I wrote this as part of my internship in 2017 when I lived in Australia. I don’t think it was ever published – at least I wasn’t informed about it so thought I’d add it in here.
Australians call it bushwalking. You might know it as hiking, trekking, tramping, or just walking. A bushwalk can be a short, a few kilometres long recreational walk or a hike stretching over multiple days. Despite the length of the walk, a few things should be taken into consideration every time you decide to head to the bush.
Australia has over 500 national parks and over 20 of them are located near Sydney. The easiest way to get to the national parks is by hopping on a train, bus or a ferry. If you plan the bushwalks well and go on Sundays, you can travel anywhere with just $2.80. Convenient, right? Royal National Park here I come!
Bear in mind that to access some attractions in RNP you do need a car to get to the beginning of the track. The famous Wedding Cake Rock, which can still be admired although it has been fenced off because of its fragility, is for those who have a car. Many other walks and combinations of different walks are suitable for train travellers. For example, using Uloola and Karloo walking tracks you can get from Waterfall station to Heathcote station and have a lovely 10km walk. And, of course, the popular Figure Eight Pools are accessible from Otford station.
Basic items that everyone should carry on bushwalks are easy to fit into a day backpack. First and foremost is water. There are bubblers in every corner in the city, but those do not exist in the bush. You have to carry enough water to take you through the time you are planning to spend walking. Keep in mind that when it is hot, you need to drink more; dehydration and heat exhaustion can be dangerous. You also need proper sun protection. High SPF sunscreen, hat and sunglasses shield from the sun.
To make it through a day in a bush underneath the Australian sun, you need food. Packed lunch is one of the best things you can find from your backpack. Sitting on a rock by the waterfall eating a sandwich while the sun sparkles on the water is great. Add a packet of TimTams and the moment is even better.
In addition to the nutritional side, lunch is a good reason to take a break from walking. Talking of which, bushwalking involves a lot of walking. That is why a good pair of shoes is essential. Basic trainers are fine for day walks and easy paths but more demanding ground requires hiking boots. So no thongs (flip flops) or high heels to the bushwalk, please. Trust me, I have seen both.
Another item to take along is a camera. The national parks are protected for a reason. The scenery, the vegetation and the fauna are amazing and you never know what you might encounter. Is there going to be a waterfall, rock formation, beach or an overlook to a valley behind the next corner? Maybe a lizard or two will want to pose for you and your camera. Just remember, even if you can’t take the perfect shot of the Figure Eight Pools because they are under water (done that) or can’t pose on the Wedding Cake Rock because the whole formation is about to collapse, there is still a lot you can photograph.
Before you set off, make sure you know what you are doing. National parks have websites (for example nationalparks.nsw) with maps and route descriptions. Print a map or take a screenshot but do not trust phone signals and internet connection. Route descriptions on official websites remind the walkers of possible hazards or special conditions and they should be taken seriously. You can’t go down to Figure of Eight pools during high tide or rough sea. It is your responsibility to check the weather forecast and appropriate warnings, such as bushfire warnings, in advance. Ignorance is not an excuse for not complying with warning signs and fire bans as well as all the park rules. But surely you knew that already.
Pack your pack, put on your shoes and get out there.