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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Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

Carrier Carry-on to avoid being Carrion

Quote

Wikipedia states that Wilderness is:

“… a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: “The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”

Farewell Kanangra... until next time.

Looking down Kanangra Gorge towards Mt Cloudmaker (Favours Telstra)

One of the wonderful things about our wild places, is that they are just that, wild. That’s one of the reasons that we’re drawn to them, to feel, live amongst and experience a place that has remained as it is for thousands of years.

So, although these places entice and delight us with their sense of being off the grid, (excellent article BTW), as with any outdoor adventure, there is always some risk of mis-adventure.

So, being the super-safety-chick that I am (kinda embarrassing if someone involved in Search and Rescue doesn’t take precautions for when things go pear shaped), I took heed when my good mate, Roysta [he of many Kanangra NP adventures], mentioned that he has got a ‘backup-SIM’.

You see, in Australia, there are two main mobile phone (cell) carriers; Telstra and Optus.

Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion here about how some people believe we should have our phones switched off in the bush (that’s fodder for another blog!), but there’s been many times when out on a walk someone will have ‘full bars’ with Optus, but nada with Telstra or vice-versa. Oh and as expected, Vodafail is not included in comparison … for obvious reasons.

As it turns out, both Roysta and I are with Optus, but due to a number of trips out to Kanangra – we can vouch that only Telstra will give you any joy from Seymour or Maxwell Tops.

Optus and Telstra - Hedge your bets!

Optus and Telstra – Hedge your bets!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go down this track:

  1. Before you do anything, backup your contacts and phone data.
  2. You’ll need to Network Unlock your phone from its existing carrier. As an example, here’s the instructions from Optus.
  3. Do your research on the different plans (why are there always so many?) for the pre-paid SIM cards. The best deal I could find was $30 for 6 months validity.
  4. Put a note in your diary to remind you when the valid time is nearly up… you’ll need to buy new credit.
  5. Don’t forget to test your new SIM with both calls and SMS.

Sure, I carry a PLB for when things get particularly dodgy and there’s no phone coverage, but I can tell you, it’s a lot easier, quicker and cheaper to make a 000 or 112 (aka 911) call (or SMS a trusted friend) from a mobile, than to set off your PLB. The Cops and AMSA will appreciate it too!

So, thanks to Roysta, I’m now the proud owner of a ‘backup SIM’ with Telstra…

… Now, if only I could remember the number.

Bushwalking/Hiking Etiquette or How to make friends in the Bush (The Unofficial List!)

So, here’s my tips for creating a bunch of happy campers aka The UNOFFICIAL list of Bushwalking or Hiking Etiquette:

  1. Don’t be late: For the leader who has planned out the walk, they may have calculated times for all sorts of things, including returning to cars/making camp by sunset or witnessing the once annual mating call of the Southern Yellow Crested Tit* that can only be heard when facing 178 degrees south at 11.57 am on the peak of Tit Hill. This type of thing is even more important if they’ve had to take things like tidal charts into consideration if crossing river mouths or walking along edges of tidal rivers/streams/beaches. What with modern technology as it is, a call or sms is appropriate if going to be late. In the circles I move in, it’s readily accepted that you wait for 15 minutes at the start for someone, then leave.
  2. Ready and raring to go: Being on time isn’t just about turning up at the start point, it means being ready to start at that time. I’ve had some people turn up for a walk and need to change clothes, call their Mum, eat breakfast, etc whilst everyone else is waiting.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 – 6 7 8 9 10 – 11 12: Our National Parks and Wilderness Areas are pretty special. It’s for this reason (and safety) that there are rules around the size of groups allowed out at the same time. Generally speaking, in Aussie National Parks it’s 12 people and 8 in Wilderness Areas. There are some very grey (I call them dodgy) times where some people believe it is OK to split the group up if they’re over subscribed. I’m not a fan of this.
  4. Burn baby burn: It’s a given that you never leave any rubbish anywhere in the bush. What’s not a given, is everyones feelings about what is acceptable to burn on a fire (if you’re having one). Some people are happy to burn plastic (green smoke and all), whereas others will let out a shrill cry if you so far as waft your noodle packet near the sacred flame. Simply ask before you burn… oh and always wait until people have finished cooking before burning.
  5. So long and thanks for all the fish: If you’re taking tins of tuna or other fish, a handy way to stop the stink is to burn the insides of the tins on the fire. Just don’t forget to dig your tin out of the ashes in the morning, along with any other bits of foil.
  6. No-one likes a gate crasher: Generally speaking, National Parks in NSW have a party limit of 12 and declared Wilderness areas of 8. This means, your Leader is probably keeping a close eye on the number of people booked on their trip. So if you’ve booked and then pulled out, don’t just turn up – not such a nice surprise!
  7. No-one likes a scab: One of the great things about bushwalking/hiking, is discovering how to be self sufficient in the wilderness. So always plan to bring all your own stuff or share food/tents/fly’s, etc with others BEFORE the trip. Don’t turn up at camp and announce, ‘Who am I sharing with?’ or ‘Does anyone have any spare food?’
  8. Leeches – The gift that keeps on taking: When removing leeches, make sure you throw them a good distance away from other people. Then move on promptly.
  9. Be honest about your experience and fitness

    The fish was ‘this’ big: … and I’m ‘this’ fit. Don’t over-estimate your fitness and experience in the bush. If it’s been a year since you’ve been out bushwalking, let your leader know. Oh and going to the gym once or twice a week, does not mean that you’re pack fit for bushwalking for 9 hours on rough tracks. Also, be honest with your leader. If you’re struggling – tell them early.

  10. No-one likes a tight arse: Some bushwalkers are notorious tight wads. So if you’ve been lucky enough to grab a lift in someone’s car – offer them a reasonable amount of cash towards the petrol and running costs. If they won’t accept it, maybe consider popping it into their glove box for a treat when they least expect it.
  11. Say Cheese: Most people are keen on taking a couple of photos on their bushwalks. But there is a limit… like the time when I was in a party escorting a group in difficulty back to their cars (the other half were lost in the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness and I’d activated a Police Search) and one of their party was stopping to take photos… lots of them. Simply be aware of the rest of your party. If everyone else isn’t taking a cazillion of shots – then maybe you should tone it down too.
  12. Karma-Tentra or Tentra-Sutra: You know that really awkward moment when you bump into your neighbour at the letterboxes, the day after you’ve heard them having really loud and presumably athletic sex during the night? Now, imagine the side-ways glances around the breakfast fire or during the day when everyone heard you going for it through the night. So perhaps either exercise the “Boarding School cone-of-silence” or Catholic School abstinence, to avoid the call of ‘AWKWARD”!

    Tents in close proximity at Splendour Rock

  13. Shout out loud: Everyone likes to feel appreciated, so why not buy the Leader/organiser a drink or meal if you stop somewhere on the way home.
  14. Beans means you’re at the back: There’s nothing quite like taking a big deep breath of fresh, wilderness air – Ahhhhh. Unless the person in front of you has been adding to the planet’s methane levels for the last 2 hrs. Of course, it’s better out than in, so if you know you’re having a bit of a windy day down there… volunteer to be ‘Tail End Charlie/Charlene’. If you’re really interested, there’s research that says runners (and other athletes) produce more farts than non-athletes.
  15. Smoking in the bush: Even worse than a lung full of fluffy intestinal-air-pillows is a tasty gulp of tobacco. If you’re addicted and feel the need to smoke when in the bush, use a patch or please move down-wind from everyone, at a good distance away and carry your butts out in an old film canister or similar. And if you are someone who has a penchant for, ‘the green, green grass of home’, remember that quite a few people don’t appreciate another dope on the trip.
  16. Responsibility of the Flickee: … not the Flicker to ensure that you’re not hit in the face with a branch that springs back. You shouldn’t walk so close to the person in front ie. it’s your fault if you cop a mouthful/eyeful/faceful of flora.

    The Flickee

  17. Stick it to em: Along the same lines as above, if the person in front is using walking poles, watch out! However, on this one, there is a bit of responsibility on the Pole-er to ensure they use them correctly and don’t wave them about with no clue.
  18. Windows to the Soul: Sure, you’ve got two of them, but your eyes are so precious and fragile and damage to your eyes in the bush is tricky to treat. If you’re planning on walking through scrub off-track, especially in areas notorious for the spiky and thorny forms of Hakea, wearing a pair of safety glasses is a great way to protect yourself.
  19. Draw breath: Everyone walks for different reasons. The niche group of solo walkers enjoy the silence and solitude. If you’re a ‘walker n’ talker’, consider that not everyone needs to hear your voice all day. If you keep talking, you might find your leader suddenly changing course to ascend a 1000m climb, just to shut you up.
  20. Mobile Phones: If there’s no reason for you to be contacted for important reasons on a walk, please switch them to silent or turn them off. If you’re on call for work or family reasons, just an explanation to everyone at the start might be appreciated by some. Also, a subtle ring-tone might be good, rather than having a bit of GaGa suddenly sprout from your pack in the middle of a quiet rainforest moment.
  21. iPods/MP3 Players: Some people don’t like these at all on walks. But I feel that if the volume isn’t loud enough for others to hear, why should they care if someone wants to listen to music rather than their chatter? On a recent trip up Perry’s Lookdown someone brought out the tunes to help them keep a rhythm and get up quicker. Great idea. Likewise on an extended trip with a lot of road bashing, I’ve been known to listen to podcasts or audio books to pass the time.
  22. You’ve been warned: There’s nothing worse than

    Perfect Lunch Spot on Splendour Rock

    realising that everyone is ready to leave the lunch spot and you still need to pee, re-apply sunscreen, finish reading The Odyssey. The leader should call a 5 minute warning before expecting everyone to be up and walking again. Even better, establish the duration of a rest at the start, eg: “We’ll be having a 40 minute break for lunch”, and then call a series of warnings at 10 mins, 5 mins, etc

  23. Make the hour happy: By now you’ve realised that I’m a big fan of happy hour. That time when you can kick back in front of the fire and chill out after a great day outdoors. Bring a nibble to share with the group and before you know it, you’ll have no room for dinner.
  24. Deer in headlights: When you’re new to wearing a head torch, it’s easy to forget that when you look up to speak with someone (it seems to happen most around the fire or when cooking dinner), you’re shining the torch right into their eyes. Unless you’re a qualified Opthalmologist who does this sort of caper for a living, please desist.
  25. Yes, you smell: It’s a bit of a tradition in my club to head to the nearest pub for a meal and a shandy after a walk. We’ve been known to be shunned from some establishments when we appear covered in leech blood and charcoal after walking through burnt out spots, so it’s a good idea to keep a change of clothes in the car. Whilst you’re at it, a small hand towel and a chux is a good idea along with a bottle of water. Oh… and if you’ve been lucky enough to get a lift with someone in their car, it is always a good idea to change before putting your stinky, dirty, bloody body into their car.
  26. Water, water everywhere: Keep a bottle of water in your car for times when you return after a trip and have run out of water. This is also handy to use with the towel and chux for a bit of a cleanup before hitting the pub.

Q: What are your ‘Unofficial’ etiquette tips for bushwalking or hiking?

* If anyone has ever seen (or heard) a Southern Yellow Crested Tit, I’d love to know.