Friday, 14 September 2018

The Insanely Long Walks 2007-2010 (Throwback Thursday Special)

A Throwback Thursday Special, this post recounts the Insanely Long Walks - a series of urban walks undertaken between 2007 and 2010 in the Perth Metropolitan Area, including the epic Coogee to Mundaring and Mandurah to Joondalup walks

While the first walks of The Long Way’s Better were officially documented in 2015, my interest in walking and hiking dates back a lot earlier than that. My first multi-day hiking experiences on the Bibbulmun Track date back to 2003/2004 and were covered in another Throwback Thursday Special, there was a period of time around 2009-2011 where hiking was once again a major part of my life and I’ve often wondered what would have been had I started a hiking blog back in the days when Trails WA was the more limited Top Trails and when finding out about hiking trails involved a lot of emails and calls to Department of Conservation Regional Offices to get information about the non-Top Trails in their area.

While bushwalking and visiting all of Perth’s best trails was a major goal at the time, of even great importance to me was long distances. I was constantly pushing myself to undertake longer and longer walks, with many of them being in urban areas due to the ease of access. It started with a walk from my parent’s house in Coogee to Maylands, and I eventually found that my friends were crazy enough to join me, and so the Insanely Long Walks series began.

The first of the Insanely Long Walks I actually documented was Rockingham to Coogee via the industrial wasteland of Kwinana. A running joke of these walks was that I wanted everyone in the photos to look unbelievably happy, hence the reason everyone has manic grins and are always giving the thumbs up in every photo. 

The happy faces make sense when we’re near a beautiful lake or some stunning scenery, but the satirical quality works best when juxtaposed by something incredibly ugly like the smokestacks of Kwinana’s industrial area belching pollution into the atmosphere. What can I say - I had just graduated from art school at the time and was much enamoured with Dada, Situationism and Post-Modernism. 

Walking near Mt Brown and the bushland near Lake Coogee, the walk ended up being quite easy and unchallenging in terms of terrain, and probably gave my friends Tim and Jason a false impression of how hard these walks could be. Little did we all know the next one would be one of the most notorious Insanely Long Walks of them all. 

Tim and Jason returned for Insanely Long Walk 4, with the addition of another friend and artistic collaborator Hayley joining us from the start, and friend Adam joining us later along the walk. The mission - to walk from my parents' place in Coogee (near the ocean) to Mundaring Weir in the Perth Hills. At 50 kilometres, this would be the longest distance any of us had walked in a day and Tim and I decided that we would record hourly check-ins to document the journey. The video can be found below:

This walk started easily enough, however by the time we reached the Perth Hills those of us who started from Coogee were pretty destroyed. Over time we found stopping to rest on made things worse; starting up again felt like torture as our tired leg muscles were not used to this level of torture. 

Hayley, who had not broken in her boots suffered some of the worst blisters I’ve ever seen, and in the days after the walk she sent me photos of toes that looks more like melted candle wax than something human. Hayley ended up pulling out at the 38 kilometre mark - a valiant effort considering she was wearing Rossi boots and hadn't walked very far ever. 

Jason, Tim and I literally lay on the ground at the Mundaring Weir car park with muscle strain so severe that straightening our legs would be impossible for that evening and a number of days after. For much of the distance, Jason said this was not the worst day of walking he’d ever done, however was in such agony by the time he reached the last ascent to the weir that he had to admit that this was well and truly the hardest day of walking of his entire life. 

It is perhaps unsurprising then that Jason didn’t join me for my next few long walks, and was not interested in my idea of walking the Cape to Cape Track in four days (something I wouldn't ever consider these days!). A few weeks after Insanely Long Walk 4, Tim and I headed out to try the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, which would have to rank as the easiest 40 kilometre walk anywhere - we easily finished it in winter daylight hours, and I’ve walked it twice more since then (sadly, not since the start of the blog). 

But the Railway Reserves Trail was a side excursion - what we really needed was a true and worthy sequel to Insanely Long Walk 4. The answer was an ambitious two day walk from Mandurah to Joondalup - over 100 kilometres from one end of Perth to the other. 

Tim joined me yet again, with my former uni classmate Jessica (and Tim’s then girlfriend) Jessica joining us. Unsurprisingly, Hayley, Adam and Jason declined the invitation, and the three of us made our way via Coogee to northwards.

Walking the distance, it is amazing just how far Mandurah Station is from Warnbro - it literally took us several hours between the two stations with much of it running along the highway and railway line. Warnbro to Rockingham was a lot better, and it was a great relief to walk into Rockingham Shopping Centre to escape the dehydration and heat we had been experiencing all morning without respite. I remember being so relieved to be taking some codeine pain medication to help ease the horrible headache from the heat and the pain in my feet.

By the time we were halfway from Rockingham to Coogee I was walking on a horrible blister on my left heel, and while my decision to wear hiking boots served me well along the rough roadside earlier on, it made ever step feel like I was being hit by a sledgehammer on my feet.

Reaching Coogee was a great relief, and from memory I think the three of us had some pretty excellent pizzas for dinner after arriving in darkness. The next day, the three of us headed along the dual use path from Coogee Beach to Fremantle - a path I had walked and cycled many times during the days I lived in the area. Starting off, my feet were in agonising pain, however my brain had clearly shut off the pain receptors by the time I reached Fremantle with only a numb, continuous ache for the rest of the day. 

From Freo, we headed along the beach past Leighton and Cottesloe Beaches and continued along the coast. At City Beach, Tim and Jessica had to pull out. Tim’s pale skin had suffered severe skin burn by this stage and Jess’s hips were in so much pain that the extra 25 kilometres were an insurmountable challenge. Now by myself, my initial plan had been to walk to Clarkson, but seeing the large forested gap without Joondalup and Clarkson stations made me rethink and I instead decided that the 109 kilometres to Joondalup were more than sufficient.

With 100 kilometres done, the distance seemed pretty hard to beat and it ended up being the last of the Insanely Long Walks with friends. I ended up beating my longest kilometres in a day best by walking the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail including the spur for a 60 kilometre journey. Other ideas for torturously long journeys did eventuate and an attempt was made to cycle through the night on the Kep Track from Mundaring to Northam and back, but ended in failure when my cycling buddy decided to call it quits. The four day Cape to Cape adventure never eventuated, and I eventually lost interest in walking extremely long distances for fun. Since then, my longest day of walking has been the 38 kilometres from Moses Rock to Prevelly, which is definitely at the upper extreme of the amount of kilometres I would want to do in a day these days. 

While my interest in such long walks/masochism has waned, actually getting a feel for this type of distance was a great learning experience. Doing these walks gave me a good diagnostic test for how far I feel comfortable to push myself and at what point it crosses over from easy walking to feeling like you've done a good walk, to sore legs/feet to extremely fatigued feet and legs to then needing a rest day the next day because muscles are too tight. It was what made me certain we could cover the 38 kilometres from Moses Rock to Prevelly on the Cape to Cape, as I didn't think we would reach the wall of pain that would require a rest day. One day I might return to doing something with these kind of distances, but for now I'm happy to walk trails of a more reasonable distance - and with much better scenery!

1 comment:

  1. The thumbs had me chuckling all the way through your post. I love the dedication!