Reflections II - Five Years and Still Going

Hello. My name is Mark, a recently turned 33yo male living in Fremantle, Western Australia that enjoys hiking, photography and life (for those that only know me as the myth that is The Life of Py). It's been a couple of years since I've done one of these and with so much happening since then I thought it was best to put the remembering hat on and reflect on what has been a remarkable journey. Starting in 2014 I never thought this is where TLoP would end up and to be honest, I'm surprised at myself for sticking with it this long. Before I get into a long philosophical flow about life, love, hiking and the meaning of everything (this will be a long post that I make no apologies for), I'd like to thank a few people who have supported me to this point.

Caris (the partner of Py) is the one who lets me go on all my adventures by keeping the house together and doggos fed when I go off on my own for sometimes weeks at a time. She even joined me on a couple of adventures this year with an Easter trip to Fitzgerald River and beyond and a four day excursion on the Three Capes. Aron aka 1A1R is another who has been a big help, not only joining me on a few trips but also being a giant help when it came to tackling the regrowth around the Murray Campsite. The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions played a big part in my 2018 adventures with a couple of trips with the Google Trekker allowing me some experiences that were probably a year or two off if I'd organised them myself but I'll get to those a bit later on.

Now to the rambling... I'll start with a brief reflection on 2017 as it was an amazing year filled with friends, great adventures, new trails, stunning locations and a little bit of disappointment. I had a full year of organising group hikes where I met some amazing people and created some lasting memories. Thank you to everyone who came along to an event, it was great to meet you all and everyone added something special in their own unique way. Unfortunately I was unable to continue with the group hikes in 2018 because of insurance and license issues (which doesn't stop almost every other hiking group you see operating on Facebook but they seem to get away with it) but given what I have done in 2018, I'm not sure I would have had the time anyway. In between running the group hikes I explored some new trails, mainly in the South West with a couple of road trips to experience the wonderful natural beauty we are lucky to have all over the state. Before enjoying an amazing holiday exploring Europe in July (and getting in a couple of hikes in Switzerland and Greece) I took the first big steps in completing my sectional E2E of the Bibbulmun Track with a five day hike between Donnelly River and Pemberton.


Following Europe my focus was set on the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker and getting the training kilometres into the legs but the weather turned against us on the day and the 100km event was cancelled, to be replaced with the 50km option (you can read my thoughts on that on the page). That disappointment was quickly forgotten as I started another of my overambitious South West road trips trying to tackle way too many hikes where something would eventually go wrong. Starting off well with a visit to the Porongurups and Stirling Range, followed by an aborted attempt at the Stirling Ridge Walk, my faithful Audi A4 let me down at the Bluff Knoll car park with a mechanical issue (later diagnosed as a blocked catalytic converter) so I had to cut my trip down a little. I still enjoyed some hikes around Albany, Denmark, Pemberton and Northcliffe and the slower pace probably made it more enjoyable. Those hikes kept me busy for quite a while afterwards with lots of photo editing and posts to write-up.

It was towards the end of 2017 that Real Trail Talk became a thing with the help of Donovan from The Long Way's Better. I had always wanted to start a podcast and didn't realise that Donovan had all the equipment to record and edit when I asked him if he was interested so that turned out to be a bit of a bonus. With our respective websites we rarely get out to hike together and before the Stirling Ridge and Sheila Hill, I think we had only hiked together twice before. The podcast allows us to catch-up every couple of weeks, drink some wine and wax lyrical about a passion we both share. Having on some great guests has made it a better listening experience and we get a different perspective to the topics we discuss. Hopefully this continues into 2019 and everyone enjoys listening to us ramble on about trails. 2018 arrived and I started off the year as I would spend most of it, with a hike. Staying at Margaret River for New Years, I woke up early and decided to get in a morning walk at the Riverslea Run. I followed this up with another of the long forgotten heritage trails a few days later given the South West enjoys cooler temperatures over the summer.


A trip up to Cervantes in February to celebrate the birthday of 1A1R gave me the opportunity to add another trail to the Perth Hikes page (took some liberty here as it's two hours away) with the Lake Thetis Walk Trail. I also got to tick off an experience that I had wanted to do for a while, astrophotography at the Pinnacles. An invitation in early March to finish off the Wadjemup Bidi on Rottnest Island before the grand opening was one I couldn't pass up. Getting the full VIP treatment with transportation help from the staff on Rottnest was cool and it was a nice feeling to complete the full trail network because they've done such a great job to present the best side of Rottnest (seriously go hike on Rottnest). While prepping for the podcast we did on our 2018's in review I realised that the last three trails I mentioned here were my only "Perth" trails I did for the year. I didn't plan it that way so I apologise if you were hanging out for more Perth based content in 2018 (stay tuned in 2019). Some of that was due to the number of trips I took out to the Murray Campsite on the Bibbulmun Track to perform maintenance duties. A combination of summer rains, previous fires and excellent growing conditions meant the track was severely overgrown and it's taken most of the year and multiple weekends down there to try and tame the beast. I think I am almost there so if you passed through the area in 2018 and thought it was overgrown, I tried my best but nature was ahead in this battle until just recently. 

Easter came along and I had planned a trip to Fitzgerald River NP and Esperance with Caris in the new (old) X-Trail. This was one of most enjoyable trips of the year as Fitzgerald River NP is one of the best national parks in the country and there was a good selection of day hikes that we could both do. Arriving at Point Ann was one of those moments in life where you just pull over and marvel at what's in front of you. The next few days really confirmed that this was one of the best places I'd ever been as we explored both sides of the park. For a place that is this beautiful it sure is a shame that it doesn't get the visitor numbers it is setup for. We finished the trip with a visit to Esperance, Cape Le Grand and Wave Rock. Esperance is a lovely coastal town with a lot going for it and I really enjoyed our time there. Unfortunately we weren't so lucky at Lucky Bay in terms of getting that iconic shot of the kangaroos on the white beach but I understand why it is a popular spot for people to visit (even without the Instagram shot).


The long drive home is best done with a break at Wave Rock and despite the masses of tourists, there is a bit of quiet away to be found from the main photo spot and on the cool trails surrounding Wave Rock. I didn't think I'd get the opportunity to return to Fitzgerald River for a couple of years at least but fate came knocking when I was asked to volunteer on a Parks and Wildlife project involving the Google Trekker. With the two overnight trails within the park still on my to-hike list I jumped at the opportunity and spent just over a week exploring the park again with an 18kg camera on my back. This is one of those experiences that still hasn't sunk in with regards to what was involved and how long it will last (go check out the results on Google Street View). The two overnight trails in the Mamang and Hakea Trails are some of the best hikes I've ever done and the photos I look back on with great fondness.

Unfortunately I had a slight setback on that trip with some Achilles Tendinitis, my first ever injury that took me out of action for longer than a week. With a week long trip on the Bibbulmun Track planned I saw a podiatrist and and he put a plan in place for me to rehab and after a few weeks I was in better shape and ready to hike between Dwellingup and Collie with 1A1R. A week of mixed weather, fun times and good old fashioned forest walking was a pleasure with Aron making for the perfect walking partner. With another town to town section ticked off the list, my plans for completing my sectional end to end were put on hold after the Achilles injury and another invite to join the Google Trekker project. This time it was to a place I had not visited and one I was very much looking forward to seeing, the Pilbara. Having only visited the north of WA once with a brief trip to Broome, this trip would be my first hiking expedition in some of the most amazing landscapes in Australia.


It blew me out of the water with how magical it was and it helped that the Parks and Wildlife person on the trip was similar in age and from the same part of Perth. Ben and I had a blast exploring the gorges and mountains of Karijini, capturing some astrophotography in the clear skies and then moving on to the expanse of Millstream Chichester NP. In a year of epic trips, this one was great fun. Coming home to Perth after that trip was easier knowing I had more trips planned (long service leave is great). From the red earth of the Pilbara I then returned to the Karri Forests of the South West for a three day trip on the Bibbulmun Track between Pemberton and Northcliffe. I deliberately left this section for the spring time when I knew it was going to be in peak condition with the transition between fungi and wildflowers. It turned out to be a pretty wet and wild trip with a couple of days of heavy rain but that just made it even more enjoyable. I love returning to the Karri forests and this section is a great three day escape. 

With so many longer trips this year I wasn't getting out on the weekends to explore Perth but that's the trade-off for spending so much time away from home. I did manage a Real Trail Talk group hike with Donovan and Alissa, enjoying an off-track hike around Boyagin Rock (write-up coming in 2019 sometime). My next big trip came a month later when I plugged the gap between Collie and Donnelly River on the Bibbulmun Track. This was one of the most varied weeks on the track and made a lot better by a bumper wildflower season in WA. Some areas were popping with colour and although I usually enjoy the sometimes mundane Jarrah forest, this trip certainly was much better than I was expecting. This would be my last trip on the Bibbulmun Track for the year and with just under 400km to go for my sectional end to end, I am looking forward to a fun 2019 as I explore Northcliffe to Albany to wrap things up (along with a couple of short trips to plug in the gaps). The fun adventures didn't stop there and it in October I boarded a plane to explore Victoria and Tasmania.


Joining Caris' aunt and uncle in Daylesford for a few days before heading off to Tassie to do the Three Capes was another spectacular highlight in a year of highlights. Doing the luxury Lodge Walk was certainly a different experience but the company was great and the scenery really is worth it. Thanks again to Candy and Hal for the trip and for hosting us at Daylesford. After the Three Capes we hung around Hobart visiting Caris' sister before Caris headed home and I stuck around for another week to explore more of Tasmania. Packing a lot of hiking into the week, I based myself near Hartz Mountain NP to start with and explored the area around Huonville. Taking in mountains, waterfalls and the rolling valleys was great fun and I wish I could have stayed longer to fully explore the region. From Huonville I moved on to my next AirBnb near New Norfolk where Mount Field NP would be my main exploration point for the rest of the trip. Finally getting a taste of Tasmanian alpine conditions made me want to return even more than before and I'm sure I'll be back plenty of times in the future. At the time of writing I still have a lot of Tasmania posts to get through that should see me through the non-hiking summer here in Perth.

It's been a crazy year that I think I have reached "peak" The Life of Py. Using up a fair amount of long service leave meant I could go on a number of awesome trips so I don't think this level of trail coverage is sustainable going forward (unless someone wants to pay me to do this). 

To put 2018 into numbers looks like this; 
Kilometres Hiked - 751
Trails Hiked - 77
Posts Added to the Website - 67
Words Written - 120,000 (est)
Photos Taken - 30,000 (est)
Photos Posted - 3,600 (est)
Website Visits - 217,511

Adding to and maintaining the website really is a passion project as the income I receive from the ads on the pages only just covers my hosting fees. I don't want to do the maths on how many hours I devote to The Life of Py as it's meant to be something fun and I'm clearly not in it for the money. I'm pretty proud of the free resource I've created for the hiking community in WA and I hope people get some value out of it. Whether you just visit the page to look at the map or are one of the few that read every post, thank you for the support. One advantage of having no outside influence is that I can experiment with design and layout (you may notice I'm in the middle of a minor layout change right now) so the site is essentially always in a beta state. 


Adding an Online Store to sell my photos is something I've always wanted to do so if you're in the market for a memento of one of your adventures or know of a friend or family member that would like a print I encourage you to give the page a visit. I have had the opportunity to visit some pretty amazing places over the years and to gather my favourite images into different collections for people to buy has been a long time coming. From a simple $2 print to a large canvas, there are plenty of options available in the store.

So where to from here? 2019 will bring the completion of my sectional end to end of the Bibbulmun Track (barring any major setback) and