What more can you ask for but a perfect weekend.

We had one of those rare Easter breaks here in Western Australia where the weather  cooperated to make it an absolutely gorgeous long weekend. Neither too hot nor too cold nor too windy nor too wet. In fact – just perfect.

The mornings were cool allowing a couple of good hikes over the weekend while the days gradually warmed up to a very pleasant 28 – 30ish degrees.

Monday morning I was hiking by 6.30am and the light at that time is just perfect for photography. I’ve shown you this place before (Bells Rapids) but these photos just show the scary state of our water supply at the end of summer with the level so much lower than it was around 6 months ago when I first started hiking in this area. Let’s hope for a wet winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood Friday was spent with family at the mouth of the Moore River about an hour’s drive north of Perth. It was warm enough for the girls to swim (briefly that is) and do a spot of fishing.

They actually caught quite a few fish, unfortunately they were all rather small and were released (after being given names) to disappear back into the depths. I’m sure they didn’t learn though (the fish, not the girls) and were actually caught more than once.

Even though it’s so close to home it must be 40 years since I was here last – it’s changed but not that much.

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Not quite a meal I'm afraid.

Not quite a meal I’m afraid.

Train hard, Fight easy.

No, I’m not training for the SAS, although at times I do begin to wonder.

I mentioned recently how well my training was going and hence (don’t you love that word) my decision to extend my trek and go as far as Everest Base Camp next year. My friends, the steps, are gradually succumbing to my constant attempts to defeat them but, each time I get comfortable with the number of times I’m climbing them, my slightly pushy training partner (AKA Yes sir Sergeant Major) decides it’s time to add on a couple more ups and downs. Would you believe we’re up to 14 – yes, 14 times up and 14 times down.

Steps, steps and more steps1

I’ve now also started doing regular weekend hikes, these were initially done with a small (very small) backpack but last weekend I figured it was time to delay no longer and do it with the PROPER daypack. You remember the one, made to fit us ladies, and how excited I was to be buying it.

Hiking with pack

The day pack & I – our first outing together

So, I put a few things into it, including a litre bottle of water (which is quite heavy in itself), and set off on my walk along the Bells Rapids Trail. Unfortunately the steepest part of this trail is at the beginning, before my legs have actually had time to realize what they are meant to be doing and, with the aforementioned training partner striding out on legs rather longer than mine, it’s a struggle to keep up. But, the whole Base Camp Trek thing is not a race, so as long as I get to where I’m going I’m happy.

I must say I coped very well with the larger pack, in fact, if anything, it was more comfortable than the small one. It didn’t feel cumbersome and the straps didn’t rub at all, from now on I’ll gradually be adding weight to it.

Bells Rapids Trail waterfall

Half way up the waterfall – not much water falling I’m afraid.

Not content with the track though we have also taken to climbing. The first week it was up a number of rocky outcrops to find a waterfall. We found it but there wasn’t a lot of water falling from it. We’ve also taken to scrambling up some large boulders for our mid hike break. I must say it’s worth it for the views.

Bells Rapids Trail

The view is worth the climb

Ultimately though all of this hard work will be worth it, I’d rather find it difficult now then when I get to the Himalayas. So, in the immortal words of the SAS I intend to TRAIN HARD, FIGHT EASY.

Taking a hike… and getting lost!

This weekend it was time to go one step further with the training. It’s all very well that I can climb lots of steps but I now needed to make sure I could last for more than an hour at a time out on a track so it was time to find a bush track to practice a bit of endurance.

When I looked into the options for bushwalking there were plenty, there’s stretches of the Bibbulmum Track I could do, there are several walks in the John Forest National Park and a number of tracks around Mundaring Weir. I chose what I considered was a relatively easy walk but if I’ve learned anything this weekend it’s not to believe what you read or at least not read into it what you want to see.

After much deliberation I decided to do a 9km trek starting from Bells Rapids in the Swan Valley. I printed off directions and instructions and even bought a compass. Not that I’m generally directionally challenged but the directions included compass headings so I figured a compass would come in handy. Let’s put it this way, I would have been lost (pun intended) without it.

I spent Friday evening packing a small backpack (working my way up to the PROPER daypack), making sure I had water, snacks, bandaids, flyspray, camera etc. etc.

Saturday morning I was awake with the birds at the crack of dawn – nothing like a new adventure to get you motivated – and I was at the starting point of the trail by 8.15am.

The walk started at the long bridge over the rapids. There was a clear blue sky but the wind had a certain chill to it. I took a breath and set off over the bridge.

A minute or two later and the idyllic morning turned difficult. To be precise, the terrain turned difficult. I rounded a bend and the track rose vertically in front of me. Well, maybe vertically is a bit of an exaggeration but I think you get the picture. It was a fair incline.

As my legs, used as they are to the steps we normally train on, adjusted to the uneven ground, I must admit that my mind was thinking ‘this is good, I’m likely to encounter this sort of think on THE TREK, I need to be able to cope with it.’ So cope with it I did.

The views on the way up the track and from the top were certainly worth the trouble. Despite the gusting winds on the top of Mt Mambup, I took a seat on a rock, had a swig of water, ate a protein bar and appreciated where I was, literally and figuratively.

Unfortunately though, it was after this relaxing moment that I came unstuck. The aforementioned purchase of the compass had been a godsend up to now and I had navigated my way up the track and across the grassland without too much trouble. Now though I had trouble.

The directions I had printed off from the website gave detailed directional instructions but no distances, just the likes of ‘head initially NNE to cross the grassy summit area and then continue NE-ward down the initial gentle hillside.’ Ok, how far before I go from NNE to NE? ‘Find the gap in the rocks to head eastward more steeply downhill then veer north,’ aaaargh!!!!

It did give GPS points but it also said at the beginning that  a GPS wasn’t essential. Needless to say I don’t have a GPS.

I tried various routes off the top of the hill but when it says things like ‘follow the track back up the hillside,’ and you haven’t actually found the track in the first place, life becomes a little worrying.

After a while I gave up and decided to go back down the way I had come. Not so easy, that didn’t seem to work either. Do you think I could actually find the track I came up on?

Anyway, I set off in the general direction of down, hit a few hurdles, in the way of impassable routes and fences that needed climbing over, but eventually chanced upon a track that looked familiar and was heading in the right direction. I had survived my own little drama.

It was on the way down that I was really able to appreciate the views and the wildflowers. It’s the perfect time of the year to see the wildflowers at their best here in Western Australia. I’m no expert and I haven’t got a clue what they’re called but these looked lovely.

I finally made it back down to the river, none the worse for the experience and quite proud of the fact that I had done it by myself and not panicked. Let’s face it, panic gets us nowhere.