, with sweeping views up and down the coast. At around mid day we turned off the cliff track and headed away from the ocean into low scrubby country, that was full of wild flowers. Our leader, was a mine of information on the different species, giving them all their botanical names, and a description of the plant family. Shame I can't remember any of them.

Soon we found a little stream with a nice rocky outcrop, that made a good spot for lunch, and a good opportunity to air the hiking boots and cool our feet. It was during our lunch time conversation we found the sneaky side of our leader. We were all under the impression that our walk was about 25kms, however he let it slip that it was closer to 30-32kms. Not much that we could do about it when your half way through the walk. No quick way out

Our afternoon trekking took as through some more scrubby bush and then down into a deep valley full of dark mossy spots and huge trees that went up for ever. One of the afternoons highlights was when we stopped and rested for an afternoon break and our leader spotted a bright red glow amongst the trees about 200 metres away which turned out to be two beautiful waratahs!! they really were beautiful and soooo red!! I have included a picture of them on the side of my blog.

The last couple of hours was spent clambering up out of the valley on a very steep and rocky path. It was head down and one foot in front of the other. We finally arrived at Waterfall around 4.3o pm . We waived goodbye to our fearless leader (who looked like he had just had a quick stroll around the block) and five very tired, feet weary ladies stumbled down to the train station. The other members of the group only had short train trips home. I waved by to Julia and continued my trip to Hornsby, and it was just after 7.00pm when I finally arrived home. The hot bath and glass of red wine went down very well!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Buzz of excitement

This week has seen a growing buzz amongst our group, with emails flying to and fro with lists of gear we need to have, reports on fund raising efforts, reminders on making sure we have visas and our vaccinations up to date, have you arranged your travel insurance, how much warm gear do we need etc. In fact I would say that the buzz has a definitely lifted to a loud hum. Some members are running in fun runs, other running raffles, one group member is even pushing her Mum in a wheelchair in a fun run!! Now that is commitment.

This week I have been able to tick off getting my visa and a visit to Dr's for the inevitable jab in the arm and script for antibiotics and anti Nepal belly tablets. (one needs to be prepared). Earlier this invested in a new pair of u beaut!! super dooper gloves!! I have been advised that it is important to keep all extremities warm.

I acquired my latest investment today.At lunch time I wandered down to Paddy's market and purchased pocket knife come multi tool device thingy!!!! which has everything from a bottle opener, pliers, pocket knife, screwdriver etc to a small light. Now I just have to work out how to use it.

Well tomorrow I am off on another pre-trek adventure. A friend and I are getting up at sparrow's ....... to catch a train to Otford where we are joining a National Parks trekking group and walking to Waterfall (25-27 kms depending on which map you look at). This will really put the old legs to the test. Stories and photos to come on Sunday, as I am sure I will be sitting up resting and recovering.

Monday, August 25, 2008


This Saturday's walk saw our numbers diminished to just two, due to the threat of inclement weather. We caught the train to Edgecliff bright and early and spent the day making our way through Double Bay, around the coast and through the streets of Rosebay, Vaucluse to Watson's Bay, then around to the entrance to Sydney Harbour (behind the naval base). A number of showers of rain, meant we were pulling our rain jackets on and off regularly.
As we stood admiring the view out over the harbour and out to sea, we were lucky enough to see a seal frolicking in the waves.

After lunch (fish and chips at Doyle's, at Watson's Bay) we continued on along the cliff pathway towards Bondi. In some places the wind made walking very difficult, however the rough weather gave us spectacular views of the ocean smashing against the cliffs. The last hour of our walk saw a sharp decline in the weather, and we got quite wet!!! In total we walked for about 6 hours and for approximately 18ks. Not a bad day's training. Certainly enjoyed my hot shower when I got home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pre-Trek Adventures

Near the end of last year I realised that I would have to establish a program to get fit. When a couple of my work friends told me of their weekend walk from Manly to Spit Bridge, I said, "that sound great, if you do anymore let me know, as I need to get into training for my trek". Little did I know that this short phrase would open the door to many weekend adventures in and around Sydney.

Over the past eight months my kind friends have taken me under their wing and accompanied me on numerous weekend treks. Inevitably we have managed on a number of times to take the wrong pathway, but somehow more through good fortune than good management we haven't got lost. There has been the odd black snake, a golf ball that just missed us, leeches, stiff and sore muscles, some amazing scenery and lots of laughs. I really have to thank the girls for their persistance and organisation with our weekend excursions, as it has really made my training enjoyable and I think they will agree that we have discovered many places around Sydney that we didn't know existed.

Tomorrow we are heading off on a more civilised walk, Edgecliffe to Watson's Bay and then onto Bondi. This trip is planned with enticements along the way: The chocolate shop at Double Bay, fish and chips at Doyles (Watson's Bay) and afternoon tea at Bondi. My mouth is watering already.

Everest and Beyond

As part of my preparation for my trip I have been trying to read books and watch films that will give me a little background to the Himalayas and surrounding countries. Last week I managed to acquire a copy of the DVD, Everest and Beyond. This documentary tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary, his amazing climbing feats, the establishment of the Himalayan Trust and life time effort to improve conditions for the Sherpa people of Nepal.
The documentary tells how Edmund took his wife, children and other relatives to Nepal on projects to build schools and better facilities for the Sherpas. It shows him to be a humble yet resourceful man. I must admit I was very touched when I found out that he lost his wife and daughter in a plane crash, as they were flying to meet him at a project in a remote area of Nepal.
The section of the documentary that covered the building of schools for the sherpa's and the introduction of the teacher training program certainly confirmed my belief that the money we raise for the this program will definitely be going to a worthwhile project.
A film worth watching, not only for the spectacular scenery but also for an insight into the life and philosophy of an extraordinary man.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On with the training

Firstly, let me please thank you to everyone who has sent me emails supporting my fundraising effort for the Australian Himalayan Foundation teacher training program. It is great to get such positive support from everyone. I really appreciate it and will endeavour to make this blog a little interesting.

Over the past three days, Steve and I have taken a mini break at Terrigal. It has been great, and the weather has been sunny, though it is a little cold for swimming. However, I haven't forgotten that I am supposed to be focusing on getting fit as it is now only seven weeks to go. Each afternoon, I have waved goodbye to Steve (who is sitting in the sun in front of the Surf Club, paper in hand and sipping on a frothy coffee) and start tramping the streets, looking for the steepest hill to climb. (You have to question my sanity). As I puff my way to the top of the steps to the look out, I wonder when this is going to get easier.

At the top of the lookout I look down on the scene below, beautiful beach and rugged cliffs in the distance and ponder on how different this is to the views I will witness in seven weeks time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Australian Himalayan Foundation

From the initial stages of our trip organisation it was agreed that as a group we would like to give something back to the community that we would be visiting. There were many emails back and forwards discussing how we would do this. Some of them were suggestions of raising money and taking it to an identified community in Nepal, assisting with education of girls, teacher training or purchasing equipment for schools etc. Eventually, a consensus was reached that we should contribute something towards the future education of the Nepalese children.

One of our group attended a fund raising dinner for the Australian Himalayan Foundation in Melbourne and spoke to some of the organisers of this foundation. This was the turning point for our fundraising focus and we decided to work with The Australian Himalayan Foundation. The aims of this foundation appealed to all our group members.

The Foundation focuses on sustainability and empowerment for the people of the Himalaya. It is about ensuring, through assistance with administration, project management, training and monitoring, that the projects are set up and managed in such a way as to be viable and truly sustainable.Equally important is making sure that the local communities are empowered and equipped to manage and support the projects, sustainably and inclusively.

There were two projects that our group considered supporting (School for Schools, and Teacher Training in the Shadow of Everest). After a few more emails, it was decided that we felt the program that would be the most valuable for a sustainable future for the children of Nepal was the Teacher Training program. This program brings together teachers from all the Nepalese schools in their school holidays for a week long camp run by volunteer Australian Teachers. In this camp the teachers receive coaching and advice on quality teaching methods.

The program also selects the more promising of these teachers and puts them into another week of training to assist them gain the necessary skills and leadership qualities to assure that they can pass this information to other teachers and provide the best opportunity for quality education in Nepalese schools.
Decision made it was now time for each of us to decide how we were going to raise funds to contribute to this program.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eight Weeks to Go

This morning I checked my calendar and counted the weeks till I head off to Nepal. Only 8 weeks!! it is time I got myself organised.

About two years ago, I was sitting in the Uni Library, working on an assignment when an email came through from an associate that I had met through a work acquaintance, inviting me to join a group of women to trek in Nepal. I quickly forgot my assignment work and started to do a little research on the trek. It was like someone tapped me on the shoulder and said "you should do this!" (I am a great believer that sometimes opportunities crop up out of the blue and that you should grab them with both hands).

However, with this there were a lot of things to consider. Would I be fit enough? Cost? It would be the first time that I had set out on an adventure without including Steve in something like 30 years. That was a tough one as I knew it would be something that he would like to do as well.

It took quite a few conversations for me to realise that he was happy for me to go by myself, and after about 6 months of will I, won't I, the decision was made, and deposit paid.

So exciting!!!!!!! I am sure many of my friends are tired of hearing me talk about it.

After the original email, there was a group of about 12 women from around the world who were interested in going on the trip. Our chief organiser and motivator started to set up a network, encouraging us all to start getting fit, providing lots of background information and support to guide us along the way.

As time passed by the core group of 6 women have decided to take on the 25 day challenge which will start in Kathmandu on 8 October 2008. We will be traveling with World Expeditions and doing the Everest Circuit.

It cannot be denied that we are really looking forward to the adventure side of this trip. However it was the general consensus amongst the 6 members of the group that we should also give something back to the community that we were going to visit. So it was agreed that as a group we would look at how we could best provide some assistance to the communities that we would visit on our trip.