Being A Human Guinea Pig

As promised from the previous article “Five Different Ways To Challenge Yourself Daily”, my experiences with the medical testing world.

So when work keeps telling you consistently ‘sorry there are just no hours this week’ (which to be honest is a crock of shit, but we are trying to keep this light and the topic of workplace rights and legislation in Canada makes me very angry), we resort to the only thing we know for more work…. Craigslist.

There is a marvel of things you can find in the ‘ETC.’ section of the Toronto Craigslist and so this is how my run as a human guinea pig began. ‘Oh you will pay me a couple of hundred dollars to do a PET scan and and MRI? No problem! You want to pay me to stick electrodes to my head and play me pulses to see how my brain responds? No problem! And so it goes on.

To clarify, there are specific types of testing that I am not willing to do. For one, I am not happy about being a guinea pig for drug trials. I don’t particularly feel that my ovaries or the rest of my body would be appreciative of me pumping it full something in it that is going to render my parts dysfunctional for a measly couple of hundred bucks. But if you want to look at how my body functions normally by doing a series of tests, then be my guest. As a scientist, I am more than happy to do my part for science.

So, here we go….

The other day I went to the geriatrics hospital. They do a lot of research for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders and I have done multiple experiments for them. Of the most basic is the EEG, which is where you go in, they strap electrodes to your brain, put some earplugs in and they make you listen to semitone sounds on ‘ooh’ or ‘ahh’ and make you hit buttons to tell you if it is an ‘ooh’ or an ‘aah’. The best part about this is the second part where they make you listen to random sounds for an hour while you watch a kids movie on silent. For me it was a crazy movie about a raccoon that steals and destroys a bears stash of food for the winter and then sets about manipulating other animals into reacquiring what it is that he lost by stealing from the humans. Awesomely funny, even if it is on mute with subtitles. I did this twice before I started getting called in for different tests.

Other EEG tasks I have done have been musical tests where I listen to two sounds and decide if they are the same or different and then replicate the sounds singing later. I have also done tests where they give you 35 sets of 2 completely unrelated words and you have to try and develop a correlation between them in five seconds so that later when they flash you the first word, you have to remember the second word. Hugely frustrating as this is most difficult of the tasks I had ever been given. One time I also had to sit with an eye movement tracker on while I watched a series of video clips and pictures to see where I was looking at on the screen.

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Smashing out some memory games with the electrode cap on

Two days ago they did a test on my memory and how the brain stores information. They sat me at a computer and they would flash a word at me like ‘giraffe’. I would then as quickly as possible determine whether it is living or non living using the buttons strapped to my fingers. From there I had to do this really quick mathematical addition in my head with numbers flashing up on the screen at me and then decide whether the number they showed me at the end was the correct answer to the addition. From there, you then have to recall the word. They do all of this while you are strapped into an MRI machine measuring the different activities of your brain in doing the sums and the recall. The hypothesis that they are testing is whether or not the long term memory is more effective when you focus more on the word that you have to remember or when you are busy with a distractor task, ie. the maths sums. Strangely enough, they have been finding that the words that you do the distractor task with are more likely to be remembered long term as the way that these words are processed in the brain is different. Really interesting study. Probably why I did so well at university studying with the TV on, the radio on, talking on the phone and trying to read at the same time! Me being as competitive as I am too, I had to try and beat my own scores and the scores of others with the decision making and the maths. I was killing it to a point. 85-90% 🙂 Not bad when the average is around 60-70% for the maths! Looks like all of the learning books and the brain training games are paying off!

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MRI scan of my brain. I told people I have one, they didn’t believe me

Of the most lucrative and probably most uncomfortable of the medical tests that I have done was the PET scan. After doing a two hour screening of different IQ type tests with shapes and logic and a psychological evaluation, they sent me off to do the scan. They put me in a hospital gown, laid me onto the table and then started to put in the arterial line in my left wrist. Luckily they hit it the first time so it wasn’t too bad in the healing process. They put the radiotracer into my right arm and then I pretty much laid in the machine for 2 hours while they scanned my brain to see where the radiotracer was collecting and if it was more concentrated in specific areas of the brain or not for a specific enzyme that they are attributing to swelling in the brain that is related to depression.

They took different blood samples from my wrist throughout the experiment to look at the concentration of the radiotracer in my blood and I have to say it wasn’t the most comfortable of situations. What I didn’t realize was that they actually put a plaster cast thing over your face to lock it into place for the scan so that your head doesn’t move. So here I am, head locked in in a plaster cast, needles sticking out of my arms, the most ADHD I have ever been and all I wanted to do was go for a dance or move around or do something! The two hours were finally up, I had my arterial line out, went for a 20 minute MRI and took my cash for the day. More money than I would have earned in the space of a week and a half working for minimum wage in Toronto on half a day of being a guinea pig for the advancement of science. I will most certainly take that.

I do find all of these things quite interesting so in the grand scheme of travelling, it is something new and different to add to the resume and it pays quite well. And hey, it is just another thing to tell the grandkids right? Provided that my memory holds out in the long run. Hopefully my participation in research will help them find ways to overcome memory degeneration with age so that I can continue to achieve my million and one goals. And so I won’t have to be a drunk nana in a nursing home rocking chair on the porch enjoying the blissful ignorance of my existence.

 

Bungee Jumping

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” – Martin Luther King

And so I found myself standing at the end of a bungee platform. Words cannot express my terror. I was shaking. To jump or not to jump. The demon every bungee jumper is faced with. But despite my fear, my destiny was already predetermined by the decision I made in my mind. I WAS JUMPING.

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Standing on the ledge looking down. Terrified. Determined.

During the summer before I headed back to study my Graduate Diploma of Education at university, I decided to go on an adrenaline packed and whirlwind tour of New Zealand. I booked myself onto one of the hop on/hop off buses and was on my merry way. When we arrived in Queenstown, the bus stopped at the Karawau Bridge bungee, the first commercial bungee jump opened in the world by AJ Hackett, dare devil extraordinaire, and standing at 43m distance. Many of the people on the bus flat out refused to go. Only a couple of people out of twenty of us accepted the challenge of doing the jump. I was not one of them. I stood, in sheer terror watching as people one by one, hurled themselves off this bridge, including a 90 year old man who looked so frail that me might snap from the force of it. And then I did the only thing I know how to do. I made a decision that despite the fear I was going to do it. But I was not going to do the bridge jump, if I was going to do it, I was going to do the biggest one. I swiftly booked myself a ticket for the Nevis Highwire before I could back out and headed to my accommodation with the others.

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Karawau Bridge Bungee – the worlds’ first commercial bungee jump

In an attempt to take my mind off it, I went out to the pub for the night with my friends and returned home at about 2am with the knowledge I might get 6 hours sleep before I had to get up in the morning and go meet the bus for the dreaded bungee. But sleep was not to be. I tossed….. I turned…. I had knots in my stomach… I couldn’t breathe. Overnight I had worked myself into such a sheer state of panic that I didn’t know whether I could go through with it.

I got up and my friend walked me down the road to the bus. I hopped on it on my own with no support from friends I was with. This was my challenge and I needed to meet it head on. The entire way along the road the bus driver played ‘inspirational music’ for the bungee that consisted of ‘Jump’ by Van Halen and ‘Jump’ by Kris Kross and every other song that contained the word ‘jump’. It was then and there I decided. It didn’t matter how afraid I was. I was going to do it. On three, I had to relinquish control of my body and just go. There was no such thing as failure. I acknowledged the fear demon, but I wasn’t going to let it rule me.

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Waiting for the cable car to take us out the that small suspended hut… the bungee platform!

As we arrived and they put us into our harnesses that went over my legs and chest and then onto the cable car that took us out to the jumping platform. I had settled with an odd form of calm, of purpose. There were 18 of us jumping. And we had to jump in descending weight order. Being a tiny 61kg at that time, I was the second last person to jump. I had to wait and watch every other person before me go. And as more of them jumped, the pressure to jump myself continued to mount. And then finally it was my turn…..

I sat in the chair as they strapped the cuffs around my ankles and buckled me up. They stood me up, gave me my instructions and walked me out to the end of the ledge where I stood staring at a 134m bungee jump, the third highest bungee in the world at that time. Despite telling me not to look down, I did. It was an incredibly long way. “Mind over matter remember…. just breathe….” And so the count began. I looked forward. 3, 2, 1……. and then I just fell forward and let go…….

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The moment I let go of everything

The initial feeling of falling was a shock to the system. My stomach went straight to my mouth and I was freaked. Eight seconds of freefall. Just enough time to freak out, come to terms with what is happening, start to enjoy the speed, start freaking out about the fact that the bungee chord hasn’t taken yet, consider death, have your life flash before your eyes, and then the bungee chord takes up and there is relief, the realization that you are indeed not dead and that “wahoooooooooo!!!”, this is actually quite fun.

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After doing two bounces on the bungee chord, I had to reach up, pull the tag and release my feet so that I was held upright by the harness around my midsection. Once sitting upright, I got to take stock of the valley and the beauty around me while they pulled me back up to the platform. My face was bloodshot. Never before has that much adrenaline coursed through my veins. I had done it! I had faced one of my biggest fears, and I had won!

For the rest of the day I was so ramped on excess adrenaline I did not sleep for another 24 hours. It was the biggest buzz I have ever had in my life. Needless to say, this started the addiction I now have with bungee jumping. I went back to do the Karawau Bridge jump, just so that I could be dunked into the water at the end of it. It was a minor buzz compared to the Nevis Highwire but a buzz nonetheless. It would be years until I would come across my third bungee, the 143m Extremo Bungee in Monteverde, Costa Rica. The nerves were there, but the fear had lessened because I knew I could conquer it.

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Spot the adrenaline junkie… Waaaayyyy too much adrenaline!

But despite my lessened fear with these, but still fear nonetheless, there is still one thing left to do. The tallest bungee in the world. While this one is technically 230m tall and in Macau, China, my fear of Chinese safety standards has me somewhat concerned. So I agreed with my friend to go and do the 220m Bloukran’s Bridge jump in South Africa, the second tallest bungee in the world. But to make up for the extra ten meters and to see how much of a bad ass the other can be, this time we have upped the ante. He says he is going to do it naked. And he wants to be wrapped in snakes and scorpions to be extra bad ass…. somehow I think the snakes and scorpions won’t be allowed. But if you raise me a 220m bungee, I will see you that raise, and I will see you there naked!

5 Different Ways to Challenge Yourself Daily

“There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in man” – Sean Connery.

Most people reading this aren’t off in the grand world traveling and constantly having different challenges thrown at them everyday like I usually do. And I currently am not off gallivanting around the world with all the wonder that change and the road offers right now myself. But there are different things that I do at least one of everyday to challenge myself and keep the stagnant at bay! Try to incorporating these small things into your everyday lives to challenge you, keep the boredom at bay and help you feel great!

Experiment With New Food

One of the biggest things that I miss from the road is all of the incredible food that is on offer. That said, I came back from Europe with a huge list of foods I had eaten that I wanted to try and replicate at home. While some of these have been a disaster, I have managed to stumble on some amazing recipes for different foods such as Hungarian Paprika Chicken, Spanish Tortilla, Polish Bigos….. and so the list goes on. So I encourage you as a part of your daily challenge to once a week, pick a country, find a recipe for something you haven’t tried before and cook it. That simple! If you aren’t too much of a fan of different world foods, maybe try a new cook book or a different recipe for something you already cook. Variety is the spice of life! So start your week by challenging your taste buds and cooking skills!

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Trying my hand at beetroot soup in Poland.

Do A Puzzle

Everybody has heard of the saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”. And so this is true of the neural connections in your brain. Scientists have discovered that when you are a small child, in the first five years you develop billions of neural connections that are designed to function for the rest of your life so that you are able to perform different tasks. Many of these neural connections will sever with age if you do not continue to stimulate these pathways as the brain attempts to conserve energy. Never fear though, with brain training and neuroplasticity, we can continue to stimulate our neural pathways, sometimes making new neural connections with the right kind of training. This is important, especially as we get older to ward off brain diseases such as Alzheimers’ and dementia. When I was living in Toronto, I used to go to The Centre for Brain Health at one of the hospitals and they used to pay me a little bit of money to do puzzles and other activities whilst wearing either an electrode cap to measure my brain waves or being on and MRI machine to detect the highest functioning areas of the brain whilst doing particular tasks. Some of the information they gained about memory, brain function and degeneration was incredible and I will write another post about my experiences with this at a later date (so follow me if you want a notification!)

Doing a puzzle or two a day will help to keep you sharp. The key to choosing your puzzles though is to choose different ones. Right now I have a small crossword puzzle book and I do a crossword each night before bed. These are great for stimulating recall pathways and associations. I also bought an IQ test book on the road with hundreds of different types of puzzles to challenge spatial awareness, mathematical skills, language skills, memory and logic. There are many different programs that you can find on the internet that help stimulate brain growth and neuroplasticity as well so get jump on them. Just don’t fall into the age old trap of doing sudoku after sudoku after sudoku. Once you have learned the techniques required for solving a sudoku, it no longer poses an adequate enough challenge to keep the brain growing. So keep it mixed up. Do different types of puzzles and crosswords to keep you thinking.

Exercise

Many people go to the gym and fall into the same standard routine of exercise every day they go. Exercise is about betterment of the self. And to get better, you need to set small goals and slowly work your way towards achieving them. Currently I do Crossfit, a constant daily challenge with yourself to be stronger, faster and fitter. The people I train with are super supportive and we will often compete against each other in a friendly way to help push each other to be better. It helps when you have a partner to train with. So if you train on your own, maybe try starting up a conversation with someone you see all the time at they gym and ask the train with them. They will keep you honest and make you work harder.

My current challenge is to get to be doing strict pull ups with my own body weight by the end of the year. In February when I started I was using twice as much resistance as I am using now, so I am working towards achieving that goal, slowly but surely. Everyday though is a small challenge within the larger challenge. Today I do one or two more reps than I did yesterday. I try stringing more together at once than I did yesterday. Eventually it gets easier, and you can move to the next small step within the push towards the greater goal.

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Lifting like a boss. Crossfit 14.5 Open Workout

Start up a conversation with a stranger

It is easy in this technology-driven world that we live in to get caught up with what is online and not what is in front of you. I challenge you every day to look up and put the phone away. When you go into a coffee shop and order your morning coffee, instead of texting/checking emails/standing around not speaking and waiting, start up a conversation with your barista or another person in the queue.  Ask them how their day is going and make a joke. Pay them a compliment. Trust me when I say that you will feel better about yourself and your day for having made a small effort to strike up a new conversation. That person will also most likely feel better about themselves if you can make the simple effort of saying something to make them smile. Who knows, with time you may even end up with a new friend. And it will certainly help you develop some awesome conversational skills.

Do A Kind Deed

We have covered challenges that are good for the body and good for the mind. It is also great to incorporate challenges for the soul. No matter how small or how insignificant it might seem to you, try and do at least one kind deed per day. This could be something as small as helping somebody pick up something that they have dropped on the ground. I am a grand believer in the idea of paying it forward. Over the years I have met many amazing people that have bestowed incredible generosity and kindness upon me during my travels and in life in general. I am so grateful for the amazing help and support that I have received that I feel it my duty as a human to pay this amazing kindness forward. Whilst I was walking the Overland Track, a six day, 90km hike in Tasmania, I met two guys who were transiting back through my home town. So I went out for dinner with them, showed them to a local pub with original music for the night and in the morning I picked them up and drove them around to see some of the sights before I dropped them off at the airport. Something I have had others that I barely know do for me and I have appreciated it hugely. That and I also find great enjoyment in meeting new people and helping them to enjoy my hometown. While your daily kindness doesn’t have to be of such a magnitude, every kind deed regardless of size is important.

I honestly believe that if people work towards being kinder to one another and towards being more grateful for the things they have in this life, then the human race together will be working towards being a better species. And it starts with you! So help someone. Make them smile. And then hope they too will pay it forward.

So venture forward into your week! Do something out of the ordinary, cook something new, do a puzzle, help a stranger and have a chat to them and push yourself when you exercise to be better. Be a better version of yourself! I challenge you….. 

The Overland Track Part Three – The Final Descent

Day Four

After climbing Mount Ossa it was time to get a move on to the Kia Ora Hut. My shoes and my pants were drenched from climbing Mount Ossa in the snow, namely from falling in holes and sliding down it on my butt. We were on limited time, my feet were aching and the track was terrible. There were many places filled with deep mud puddles, tree roots and really unstable track. I started to fret that I was not going to make it to camp as it got darker and darker outside. It got to the point where I could barely see where I was going and about to take my headlight out of my pack. With five minutes of daylight to spare, I rolled into the hut, cranky, tired and thankful that I was not trying to navigate bush in the dark .

The surroundings of the hut was full of animals and I saw a wombat and a couple of possums fighting with each other up a tree. Given the atrocious state of my shoes, I cut up my seating foam and made a pair of makeshift flip flops. My body is starting to adjust to the long distances and the pack. I actually felt pretty good at the end of the day before heading to bed.

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A possum kicking around the water tank

Day Five

Today was themed ‘Waterfall Side Trip Day’. The walking distance was only 9km between the huts but there were several small side trips to different waterfalls along the way. Despite the drenched shoes, I made pretty good pace and was feeling quite good.

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Du Cane Hut

The first waterfall that we went to visit was D’Alton Falls which were just spectacular. I could stand on the ledge that is the viewpoint all day and watch. The Ferguson Falls along the same track were also amazing, but not quite as good as these. Waterfalls in Tasmania are world class. As good as any I have seen travelling the world and totally pristine.

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D’Alton Falls

After a quick lunch, we moved on to the next waterfall, the Harnett Falls which were difficult to see at points, but the boys managed to scale their way down and along the river to get to a good vantage point.

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Harnett Falls

Another hour or so saw us arrive at the Bert Nichols Hut, which I must say is the Hilton of Overland Track huts. The place was huge, decorated with beautiful art decorations on the ceiling. On the walls was information about the man for which the hut was named. Bert Nichols, the pioneer of the Overland Track, the man who knew the countryside here best and mapped the track. Described as one of the “most cunning and most cleverest man who ever was” for his keen poaching and survival skills, Bert is one of the biggest reasons that this walk exists and it is now known as one of the best in the world today.

The only issue with this stunning hut is that there was no gas and as such, no heating at all throughout the entire building and the thermometer was reading at one degree celcius at six in the evening… It was destined to be a freezing cold night.

Day Six

The morning was stunning and clear with an immaculate view over the valley. It did however present with a few problems. Namely that overnight it got so cold that is froze solid both my shoes and my socks. It took me a good ten minutes of working the shoes with my barely warm hands to get them to become flexible enough to slide on my feet. And then so began the walking with feet that I couldn’t feel for a good part of the morning in the ice blocks.

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Morning view from the Bert Nichols Hut.

With lack of feeling in the feet, I managed to smash it out to Pine Valley Hut in record pace. The walk through was stunning and over the top of a couple of swinging bridges and through orange fields and beautiful rain forest along the way. We were hoping that it would be clear enough to climb to the top of the Acropolis, but by the time we got there the familiar cloudy haze had set back in and there was nothing to see from the top so we decided to go down the path a short way to a waterfall where the boys decided to entertain themselves with yet another underpants shot.

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Waterfalls on the Acropolis Trail

For the first time in six days, we had a coal heater with coal actually present in the hut. So the ten of us there hung all of our stinky clothes and boots out to dry and ramped up the heat. We sat around, played Yaniv, ate the last dehydrated meal of the trip and enjoyed the knowledge that there was only nine more kilometers to walk in the morning and it is all over.

Day Seven

The last day and it was the worst day for my feet. I woke up swollen from the top of my Achilles all the way down through my feet. It was painful and uncomfortable to walk but for some reason, the adrenaline of having nine kilometers to go and the familiarity of walking on sore feet made my body and mind adjust to the task before me.

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The stunning path with orange plants along the Pine Valley Trail

Within three hours retracing our way back along the Pine Valley Hut trail and then legging it the south on the trail we made it to Narcissus Hut and called the ferry to come and collect us. We sat out on the dock in the rain waiting for the boat that drove us across Lake St. Clair. It was over and we had done it! 90km. 6 days of walking. An amazing adventure! All that was left to do was to drive over the Central Highlands home via a stop at The Wall at Derwent Bridge, an amazing 100m long wall of wood carvings by a local Tasmanian artist detailing the history of the Tasmanian Central Highlands, and at the Deloraine bakery to devour two meat pies. Real food!

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Off the ferry at the end of the Overland Track, Lake St. Clair

Looking back on that week feels like a haze. It was one of the most mentally challenging and incredible weeks of my life. One that I am glad I decided to do. All there is left now are the pictures, the stories and the amazing memories. The pain of knees and feet and the mental slog lessens as the days have progressed until there will be no memories of that left at all. Just the memories of spectacular views, “going deep”, frozen shoes, cheeky birds and some amazing company along the way. This is what it is all about. This is life.

The Overland Track Part Two – Mount Ossa, The Top of Tassie

So I had to Google Mount Ossa and what it actually looks like later when I had gotten home because it was so overcast and cloudy that I could barely see most of it on the day we decided to climb it….. I didn’t know where the summit was, I had no idea where I was going. All I knew, was that I WAS GOING……

Mount Ossa on a clear day. Source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Mount_Ossa_Tasmania.jpg

Day Four

Day four started with me spending half an hour strapping my feet with bandaids and sports tape to try and protect them, a feat which I later discovered was futile. It was a two hour journey from the Pelion Hut up to the Pelion Gap. From here you can do two side trips. You can chose the path to the left which leads you up to the top of the stick pile on the hill that is Mount Pelion East, or you can choose to be bad ass and take the path on the right which leads to the summit of the tallest peak in Tasmania, Mount Ossa, standing at 1617m…. despite not being able to see it.

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Mount Ossa somewhere in there…. obscured by quite a lot of low level cloud

So in the grand tradition of ‘don’t think, just do’, we took the path to the right. Firstly though, we had to cover our packs. Warning signs had been placed on the trails warning of the cunning currawongs, these glorious black birds that have evolved to learn how to undo zips on bags and go through all of your stuff. I put my pack cover over the top of my bag, put my bag down and started on my way.

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Cheeky Bird Warning

Not being able to see what it is that you are climbing exactly makes things a little ambiguous. At first I thought we were going up Mount Doris. But then I realized that it was not high enough and going to be too easy, so around the side of Mount Doris we went and there we were, at the foot of Mount Ossa, ready to go.

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Round The Side Of Mount Doris

About half way up, we started to encounter the snow and the low level cloud to the point where it became difficult to see anything more than the footprints in the snow in front of you, more snow and some rocks sticking out of it. The wind started roaring and it became difficult to climb. At one point I thought to myself, “I can’t do this. It is too dangerous. It is too windy. I can’t get up this channel that the wind is just beating down in”. Some of the girls we had been staying with in the hut came around the corner at the top and told us that the wind is not bad on the other side and all we had to do was to make it to the top of the narrow and windy alley. So we persisted. Slowly. Carefully. And eventually rounded the top of the wind tunnel into the haven of the wind-free other side of the mountain.

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On the face heading towards the central channel. The infamous wind tunnel….

From here it was another half an hour of walking. As the days had progressed we had laughed about ‘going deep’, a term that we used every time somebody stepped into a puddle so deep that the muddy water seeped over the top of your boot and down into your shoes. This half an hour of walking took the term ‘going deep’ to a completely new level. At times the footing was so unstable you would find yourself ass deep in snow with your feet stuck and you would literally have to climb your way out.

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“Going Deep”

At some point, the footprints in the snow stopped. And after consultation with the GPS, we realized that we were indeed at the top. 1617m, and the top of Tasmania. The boys took part in customary underpants photos and we started our way back down the hill.

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At The Summit of Mount Ossa, 1617m

Given the downward momentum and that it was pretty hairy trying to walk down for fear of ‘going deep’ it was easier for the most part to slide down the snow on your butt trying to avoid rocks. It was actually really fun and in some places you could work up a bit of speed. We rounded the bend into the giant wind tunnel again, managed to get down safely and continued back down the hill.

An hour later, the rest of the world appeared out of the bottom of the clouds and the surreal feeling of being in the snow in a white out disappeared. It was back to business as usual, back to the packs, and back on the trail to get to the next hut, the Kia Ora hut.

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The world reappearing from the under the bottom of a cloud

Only one thing was problematic….. those cheeky Currawongs! They had managed to evolve further to chewing through elastic to remove my pack cover, open my top zip, disperse my phone, wallet, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and anything else they could get their grubby beaks on all over the platform. Despite not being the only one who had their pack broken into for the day (it happened to about five people), I would never hear the end of it. “Forget being smarter than a fifth grader, because you aren’t smarter than a bird”.

Stay tuned for the final installment of the Overland Track……

The Overland Track Part One…. And So The Adventure Begins

6 days. 4 boys that call themselves the “Trail Smashing Mega Blokes” and a girl. Approximately 90km. Four waterfalls. One mountain summit. Voted one of the top ten walks in the world. Welcome to the Overland Track, deep in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness!

The Start Of The Overland Track At Ronny Creek

It had been on the bucket list for years and this time I decided that while spending some time at home I was going to do it! So I put out the call for others to come along on Facebook and found some friends from high school I hadn’t seen in years who were keen. That is it! We’re going! It’s on!

Day One

And so I set off in the 4WD through the amazing Central Highlands from Launceston to Lake St. Clair to meet up with the others coming up from Hobart. After meeting we drove the winding roads up through to the small mining town of Queenstown for lunch before continuing on to Cradle Mountain National Park.

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Queenstown Main Street

Post checking into our accommodation and organizing all of our packs and who was carrying what, came the last supper. Dinner consisted of a giant BBQ plate of meat, a luxury food not afforded to us for the next 6 days followed by the most ridiculous game of ‘spoons’ you have ever seen (spoons literally flying around the kitchen) and the last nights’ sleep in a real bed.

Day Two

I started the morning off with a Redbull poured into a glass and handed to me while I was still in bed. It was freezing and motivation at that point to get out of bed was low. Add the caffeine kickstart and we are up and at ’em!

We started at the Ronny Creek Car Park at 7:30am. Spirits were high, there was excitement in the air. We hiked through the grasslands up into the rain forest and then up around to the stunning views over Crater Lake. The packs were heavy and foreign on the backs but not too bad at that stage.  We persisted climbing up the side of a steep hill, hauling ourselves up with the chains supports to Marion’s Lookout with the incredible view of Dove Lake and the amazing Cradle Mountain, renowned for it’s cradle-like shape in the middle.

Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain

The steepest ascent and toughest part of the day was done. From here was a flat stroll through low level grasslands with some of the most breathtaking valley views I have ever seen in my life. To the left you hiked along the side of Cradle Mountain and to the right, there were the valleys and the amazing Barn Bluff, a mountain of jagged and sheer rock sticking up out of a curved hill like a pile of sticks.

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Barn Bluff

We followed the trail down until we reached the Waterfall Valley Hut. This is technically the end of the first leg of the Overland Track and we were here by noon and decided we would stay on for lunch. We were joined by a crew of three from France who had just summitted the Barn Bluff and we sat and ate together. At one point, we saw a random guy who was wearing nothing but a singlet, a tiny pair of shorts and a headband running around outside being all Rambo. For the rest of the trip, he became known as the ghost of the Overland Track from the 80’s. Nobody saw him again after that. Nobody knew where he went.

Given how early it was, we continued to proceed on the next leg of the Overland Track to Windermere Hut. It was a struggle and a hard push towards the end. The feet were starting to hurt. The pack was wearing through on the back. But 8km later we made it. It was around an 18km day of hiking, and putting the pack down had never felt better. With some herb and cheese gnocchi for dinner smashed down, it was early to bed with the thirteen of us in the hut and a pretty restless sleep.

Day Three

The longest single leg of the Overland Track from the Windermere Hut to the Pelion Hut was today. The weather unlike the day before was average with little to no visibility. So it was a long, hard and incredibly muddy slog, through the Pine Forest Moor, through the Frog Flats and down to the Pelion Hut. At one point I started freaking out that I was not going to make it there before it got dark considering that my feet had gotten so sore that they were slowing me down quite a lot. We eventually arrived though and I had never been happier.

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Through the Pine Forest Moor

The views from the balcony overlooking the mountains from Pelion Hut were incredibly calming and beautiful. I chose to sit out here and pop the many blisters I had acquired that day in an attempt to dry them out for the next day. There were around thirty people staying at the hut including quite a few families which surprised me given that it is quite perilous hiking the Overland Track in winter. The boys and I sat, ate an amazing dehydrated Laksa for dinner and I taught them how to play Yaniv, a game we became well acquainted with during the trip. Sleep was easier on the second night, but still fairly restless.

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Views out from the Pelion Hut

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Overland Track……

The World – Virgin Blog Entry

I am not sure how or when exactly it started, but my inherent fascination with the world, the people in it and their differences has always given me itchy feet. So much so that I made it my life long goal to visit every continent on the globe and as many countries in this life as I could. A huge feat, one that even I still can’t fathom 30 countries later. Add to this my excitable nature and my constant need to be doing something different all of the time and I find myself in all kinds of hilarious situations and troubles.

Every child in this world embraced dreams and dared to dream large. As people age they tend to start living in a state fear that inhibits them from reaching true happiness and fulfilling their own potential. The fear of instability and of what other people think about them begins to dictate their choices. After letting this resonate with me for many years and struggling with going against the social norms, I decided to embrace the wise words once spoken by Nelson Mandela. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”.

So everyday, I challenge myself. Push myself to the limits. Try something new. Experience difference. LIVE. Because if we are static in this life, we will never grow. I personally don’t want to see my life out with regrets. I want to remember the roller coaster and say ‘well, geez that was a whole lot of fun and a hell of a ride! I did everything I could have in this short time that we are granted here on this earth. I didn’t waste any of it’.

And so here begins your journey with me. Laugh with me, cry with me, struggle with me, as I take on whatever challenge comes my way, no matter how ridiculous it might seem at the time. It is bound to be a riot! I didn’t get the nickname “Stories Dano” for nothing!

With much love, fun and adventure to come! I look forward to the ride with you all!

 

Danni 🙂 xxxx