Two Bays Walking Track

On the Mornington Peninsula, there is a 28km trail that runs between Port Phillip Bay, and Westerport Bay. It starts at sea level, ascends approximately 700 metres, before descending again to sea level.

At the moment I am training for the Cooloola Great Walk so I am spending a lot of time down along the Two Bays trail. It’s so great, I want to share it, so that others that don’t already know about it can go and enjoy it too.

If you plan to hike the whole trail in one day, you will need to park a car at each end. One end is in Domana, and the other is the Cape Schanck Lighthouse.

Port Phillip Bay, shot from Arthurs Seat; Two Bays Trail.

If you plan to do the whole trail, you will need to allow about seven or eight hours, depending on how quickly you walk, and your level of experience. I highly recommend doing the trail for the first few times in sections. Personally, I break it down into three sections, and do them separately as out and back day trips. I’ll give you the breakdown that I usually do, but I also recommend you consult a few other sources, such as the park notes by Parks Victoria.

Section one: Dromana to Mclarens Dam.

This should be 14km – 17km depending on if you add the Kings Falls Circuit, and a walk around Seawinds.

When we go, we leave by 8am, do seawinds (Arthurs Seat lookout etc) and then get back onto the two bays trail, stopping at all the lookout points etc. There is almost always kangaroos once you get back onto the trail after seawinds which is always exciting no matter how many times I see them!

After seawinds, you will reach a wide open crossroad area. Your choice will be to turn right and head downhill towards Mclarens dam, or to continue straight ahead (and slightly uphill) to complete the Kings Falls Circuit. If you are new to this walking thing, just choose one; The circuit or the Dam (the circuit is the easier of the two).

Once back at the crossroads, head downhill towards Mclarens Dam. This is such a picturesque place. On the walk down the hill towards the damn, I have seen Kangaroos, Lizards, Kookaburras and other native birds, and even an Echidna! This is definitely the spot where you want to bring your international friends!

Mclarens Dam is a great spot to make your lunch break spot if its your turnaround point for the day, or perhaps a morning tea stop if you are doing a one way all day hike. There is a huge pine tree by the dam that provides shade almost any time of day. The shade, combined with the tranquility of the dam makes for a great rest stop to refuel for the rest of your journey.

The misleading part of an out-and-back hike is that you will have just as much energy on the way back, as what you did on the way there. You can, provided you carry enough food. I suggest earing a small day pack sized backpack, and carrying some lightweight snacks like fruit, some trail mix, and my new favorite, some smooshed wholefood balls. Woolies has had them on sale for half price lately and I have to tell you, I am a huge fan of the Apricot & Cacao balls.

After lunch, simply head back the way you came. Dont curse too much on the way back up the hill (the kangaroos will hear you!) And don’t forget to stretch once you get back to the car!

I’ll add in sections two and three in the next few days. Cant wait to tell you about my favorite part of the trail!!

 

Til next time,

Sarah

xx

Hiking Victorias highest peaks

Early January 2018 , Rowan and I planned to go along with some friends on a multi-day hike from Mt Feathertop to Mt Bogong. Foolishly, I didn’t do any research or preparation prior to committing to doing the hike. I had done a few days bushwalking here and there, including what I perceived to be some really tough ones, and I thought that was it? How much harder can it be to do the same thing for a few days in a row?

Oh how wrong I was. Unbeknownst to me, the Harrietville > Bogong five-day hike is one of Victorias toughest.

The night before the hike, we drove the four-hour stretch from Melbourne to Harrietville, set up our tent at the trail head and bunkered down. It was pouring with rain. Brilliant!

In the morning, after packing up our tent and gear in the rain, we quickly ducked in to the local cafe for one last luxury – a nice hot latte before we headed out. By this point, I was already totally soaked through. My rain jacket was obviously not as waterproof as I thought it was.

Luckily Rowan has a spare raincoat in his car – a high vis jacket he keeps for the coldest, and wettest mornings at work. I was warm and dry again.

We set off. Within an hour of starting, the trail had significantly increased in altitude. we were ascending at a much quicker rate that what I had anticipated. I had new hiking poles, and my friends Megan and Wayne were giving me  a crash course in how to use them effectively, as we continued up and up.

The rain did not let up for the first few hours. Thankfully, the day before, we had seen the forecast and had made a quick stop at Kathmandu to buy some pack covers; so we took comfort knowing our home for the next four nights wouldn’t be sopping wet when we arrived.

As we continued our ascent, I could feel a burning sensation in my heels. I was already struggling with the weight of my pack, the rain, the steep trail, and trying to use these new hiking poles, so I didn’t voice my concerns and told myself I was imagining the pain.

Finally, the sun came out and the rain eased. We all dried off and stopped for a snack in the warm sunshine, before continuing upwards.

Victorias highest peaks hike

By mid afternoon we reached Federation Hut, near the summit of Mt Feathertop. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see it! Now all we needed to do was set up our tents and relax for the afternoon.

We set up our hike stove to boil some water and make some hot tea, and then sat for a while.

Eventually, I took off my boots to assess the damage. Blisters the size of the palms of my hands were on the heel of each foot. No wonder there was that burning sensation!

After airing out my damp, damaged feet, we whipped out the first aid kit…  We use the antiseptic cream, bandaids, metho and tape, and my feet are looked after as best as they can be while we are out on the trail.

I was well and truly done for the day. We set up our tents, and then headed inside the hut to start a fire and try to dry out some of our gear.

I don’t think I have ever slept as well as I slept that night. Pure fatigue, combined with a tummy full of warm food and a nice cosy tent.

The next morning, we awoke before sunrise and put on every layer of clothing we had (despite being the middle of January, the mornings are still very cool in the Alpine areas). We grabbed our head torches and finished the final steps to reach the summit of Mount Feathertop! Amature hiker Sarah Rourke, totally unprepared and unskilled, had now hiked to the summit of Victorias second highest peak!

Sunrise at Mt Feathertop

I had only learned that Mt Feathertop was our second highest peak about half way up it the day before, so I was pretty proud of my achievement!

We watched the sun slowly creep up over the rest of the Alpine vista ahead of us. We were all so excited to be there together, witnessing such a spectacular sunrise. We wrote our names down in the little book we found with the names of all those who had conquered this peak before us, and headed back to the hut.

Victorias highest peaks hike

The other thing I had found out the day before, was that Feathertop is second to Mt Bogong (the one we had planned to hike to over the next few days), Victorias highest peak, and that days two, three and four are anticipated to be much tougher than day one. Considering my inexperience, and the baseball sized blisters on my heels, Rowan and I decided to part ways with Megan and Wayne. We went back down the way we came, while they continued on with out us.

 

Giving up on day two was pretty disheartening; we said goodbye to our friends, wishing them well for the rest of their walk. We packed up our tent, had some breakfast and set off down the mountain.

The twelve kilometre descent was still a pretty tough gig, but we got down to the car a lot faster than it took us to get to the top. The weather had improved, and we had a beautiful clear day to walk in and enjoy sweeping views from our vantage point above the valleys below.

View from Mount Feathertop - Victorias highest peaks hike

 

Victorias highest peaks hike Mt Feathertop

Once we’d reached the bottom, the disappointment set in that I had given up. I dreaded answering anyone who asked “How was your hike?” (as if my hobbling around for weeks on end while my blisters healed didn’t give it away) but, despite my first experience at multi day hiking, I am now hooked.

Just like anyone else, who has gone into something totally unprepared, I learned a lot. Basic stuff like what to wear in wet weather, to be prepared for anything, and how to pack my backpack are all things that would have been really handy to know before hand, but I don’t think other people’s advice is ever as good as first hand knowledge, so whatever – at least I know that stuff now!!

The endorphin rush I got when I was standing on top of a mountain I had just climbed is worth every ounce of pain I felt on that hike, and then some. I have memories that will last a lifetime, and now I know I can do it! If I achieved that, with zero preparation, no training, lack of correct equipment, and carrying about five kilograms more than I needed, imagine what I can do with a bit of training!

Victorias highest peaks hike

 

I cant wait to tell you all about my upcoming hiking plans – there are a few good ones coming up!

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think in the comments below. Am I crazy? Do you want to go hiking now? Did the description of my blisters gross you out?

 

Until next time,

Sarah

xxx

10 easy steps for planning your first overseas holiday

  1. Choose a destination.

Choosing the destination doesn’t need to be a hard task. Use a recommendation from a friend, go somewhere you have always wanted, or stick a pin in a map with a blindfold on! Whatever your method, if you research the destination enough before your travel, you will have a great holiday! Every destination has a lot more to offer than the top ten tourist traps and cookie cutter experiences, no matter whether it’s a far-flung destination in East Africa, or something tried and tested by almost every Australian, like Bali.

Once you have decided where you want to go, start planning! Start a new pinterest board, spreadsheet or notepad in your phone – whatever your method is to keep all of the information in one place. Some key information you should know before you book anything in:

  • The best time of year to go (or at the very least, what the weather will be like when you plan to go).
  • A rough idea of what it costs for flights, transport and a hotel.
  • How far away it is (or how long it will take you to get there).
Ku De Ta

Ku De Ta, Bali

2. Book the holiday.

Now is the time to pop in to your local travel agency. Contrary to popular belief, it is not more expensive to get an agent to book your holiday for you. I mean, you could definitely spend hours upon hours researching every flight, hotel, transfer, day tour and general travel advice, but if you can find a good travel agent, they will save you hours upon hours of time and stress.

A good travel agent will spend some time getting to know you, and then make some recommendations for your destination based on what you have said you are looking for. They should be able to put together a glamorous, instagram worthy 5 star sojourn, or help you backpack your way across an entire continent on your desired budget.

My top tip for using a travel agent is to book someone you feel you have a good connection with and that has shown that they have listened to what you want.

I am biased of course, because my day-job is a travel agent. I have been one for ten years! But this just gives me inside information. The way it works (with the company I work for, anyway) is that the airlines, hotels, tour operators etc pay the travel agent after the booking has been made, so there is no booking fee or extra costs. You pay the same amount whether you book it yourself, or via the travel agent.

Cinque Terre 8

3. Passport and visas.

Do you already  have a passport? Great! Check the expiry date. You need a minimum of 6 months validity from the date you return from your holiday to travel to most destinations. (For example, if you get home from your trip on 23rd June, 2019, your passport must not expire before 23rd December 2019). If you fail to pick this up, you are very likely to get denied boarding at the airport before your holiday. It will ruin your trip, and cost you a lot of money.

If you haven’t got a passport yet, or you need to renew it, get it done, now. I have written some tips on how to renew your passport in a hurry which you can find here if you need.

You must make sure the name on your flight ticket is spelled the exact same way as it appears on your passport. (eg. If your name is Timothy on your passport, but your ticket reads Tim you will have a problem). Most airlines don’t need middle names, however in most cases, you are better off to put them in all bookings.

Once you have a current passport, you should check if you need a visa. A visa grants you permission to enter the country, not a credit card. Some visas can be applied for online for a small fee, and others require you to go to the consulate, or have your travel agent send your passport off to them, and can take months to be issued.

At time of writing this, some of the countries that require Australian passport holders to have a visa before entering are: USA, Canada, Brazil, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Russia, Egypt and Israel, to name a few.  Please note this is NOT a comprehensive list, and you should check with your travel agent, or with the consulate of the country you are going regarding your circumstances.

passport

4. Health and safety.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to buy your travel insurance. So many people leave this until the last-minute, and buy it the day before they travel. Take some advice from me; A few years ago, I had a 4 week South America trip booked. We had spent over $10,000 prebooking flights, tours and hotels. A few weeks before we were due to leave, we received some bad news that my mum was seriously ill. We cancelled the trip, without hesitation, and thankfully our travel insurance reimbursed us for all of the money we had lost (so we can rebook the trip at a later date!).

Your travel insurance will also cover things like if you are in an accident while you are away, or get sick. (It also covers things like when monkeys bite you while you are in Thailand!).

Before you travel you should check with your GP that your immunisation are up to date. Things like Tetanus, and Hep B are so uncommon in Australia, because people get immunised regularly. It’s easy to forget when you had your last booster! Overseas however, there are a lot more risks. You can also check with Travelvax to see if you need any immunisation. Some common ones for South East Asia are Typhoid and Hep A, where in parts of Africa and South America you will need Malaria tablets and Yellow fever vaccinations, the list goes on.

You can check out health and safety alerts on the Australian Government website  Smartraveller. You can also register your own travel plans, so if something goes wrong, someone knows where you are.

Karon Beach.jpg

Karon Beach, Phuket

5. Suitcase or backpack?

As it gets closer to your trip, you will need to decide what gear you are taking with you. The first place to start is whether to take a backpack, or a traditional suitcase. The correct gear very much depends on the type of trip you do. I favour my tried and tested Kathmandu Entrada 65 litre lightweight backpack for most trips but if I’m travelling for work, or for a short domestic trip, I sometimes use a standard suitcase.

Once you have picked your choice of pack, you can fill your case! What goes in it will depend very much on where you are travelling, so I wont go into that here, but you will be able to get suitable packing lists from friends or family. (Or, if you need a hand, hit me up in the comments and I’ll give you a hand).

Your nearest travel shop or outdoors/adventure store will also be able to point you in the right direction. My best piece advice though; Less is more. Once you have packed your case, take out 5 things.

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6. Money

If you intend on using your bankcard/credit card overseas, you will need to let your bank know where you are going. Even if you don’t plan to use them, I suggest notifying them anyway, so they are available to you in case of an emergency.

You also need to decide how you want to access your money. I usually carry some cash, but put most of my money on a travel card (I use the one provided by Flight Centre as the fees are really low, but you can get them from your bank or the post office too).

When I was travelling in Colombia on my own, I carried cash only, as ATMs are hard to find. On a night out drinking, I was a super-dork and carried my cash in a money belt, under my dress, and only a small amount in my handbag. (Most of the time I only carry a max of $200AUD of cash, so if I get robbed, it’s not a huge loss). In Bali, and in India I carried AUD, and exchanged it as I travelled around. In Europe, I took a few hundred Euros with me before I left home, but used my international travel card for most stuff. I’ve done the same in USA. Every country you go to is going to require a different approach.

7. Camera

I personally carry my camera almost everywhere I go, but phone cameras are such good quality now, I find I end up using my iPhone almost as often as my bulky SLR, so I am currently considering  upgrading to a smaller, lightweight camera. The list of tech items you might like to bring can go on and on, but this is not a packing list… (Perhaps that could be my next post?!

Orvietto

8. Phone / data

If you are travelling for a significant amount of time, buying a sim card locally that allows you to text and call, and gives a good amount of data is a good idea. If you are going for a few weeks, and not planning on hiking, camping or travelling anywhere too remote, you can probably get by using the free wi-fi provided at most hotels, cafes, bars, train stations, airports, well… most places! When I’m travelling, I usually switch my phones data off, and then put the phone on to flight mode. I then turn wifi back on and search for the free stuff. This is undoubtedly the cheapest method, however if you want to post your insta-worthy travel pic as soon as you take it, without waiting til you get back to your hotel, or need to be able to be contacted 24/7, you should seek an alternative. Check with your own service provider first, as they are pretty competitive for short-term travel. If you are going somewhere far-flung or for an extended period, a pre-paid sim from the country you are in will be the cheapest option.

9. Travel apps

There are so many great apps available now to help every traveller have a better experience. I’ll do another post on my favorite apps later, but until then, my top three  apps that you should have in your phone before you set off are maps.me, been, and Google translate

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10. Go on holidays!

Whether you followed this guide to a tee, packed and repacked, and carefully planned your trip months in advance, or you have just stumbled on this guide and you leave in a few days, don’t panic too much if you are not super prepared. If you forget something, you can probably buy in on your way. Don’t have a camera (or forgot it) well you’ll probably live more in the moment that way. If you get lost, you might just have the best adventure!

Overcoming obstacles while travelling teaches you so much about yourself, and gives you amazing skills that you never would have realised you had otherwise. Live in the moment, and enjoy your hard earned break.

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Until next time!

Sarah

xx