Fifty-two kilometres of rugged, undeveloped, Australian beauty, accompanied by twelve dynamic women. Hiking all day, followed by yoga and belly-dancing sessions then a glass of wine with dinner. What more could you ask for?
Over four days, we traversed fifty-two kilometres of spectacularly diverse coastline in Yuraygir National Park in northern New South Wales, with Women’s Fitness Adventures. Pristine, sandy white beaches with crystal clear, turquoise water. Jagged, rocky headlands that resembled something from an asteroid. Bushland that could change from sparse, scrubby shurbs to lush rainforests within a few kilometres of trekking. We were treated to displays from playful whales, frolicking dolphins, curious kangaroos, majestic ospreys and other birdlife I can’t name. We shared a cup of tea with a local elder, Uncle Ron, who told us stories of the indigenous Yaegl people. We waded through chilly estuaries, kayaked over deep blue rivers and lunched by tea-tree stained lakes.
I’m grateful for the experience and all that I saw over our hike, however what will stay with me long after my aching muscles ease, is the love and laughter shared with kindred spirits. We were twelve women, ranging in age from 37 to 70, from varied cultures and life experiences. Some of us were already close friends, others were newer connections. For the past six months, we’d all made efforts to get together semi-regularly to train for the hike and get to know each other better. We themed our walk the Yuraygir Unicorns, with one of our friends supplying us all with unicorn key-chains for our back packs. I attached a unicorn tail to mine and we jokingly summoned the power of the majestic animal to get us through the strenuous times. The conversations, laughs and shared moments brought us all together in a way that will stay with me.
Watching reality television, you’d be forgiven for thinking women are incapable of spending a day together without a resulting ‘cat-fight’. Media pits us against each other, encouraging negative comparisons and hostile competition. Yet, the world I live in, doesn’t reflect that at all. It bolstered my confidence in female companionship to see twelve vastly different women thoroughly enjoying and revelling in our differences. Phobias and anxieties were triumphed with much celebration from the group. Songs were sung to help distract those struggling. Deep, heartfelt conversations were had to divert focus from fatiguing legs. Each evening, we shared a meal around the table like family, retelling stories from that day’s adventure. It was beautiful.
Now that I’m home and my tired legs are beginning to feel normal again, I get a little emotional thinking about our hike. I’m so honoured to have witnessed a friend over-come her fear of crossing waterways. I was moved by how calmly and effectively our tour guide settled a friend who had a severe panic attack while scrambling over frightening rock formations. I was grateful to be there to comfort a friend who broke down crying in relief, and perhaps disbelief, after completing a gruelling day of hiking. Each of us had a moment of struggling or supporting. Quoting one of my favourite writers, Brené Brown – ‘Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.’ I hope each of us has come away from the weekend with a sense of accomplishment and belonging. I certainly have.