As well as writing picture books, novels and short stories I’m also a contributing writer to two outdoorsy magazines, ‘Wild’ and ‘Great Walks’.
My most recent article about walking the Portuguese Coastal Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela appeared in ‘Great Walks’ in January 2020.
Here’s an extract about my wife’s and my 260 kilometre walk …
A rooster crows in the misty morning air and somewhere in a distant village its call is answered. Silence follows, except for the steady tramp of our boots on the cobblestones worn smooth by those whose path we follow. We jump when a bell clangs loudly as we pass a church and enter a medieval square where water dribbles from an ornate fountain. Except for the sleek black cat stalking across the cobblestones, the square is empty. We stop briefly to admire the fountain before striding on. We are in Portugal and we are on ‘The Way’.
For many serious hikers, the Way of Saint James features high on their bucket list of ‘must-do’ hikes. Commonly referred to as the Camino de Santiago, it is a network of routes traversing Europe; routes that have been followed by pilgrims since the beginning of the 9th century, when the tomb of the Apostle James (Santiago) was discovered. Since then, people from all over the world have walked the Ways leading to the cathedral in Santiago, Spain, where relics of the Holy Apostle are venerated.
We had decided to take the road less travelled and opted to walk the Portuguese Coastal Camino, rather than its more popular counterpart, the Camino Frances, or French Way. Our route followed ancient paths through thick forests, villages, historical towns and cities, and was marked by innumerable chapels, churches, convents, shrines, and crosses, and the distinct shell symbol of ‘The Way’.
Ours was not a religious pilgrimage, but more spiritual in style – a retreat from life’s daily humdrum; an immersion in a richly textured culture, and an opportunity to experience the different customs and flavours of Portugal and Spain.
Over the past few years my articles have included stories about wilderness hikes to the source of the Murray River and the Cobberas Wilderness Area in NE Victoria; hiking England’s longest national trail, the South West Coast Path, a whopping 1014kms; and working as a Volunteer Track Ranger for Parks Victoria. My most recent article was about an eight day hike on Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk which appeared in ‘Great Walks’. My next article tells of a recent trip to Ireland where my wife and I walked the Wicklow Way.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have a couple of stories published in the prestigious ‘The School Magazine’, a publication of the NSW Education Department that celebrated 100 years in 2016.
Here’s a bit about our trek on the Great Ocean Walk, following Victoria’s coastline from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles…
A short walk takes us out of Apollo Bay and soon we’re walking with the ocean on our left and rural farmland on our right. It’s warming up so after an hour we hit the nearest beach for a refreshing dip followed by some nifty rock scrambling around Storm Point to Three Creeks Beach where we strip off, find a deliciously cool rock pool and dunk our sweaty bodies. After a leisurely lunch we head inland through shady coastal forests, slog our way up the track and by mid afternoon we’re at the Elliot Ridge campsite.
After a night filled with the screeches of nocturnal creatures we head off early following a wide, undulating management road through towering forests of Mountain Ash until we descend onto the beach at Blanket Bay. After lunch the afternoon alternates between lazing on the beach and swimming.
We reluctantly farewell our slice of Paradise next morning and begin the gentle climb to Point Lewis Lookout, continue through coastal forests and make the steep descent into the Parker River Inlet where we cool our feet in the river before tackling the 300 stone steps out of the inlet. It’s not long before our heaving bodies are crying out for another swim. When Crayfish Bay looms into sight we can barely contain our excitement as we discard packs and clothes. The water is crystal clear, the sun is a golden orb overhead and we wouldn’t be dead for quids. We spend an agreeable hour on the beach before continuing on and soon the Cape Otway Light Station bobs up on the horizon and a little later we’re trudging through tea tree to our next campsite.