Hiking Group 2022 & Gym Adventure

For the past three years, our hiking group has been attempting to train and travel to Western Australia for the fabulous Cape to Cape walk. Covid shut down the borders twice in 2020 and 2021, so we rescheduled one last time for May in 2022… When Mark McGowan kept the borders shut on their promised opening day, we gave up, cancelled our gym adventure, and reached out to Laura from Journey Outdoors in Nature.

We organised a trip in Northern NSW, modified our dates and training plans, and we have just returned; presently tired and full of pride about what we achieved!

This year’s hiking group ran from June to August. In that time, 4 out of 7 of us came down with COVID, and a few of us struggled to get back in to fighting form.

Every second hike was torrential rain, and we had several sessions where we were covered with leaches and hiking through knee deep water with our shoes still on.

Then, the day after our last training session, and 5 days before we left on our adventure, this happened….

Thankfully, it wasn’t broken.

Now, Clare suffering a sprained ankle in itself probably wasn’t a big deal – except that we were one staff member short for our adventure (we only had 7 people in our group, rather than the minimum 10, so Clare volunteered to help with guiding, carrying a first aid kit and a radio). We weren’t certain she could even drive, let alone walk hundreds of kilometres with extra weight.

And that wasn’t all, just days before we left – another curveball – Robbie came down with COVID and couldn’t come!

Clare did resting the same way she does everything – with full commitment – and was mobile enough by Friday to drive a carload of IntoYou Hiking Groupies to Coffs Harbour, then on to Tenterfield on Saturday.

Day 1

We arrived on Saturday to a gorgeous homestead just outside of Tenterfield. From the windows we could see cherry blossom and plum trees, granite mountains, sheep, cows, and horses. It was idyllic. We had an hour or so to unpack and settle in, every single one of us with our own rooms, and many of those equipped with a fireplace (even if we weren’t allowed to use them!). It was luxury for a gym adventure accomodation, where we consider luxury to be a solid roof!

About 4pm we set off for Bald Rock, Australia’s 2nd largest granite rock, and we settled at the summit with nibblies and herbal tea to watch the sunrise. We were surprised and stoked at the spread the girls put out for us up there, in the middle of nowhere, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been – Laura was in charge after all. For those of you who don’t know Laura, a more unassuming legend you’ll never meet! She’s a high-level AFL athlete, whitewater paddler, and general kick-ass adventurer; but she approaches every person and every trip with thoughtfulness, empathy, and calm. Everything from the food we eat, the track’s she’s chosen for her group, to waste management is carefully considered and thought-out to be as sustainable, healthy, and wholesome as possible.

Bald Rock was just as awesome as the first time, and utterly spectacular at sunset. Laura nurtured the first-time climbers to the top with a sense of humor and unflappable support.

We then got even more adventurous, hiking back down in the dark. All together a magnificent way to start our adventure!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


Day 2

On this day Laura had a longish (14km) hike that was very easy terrain, following a river. The day started with a flat tyre on the “troupie” so Bonnie spent the morning sorting out a new one while we used Clare and Dave’s car’s to get us to the trailhead. Bonnie was a slight, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, bubble-filled woman who was supposed to be our chauffeur and cook, but ended up filling the role of mum – she did our washing and gave us epsom salt footbaths! We were suitably unappreciative too, as fitting for fully grown children.

Our resting place for lunch was a huge waterfall that came out of nowhere, it was spectacular and totally unexpected!

Day 2 was also the start of Laura’s swim challenge too – she’d thrown a gauntlet that on every walk there was a place for a fully-submerged dip.

The water was freezing.

It was still winter.

Challenge accepted.

On the way home the team tried to take a different track, which turned out to be a firetrail. After about 1km of steep uphill hiking, the group decided that they liked the river better and came back down a different trail, but not before adding 2km of hill hiking to their original itinerary… oops!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


Day 3

Day 3 was a loop through the wonderful granite belt of Girraween National Park, in Queensland. The forest was peppered with random grate rocks, balanced precariously against each other like a giant had started a huge game of marbles. At one point we thought Bald Rock would be the highlight of the trip, but it paled in comparison to the scale and variety that we saw at Mount Norman (otherwise known as Kaye’s Conquest – named after Sandra’s parents…). We had lunch under a particularly large set of balanced rocks before making our way through various differing landscapes towards Castle Rock and The Sphinx.

It was at Castle Rock that things began to unravel.

We had to climb up sections of granite so steep we were on our hands and knees. We abandoned our backpacks and squeezed through the narrow openings left between two rocks. Then it opened up and we found ourselves on a narrow ledge, with a steep downward slope to a sharp drop off on our left, and a sheer rockface on our right. To make it worse, the rock face angled out over our heads, preventing us from walking upright. Instead, we walked on a lean towards the cliff, which was both nerve wracking and terrifying.

Fairly early on Dave was butt-shuffling across the ledge, when he started to slide. Laura was quick enough to grab his collar, and must have been using her fingernails to hold on with the other hand, because she halted his slide. However, that was the end of the trail for Mukta and Tracey. Mukta’s heart rate spiked drastically and she started crying with fear. Tracey was dizzy and unable to continue. Laura tried to encourage them by putting herself between them and the drop, saying “i’m solid, i’ve got you” but it was too terrifying to go on.

Louise on the other hand, had pottered over the other end of the ledge, and was now safely scaling yet another crevice to gain access to the top. She was on her hands and knees, boosted by Bonnie’s encouragement. Bonnie had walked backwards from where she had dropped the Troupie to meet up with us. Louise was living the real life philosophy of “left foot, right foot, breathe”; she wasn’t over-thinking. She wasn’t making any decisions until she had to. It took her a few days to fully comprehend how courageous she had been, but it sunk in eventually!

We made a short drive for an equally short swim. Dave joined the swim challenge for the first time today!


Later that night, Robbie arrived in Tenterfield. She’d travelled all day on a bus, the train, and then another bus to join us and do the rest of the hike! Mukta even moved out of her room to share with Louise so that Robbie could enjoy the full indulgence of a double bed, flannel sheets, and a room to herself.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

Day 4

We moved out of our Tenterfield home on day 4 – and it was SAD! After a sleep in and some delicious blueberry pikelets, we packed up for The Pyramid. This was Robbie’s only opportunity to climb a granite mountain, and we were determined to do it! The track itself was pretty straightforward, and only about 3km.

It took us 2.5hrs.

You read right.

A whole hour for 1km.

It was THAT steep.

After yesterday’s experience, Dave and Tracey sat the last bit out. However the rest of us scrambled up on our hands and knees without any thought about how we were going to get down again.

Until we had to get down.

It was Clare that baulked first. Her swollen, sprained ankle wouldn’t point to the degree necessary to plant her foot on the granite, and she kept pitching towards the cliff edges when her shoe slipped. Even when sitting down, she couldn’t point her toes enough to keep her boots firmly planted on the ground and kept slipping. One by one the team froze beside her, until Sandra – “I’m afraid of heights” – Fowler just marched past them and got the line moving again. Louise took more cajoling from Laura, but was magnificent in her courage as she allowed herself to be stood up, and walked down the steepest section hand-in-hand with Laura, the only one of us to walk down.

Special mention goes to Mukta today, as she was too terrified to go on yesterday, but managed today’s even more brutal hike!

We didn’t swim here, as we had another hike planned for the afternoon in the Gibraltar National Park!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


Our second hike of the day took 2 hours too, but was twice as far and quarter as steep. It was a quick jaunt through the jungle to see the iconic “Needles” (which look like something else all together when you look at them after having driven through Bald Nob along Bald Nob Road to get there…). We took a twilight swim then settled in to the River Cottage in the Mann River Caravan Park for the next 3 nights.

Special mention has to go to Robbie, who completed both hikes (9km total) just a few days after recovering from COVID.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

Day 5

We were back in the Gibraltar Ranges but the terrain was very different to what we had walked before, and we chewed up the kilometres today!

About a third of the way in to the hike we climbed up in to the Dandahra Crags – which literally look like a natural temple – four enormous granite marbles balanced against each other at their tips, with a piece of fallen rock as a Sacred Stone in the middle… it was brilliant. The rest of the hike followed a beautiful river. We stopped for lunch alongside it, and Clare soaked her foot until it went white and numb. We stopped again when the river opened up in to a pool at the base of a beautiful rapid – and we completed the water challenge there!

We had clocked 15km by 2pm and spent the afternoon with out feet up reading books, and allowing Bonnie and Laura to make us snacks and dinner! Over dinner, Tracey informed the group that she was having a day off, which started a cascade of “alternative options”. Laura, being the professional that she is, managed to come up with a plan that suited two different group goals!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

Day 6

Clare had been icing her ankle twice a day, and gradually building up the number of kilometres she was walking on it. The 15km completed on day 5 was a massive confidence boost, and she wanted the chance to try and complete the circuit by doing the “other half” of it – 20km through Washpool National Park. Dave was keen too, so Laura packed up Bonnie and sent her off with them!

The rest of the group did a waterfall crawl, including Danger and Lyrebird Falls.

The group started together, with an easy jaunt to Danger falls, where our swimming challenge was completed early! Louise, Dave, and Sandra all braved the cold to complete the challenge on this day! We had a lovely picnic there before Dave, Clare, and Bonnie headed off up the mountain, and the others enjoyed a few more minutes before leisurely making their way to their next highlight.

Washpool National Park was a delightful experience, with waterfalls, waterholes, rainforest, acacia forest, and those magnificent granite marbles that peppered the landscape. It was on this walk that we saw the largest grass trees that we have ever seen, including a stalk that took two people to whole up!

Sandra took on the unenviable task of driving a manual car for the first time in many many years, and after an unsuccessful attempt to find the trailhead, settled down to read a book in the car, fearful she’d miss the “long hike” group. She didn’t. Clare, Dave, and Bonnie happened to walk right past her on their way to the rendezvous site – and all ended well! On the way home they saw a possum like creature that hopped like a kangaroo, with a long white tail – anyone know what it was??


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

Day 7

In true Laura style, she scheduled a rest day without scheduling a rest day. Welcome to the IntoYou Adventure Race!

How it works:

  1. You’re divided in to teams
  2. You’re given a radio, a task sheet, and a pen
  3. You must produce photo or video evidence that you’ve completed each task
  4. Each task is assigned a number of points
  5. Most points wins
hikers poking their head's out of Mulligan's hut

Mulligan’s Hut – he wanted to build a hydroelectric plant but his plans were spoiled by WW2

The tasks ranged from 10 points for each different type of leave you photographed, to 400 points for submerging your body in the river (head under too). There were tasks that you had to walk 7km to achieve, and others that you could to back at camp while Bonnie fried up falafel balls for our lunch. “East Side” Pittwater Road chose the former activities, “West Side” chose the latter, and hardly hiked at all.

West Side ended up winning the challenge due to TWO river submersions EACH – which added up to an astronomical 1800 points because all three of us did it. We spent the remainder of the challenge ensconced in the lunch hut separating the cous cous from the rice to gain another 400 points.

The highlight of the day had to be East Side’s “pussycat” team song performance, which everyone enjoyed a lot!

We moved again after this, and headed to Broom’s Head, ready for some coastal adventures!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

Day 8

Our arrival on the coast coincided with not one, but TWO cold fronts! It rained!

The rivers rose.

Landslides happened.

Our trails were closed.

So we made do with a lovely little beach hike in the rain, then spent the afternoon warm and cosy in another fantastic house, this one was right across the road from the beach (making the swim challenge much more convenient!). This day was made even more special by a “throw the coconut” challenge, which most people participated in, but we still have no idea who threw it the furthest!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


Day 9

Our final day of hiking! We left Robbie and Louise at the cottage and ventured out in to the wind and the rain, just in time for it to clear up! It was like the gods were smiling down on us as we made our way north through Yarangir National Park to Lake Arangon. This was our shortest hike yet, but we were treated to kangaroos, oyster catchers, and the promise of wild Emu’s before being picked up by the Troupie just in time for the rain to begin again!

six women and one man hiking hikers posing for selfie

Windy selfie with scraps of blue sky behind us!

Dave, true to his word, did a “shoey” to celebrate, although, if you must know, he had a cup in his shoe 😉

Sandra, Clare, and Laura headed out for their last swim challenge, and then the trip was done!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

On the way home, a few of us stopped off for one final hike… Muttonbird Island in Coffs! Special mention has to go to Sandra at this point for completing some or all of everyday, despite excruciating plantar fasciitis.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

IntoYou Adventures are about extending yourself; feeling different, moving different, experiencing different.

It is not always comfortable, in fact, it almost never is! Every trip is a growth opportunity to learn more about yourself, to bond with others as you lean on them, and to do something that you can truly be proud of. Every single one of us on this trip (Clare included) was afraid at one point or another. Every single one of us was in pain at one point or another. We all wanted to stop. These experience build confidence by testing it; when you honestly don’t know if you can go on, or meet the challenge that is required of you.

It’s the moment that comes after that experience that’s truly rewarding. The moment of self reflection where you can say “i did that”, “i’m still here”, and “i can’t believe that was me”!

Hey guys, I can’t believe we did that, I can’t believe that was us!!!!

If you’d like to join us for Hiking Group next year you can view dates and details here.

We have one bunk in our NZ Adventure, you can view dates and snap it up here!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *