For thousands of years Aboriginal Australians retraced the paths, or ‘songlines’, of their ceremonial ancestors by going ‘walkabout’ in the Australian bush. The same spiritual awakening can happen today. There is no better way of rediscovering yourself – and reconnecting with nature – than going walkabout in Australia.
Less than two hour’s drive from Sydney is one of the continent’s most popular hiking areas – The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. You’ll love the blue-hazed beauty of the one million hectares of tall forests, sheer sandstone cliffs, tree fern glades, deep canyons and inspiring waterfalls.
You can soak up the Blue Mountains scenery on one of the many well-marked walking trails, which range from gentle strolls to more difficult climbs.
One option is to go walkabout with a local Aboriginal guide. Along the way you’ll hear about the legend of the Three Sisters – a trio of distinctive rocky pinnacles – and discover ancient art and ceremonial sites. You’ll see bark and body painting demonstrations, taste bush tucker and swim in a crystal clear billabong under a waterfall. There are chances to get up close to wildlife and explore sandstone caves, and listen to the Dreamtime stories that wove this wilderness together.
One of the most famous of the area’s multi-day walking trails is the Six Foot Track, which follows an original 1884 horse route from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.
The 45 kilometre track is suitable for walkers of average fitness and can be broken into day walks, or conquered comfortably in three days.
Start at the heritage-listed Explorer’s Tree just outside the town of Katoomba. The pioneering explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson carved their initials here in 1813. Today little is left of it, apart from a well-guarded stump.
The track meanders past peppermint and grand mountain ash trees before dropping sharply through the steep cliff walls of Nellie’s Glen and into cool, moist rainforest.
From here you walk past the tranquil Bonnie Doon Falls and into the rolling green-hill country of the Megalong Valley. The track winds along the steep-sided sandy banks of Cox’s River – a great place to revive on a hot summer day. Afterwards you can picnic in the shade of river oak and forest red gums and listen to the warble of bellbirds, cockatoos and lyrebirds.
You end up at Jenolan Caves – one of the most mystical cave systems in the world. The rock formations here are spell binding. After two nights of sleeping rough, you can reward yourself with a night in a grand hotel.
Another area famed for its walking is Australia’s Green Cauldron, which incorporates 14 National Parks and Reserves stretching from Byron Bay in northern New South Wales to Queensland’s Gold Coast and inland towards the Great Diving Range.
The towering, cone-shaped peak of Mount Warning dominates Australia’s Green Cauldron. The mountain and the surrounding caldera comprise the remnants of an ancient shield volcano, formed more than 20 million years ago.
It’s a site of great spiritual significance to the local Aboriginal tribes and the area provides a habitat for more than 200 rare and endangered plant and animal species. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the high-pitched wail of the green catbird, the amazing mimicry of Albert’s Lyrebird and the call of the whip-birds, which reverberates like a whip crack through the rainforest.
You’ll find some of the best bushwalking in Australia around here, on a series of clearly marked trails ranging in length from a few hundred metres to the 54 kilometre Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk.
Making it easy to access all of these magnificent wilderness experiences is the Rainforest Way, a series of driving loops connecting the national parks in and around the caldera via quaint country villages and tranquil farming communities.
The touring route begins at the friendly art-deco town of Murwillumbah and from there meanders around the base of the mountain. Along the way you drive through many charming towns passing roadside stalls offering fresh local produce and bush tucker grown in the valley’s fertile volcanic soils.
Tasmania has some incredible walking trails too. Among them is the Bay of Fires walk, a two-day trek that follows magnificent wilderness coastline studded with orange lichen-covered boulders and pure white sand beaches. Stretches of the coast reveal huge areas composed almost entirely of seashells. These are Aboriginal middens – refuse heaps from meals eaten over thousands of years.
French Explorer, Captain Tobias Forneaux, named the area after seeing Aboriginal camp fires burning as he sailed past in 1773.
Tasmania has many spiritual walks that will leave you renewed, but the most famous of all is the Overland Track, through the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
Formed by glacial forces during the last Ice Age, the park has vegetation unlike anything you’ll find on Australia’s mainland. There are gorgeous and uplifting short walks around here including a trail around the silent, mirrored Dove Lake, which includes strolls past waterfalls and through myrtle beech and pencil pine forest.
The six-day Overland Track takes a lot of beating though. It’s a true challenge and a great way to immerse yourself in the area’s majestic scenery. The walk begins at the Waldheim Chalet in Cradle Valley, where you’ll see wallabies and wombats feeding on the grassy entrance. Then you trek to the top of Cradle Mountain through button grass plains and herb meadows. From the 1,545 metre summit you can look out over a panorama of lakes, valleys, plateaus, heaths and forests stretching to the horizon.
As you descend through the rugged wilderness highlands, for the most part you will have the world around you all to yourself. Stay overnight in huts, climb Mt Ossa – Tasmania’s highest mountain – experience fairytale waterfalls, explore magical ancient forests and end your journey with a boat cruise along Lake St Clair, Tasmania’s deepest lake.
Just as inspiring, but far to the north of Australia is the Larapinta Trail, which meanders along the Outback backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory.
This epic walk stretches more than 223 kilometres from the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mount Sonder and Mount Razorback. Along the route you can stand on ancient escarpments and look out over vast ochre-coloured landscapes. Visit sites sacred to the local Aboriginal people, scramble down sheltered gorges, swim in cool waterholes and sleep under a sea of stars.
The track has 12 sections which range from easy to arduous. Chose one or two of them, or give yourself three weeks and walk the entire distance.
Camp one night at Standley Chasm where the red chasm walls tower against a backdrop of blue skies and white ghost gums, watch out for rare black-footed rock wallabies along the way.
When you return to modern life, refreshed and reinvigorated, you’ll always carry a piece of this special Australian tranquillity with you.
Author: Marc Llewellyn