You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.

Dave and Holly, our Kiwi friends, heard us profess our hiking mission over dinner (and vodka) and decided to join along this week.

Claire the vicambulist, spreading the word of walking one person at a time.

Week 3: Werribee Gorge State Park – circuit walk
Distance: 10 kms
Grade: moderate to difficult
Weight: appx 6-7 kgs

It was a hot one today in Melbourne.  A top of 34, and a series of unfortunate events put us at the trailhead just before midday. The walk was mostly exposed, and moderate in grade, up and down the gorge cliffs.  But although it was incredibly hot, there was a soft breeze, and it was a good, varied trek.

Not more than 20 minutes in, we spotted an echidna.  Score another one for Claire & Steve’s adventures spotting furtive Australian fauna!

(getting a closer look)

(if I can’t see you… you can’t see me… right?)

We also brought Bentley (bad idea). It was longer and hotter than we’d judged.  Plus, as we discovered, the trail involves several sections of scrambling, including one with a “handrail” to assist.  It took a 3-man handoff shuffling the lil’ pup like a football to get him around the bend…

(note the wire affixed to rock ledge)

But in the end, sweaty and breathless (and nearly out of water) we completed the circuit.  We rewarded ourselves with some snacks and a well-earned cold beverage.   All and all, it was a challenging but good hike for week 3.

(a tired lil pup gets a lift)

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It was a sweltering 35°C today.  Which made for a splendid summer night. What, pray tell, was this perfect evening? Clues below…

The winning answer earns a prize of A$5,000*

“I carried a watermelon”

[insert dancing on a suspended tree trunk and monkey-like laughter]

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner”

*payable only against demand in person in Melbourne, Australia

No, that’s not a new WB tween drama, its our hiking itinerary for week 2!

Week 2:  Fern Tree Gully to One Tree Hill
Distance: 9 kms
Grade: moderate
Weight: 13-15 kgs

With packs stuffed full to simulate an overnight hike, we set out on the train from Richmond to the Upper Fern Tree Gully area of the Dandenongs.  We were out to test the packs, and our legs, on a more challenging walk with a little elevation change. 45 minutes later, we were at the base of the Dandenong Ranges ready to spend the afternoon tramping.

It can sometimes be difficult to gauge a new hike.  We’ve found the Victoria Parks Service assessment of “moderate” trails can range from easy flat walks requiring only stamina to go the distance and seriously challenging multi-grade walks.  Turns out though when they say steep, they definitely mean… steep.

The first leg of the hike up the Lyrebird Track was a seriously vertical incline.  We huffed and puffed under the weight, and I glared enviously at the walkers and runners barreling down the hill we were so struggling to ascend.  But after an initial rough period, we set into a more comfortable and sustainable stride.  Eventually, we flatted out and around at One Tree Hill, and started a slower and more gentle descent.  Deep in the forest, we had the cool woods nearly to ourselves for the afternoon, strolling among the trees.

We combined a number of trails to reach the right distance: the Lyrebird Track to the top of One Tree Hill, branching around on Tysons Track, and back down on the Outlook Track and Belview Terrace. There was a somewhat extensive network of tracks to loop, and given how easy it was to reach via train, we’ll definitely be going back for some more training exercises!

Part 2 of Week 2 was Sunday.  With tired legs, my goal was to simulate the distance walking portions of the Milford Track.  I walked down to St. Kilda beach and back, over 15kms, over the course of 4-5 hours.  Woah hamstrings. 

But that’s the goal of training, testing limits and finding areas of improvement!

March is going to be quite a month on our feet.  Among other things, we’ve committed to hike the Milford Sound Track in New Zealand with dad and donna — it’s a 4 day, 55km hike through fjordland on the South Island. Should be pretty awesome, and a physical challenge for all of us.

If past is any precedent, it’s important to prepare properly for multi-day hikes… So we’re determined to do a series of training hikes, one every week for the next 2 months, to get read for the big show.

Unfortunately, morning rain dampened our plans for a hike in the Dandenongs on Sunday.  Steve was already underenthused and slightly hungover, so he settled in for an afternoon of his favorite Sunday activity: watching NFL (taped).  Determined not to slip a week behind I did the only thing that made sense; I walked out the front door and just kept walking…

Week 1: Richmond to CBD; the scenic route
Distance: 13 kms
Grade: easy
Weight: appx 6-7kgs

I’d learned the week before, when an impromptu urge to bike to work during the holiday lull hit me, that although it’s a short 3km direct route from Hosie Street to the city, it takes 3x as long if you follow the winding Yarra River (a full 10 kms).  Fully aware of my ridiculous appearance, I strapped on the hiking boots and a pack weighted down with clothes and books and trekked a 13km loop along the river, through the CBD, and back down bustling Bridge Road.

Strangely, the rain had not lowered the temperature and an uncharacteristic humidity hung in the air.  But the river provided a light breeze and all in all it was a good test for distance (if not elevation).

Dad & donna are also diligently getting ready for the hike (although in much different terrain!)

Borsche, Vodka & Tears. When vodka tastes this good, every drop wasted is a tragedy.  Sophisticated vodka concoctions almost taste like water when paired with upscale Polish food (yes, I appreciate the irony but it’s really an apt description of the cuisine). 

We had two rounds of cocktails ranging from the classic fruits (apple cinnamon, cherry and campari, orange and pomegranate) to inventive combinations like ginger, lemon, absinthe and a stiff “long black” (with 2 shots of espresso!), followed by rounds of shots (the delicate sweet honey vodka was my favorite).

And oh how I had forgotten my love of pierogies; hearty potato-based tapas are a perfect complement to vodka drinking.  Now I have two reasons to go back…

Our Christmas present to each other this year was a hot air balloon flight over the Melbourne CBD.  Due to massive thunderstorms, our flight didn’t go forward on Christmas Eve as planned, so we re-booked for the morning of Jan 3.  Which turned out to be perfect, since our other Christmas present to each other was a weekend in Sydney for NYE.  The hot air balloon ride was icing on the cake.

So how was it you ask?  See for yourself; check out our morning in flight on the out and about page.

pretty. freaking. awesome.  Like, once in a lifetime, awesome. So sweet.

(the happy ballooners)

So this week I finally ate at Mamasita, reportedly the best authentic Mexican joint in the CBD.  Why you ask, has it taken me one year and 4 months since living in Melbourne to visit this reputable eatery? Because the line for Mamasita usually snakes down the second-story stairs and spills onto the sidewalks of Collins Street.  The wait can be up to an hour for a table, and if it takes that long to get a seat imagine how long it takes to get a taco. Yes, my love for Mexican cuisine runs deep, but not my (or Steve’s) patience.

Having now dined there I can tell you it is definitely worth the wait.  Grilled corn with cotija cheese; tostaditas (inventive single nacho tapas); black bean quesadilla; real corn tortillas… Be still my heart.

We spent the 2011 NYE in Sydney, to see the greatest fireworks show on earth.  An estimated 2 million people flooded the harbour and 1 billion people watched on TVs around the world.

We had a perfect vantage point from the balcony of a friend’s apartment, with a direct line view of the harbour bridge (the main event) but also the coordinated displays over Darling Harbour, the office buildings of the CBD, and the northside of the harbour.  It was pretty freaking sweet.

Pictures of our memorable day in Sydney are on the out and about page.

Ah it’s that time of the year again.  One year ends, another begins, prompting contemplative thinking about what life (or at least the next year) has in store and/or excessive champagne consumption.

2011 was a pretty great year.  You might have noticed that we spent it in Melbourne, Australia.  As if that wasn’t enough, I learned to cook kangaroo, re-learned the piano, made it almost all the way through my reading list (Infinite Jest, in all its 500+ page glory, is still waiting in the wings on my bedside table), attempted to make pasta from scratch, blogged my heart out (and even earned a WP kudos for doing so), and did an awful lot of exploring in this beautiful country.

For 2012, I have a similar laundry list of potential personal achievements, a new reading queue, and some holdovers from 2011’s resolution list to finish off (hot air balloon ride and Tassie devil sighting). But after much contemplation, I have decided 2012 will be the year of Claire, the vicambulist.

So instead of professing my commitment to meet general goals for the year, below is my hiking wish list.  Since Australia is relatively flat, it is hard to characterize many of these as “hikes”, but walks, treks or tramps will suffice…

Some are day walks, others are overnight hikes.  And a full 1/3 of the list is already planned for the month of March when dad & donna visit, which is giving us a jump start to the year.  Let’s just say, I am excited to hit the trails in 2012 (ambulance ride optional).

Therefore, I hereby resolve that in 2012 I will hike…

1) in and around Wilson’s Prom (VIC)

2) a New Zealand glacier (South Island, NZ)

3) the misty eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains (NSW)

4) the highest peak in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko (NSW)

5) Snowy River National Park (VIC)

6) at least 2 days of the 9-day Great Ocean Walk (VIC)

7) a portion of the Overland Track, Cradle Mountain (TAS)

8) the Victorian Alps (VIC)

9) the Milford Sound Track (NZ)

10) among waterfalls, rainforests and killer crocodiles in Kakadu National Park (NT)

11) Grampians National Park (VIC); and

12) an international peak with the other members of the fantastic four, location TBD.

In addition to the specifically enumerated walks comes a general commitment to walking where possible in lieu of other forms of transportation.

These boots were made for walking, and in 2012, that’s just what they’ll do!