I quite like walking…


Who loves a good walk?


I do.


It’s a great way to pad out a holiday and it can add some structure to what are, in essence, structureless days.


I was chatting to Tony over the fence the other day. He caught me heading out the back door of Coorabel, our rented beach cottage up on the northern N.S.W. coast. I was in my runners and, yes, my active wear.


He wanted to know to where I was headed.


“Off for a walk.. out to Angourie along the road. I’ll probably stop for a coffee at the general store and then head back along the beach, Tony,” I replied.


“That’s great, Kate, I’m a walker, too.”


Tony was my holiday neighbour for the week. His arms were draped over the tin fence in that unhurried rural town way, his chin neatly perched upon his crossed hands as he chatted.


His smile was ever present whilst his eyes darted about the place. I guessed that Tony always had room, and time, for one more to join a conversation.


He decided to tell me that walking was not just his way of keeping active, but his way to think through things. Walking has helped him through some of life’s sticky spots over his 70-plus years of living.


“It eases my mind and allows all of my problems to just, sort of wash away, you know… they just sort of roll over like waves, instead of eating me up…”


Tony, I thought, was dead right.


Our steps are like rolling waves, one after another, again and again, hitting the ground and loosening the gritty stuff that gets caught in the fabric of life.


To see the act of walking as a cleansing continuum, a physical prayer of sorts, is certainly apt.


Tony and I were on the same page.




A few days later, and still holidaying, the boys and I decided on a walk together up to the rainforested slopes of Mt. Warning.


The summit track is reached by a ten minute drive from Murwillumbah or, as we did, a two hour drive north from Yamba. It is nestled within the Woolumbin National Park.


I was surprised by the lushness of the forest and the fresh greenery in the surrounding pastures and crops of the Tweed Valley. Months of dry Melbourne weather, the recent fires and subsequent smokey air have muted my environmental palette.


The walk begins at the Breakfast Creek car park. It is a 9km return trip that steps continuously up to the summit and back. There are very few flat areas of path, however many of the steps are quite shallow, giving your thighs time to ease into the 2 hours or so required to reach the top.


Whilst I did have company, the boys suggested that I keep on at my own pace. I’m not great at walking and talking, especially when heading uphill, it slows me down and diverts my attention.


And so we decided to split.


The day was overcast. I knew not to expect the brilliant and wide sweeping views that the mountain affords on a clear day. Instead, I passed through patches of low lying cloud and a sprinkling of rain and, as I got closer to the top, a cold gusty wind hit with a surprising blast as I rounded a bend on the southern side.


There was not a lot of wildlife to be seen, just a few scrub turkeys scratching about, and some oversized blowflies. The vegetation was dense and a leafy canopy enveloped me.


The path was strewn with rocks, most easily stepped over and around. Others required a little more navigation and dexterity to clamber. With 4.4km done, the final 100 metre rise to the top begins with a thunderstorm warning sign. The mountain peak narrows considerably. It is essentially a rocky pinnacle with some scrubby bush and a lookout at the top.


I had agreed to wait and meet the boys here but, after calling them, it was agreed I would go on up alone. One of the boys was not feeling well.


This last bit was a vertical rock scramble. There was a chain to assist and, from what I could see, some strategically eroded footholds embedded within the rock face. I could only think of them as fossilised marks from an earlier age.


I finally reached the summit. There was no view of the hinterland or the Gold Coast in the distance. Just thick white cloud and a light, misty rain that I hoped held some promise of moisture for the dryer lands further afield.


I sat for a bit, got someone to take a snap of me, answered a text, rehydrated and treated myself to an apple. There was no point sitting for too long and cooling down.


The descent down the rock face was trickier than the climb up.


Rain made the rock surface extremely slippery and my runners, with worn tread on the soles, were not the best choice of footwear. Every foot step down needed to be firmly planted before transferring any weight on to it. And in some parts it was safer to bum shuffle. One slip here could result in a chopper ride off the mountain.


Once down from this section, you find yourself back on the path. From here the walking is relatively easy, but still takes a good or hour or more to return, depending on your pace.


Covered in mud, thirsty and hot, I returned to the car park and the boys. We jumped into the Landrover, hit the road and headed south towards Brunswick Heads for a cleansing beer, sore but satisfied.


This was probably not the walk for Tony’s type of contemplative reflection, rather one that insisted on complete focus and concentration to avoid injury.


Yes, I do quite like walking.


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  1. Paul Spinks says

    I don’t like walking – I love it!

    Though, my bushwalking has been somewhat absent in recent years, but you evoked memories, Kate, of a Warning walk I once did back in the day Byron lacked traffic lights.

    The rainforest around there, and Lamington National Park is as good as any I’ve seen, and better than the majority.

    Though, I reckon any vigorous exercise is good for getting us out of a rut.

  2. Kate Birrell says

    Thanks Paul.. yes, I have understated the word ‘like’.

    I’ realised a few years ago I was only hitting the bush part of walking in my holidays which I thought regrettable. Have since discovered a couple of spots in the Dandenong’s, half hour drive from my part of Melbourne.

    Lamination Nat park sounds great too. Next trip, perhaps.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read Kate! Very satisfying for the mind, body and soul. I enjoy reading about the philosophy behind walking by authors such as Robert McFarlane, Rebecca Solnit and others.

  4. In the fifties a group known as the Diamonds had a great hit record titled “WALKING ALONG”. The first line (if I remember correctly) went like this, “When I’m walking feel just like a king, oh happy day, I’m just a walkin’ along”. Never truer words were sung.

    Being a keen recreational fisherman for over half a century, it’s impossible to calculate just how far I’ve walked over that time. Delivering junk mail for almost 10 years also clocked up the distance. Nowadays heath problems mean I cannot go for any long walk and so I miss it terribly. Keep enjoying your walks Kate, I envy you.

  5. Fisho, I found this link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUEMSXfr538.

  6. Thanks for those reading tips Col , will endeavour to look at those authors.

    Fisho, thanks too for your words. I am conscious that it’s such a simple thing to do; yet delivers many benefits. I’m also somewhat conscious of not getting injured, not so much from walking, but other activities such as skiing etc. mindful of keeping joints in good nic. I can imagine you miss it a lot, because I know I would too.
    Will also look up the song, add to playlist.. for some of the not so interesting urban walking.
    Take care

  7. Kate Birrell says

    Thanks for the link.

    This one also comes to mind although it refers to cycling..same ethos.
    Luka Bloom The Acoustic Motorbike https://music.apple.com/au/album/the-acoustic-motorbike/257208613?i=257209801

  8. Paul Spinks says

    No understatement by you, Kate – I was just doing a bad take of 10cc.

    Your account is a great guide for any who would like to attempt the climb. I can only remember the last bit was steep. We got a view at the end, though. Mt Warning is the central cone of a gigantic extinct volcano, or something like that.

  9. KB there is a book waiting to come out with accompanying art works. Go girl!

  10. Kate enjoyable read and thought provoking few meanings there and ditto agree with,Citrus Bob

  11. Hi Kate
    thanks for your words – as some one up in the Arctic freezer for a year volunteering the one thing I really miss is being able to walk every day through my local Brisbane suburban park with my dog. yes I can walk short distances in the snow and ice and on Sunday I walked 4 km along a frozen river with a dog – in the middle of the day when it was the weekend but it was hard work! kind of like climbing Mt Warning look at blog at richardmarlow.info to see more . When you walk in a park there is chance to unwind get into a rhythm say G’day to passers by and just enjoy the moment after a stressful day. there is nothing better than just walking. It is healthy for mind body and soul

  12. :) thx Paul, I should have picked up on that, as I did some bad dancing to said song on NYD.

    Yes Bob, it would be a great excuse for a gap year, backpacking and walking our beautiful country…I’d be in my element.

    Glad you enjoyed it Rulebook.

    Nice to hear from a fellow Tiger fan from so far away Richard…that just sounds amazing, your location and occupation for the year. I can’t imagine walking in the dead middle of a frozen river..I’d be freaking there’d be a crack and in I would go. I’ll follow your blog.
    And your point re the people you meet on the track is so spot on.
    Thanks for your words and for reading my piece.

  13. A great yarn; thanks for sharing, Kate.
    But I am a little disappointed that you did not include the “snap” taken at the peak!

    You have provoked in me the thought that I should pen some words about a little morning walking group in which I am involved – it has been good for the body and the mind.

  14. Kate Birrell says

    Thanks Smokie…self portrait at the peak :) might find one on fb.

    Looking forward to reading your words on walking.

  15. thank you Kate for your kind words go Tiges I will be writing a piece about my experience of Grand Final day from the perspective of being above the Arctic circle. one of the best things about it was enjoying Grand Final day already knowing the result being 17 hours ahead !! regards Richard

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic piece Kate! As someone who has only briefly ever lived in a town, mostly in rural areas, the bushwalk has been my usual form of walking. Some great tracks in the Otways near where I live. But my favourite walk is the journey from the city to the MCG, along the river, full of hope and expectation. That same walk back to the car can vary greatly, depending on the result!

  17. Thanks Luke. Must do some Otway tracks when Summer is done. I used to go down there a lot, but now, not at all for years.

    So many ways to walk to the G, as a tiger fan, the ritual trudge has turned into a skip. Good times.

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