Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

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The Quintessential Australian Travel Bucket-list : Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP

How many times have you met tourists who’ve seen more of your country than you have?

Even though I felt like I’ve done quite a bit of travelling around this vast ol’ Aussie continent, much of it has been during roadtrips with my family in childhood (#AreWeThereYet #MumImBored) or as an adult, to places that are hiking Meccas as I heed the call to bushwalking prayer.

A few years back I realised that there’s a whole chunk of the tourist destination market (mostly iconic overseas images of Australia) that I’d simply never been to. These are the ones that I had to admit to never seeing, feeling somewhat embarrassed, whenever overseas visitors raved about them.

So, I set about forming a list of places in my own country, that I’d like to see. I call it the, “DRUANTH” list or Down-Right-un-Australian-Not-To-Have, list. It is made up of two rough types, being 1) tourist icons and 2) bushwalking/hiking friendly. The nice thing is finding ones that can be on both lists!

Uluru at Sunrise (Pic: Caro Ryan)

Uluru at Sunset (Pic: Caro Ryan)

The video above is my visual reflection of my first visit to Uluru Kata-Tjuta NP visit. I felt like I needed to experience this place for myself, feel it and listen to the sounds of it, learn what it has to teach me.

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Windswept tree at Uluru (pic: Caro Ryan)

My feelings were that I found Uluru to be an immensely sad place, it had a heaviness about it. I was astounded that people still felt that they needed to climb to the top given the gentle requests of the local traditional owners. I took part in the free interpretative guided walk with the ranger and then walked the easy 9.4 km around the base as well as spent a good amount of time at the Discovery Centre trying to learn what I could.

Walking track around Uluru (pic: Caro Ryan)

Walking track around Uluru (pic: Caro Ryan)

The feelings at Kata Tjuta were in stark contrast to those that I felt at Uluru. As I set off along the Valley of the Winds Circuit (7.4km – they say 4 hrs, I did it in 1hr 45min) I felt a welcoming, a warmth (that wasn’t just the 33 degree temps!) and a sense of laughter.

Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds walk (pic: Caro Ryan)

Moon over Kata Tjuta – Valley of the Winds walk (pic: Caro Ryan)

Although I was alone, like at Uluru, this time I felt welcomed in this place. Hard to describe and probably sounds a bit wacky, but this was my experience.

Kata Tjuta - Valley of the Winds walk (pic: Caro Ryan)

Kata Tjuta – Valley of the Winds walk (pic: Caro Ryan)

On the third day of my trip, I travelled out to Kings Canyon which is a 652km round trip from Yulara (the accommodation village at Uluru), which means that if you’re going to do it alone, in a day, then snoozing on a tour bus that departs before dawn with a breakfast stop on the way, is definitely the best way to go.

Kings Canyon (pic: Caro Ryan)

Kings Canyon (pic: Caro Ryan)

Although I enjoyed the easy 6km loop track around the rim of the canyon, it really is only a taster for much more adventurous trips in the area. I kept wishing I was with some hiking friends, with our gear and could runaway from the tour group!

I’m super keen to return and do the Giles Track and Kathleen Springs walks that my bushwalking friends Tom Brennan and Rachel Grindley documented in their great website with amazing photos that I’ve linked to here.

And just so you don’t get a shock when you get there…

You know how you always see lovely photographs of Uluru at sunrise or sunset – the classic picture postcard shot that give a sense of isolation?…

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Uluru sunset on grass (Pic: Caro Ryan)

… this is what you are surrounded by whilst trying to find your sense of wonder and isolation, witnessing the colours changing on Uluru.

Hoards of tourists, wining and dining, jostling for position to the sound of camera snaps… but it's worth it!

Hoards of tourists, wining and dining, jostling for position to the sound of camera snaps… but it’s worth it!

So, if you’re coming as a private traveller, BYO otherwise you’ll start salivating for all the goodies that people around you are enjoying.

What destinations are on your DRUANTH list (for the Aussies) or the DRU*NTH list (for everyone else)?

Blue Mountains – Open for Business!

This October has been an incredibly difficult one for many people living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

I’ve had non-hiker friends say to me, ‘Oh, you must be so sad about your beloved Blue Mountains and the fires?’ I kind of didn’t know what to say. I don’t live there, I haven’t raised a family there, had the comfort of home and community there, been gripped by the gut wrenching fear of losing my home, physical memories and pets, let alone loved ones and friends.

Sure, I spend a lot of time there, my car can almost drive itself, but apart that, not being able to walk in the burnt or (relatively small) closed areas is only an inconvenience to me. It simply means changing my plans – not changing my life. Nearly 200 families lost everything. It’s not about me.

So what can we (those not affected by the fires) do?

  1. Donate money – Cold, hard, cash can bring warm, soft and practical outcomes! There are various charities and funds set up. Choose one that resonates with you. My pick is http://www.salvos.org.au | ph: 137 258
  2. Help a mate – Do you personally know people who are affected? Maybe a member of your bushwalking club? A colleague? Ask them what they need or just be there for them and simply listen.
  3. Encourage anyone you know who may be affected to seek help. The Salvo’s are providing a range of services from trauma counselling, practical supplies, short and  long term assistance, helping people plan for the future, financial counselling and legal advice. I mean seriously, when you’ve lost everything… where do you even start?
  4. And here’s the fun one… Visit the Blueys! – It’s bad enough that people lost homes and suffered so much during the height of the fires, but now, the lack of tourists and visitors to the region is damaging local businesses. If it continues, people could lose their jobs. What are you waiting for? Get off your toosh and get up there! Sure, you might not be able to visit some of the tracks or canyons for a while, but it’s an ideal time to see all those other attractions, canyons or tracks that you’ve, ‘always been meaning to do.’ Here’s some thoughts:
  • So often, us bushwalkers/canyoners, will leave Sydney at 6am, arrive in the mountains at 8am and head straight to the track-head. We’ll spend an awesome day out in the bush, then turn around and head back. 4 hrs in the car for 9 hrs on the P1020760track. Why not leave work a bit early on a Friday and spend a night in a local hotel/YHA/B&B, before starting out on the Saturday morning? I’ve recently become a fan of the wonderful warm hospitality at the Ivanhoe Hotel at Blackheath. If you’re on a budget (or had a few too many cooling ales with their enormous steak, salad, chips and pepper sauce after a hike – I deny all rumours to that effect!) this pub is perfect! I recently had a room upstairs, set back from the main road and slept very well. I think I paid $30 for a room with share bathroom. Good old fashioned Aussie pub accommodation and the squeaky floorboards are thrown in for free!
  • Spend a day, ‘doing all the touristy’ things. You’ve whinged about the tourists blocking the tracks in a dazed state at the bottom of the Scenic Skyway/Railway/Cableway for years… when was the last time you checked it out for yourself? Scenic World might surprise you! Oh, and the lovely staff have just put up their favourite things to do in the mountains… good tips there!
  • Whilst you’re down that way in the Jamison Valley, see what millions of tourists each year see of our Blue Mountains… look through their eyes… imagine you’re seeing it for the first time and walk the Prince Henry Clifftop walk. Then, put your adventure hat on and research the options for continuing further around the valley, above or below the clifflines.
  • P1020796And my new personal favourite… The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The audio/visual exhibition about the Blueys World Heritage is really amazing. There’s an art gallery, shop, cafe and lovely rooftop open space. A real surprise.
  • Go for a wander up and down Katoomba Street and check out the Antique and other shops. There’s been a lot of change in the last few years and wizzing past at 7.30am, you’ve probably missed it all except Elephant Bean (my favourite Katoomba coffee) which is usually the only place open at that time.
  • Stretch your legs from Katoomba and walk through the back streets to Leura. Dream about owning one of those lovely old timber mountain cottages… maybe even buy one! That’s supporting the locals, eh?
  • Join the Sunday driver crowds in Leura and wander the main drag.
  • Drink and eat at Red Door coffee (my Leura favourite)
  • Drink and eat at Anonymous cafe (my Blackheath favourite)
  • Check out (and BUY) from the local artists at Bespoke and Found and The Nook, Leura. P1020783A great co-op of local artists and artisans. Huge variety – from edgy out there stuff, to things that even your Nanna would love. Thankfully, they’re a PFZ – potpourri free-zone.
  • And from the, ‘where have you been all my life?’ files… Mrs Peel. Deep love indeed.P1020772
  • Come to the mountains and do ALL your Christmas shopping in the Mountains.
  • Buy accommodation gift vouchers for friends and family… then they can come too!
  • Don’t just drop in to the Apple Bar for a meal/soothing ale on the way home after a canyon or walk… you Stink! Haven’t you often thought, “Geez, it would be nice to spend a P1020830weekend up here.” What could be better than a long, lazy, lunch, chowing down on one of their amazing woodfire pizzas with more than one or two shandies, and walk back to a nearby B&B? Sigh, Apple Bar… How do I love thee? I cannot count the ways.
  • How often have you P1020824driven past Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens (Now called Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens) and never actually ventured inside? It’s truly beautiful and the home to the Royal Botanic Gardens (in Sydney), cool climate plants.
  • Sick of hearing Simon Marnie talk on ABC702 about the Farm Gate Trail every Saturday morning and never actually visited any of the farms? Giving particular focus to the farms nearby the bushfire area..Stop listening… start visiting. www.hawkesburyharvest.com.au
  • Go wine tasting… not quite BLOR area, but Ebenezer not only has a couple of great wineries (especially www.tizzana.com.au), but is also home to Australia’s oldest church!
  • Do a high ropes / zip line course at Treesadventure.com.au in Yarramundi, at the junction of the Nepean and Grose Rivers. If you like being up close and personal with Blue Gums, this put you right UP in them. Oh, and someone else can do the rigging and safety for once!
  • Challenge yourself to eat the menu (or the list) at the Fat Canyoners Good Grub Guide. Awesome resource (the whole site that is, not just the food page), which outlines all the places to eat on the way to/from bushwalks and canyons. Check it out and then email the Fat Canyoner himself with some new finds!

www.visitbluemountains.com.au/events.php

www.hawkesburytourism.com.au

My advice?

Visit

Eat

Drink

Spend

Stay

Walk

Repeat

Hiking on the Gold Coast… Really?

It’s fair to say that there are different types of hikers out there and that the outdoors is a very subjective place. What is one person’s Everest, is another’s anthill.

Mt Tambourine Rainforest

Mt Tambourine Rainforest

For those of us who venture out weekly and find that the weight of an overnight pack on our backs brings a comforting sense of home, it can be easy to forget what it’s like for the rest of the population.

For all those friends and family who think we’re a little nuts and no matter how much we bang on about the unwordable moments of delight we experience in wild places, they will simply never get it.


Recently, I had a great day being hosted by Gold Coast Tourism as part of the ProBlogger Conference which was held at the QT hotel (totally rate it!) at Surfers Paradise. It was a day packed with various adventurous activities, but the one I looked most forward to was the visit to the Skywalk in Mt Tambourine. It was to be the closest I’d get to my beloved wilderness amidst other action packed moments which included jet boating (yes, that’s me clapping and laughing like a child in the front row yelling, ‘faster! faster!’), screaming

Never too old for roller coasters!

Never too old for roller coasters!

down rollercoasters at Movieworld and beer drinking… just not at the same time.

The incredibly lush, green colour of the Mt Tambourine rainforest was a stark contrast to the white sand and blue waters of the coastal areas I’d cycled past in the morning.

A perfect day cycling along the coast to breakfast

A perfect day cycling along the coast to breakfast

As I ventured out onto the raised walkway, high above my normal route, suspended in the canopy I found myself looking around at the other people enjoying the moment. You couldn’t get further away from my usual ragtag bunch of smelly hikers (sorry guys!), but standing in the sunny moment, I was loving this.

Suspended high in the canopy at Mt Tambourine

Suspended high in the canopy at Mt Tambourine

Here was a family business that was set up to allow “the rest of the population”, to enjoy a taste of what us hardened types get to see regularly. All shapes and size, cultures and backgrounds, were breathing in deeply the lush green atmosphere.

Boutique Beer Tasting at MT Brewery

Boutique Beer Tasting at MT Brewery

To be honest, before I went on this day out, I couldn’t think of anywhere less I would want to go, than the Gold Coast. In my head, it was all about highrise buildings, casinos and schoolies (shudder).

However, I very quickly had to change my mind, when I realised that that picture belongs only to Surfers Paradise – one small aspect of the Gold Coast. I can’t wait to go back and discover more hidden gems of this much maligned Aussie holiday icon.

Q: What’s one place that you’ve had to change your mind about when the reality was not what you had been led to believe?

Witches Chase Cheese Platter... to die for!

Witches Chase Cheese Platter… to die for!