By Brooke Nolan
I came across Emu Trekkers whilst on an overnight hike in the Blue Mountains earlier this year. Our groups kept crossing each other on the trail, sharing words of encouragement as we made our way up the beautiful but steep incline to Govetts Leap, where the hike ends.
We finished within a few minutes of each other, and with high fives and back slaps all round I decided to find out a bit more about the group that had been our shadow for the past 24 hours.
As soon as I got home that night (I don’t think I’d even showered or unpacked), I started my application to be a volunteer guide.
I’d moved to Australia from the UK 18 months prior, with the sole aim of 'spending more time outdoors'.
I'm also a writer, and I believe that literacy is one of the most important skills you can give a child. It turned out that all funds raised from Emu Trekkers hikes go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Seriously? This was perfect. They had to say yes!
Luckily, I had nothing to worry about and less than two weeks later I was on my first hike, shadowing Tristan (one of the founders) as he wowed the group with his unrivalled knowledge of the history and terrain of the Blue Mountains.
After another few hikes as an assistant guide, I get a phone call and asked if I felt ready to lead a hike. Was I up for the task? I was terrified, but said yes anyway. Which is pretty my approach to anything in life.
I knew the route like the back of my hand, so no worries there. I was teamed up with Anna as support guide who I’d trekked with a few times. She’s a doctor and super lovely, so I couldn’t have had a better co-host either.
But what about all the things I needed to learn? The history, the terrain, the ecology? My biggest fear was not doing justice to the mountains, to Australia's fascinating and often untold history, and the great work that Emu Trekkers does to help kids in need.
What followed was five days of endlessly reciting out loud the trip notes, determined not to forget anything. I even had one woman at a local cafe ask me if I was okay... it turns out that if you’re sitting alone, drinking tea and talking to yourself, you may attract attention for the wrong reasons!
THE BIG DAY
I could barely sleep the night before - thanks to an annoying worry that I might miss my alarm. But the day eventually dawned bright and clear and I headed for Central Station, armed with a large supply of Tim Tams, Lamingtons and lollies. My plan? If I was terrible, I could bribe people with food instead. That was okay, right?!
I’m pleased to say that the bribes weren’t needed (although the treats did get eaten of course). In fact, my nerves melted away as soon as I met the group and the day went without a hitch. It helped that everyone was so friendly and passionate about learning about Australia’s diverse history and environment.
I remembered everything (phew!) and even added in a few things which I’ve picked up through my own time in the mountains. At one point I was referred to as a 'plant geek', which, to be honest, I took as a compliment.
Since I moved here, the Blue Mountains have become my playground and I absolutely loved sharing them with others. I’m counting down the days until my next hike! Maybe I’ll see you there?