Walking the Great Southern Rail Trail (Day 3)

This post describes the third and final day of my walk on the Great Southern Rail Trail.

Feb 25, 2019: Meeniyan to Leongatha via Koonwarra (16km)

I woke up even earlier than the day before and checked out at 7am, the cafés weren’t even opened. The idea of spending the day wandering in cafés and shops was tempting but the seduce of nature and solitude is too strong to resist and I wanted an early start to make the best use of the cool morning temperature.

Tanderra Park, Meeniyan

 

The trail from Meeniyan to Leongatha passes through Koonwarra, which is 8.2km from Meeniyan.

This 8.2km section of the trail winds its way through Black Spur, named after the creek that flows beneath. Experience the history of the railway as you cross restored and rebuilt trestle bridges, originally constructed in the 1880s. Pass through lush fern gullies under a canopy of trees before taking in expansive views of the flats surrounding Tarwin River.

As I stopped to take a picture of the morning sun-lit pasture, I thought I saw what was a kangaroo moving behind the grass but it turned out to be a fox, making it my first fox sighting in the wild. Later on, I did see kangaroos (and rabbits) on the trail but they were too fast for my camera.

Not sure what this is

Crossing one of the four rail bridges between Meeniyan to Koonwarra. This bridge was rebuilt alongside the old trestle bridge which has been barricaded off for safety reasons.

Back to the old days… (late 1980s)

Eastern Rosella 

The cool morning breeze was rejuvenating and there was a sense of excitement in the air. I felt like a new kid in town, closely observing my surroundings, watching the locals going about with their daily routines and hoping to meet some friendly new friends. There was a bunch of pretty pink flowers in bloom, unfortunately, I didn’t catch their name.

As I looked up at the trees, I saw a gray ball of fluff hidden behind the branches. Can you see what it is?

Spot the koala!

I shouldn’t be surprised to see a koala but I wasn’t expecting to see one. I usually saw them in zoos, conservation parks or places where there is known to be a high koala population. This is not one of those places. Even if it is, I don’t recall a time I saw a koala and wasn’t excited. I tried to keep cool but on the inside, I was jumping up and down excitedly, screaming “KOALAAAA!!!”

As I continued my walk, I thought how lucky I was to see a koala and how lucky I’ve been to come across so many interesting wildlife that I’ve not seen before. Before I realised, my thoughts were interrupted by a group of loud birds that reminded me of the sulphur-crested cockatoos. I caught a glimpse of one in a tree ahead of me, it looked like a cockatoo but it was gray in colour, which I’ve not seen before. I tried to take a picture of it but it flew off before I could take one. They were everywhere yet we were like playing hide and seek. I also heard a soft cracking and thumping sound, like something light was dropped onto the ground. I turned my head and there it was, a Gang-gang cockatoo munching on a buffet of fresh red berries.

Had this cockatoo been here all this time while I was trying to find his mates that were flying from tree to tree? The males are easily distinguished by their wispy red crest. Suddenly, the place was buzzing with activity as the gang of Gang-gang took over. Even their name sounds delightful.

Not long after, the male was joined by Lady Gang-gang. As you can see, they looked very much in love…with their food! It was such a joy to watch the two blissful and contented cockatoos enjoying their breakfast feast!

Another bridge crossing

A mature Crimson Rosella (the young ones are green)


I reached Koonwarra around 9:45am. With 7.8km left to go and seeing it was already getting warmer, I continued on. Passing through an avenue of trees, I noticed these tiny doors under the trees. Are they some kind of art installation or is there a further story behind these doors, I’m not sure. Perhaps they open up a portal to another dimension?

I think this was the same plant I came across in Day 1. It probably is a kangaroo apple.

On the road to Leongatha…

Old railway tracks

Finally arrived Leongatha around 11:45am, marking the end of my 3-day walk on the Great Southern Rail Trail, from Toora to Leongatha.

Start/end point of the Great Southern Rail Trail

Leongatha was originally known as Koorooman and renamed Leongatha in 1891 when a township was established on the arrival of the railway. Today, it is the commercial and civic centre of South Gippsland and hosts an annual Daffodil Festival. The town has a long agricultural heritage with a major dairy processing facility just north of the town centre, producing milk-based products for Australian and overseas markets.

Historic images of the last passenger train leaving Leongatha in 1993 (Image source https://www.facebook.com/pg/swgt.org.au/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1101611416579770)

Present day at the old train station

Leongatha station 2019
Lunch at Number 9 Dream Cafe

As I sat down to enjoy my first proper meal in three days, I looked back at the pictures I’ve taken. I have been blessed with fine weather and envy blue sky. I came across many different and interesting personalities on the trail. The shy echidnas, the vivacious gang-gang, the glossy yellow-tailed black cockatoos, the laid-back koala, the colourful rosellas, the watchful magpies, the handsome blue wrens, the hard-working cows and many others I couldn’t name. It gave me a breathing space to walk and the solitude I needed but couldn’t enjoy back home. The road to Leongatha is long and when the sun is shining bright and the legs are aching sore, it can feel like eternity. Times like these, all I have to do is to keep walking, listen and attend to my body’s needs. In fact, all I have to do is to walk and let nature work its magic. There is no doubt in my mind that I’d do it all over again if I have to, from start to end. Obviously not there and then but given some time and rest, I will do it again. I say this not because I’ve forgotten how tough and tiring it could be. I say this because I love doing it and you don’t stop doing what you love just because it’s tough. Although doing the things you love will make you happy, love is not all about happiness, it’s also about doing the things that scares you, sometimes putting up with the things you hate and hanging in there through tough times. Have you ever found yourself returning back to the very thing that hurts you? Some call it stubborn or maybe they just don’t understand the depth of your love. And just like that, a light bulb moment, the answer was revealed right in front of me. I have failed so I’ll try again. I’ll try again because it is what I love and want to do. If you thought the answer was too simple and that anyone could have told me the same thing. No, it isn’t. I need to walk it myself to experience it. Each individual’s healing process is personal, for me, it’s nature and solitude and I need to see it and feel it for myself in order to remind myself what I’m doing it for.

👣👣👣👣👣


It’s only a month since my walk but it felt like a long time ago. I’m not sure that is a good thing. City life has the ability to demoralise and dampen motivation. I just have to keep reminding myself of that feeling I felt and to hold on to it for as long as I can.

The end. Thanks for reading. 

Related posts:
Walking the Great Southern Rail Trail (Day 1)
Walking the Great Southern Rail Trail (Day 2)

References:
https://www.victorianplaces.com.au
https://www.visitpromcountry.com.au/towns
https://www.gsrt.com.au/

Walking the Great Southern Rail Trail (Day 2)

This post describes the second day of my walk on the Great Southern Rail Trail. For Day 1, please click here.

Feb 24, 2019: Foster to Meeniyan via Fish Creek (30.7km)

I checked out of the motel at 8am and was happy to be greeted by the moon and a clear blue sky.

The cool morning breeze made the walk so much pleasant. With triple the distance to cover, I had a big day ahead and my plan was to reach Fish Creek before noon. I passed by a few cyclists and walkers along the way but it was fair to say, I saw more farm animals and wildlife than humans on the trail.

Remnants of the old railway track

More farmlands

Grey butcherbird (I think)


Superb fairy-wren or blue wren

Here is an interesting fact about blue wrens. The males change their colour from brown to blue during breeding seasons. Whenever they appeared on the trail, there will be a group of similar looking brown birds nearby. These are the females, non-breeding males and young wrens. But with more than one fairy-wren species, it can be a challenge to identify which fairy-wren it is.


A young crimson rosella


Australian Magpie


These look like crimson berries but I’m not sure.


No idea what flower this is

I arrived Fish Creek slightly before 11am and stopped by to explore the town. The town took its name for the abundant black fish and mountain trout found locally. Today Fish Creek boasts a strong arts community and is home to boutique cafes, shops and galleries.

There is a gallery/bookshop dedicated to the works of Alison Lester who is an award-winning author of children’s books such as Noni the Pony. She was born not far away from Fish Creek, some of the locations in the region became the inspiration for her books.

A card designed by local artist, Janie Frith and a matching colour feather I found on the trail.

I resumed my walk on the trail around noon, by which time it was warm like the day before. The flying insects seemed particularly active this time of day. From Fish Creek, I had another 18.3km to go before I reached Meeniyan. I didn’t take many photos for the rest of this section as I kept my head low to keep cool. It was a hot day and the trail was mostly exposed, my legs were also getting tired. I kept a look out for signs that would indicate how far I’ve walked and how much further there was to go but they were sparse (this stretch being the longest section of the rail trail). This would have been a great opportunity for self-reflection, think about what I’m going to do and how do I pull myself out of the state of cognitive dissonance. What insight can I draw from this place that I love and does it have an answer for me. But there were bigger questions in my mind. All I could think of was the selection of cold drinks that awaits me in the supermarket’s fridge – should I go for the soda or juice, lemonade or cola? How much further was there to go? Can I reach there in an hour? So much for reflective thinking! As I lifted my foot, something caught my attention.

A cylindrical body with scaly skin, a pair of eyes, the head of a reptile, and my foot was about to land on it, I instinctively leapt forward to avoid it. Whoa, what is it… a snake?!! It happened all too quickly, I didn’t get a closer look. I turned back and saw that it was short, more like a lizard – how long does a snake have to be in order to be called a snake? Is there a Guinness World Record for the shortest snake?

Upon closer look, I saw the short legs, confirming it was a lizard. Later, when I showed the picture to a local, I was told that it’s a blue tongue lizard. I heard they will stick out their blue tongues when threatened. The one I saw was motionless so I guessed it didn’t see me as a threat. Apparently, they are not very agile and slow moving creatures. But what if it was a snake? Probably not a wise thing to leap. I read there are snakes on the trail especially in the summer months. I kept off the grass after the incident and for a while, my thoughts were of snakes that might be lurking in the grass but it didn’t take long for my thoughts to wander back to the ice cold drinks in the store.

Eventually, I reached Meeniyan around 3:30pm, after more than 7 hours of continuous walking. There used to be an oak tree behind the signage but it split apart recently and was removed. Here is a before and after image.

Meeniyan is aboriginal for moon behind the trees over the water. According to a local brochure printed in 1988, this likely stems from the flood plains of the nearby Tarwin river to the town’s west where the aboriginals probably camped and fished. Meeniyan was a thriving township with general stores, butchers, baker, blacksmiths and saddlers.

Historic images of Meeniyan (from http://www.meeniyan.org.au/)

Whitelaw St, Meeniyan 2019

Today, Meeniyan is a buzzing country town bursting with community pride and family-friendly spaces. Take your time exploring the main street with its range of unique shops, homely cafes and restaurants, and wander through the gallery; boasting the talents of artists near and far.

It seemed every town is home to unique cafes, shops and galleries. I thought it was a shame that I didn’t spend enough time to soak in the local atmosphere and dine in their cafes. That sounded like a great plan for the next day, especially after a long day of walk. As I sat down at a bench outside the local grocer, gulping down a cold bottle of cream soda, I tried to convince myself that I should take it easy the next day, take time to explore the unique shops and homely cafes and wander through the gallery. Today’s experience has already proven that I can’t think well under the sun but if I sat down in a corner of a country café, sipped a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea, I might actually be able to get my thinking straight. I saw a neat homely looking café but it was already closed, it looked like a great place for reflective thinking and I thought that’s probably what I should do the next day. Maybe. We’ll see.

At the motel, I met one of the guests staying there. He is a retiree travelling with his wife. The akubra hat he was wearing, and his belt and pants were all made by Australian brand, R.M. Williams, which he was very proud of, he would have made a great ambassador to the company. As we were chatting, he suddenly apologised for forgetting to take off his sunglasses because a gentleman will always take his sunglasses off when talking to a lady so that she can see where his eyes were looking, and a gentleman should always walk on the outside of the pavement to protect the lady from splashing water. A very kind and friendly gentleman! I also said hi to the motel’s adorable rescued cats.

End of Day 2. Thanks for reading.
Please click here for Day 3.

References:
http://www.meeniyan.org.au/
https://www.victorianplaces.com.au
https://www.visitpromcountry.com.au/towns
https://www.gsrt.com.au/

Walking the Great Southern Rail Trail (Day 1)

When I read about the Great Southern Rail Trail, I was lured by the convenience of walking a rail trail. Covering a total distance of 72km, it’s long and more than enough to satisfy my walking needs. According to the website, “This gentle trail is suitable for cyclists, walkers and horse riders of all abilities and fitness levels. For most of the journey it is an even grade trail with the occasional gentle rise.” For someone who hasn’t been working out, this was reassuring to hear. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly wilderness and adventure, but it has all the other elements I was looking for – nature, wildlife, rural views, long distance, well sign-posted, solitude and opportunities for reflective thinking (it doesn’t actually promise solitude but in a country as vast as Australia, there is plenty of space for that).

Brief history

The Great Southern Rail Trail is, at present, a 72km (45 miles) trail that stretches from Leongatha to Port Welshpool in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. It is “at present” because there are plans to extend the trail even further. The trail got its name from the Great Southern Rail Line, which opened in 1892. The opening of the railway meant that famers could transport and sell their produce such as milk, onions and livestock to markets in Melbourne. The railway could travel to Melbourne in 5 hours and 15 minutes, compared to a rail and horse journey that would take 12 to 13 hours. However, use of the railway declined over the years as road transport took over from rail transport and after a century of operation, passenger services ceased operation in 1993. The railway tracks have since been removed and replaced with a smooth gravel track. The trail links the towns of Koonwarra, Meeniyan, Fish Creek, Foster, Toora and Welshpool, offering rural and bush views as it passes through farmland and forests with views to the peaks of the surrounding national park.

Itinerary

The Great Southern Rail Trail and the towns along the trail are accessible by coach from Melbourne. As I wanted to give myself ample time to walk, I decided to skip the last two sections covering Welshpool and Port Welshpool. I also decided to do the trail in the reverse direction (ie. starting from Toora) so I could get a glimpse of the towns I’ll be passing through while on the coach. Finishing the walk at Leongatha would also give me some time to explore the region’s commercial centre before heading back to the city. The distance from Toora to Leongatha is 57km (35 miles), which I broke down into smaller sections and walked over 3 days. The first day, starting from Toora to Foster (10.2km); the second day, from Foster to Meeniyan (30.7km) and the third day, from Meeniyan to Leongatha (16km). I stayed overnight in motels at Foster and Meeniyan.

There will be three posts covering the first, second and third day respectively. This post covers the first day.

Feb 23, 2019: Toora to Foster (10.2km)

This 10.2km section of the trail offers a leisurely journey with an ever changing view. From dairy farms and gumtree glades, to sparkling rivers and rolling hills, this is a gentle section of the trail. 

I took the earliest coach that departed from Melbourne at 08:50am. It was midday when the coach arrived at Toora. Just a short walk from the bus-stop, I came to the sign of the Great Southern Rail Trail. The surroundings put me at ease as I stopped to admire the backdrop of rolling hills and wind turbines.

I was all set and ready to go, so were the flies as they fluttered around me while I tried to swat them off.  The afternoon sun was hot but thankfully, it was dry, not humid. Along the way, I came across interesting fauna and flora although I need some help to identify them. I don’t know what tree this is, they look somewhat like kangaroo apple but I’m really not sure, please leave me a comment if you know.

Can you help identify this tree?

I spotted two yellow-tailed back cockatoos on top of a tree far ahead of me. I’ve not seen black cockatoos before and although they are called yellow-tailed, they are more easily identified by their yellow cheeks, which give them a sheer glow look.

The other highlight of the day was the echidnas. The short-beaked echidna is an egg-laying mammal and lays one egg at a time. Having read that these are very shy creatures, I felt lucky to be graced by their presence in the wild, not only once, but twice, albeit at separate locations.

Dairy farms

After about 2.5 hours of walking, I arrived the town of Foster at 2:30pm, checked into my motel and spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the town’s main street. There is a local museum although it was closed, as well as most of the shops, but you could still admire the street art. Foster was once a bustling gold mining town known as Stockyard Creek. There is a park with information about the gold rush history, a path led down to a creek with a small bridge.

My post-walk treat at Cow Cow Foster

Street art

The local museum
This was the site of the town’s largest gold mine. The sign reads, “Site of Victory Mine. Commenced 1887. Closed 1908. Produced 28,000 ozs gold”.

End of Day 1. Thanks for reading.

Please click here for Day 2.

References:
South Gippsland Shire Council, Leongatha Railway Site Transformation: Master Plan Report (December 2017)
https://www.gsrt.com.au/
https://www.visitvictoria.com/regions/gippsland/destinations/foster https://www.visitpromcountry.com.au/towns/foster
https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/foster

Stranger in the woods

My list of undone and unfinished tasks continues to grow as I recently added a new title to my list of unread books 📚 ~ The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel.

It wouldn’t be difficult to identify the common threads that run through my reading list: nature, exploration, wilderness, walking, solitude.

Stranger in the city

I was born in a small country surrounded by city skyscrapers and man-made landscape. Our family activities and weekends were spent mostly in malls and cinemas. The only nature I knew was the botanic garden, the tree-lined avenues and the weather. The highest hill stands at 163.63 metres (537 ft.) tall and I would hardly call that wilderness. My closest encounter with nature and outdoor activity was to get myself deliberately drenched in rain. It is a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city. There was hardly any rural life to speak of. The rural was considered undesirable and outdated by modern standards, people would have scoff at the idea of living or working in the rural. In short, the city is the only way of life I knew and the default way of life I was encouraged to strive for. And thus, I imagined myself grew up to be a successful woman living in the city and working in a large corporate firm, confident, sociable and popular. This is far from reality and yes, I pictured myself sociable, even though I had difficulty making friends. This was why I chose a university in London to pursue my undergraduate degree without hesitation. If I was going to further my studies abroad, it had to be a city and preferably, the capital city. I did end up in London eventually but I can hardly say I’ve experienced the city life for I was already quite a hermit back then and my reason? I was focused on my studies. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t get to explore much of London in my 3 years of study in the city. Nevertheless, I still harboured the thought that one day, I’m going to turn out successful and sociable. I honestly thought that the social aspect would come naturally after I graduated and embarked on my career. Not that I was unhappy to be alone, in fact, I’ve always been comfortable on my own but on the other hand, being alone doesn’t sit well with the society image of a high-flyer. I didn’t know much about autism then. In hindsight, I’d say I was trying to fit myself into society’s mold. When I moved to Hong Kong at the age of 24, I still believed that I was destined for the bustling city life and was determined to make the most of the city for I regretted not making good use of my time in London to explore the city and the rest of the country. Still, I was adamant that I’d make plenty of new friends and lead an active social life. I started hiking.

Hiking provides a great opportunity for me to get up close and personal to nature and the wild side and the experience has changed me in subtle and profound ways. It invigorates my soul and senses like no man can. Funnily enough, the more I hike, the more solitude I crave. Nature has the ability to reflect and bring out your true self whether you are aware or not. My diagnosis and understanding of autism later on put things into further perspective. It’s time to admit that I’m never going to become the sociable person I imagined myself to be. For nearly three decades, I tried to blend into the city and lived under the false sense of belonging but all along, I am a mere stranger in the city.

“I took a walk in the woods and came up taller than the trees.” Henry David Thoreau

Stranger in the woods

In my reading and armchair travelling, I often wondered what are the chances of encountering a deadly snake or spider in Australia or dingoes or leeches and ticks? What are the chances of encountering a bear if I’m hiking in the US? To be honest, it scares me although most books would point out that the chances of being killed by a wild animal are slim and advice people to exercise their common sense and leave wild animals alone. If anyone asks if I’m afraid to hike alone in the dark, to certain extent, I’m. But it’s a question of probability (depending on the location and circumstances etc) and a question of relative (I’m scared but my desire to hike alone is even stronger). I guess it’d be akin to asking whether surfers are afraid of sharks in the ocean?

I was out on a night hike and expected the trail to be quiet as it was after 9:30pm and especially after a day of rain. As I walked up to the Pinewood Battery historic site (link opens in new tab), I stopped as I heard movements immediately followed by the sight of an animal moving swiftly across the trail and towards the direction I was going. Despite my headlamp, I couldn’t make up what it was that just moved across my vision. It was the size of a big dog, could have been a feral dog or a lost dog but I didn’t hear it bark. Also, I thought the animal looked stout and ‘thicker’ than a dog, could have been a wild boar. I immediately thought what are the chances of running into a wild boar on Hong Kong Island? Wild boars are common in Hong Kong but mostly found in the New Territories region although they have been sighted on Hong Kong Island too. Whether it was a dog or a wild boar, I was certain that the animal was scared and wanted to avoid me as much as I was scared and wanted to avoid it too. At this point, I could either press on ahead without any idea where the animal went or retraced my steps back. Common sense and a cowardly mind told me that I should retrace my steps back. While it presented no immediate danger, I didn’t want to provoke it or made it felt threatened. In addition, my intent was merely to spend time alone, it didn’t matter whether or not I got up to the peak. Tracing my steps back down, I was amused that since I’ve started night hiking, no two nights were the same, each hike was a new different experience. But then, I haven’t started night hiking for long. On my way down towards a pavilion, I was once again alerted to movements in the bush. It was a much smaller animal compared to the one I just saw, about the size of a duck or goose and feathery, moving into the bush. If they were birds, it must be quite a big (medium sized) bird. It was a strange interesting night, mysterious, even creepy! The woods is very much alive in the dark and I wondered if the rain earlier had anything to do with my unusual encounter.

Even though I was by myself, I was aware that I’m sharing the trail with numerous living beings at the same time. When I think about how I felt when someone intrudes my solitude, I felt a sense of guilt for intruding their habitat. I was the intruder and the stranger, thankful to nature for tolerating my presence.

“I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest.” Henry David Thoreau

In the British tv series, New Lives in the Wild, presenter Ben Fogle travels around the world to meet people who have given up the rat race to start a new life in some of the wildest and most remote places on earth. I watched the series with interest and admiration for these people. I also know that my notion of wilderness will never match up to their living off the grid raw wilderness lifestyle. I simply lack the skills to do so. But I am content to leave the city behind for a more rural lifestyle, just as the Walden woods wasn’t that remote from civilisation.

There is a saying that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. I sometimes feel like a fish that has learned how to climb a tree poorly but doesn’t know how to swim.

The curse of the Maneki Neko: Haunted spirits in the dark

This is part two of a two-part post on my autistic dilemma, describing two separate events (mundane details of my boring life) that took place on the same day, 28th of March 2017. 


My heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude undisturbed. It is just another way of saying my heart longs for a place where I can enjoy the company of people. 

I used to hike every weekends in a hiking group for 1-2 years. When I first joined, there were around 10-20 people in each hike. Gradually, the group expanded (working my magic again) and the number of hikers grew. When I left, it wasn’t uncommon to see more than 40 hikers in a hike, it was getting too big for my liking. I was known then for being a fast hiker and I thought so too but after leaving the group, I realised that was an illusion. I appeared fast because I didn’t stop to engage in small talk, I pushed myself to go fast so I didn’t have to be stuck in between hikers where I’d be forced to listen, if not participate, in their conversation. Moreover, with a big group like this, there was bound to be politics and as the group continues to grow, the (moral) pressure to socialise increased. It wasn’t about hiking anymore. We all wanted to have fun hiking but my idea of fun does not include socialising. Eventually, I removed myself from the group because our objectives no longer matched, I wasn’t enjoying myself and people were starting to wear me out.

After that, I hiked on and off. There was a period for about a year or so where I’d hike with a friend every Saturday until there came a point I felt the trail was getting more crowded by each week. The feeling was mutual, it wasn’t my hallucination. During one of those hikes, the human traffic was exceptionally heavy. I was going uphill and short of breath which meant I was stuck in the middle of the traffic and couldn’t go any faster myself. When I finally hit flat ground, I sprinted my way down, playing repeatedly in my mind the chorus to Helen Reddy’s Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) ~ “Leave me alone, won’t you leave me alone…” After that traumatised experience (nope, no exaggerate, I was traumatised), I stopped regular hiking again. It takes too much effort to head outside (for any reason), it feels like entering a war zone, my mood fluctuates so much being constantly in a fight or flight mode, I’m wreaking havoc on my mind and body, I decide my priority is to avoid the trigger. Even if I can’t avoid people completely, the best I could do is to reduce as much stress as possible associated with leaving the house. I became a hermit. And to certain extent, I did feel better, my mood became more stable (although subject to the ‘cooperation’ and considerateness of neighbours) and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not going out. I enjoy the comfort of an indoor lifestyle as much as I enjoy walking in nature. I hold a record of not leaving the flat for 15 days and I’m secretly proud of it.😁

More recently, I have a new found hobby, or more accurately, I’ve found a way to engage in and enjoy hiking again, or so I thought. I discovered the joy of night hiking. On a ‘good’ night, I could climb up to the top of the peak and find myself alone, smiling and thinking this is true bliss. The night is quieter and louder at the same time. It is louder because without human distraction, I’m paying more attention to nature, the frogs croaking, the squeaking bamboos, the ever changing clouds, the colour of the sky etc, sounds and sights I’m still discovering which I have overlooked in the past because I was always either too busy trying to get away from people or in a haste to get back home before the rush hour. The night not only brings a new perspective but also brings me closer to nature.* And each time I write about nature, I’m putting my writing skills, vocabulary and knowledge to test and shame, my words (and pictures) can never do justice to her beauty.

The week I came back from Singapore, I was looking forward to be back on the night trails. I was disappointed when I saw someone else at the hill top but the beauty of the night was so alluring, I wasn’t ready to give up my new found hobby just yet simply because I saw one individual on the top. On the evening of March, 28th and after my grocery trip, I went back up the trails, starting at an even later time, hoping the later the lesser people. Weather was good, even though there were clouds, I could still see a few stars. I reached a spot where I saw joss paper lying around on the ground. Then I remembered that the Ching Ming Festival is just around the corner (a Chinese tradition paying respects to their ancestors). I let my imaginations run wild, thinking of the dark spirits that must be following me. I’d soon realise that I’ve jinxed myself.

Before climbing up the peak, I stopped to take some photos. Being a novice inexperienced photographer, I spent a considerable amount of time, trial and error, to take a decent photo. About 10 minutes later, I saw bright lights and heard noises approaching. It was happening again. They have found me and were coming after me. Soon after, they appeared and my fears were confirmed, not just one or two of them, they were in a group, there must be at least 10 or more. I wanted to scream. They just won’t leave me alone, won’t they! I thought I found the solution to avoiding the day crowd. I was wrong again.

I wasn’t going to climb the peak in that condition so I escaped and returned to the site with the joss paper where I could be on my own and hopefully, remained undisturbed. The thought of spending time with spirits might even sound more appealing. There and further down the trail heading towards home, I was finally on my own, as I watched in amaze the night sky, the moving clouds and the intermittent stars. It was a beautiful night. But at the same time, I’m starting to appreciate bad weather ~ those cold wintry windy evenings and rainy misty days which might deter some hikers. It reminded me of those days in school, I’d talk to the rain like I’d sit and admire the sky now. I was known amongst my classmates for walking in the rain. People leave me alone when I walked in the rain. Walking back home, I started humming, not because I was scared, my mood turned for the better, I was actually happy. I’m measuring happiness by the amount of time I got to spend on my own undisturbed by the sound, view and sight of people. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as an overdose of dopamine but when I was back home, I was hyper and elated.

29th March 2017 – Is this alexithymia?
I woke up the next day confused because I wasn’t sure what kind of a day it was and how I felt about the day before. I can describe the events and how they made me feel separately (angry, annoyed, anxious, stressed, happy etc) but as a whole, I’m confused. I can’t forget the panic at the supermarket and I can’t forget the annoyance at the bottom of the peak but there was also the elation towards the end. It was a day of extreme mood swing, I’ve lose my equilibrium.

Autistic Dilemma
I feel torn between two lovers ~ the comforts of staying in and the healing power of nature. Time and again, my interest and solitude is interrupted by people who get in the way. My heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude, undisturbed by people. No doubt I love my solitude but I didn’t become a recluse because I love my solitude so much I want to remove myself away completely from people. I become a recluse because the world outside is too loud and populated for me to enjoy.

When I say my heart longs for a place where I can be left alone to enjoy my solitude undisturbed, it is just another way of saying my heart longs for a place where I can enjoy the company of people. 

*Postscript: After posting this, I read a news article about Henry Thoreau. It brought a smile to my face when I read the following, which is exactly what I was trying to describe:

Thoreau’s idea of walking was to be totally immersed in a place, really paying attention, getting to know it well,” says historian Jayne Gordon. “He wasn’t out to make speed records or to exercise as we know it. He often walked the same routes and felt you can always find new things to fill you with wonder if you allow yourself to slow down, be awake, present, and alive.” 


Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress), Helen Reddy (chorus begins at 0:40)

Related posts:
The curse of the Maneki Neko (March 30, 2017)
First a wishy-washy then a pantywaist (November 13, 2016)
Supporting a sensory and solitude friendly environment (October 31, 2016)
Walking in the rain (March, 7 2016)

Related news report:
Upturn in hiking has a downside, as solitude becomes increasingly hard to find