I walked in the door and struggled to take off my left shoe when I got into my apartment only to find a pool of blood in my shoe, my sock, unknown to me, was holding an open wound together from bleeding. I felt no pain; only the fear that I had no idea how to stop the bleeding while wondering, ‘What the hell did this?’.
A twig…I got shivved by a twig…
You what? Who?! When!?
Don’t worry folks I’m okay! Had a tetanus booster and stopped the tiny hole from gushing! Of course, this would happen on one of my hikes. This hike…I almost didn’t make it home with this one.
The hectic beginning…
First let me clarify that I was not alone on this trip. Never hike in the woods alone! My good friend Aditi joined me on what was to be her first trip to the Royal National Park, and my third trip.
We were supposed to meet at Redfern Station to take the T4 line to Waterfall station (best way to get to the tracks we chose), but rail work led to a detour to Central station (T4 is available here) to catch a replacement bus to Waterfall. The bus was actually nice! Instead of shoddy replacement buses Sydney Transit uses coach buses (yay!). We were pretty stoked yet tired from an early 7am start, but it seemed like today was going to be a fun day.
We began the walk from the Uloola track which branches into the Couranga Trail, our choice of trail for the day. The trail, initially, was fine; it’s Grade 3 meaning that there will be some tricky landscapes to overcome however it was nothing you needed the body of Lara Croft or a ninja warrior to complete.
Therefore, in an ideal world we would have been fine. It was hard to enjoy the view when you’re trying to avoid busting your face on the ground due to a hectic uneven surface and shrubs brushing your face. Nonetheless it later rewarded us with gorgeous forest views that you’s see in Bambi…they do exist.
The shaky middle…
Those Bambi-like shots were not without consequence. Towards this part of the hike there were more giant fan leaves on the ground which caused us mild alarm because snakes are a thing, and we were in the middle of the forest. The path itself began to vanish, and a clearly marked way never revealed itself. This was honestly more intense than the Grade 5 hike I did a while back only because of the lack of a safe marked path and I strongly do not recommend this path for beginners.
At one point we accidentally leaped across stones in a river of tadpoles to see if that was the way out of the area we were in. We were wrong but by this point it felt like were in an adventure game stuck on a level than a hike. We did get our hands dirty, and I got up close and personal with spiders, but I refused to fall on the tadpoles and be in wet jeans. When we found the correct way out we continued the somewhat visible path until the path vanished…and we arrived at the edge of a small river.
The only way we knew that was the correct way to go was that we heard and later saw a couple walking towards us who told us where to go.
After climbing out of the riverbed we got to a clearing that had no path, so we had to use trial and error to find our way out, which we eventually did. The path we were on vanished again, and we were forced to walk on dirt mounds to get to the exit of the path. We reach one of the main roads in the park confused, thinking we made a mistake.
But we had no service and Aditi was out of water.
The perilous end…
We had a lunch break and an assessment of our situation. On one had we were happy to find a road because it meant that we were near people and access to cars in case we had to hitchhike (which I do not endorse). However we had no idea where we were, and that path we took was so dangerous going down we refused to hike back up that way. So we opted to take the road. We walked left and followed it to a T-cross way only to find out that a) we still had no signal, and b) we went the wrong way.
This is where the fun begins…
We doubled back and began our hour and a half long ascent up the steep winding road taking frequent breaks to save energy, oxygen, and sanity. We laughed the whole way because panicking wouldn’t have helped. We did have time on our side it was only 2.30-3pm when we began this leg of the journey and we convinced ourselves that there was no way this walk would take five hours.
That was the longest and heaviest climb I’ve ever done. Luckily there was shade, and gorgeous road views to take in.
Along the way we stopped a man and asked if we were going in the right direction, and when he confirmed this it revitalized our conviction to continue and soon enough we made it to the train station.
Dodging cars was more intense than hiking by the way…
Wait what about your foot!?
Oh yes…that…I was getting to that. In short, I apparently was jabbed by a twig that got into my shoe, and I had no idea what it had done. I felt the prick, and then I pulled it out while I was hiking, so no infection thanks to my instinctive reflexes. However it did mean that my foot bled the rest of the hike. I don’t know when it happened, but I did go to the doctor the next day and get a booster shot just in case.
I don’t need tetanus in death’s country…
All-in-all it was a great trip! Had I been alone it would not have been any fun, and as the title suggests, Aditi and I are now officially true friends. We didn’t want to kill each other, and we laughed the whole way. My advice: if you can go somewhere with someone where things go wrong and come out laughing and carrying each other through it you have found a good friend. I won’t get all mushy about this…it was indeed a mess of a day. I do not suggest this trail unless you wish to test your friendships. If you do, good luck and remember to wear sunscreen and pack 2 litres of water. Also, keep your phone charged and bring a paper map, we will be bringing one next time.
I think that’s enough near-death for a bit! Stay tuned for some smaller, safer trips around Sydney City.