I was lucky enough to take an outdoor education class at Sydney Uni this semester where we had a three day field trip to the Blue Mountains. I had to write a blog post for it (for a grade), so here’s my slightly edited version for all you wonderful readers:
Day 1: The Three Sisters
How I’m feeling: excited, rested, and ready for a weekend away!
When I first got on the train for Katoomba, I had no idea what I was in for. Sure, two of my friends told me how much fun their trip was, but I knew my experience had to be different than theirs. The knowledge that it would be different didn’t make me any less excited; I’d been looking forward to this trip since I’d seen it on the Unit of Study Outline.
The first day was supposed to be fairly easy, according to my friends. Hard at the end, but completely doable. I was a little nervous, considering how long it had been since I’d worked out (at all) and how out of shape I considered myself to be.
|Coming out of “The Squeeze”|
|The Three Sisters|
The second part of the hike is what I severely underestimated. Hikes in Australia are a little different than everywhere else I’ve hiked before. Instead of going up and coming back down, you go down and come back up. Just another thing they seem to have backwards here, like the reversed seasons and driving on the wrong side of the road.
What goes down must come up or what goes up must come down? I’m not sure which comes first, kind of like the chicken and the egg.
Each gradual step down was a steep step back up. Instead of a steady incline, we were surprised with a massive flight of stairs (called the Grand Stairway, go figure) with over 900 steps.
Even though it looked super intimidating and wasn’t easier than it looked, I was able to get to the top with a little sweat and determination.
|Cabin 3 looking fabulous after climbing 900 stairs|
The day didn’t even end there! We had to go grocery shopping as a group, where you learn a lot about the way people live, and then go back to our cabins and build fires for heat (something I’ve never done before).
We cooked pasta, squash, and a roast chicken for dinner which the four of us finished without thinking twice. Rachel fell asleep at the dinner table to attest to how tired we were from the hike that day. Without being distracted by technology, there was also some roommate bonding, which was part of the reason the weekend was so great.
Day 2: THE STRUGGLE
How I’m feeling: tired and cold but trying my best to keep a positive attitude
I knew that day 2 would be the hardest according to what all my friends had told me. I had checked the forecast and I knew it was going to rain. I’m the kind of girl that wakes up, sees rain out the window and says “I’ll try again tomorrow” before rolling over and going back to bed. Despite this, I tried my very best to go into the day with a positive attitude.
It was just drizzling when we got there with a few heavy raindrops here and there which made the first part of this hike (again, downhill), really amazing. I felt like I was on the Jurassic Park movie set and I was ready for Chris Pratt to jump out and propose to me any minute (not really, but you get it).
It really was a rainforest, something I’d never seen before since every climate I’ve lived in has been so dry.
|The Day 2 Group|
This day was filled with amazing waterfalls over beautiful rock formations, where I was actually able to put my minimal geology skills to the test and see what the rocks were made of.
This was also the day where I had my first tumble. I slipped on a wet patch of mud and fell straight on my butt, leaving me with scratches on the backs of my calves, a skinny bruise on my arm from hitting a small tree branch on the way down, and a fat bruise on my butt where I slid down four stone steps. Ouch.
The hardest part of the hike was still before us. We climbed over some trees and it honestly didn’t even feel like a big deal; it just made it an adventure. I sang the Indiana Jones theme song in my head to pretend that I was a really big deal about to save the world’s most famous artifact while running away from giant boulders and bad guys. In reality, I was only running away from the giant boulder of responsibilities in the big bad real world.
As we started uphill, we got the opportunity to walk in silence and really take in the beauty of the nature around us. This was what I needed (and enjoyed) the most.
This weekend and this part of the weekend in particular made me feel at peace with everything going on in my life. Maybe it was feeling like a part of nature and connecting to it in a way I hadn’t before. Maybe it was just not thinking for a little bit and simply experiencing.
This walk was the perfect moment to use a quote from one of my favorite movies: “I don’t think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for quite a while.” (Caddyshack)
We kept hiking, surprised at how great the weather was until, as we started the uphill, it began to rain. And I don’t mean slightly drizzling, I mean real big raindrops that hit you in the eye like tiny pebbles and soak you to your core. That kind of rain.
Mustering up all the positive energy I could, I embraced the rain. Yeah, I was wet, but I was close to a warm shower and I was enjoying the day too much to let this get me down.
Somehow (and I am still amazed at this), I made it to the top. I’ve never felt more accomplished than I did in that moment. In the cold, wet weather, I had done one of the most intense hikes in my life and I’d done it well. I only fell once, but I came away with priceless memories.
Day 3: Wentworth Falls
How I’m feeling: If I could do yesterday’s hike, I can do anything.
On the final day, we walked with our cabin groups and took on a hike by ourselves. It was pretty easy to navigate with easy to read trail markers and clear, obvious paths. I already knew the hike back to the top would be hard, just like the other two days, but I was more prepared this time.
This walk had the most waterfalls. Everywhere I looked, water was falling down from rocks somewhere. It was beautiful and easy to see why it’s such a popular place for tourists.
I realized that as the weekend went on, I took fewer and fewer pictures. Maybe it was because my camera died. Maybe it was because I got tired of taking my camera out. Either way, this weekend broke me away from technology, and I really embraced what I was looking at. I’ve never been one to take pictures of everything, but I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have a camera (or iPhone) directly on my person. I left my camera and phone in my backpack for most of the day, taking the time to really see where I was and how small me and my problems seemed in comparison to what was around me.
An ending note:
I learned more about myself than I thought I would this weekend. I might not even call it learning so much as I would call it getting in touch with myself. I have a firm sense of who I am, but a lot of things became clearer to me when I took 3 days away from technology in a beautiful place.
I learned that I can push myself past the limits I have in my head. I’ve always struggled with overcoming physical limits I place on myself. I love hiking and sports, but I’ve never been a fan of working out. When I stopped playing sports, it became difficult for me to continue living a healthy lifestyle because I didn’t think I could do things simply because I didn’t want to. This really put into perspective the power of the mind and how telling yourself something is possible makes it possible.
I learned that my attitude affects myself as well as others. I struggle with ‘perception.’ I never mean to come off in a certain (perhaps offensive) way, but all that matters is how others perceive you. Going into the second day with a positive attitude honestly changed my experience from one that would have otherwise been bad to a really great one. I’m the one that sees rain and says “oh, better luck tomorrow” before climbing back in bed and taking a nap, and doing such rigorous activity in the rain and having a great time really showed me the power of the mind once again.
I learned that the natural environment is so important to a healthy lifestyle. This is the kind of thing I need in my life not only for physical health but mental health as well. This weekend did more for me and my mental health after a stressful week than anything manmade could have done.