We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nations on which we walked today. We recognise and respect the ongoing spiritual, cultural, and economic role that Country plays for our First Nations people and thank them for their custodianship for it has contributed to the Country on which we explore.
We pay our respect to Elders, past, present and future, recognising that they hold the stories, culture, and vision of our nation, and represent the living history of our country.
And finally, we thank you for our safe passage on Country on this day, and request safe passage always.
I’ll be honest: when selecting our walks for the 12 Hike Challenge, I personally felt “urban hike” was a bit of a cop-out category – a bit of fluff to give us some downtime between the ”real” adventures. Little did I know how wrong I was.
The Melbourne Capital City trail winds 29.5km along the Yarra River and through our city’s inner suburbs, and we were 4km into the loop when a pack of cyclists raced towards us. You know the kind: angry, wrapped in lycra and incredibly possessive of the “shared” path that they dominate. As they passed, one of the pack called out: “Planning on hiking all the way to the mountains are we, ladies?”
Baffled, we continued on our way. A couple of hours and 10 odd km later, another cyclist called out: “Yes, follow her, the one with the GPS – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY – she knows the way!” as Carly walked in front to shoot footage on her phone.
The implication was that our attire, and the fact that we had our backpacks and bladders on us was not appropriate for the path that we were walking. Ummm… what?! In what reality is it OK to shout derogatory comments to walkers as you hurtle towards them? It honestly staggers me that these men are still supported by a Lycra-clad chortling chorus, slipstreaming in their demeaning laughter.
It didn’t faze me much at the time, but the more I think about it, the more it frustrates me. When talking about Melbourne Girls Outside and why we founded it, men and women alike love telling us that women do not face any barriers when it comes to adventure, that there is no difference between the genders on the trails, and that we’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
As someone who watched way too many Crime Stoppers reenactments as a child, I can assure you that it would be difficult for me to put those men’s comments aside as they thundered past, let along relax and enjoy the adventure on that cold and foggy morning.
Apart from the ugly comments, another unexpected hurdle on this hike was something that comes hand-in-hand with any urban hike: the rawness of the Capital City Trails “unflattering” section. The space where none of us lifted up a phone to take a picture, eyes diverted as we avoided breathing through our noses.
This is the ugly of the world’s most liveable city that no one cares to talk about. The waterways choked with rubbish, giant rats scuttling around the paths, and abandoned makeshift beds housing Melbourne’s homeless.
Nothing prepares you to witness the extensive pollution that collects under our roads and along the waterways, and it was particularly difficult to witness as someone who practices leave no trace principles and will frequently hike out other people’s rubbish from the trail. It was also sobering to realise that a percentage of our population resides in these areas — probably because they are less likely to be moved on from a place no one wants to visit.
The final challenge of this hike was a personal one. After a long week, I begin to crave that mental break and clarity that comes from getting out of town, breathing in that fresh country air and taking my mind off the problems of the world.
This urban hike was a lot of fun with stellar company, and the city views of Melbourne are absolutely stunning but after our seven-hour adventure, I didn’t feel I had reaped the mental reward that hiking generally sows.
After a long and challenging hike, my muscles often hurt and the DOMS kicks in as I moan and groan my way through the beginning of the work week. That said, 29½km pounding the cold hard concrete in sneakers brought on a whole new world of pain. Never before had I realised just how beautifully soft my hiking boots are, and how forgiving the trails can be. My “old lady” hips have kicked in for the first time ever, giving me a cold, hard glimpse into my future and reiterating that I will never, ever run a marathon.
Despite the downsides, this hike was enjoyable – just not for the usual reasons. The distance was challenging on my body and I loved the varying scenery from the idyllic country views to the towering skyscrapers as we snaked along the Yarra, across the top of the inner north and through our beautiful city. We had a lot of fun interacting with the environment around us as we passed through the Collingwood Children’s Farm and climbed on anything that took our fancy, and as true Melburnians, particularly relished the barista coffee at the start of our adventure, and a café stop for brunch along the way.
Click the below to see a 1 min clip of our adventure 🙂
If you would like some information around an Acknowledgement of Country and why we have included it in this blog I can recommend Creative Sprits for information about this and more.
As an aside, did you know Australia ranks in the top 10 megadiverse (yep, actually a word) countries when it comes to Flora and Fauna? This continued cultivation can be directly linked to the Indigenous population of Australia – Dark Emu Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident is a great read. Otherwise, if you’re like me and reading is your 9-5, here is a great Ted X talk. This connection and knowledge of Country is now being utilised to assist with current issues such as a loss of biodiversity.