We woke up bright and early the next morning to hike the tallest peak in Australia – Mount Kosciuszko. It measured in at 2,228 meters (7,310 feet) above sea level. Did I really pay money to do this heart attack-inducing climb? Why yes, yes I did.
I decided to take it easy though and made a deal with myself to only do as much as I could. I’m not in the greatest of shape and hiking or walking in general is not a hobby of mine. Since this was the first real hike I’d be doing, I decided to pace myself as I still had 20 more days of such ridiculousness.
Mount Kosciuszko is extremely deceiving as it tempts you into climbing to its peak. First, you hop on a ski lift that takes you miles up the mountain. Okay, it’s not miles, but the ground is very far below you. This was my first time riding a ski lift and it was pretty awesome. I can only imagine how beautiful it’d be to ride up in the winter with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground.
If you haven’t been on a ski lift before, it’s basically a chair that hangs from a cable that takes you up and down a mountain. There is a rectangular box painted on the ground, and the lift assistant tells you when to enter the box. The chair comes around the corner and scoops you up as it goes by. You pull a bar down from over your head and it locks you in so you don’t fall out. There’s still plenty of room to move around so it’s not like the bars of a roller coaster.
The ride up Mount Kosciuszko took less than ten minutes. At the top, there was a little restaurant called Eagle’s Nest, and at 1,937 meters it is the highest restaurant in Australia. Next to Eagle’s Nest is the beginning of the trail up the mountain. I was very tempted to just get a cup of hot chocolate (it was freezing!) and skip the walk entirely. But, this Australian adventure is about trying things I’d never do at home so I began the hike up the mountain.
The group maintained a quick pace that I knew I would not be able to sustain, so I just walked at a steady pace. Kumar, originally from India but who has worked in Sydney for several years, decided to keep me company because he had injured his knee in the past. Together we slowly walked up the mountain.
It’s not until you’re actually doing something strenuous that you realize how fit (or not) you are, and I was definitely not fit enough for this hike. The good thing was that we tread on a paved path for much of the way. The bad part was that since it’s a mountain, most of it is uphill. There are downhill portions but they are quickly followed by more uphill trekking.
Kumar and I hiked for more than four kilometers and reached the first two lookouts. It was two more kilometers to the top, which we could see from the second lookout, but we decided to turn around at that point. Time was against us, and we didn’t think we’d be able to make it to the top quickly enough.
This is one of the bad things about being on a tour. You’re always limited by the itinerary and cannot take things at your own pace. The people standing at the top of the mountain looked tiny from where we were, so we knew it was still a distance away and mostly uphill from there.
We turned around and headed back down the mountain. I’m not sure which is harder – going up or going down. I felt like dying on the way up, because I was huffing and puffing the extremely chilly air. However, going downhill puts a real physical strain on your legs and knees.
When we reached the bottom, Kumar got coffee and bought me hot chocolate so we could warm up. We met up with Tina and Marta as well and chatted while we waited for the group to come back down. While I would have liked to go all the way to the top, I think the best part of the hike was getting to know new people. Chatting with Kumar on the way up and Tina and Marta at Eagle’s Nest was great and one of the main reasons I wanted to travel in the first place. So even though I can’t say I hiked to the top of Australia’s tallest mountain, I can say that I met some cool people during my attempt. Maybe I’ll come back another time to conquer Kosciuszko, but I’ll never have another chance to get to know Kumar, Tina and Marta.
|Slide Album: Mount Kosciuszko|