Hugging the Grampians

Wednesday, January 02, 2019



“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
John Muir

With heaps of comforts available to mankind, why would anyone want to escape and live in the wild for a few days? I often wondered! Here is an honest confession -  I have not been overly outdoorsy my entire life. I mean, I have always loved hiking and being close to nature. But, nothing utterly adventurous. In the past, I have preferred going to the fanciest hotels to indulge myself in man-made luxuries; it’s quite recent that I have developed a liking for and have begun to appreciate the life outdoors. And man, I can’t get enough of it. 

When my friend, Andy, first told me we were going on a camping trip to the mountains with two of his other friends, I was both curious and thrilled. Didn't really think too much about what the camping trip would entail. Instead, I was simply pumped up about my first ever rock climbing experience in a natural setting. I was ecstatic to have had a chance to explore more of the natural beauty that Australia has to offer. We loaded up and headed to the Grampians! For those, who do not know, the first thing to know about Grampians is Mount Arapiles. It is the premier climbing site, popular amongst rock climbers across the world.

Being a novice in a group of experienced climbers and regular campers, I dreaded them to be frustrated with being ‘saddled’ with me, but it was just the opposite. They were kind, encouraging and patient, while I struggled with the challenges of the two Cs. Sometimes I would also struggle with what they would ‘utter’ – climbers have their own sweet tongue. Seriously! There is a lot to learn! Belaying, top-roping, cams, hexes and whatnot! Phew! Often times, I played dumb and deaf. I had to! Not everything made sense! 

To say that rock climbing was not challenging for me would be an understatement and a preposterous lie. It was spine-chilling! Like literally. Every time I mustered up the courage to climb, my heart would race, my stomach growled out of fear, my throat dried and I sensed a chilling sensation running down my spine. I was at the end of the rope! (this idiom makes more sense today than ever before). 

As I climbed up the steep rocks and massive boulders, I grabbed sharp edges. My once soft and delicate hands became coarse and full of scratches. To stabilize myself on steep edges, I had to balance my legs between crevices. The pain of overused muscles and joints was daunting, mate. My knees ached as I tried not to fall off. The bruises on my knees stayed for weeks and reminded me of my childhood days. I haven’t had bruised knees in years (let’s not say how many!). Remember, all this is happening under the notorious Australian sun! And I only felt it burning my skin after the initial euphoria of the adventure settled in.

The best part of the trip (apart from the incredible company) was being surrounded by nature - hearing the native Aussie bird, kookaburra, cracking into fits of laughter; watching emus, kangaroos and wallabies in their natural habitat; the leaves rustling in the trees around us at the campsite; and the mighty rocks abutting the area as far as the eyes could reach. There were hills just up our campsite, lined with rocks of different sizes and contortions. While hiking up our way, beating around thorny branches, I marveled at the beauty of the raw state of the earth. The paved streets and well-groomed roadways of the city looked pale in comparison now; I had forgotten (or probably never knew) that even simple rocks, ancient in age and smooth from the turbulence of their upbringing, would provide a sight worth seeing and reminiscing. 

Luckily, while camping, you aren’t expected to be on your A-game. So, I didn’t have to dress to kill, not that I do that in everyday routine, but knowing I didn’t have to ‘select’ a dress every morning, helped me appreciate myself in my most raw, natural state. I was a happy camper - spent the entire weekend in my yoga pants! Ah, comfy!

There were also some things I wasn't so fond of, however. Number one being the concept of a drop-toilet. Gross!!! Now, I'm not known for being prissy, but the first time I stepped into one of those, my heart spewed up. Remember, if you ever have to use one, ‘do not’, and I repeat ‘do not’ look down. You will not find a pot of gold at the bottom of it. I’m saying this from experience. Also, practice holding your breath a few times before going in. Breathing inside a pit toilet can be a gut-wrenching experience. Obviously, it does not smell anything like a raspberry-topped pavlova or a freshly baked pizza. Not that I thought you would expect that!

Also encountered a few uncanny varieties of lizards, that my Aussie mates thought were ‘cute’. Gosh! Does cute really mean what I think it means?

When you reach the mountaintop, feelings of accomplishment overtake every fragment of your soul and body. Fear merely remains an extraneous part of the whole experience. Hugging the Grampians, I felt secluded from the rest of the world. In that moment I united with nature. Exposing myself to the grandeur and wonder of nature helped me gain more insight into my strengths than I could ever imagine. I could hear the mountains cheering for me. I could feel the mountains witnessing my courage. It was stimulating. It was liberating.  

I felt nomadic, and it felt like home.

Each climber, each camper was once a first timer. And so was I. But not anymore. 

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28 comments

  1. Wow! What an amazing story and adventure. I can’t even imagine the beauty that you must have seen. I’m terrified to climb but the views from the top must be magnificent.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read through the post. And yes, it was totally worth it. An absolutely amazing trip! :)

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  2. I have never been camping. I need to add this to my bucket list. I love nature and I am obsessed with the mountains.i go evry year but stay in a cabin. Congrats on reaching the top of that mountain. I know it takes a lot of work

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    1. You must :) you're really missing out on something. It is an amazing experience.

      Warning: You'll not like the toilet arrangements too much, though. But I'm sure you'll manage just fine.

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  3. You are so brave! I wouldn't have tried rock climbing for the life of me, haha!

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    1. Trust me, once you set your mind to it, it isn't that hard :D

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  4. Beautifully written... I have never done rock climbing in my life but would add in my to do list after reading this.

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    1. Oh yeah... you wouldn’t regret :) thanks for reading !! And best of luck rock climbing ;)

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  5. That looks like so much fun! I've done rock climbing before, and it is fun and tiring!

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    1. Haha to put it in a nutshell, that’s what rock climbing is, fun and tiring :) you’re spot on !!

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  6. Love your captures here & detailed travel blogging shared, let's continue travelling in 2019, happy new year 2019. cheers, siennylovesdrawing

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    1. That’s the plan - travel travel and travel in 2019 :)
      Thank you... happy new year to you too! Have a wonderful time traveling this year.

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  7. I’m such a city girl, but would love to do this one day. Saying that everyone was a first timer once was really encouraging. Thank you!

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    1. I would have also identified myself as a city girl too, a couple of years back but my experience in Melbourne has changed me for better :) explore that side of you and you won’t regret! Go camp! Go climb a mountain!

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  8. Kookaburras and drop toilets, LOL. I could not help but laugh at your story. I can't believe you were brand new to it! I can imagine feeling like the mountains were cheering for you! That is super cool. I have only been to Canberra and haven't been able to climb there (all work, no play).

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    1. Haha thanks for enjoying the post :)
      There aren’t too many places in or around Canberra so you didn’t miss out on much but if you ever get a chance, do visit Melbourne !! You’ll love it :)

      Yes, brand new to all this but glad I took a start somewhere !

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  9. What a wonderful adventure! I have been fascinated with Australia for a long time, just from watching different shows, especially nature and history shows about the country. I'm glad you had such a great time!

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    1. Thank you so much :)

      You must visit the country, if you ever have the opportunity. It is rich with nature and picturesque landscape.

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  10. incredible written, and I really love your post. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback :) really appreciate it !!

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  11. Climbing, the thought of it and images of people doing it, gives me anxiety. You are so brave!

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    1. Hahaha I can imagine... I had the same feeling before I gave it a shot :) maybe you should too... someday :)

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  12. That was so exciting! I never had done before. I think i better list it down now.

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    1. Yes, you better :) It is a liberating experience !

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  13. I never really thought about going to try rock climbing, it looks beautiful though. May need to add it to my want to do list.

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  14. What a fascinating story. I've always been reluctant to try rock climbing but I guess we can all try something once.

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    1. Yes, it is fun trying new things and unless and until we don't try, we wouldn't find out if we could do it.

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »