January Distance: 250km
January Floors: 842
Rating: Feeling excited ..

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Steps, steps and still more steps. If I added up all the stairs I’ve climbed this month I reckon they might almost reach the height of Everest. Well, maybe! I haven’t done so much in terms of length but I think I’m pretty well prepared now for the South West Coast Path, which makes up the first three weeks of Walking The Black Dog.

The sharp increase in step-climbing has taken its toll on my ankles. Our lovely GP George sent me off to get an ultra-sound on my Achilles, which revealed tendonosis. And the treatment for it? You guessed it. Rest. So, I took a week off and went sailing with mates .. apart from climbing the rigging (not), there wasn’t a lot I could do to irritate the left ankle and now it’s feeling a little better. What a relief.   

Resting the ankle!

Resting it some more in The Whitsundays!

My poles have really come into their own this month too. I’ve read stats about them taking 30 per cent of the strain off your knees and I suspect this is pretty accurate. Aside from marching dementedly up and down the garden steps during January, I also had the great fortune to visit Tasmania for the first time and to do a short walking holiday on the Freycinet peninsular. There were many steps along the way but the isolated splendour of Wine Glass Bay and Friendly Beaches was staggering.

Friendly Beach, Freycinet .. not a soul in sight

I have rarely seen such beauty. If you ever have the opportunity to spend time in Tassie I would highly recommend Freycinet. And if you were looking for the perfect people to book a trek with, look no further than ‘Freycinet Experience Walk’ at Friendly Beaches Lodge http://www.freycinet.com.au The young team there have a refreshingly simple concept for making your visit to the area extraordinary. They offer a rare chance to be ‘off the grid, out of touch with the world, yet more in contact with yourself’. It was bliss.

Walking through wilderness with Mat and Jo

During our four days with them we walked, climbed, swam, boated and saw just about every corner of this beautiful finger of land, even some of the ‘secret’ bits. Our merry band of walkers was entertained and educated by the young guides Jo and Mat and when the going got hard, they had endless riddles and stories and jokes to get us all to the top of the hill, even in roasting 35 degree heat. It was a joy. I am not a swimmer but the dips in the ocean at the bottom were sublime.

Impossibly long and beautiful white beaches of Freycinet

In Hobart we had an amble around the Salamanca market It’s held every Saturday in the Georgian square next to the waterfront in the city and there are over 300 stores to mooch around. Produce and crafts from all around the island are brought to be sold.

I could so easily be a vegetarian if I could shop at the Salamanca Market each week ..

My favourite stand was that belonging to the talented Greg Ray and his vivacious wife Jacinta. They were selling the ‘Why Dogs..’ books, which Greg writes and Jenny Miller illustrates. We struck up a lively conversation about dogs and in particular, black dogs. One thing led to another and by the end we were firm friends. Do yourself a favour and order one of his charming, witty books online and watch out for the new one about to be published called ‘Why dogs bury bones’. I was happy to walk away with one of the first signed copies!   https://whydogs.com.au/

There was walking on the flat too. En route to the penal colony at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsular, we stopped off at the extraordinary tessellated pavement at  Eaglehawk Neck The coastal rock surface has been divided by fractures, producing a set of rectangular blocks much like a mosaic or pavement. It was an amazing thing to see, although despite interrogating Mr Google we still couldn’t work out why it was so regular.

Joanna looking tall on the tessellated pavement

While I was climbing hills in Australia, our lovely son was conquering Mount Kilimanjaro. I am so glad that I won’t have to encounter any altitude sickness on my journey. It does not sound fun .. even if the view from the top is stunning. Here he is at the summit.

Gus at the top

It’s not long to go now before I start Walking The Black Dog. I’m as excited as a labrador at supper-time. We’re launching the whole walk with a fund-raising dinner on the 8th. It should be a lot of fun and I’m so grateful to all the people who have bought tickets to come along and support the cause. And then the real fun will start, as I pack my bag and prepare embark on the long trek .. my next post will be after the first day!

Black Dog Tails
An atmospheric pic of military working dog handler Sergeant Jason Cartwright and his specialised search dog Isaac, a Black Labrador explosives dog. Together they’re searching a building during an operation patrol in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, 2012. Adam Ferguson was the photographer.