All of a sudden from nowhere, a couple of friends decided they were going on a trek. We are all trekking enthusiasts but this is the first I would have gone on one with this group. In the past, I had backpacked from Sydney to Far North Queensland (Australia), Aukland to Queenstown (New Zealand) and Tamil Nadu to Kerala (India). So, I was naturally excited to get out there amongst the nature. But believe it or not, I was so excited, I didn’t even ask where I was going. All I was told was to bring along my camping gears and that it might rain. And I just got back few days ago from this awesome trip going for 2 days and 2 nights. Here are some photos.
The previous night, we had stayed over at the above caravan park (in a place we can’t remember now) as it rained so badly that there was no way we could have stayed outdoors. But I think it was a great move. Because the next day, I got up at around 4:30am and by 5:30am, I was ready to start my 16 rounds of chanting. I tell you what…sitting next to this stream and completing my rounds was so good. All I heard for 2 hrs was the flowing water, gentle breeze and my words.
After a quick breakfast, we drove to the place where we would start the trek. This was the first time I got to know about the area of the trek. The above photo is where we would start the trek from and its in the region of Mt. Hotham. Known as “the Giant”, Mount Hotham (1862 metres), in the heart of the Bogong National Park, is 373 km north-east of Melbourne. In the winter months it has a reliable snow cover and consequently is highly regarded by the skiing fraternity who claim it has both excellent powder snow and high-quality downhill skiing slopes. At 1840 metres, the resort is the most elevated in Australia. When we got out of the car, we couldn’t see a thing because the visibility was so bad. Not to mention the very piercing cold wind. We had to cover every part of our face. We knew straight away this was going to be tough walk.
As everyone was getting ready, I couldn’t help connecting this to our devotional service. Before, we start the journey we are all so excited about embarking on a new venture. When the regulative principles, the commitments, and the discipline is laid out to ensure our spiritual success, we see them as too hard and something we have to put so much effort into. This was pretty much what we were thinking on that foggy road. It would have been so good to sit at home. I think I thought this. I was thinking how we are to cover 23 kilometers in this very harsh weather with 15 Kg backpacks. In our Krishna Consciousness approach, we rely very much on our guru to guide us through the tough moments and seek his advice to quit the material pangs of life. Similarly, I decided to completely put my faith in 2 of the most experienced trekkers in our group…they can be my gurus for the next 2 days. I will do exactly what they tell me to do.
This was the starting point. I was told that we would be traversing the dangerous yet fun based ridges of the “Razorback” to get to our goal of “Mt. Feathertop”. The moment I heard that name and saw it on the above signpost, I was motivated. To me, it seemed as if “feathertop”, was referring to Lord Krishna’s peacock feather on His crown. I suddenly had all the reasons to get there. I had no idea how it looked and no one else in the group did so either…except for the 2 trekkers…our gurus. We were told that Mt. Feathertop is a beautiful place offering stunning views of the Victorian plains and one would never want to come back. Haven’t I heard this before….its like going to Goloka Vrindavan planet where Sri Krishna resides? The Kingdom of God. Once you are there, you wouldn’t want to come to earth planet.
I don’t have any photos of the actual trek we did on day 1 due to poor visibility and rains. But I tell you this, it was tough. It was slippery, muscle aching, thirsty, slow trek. We started walking at about 12pm and reached our base camp at about 5pm. That was just 10kms ! Once we reached the camp, the climate was a bit ok.
That bag represented the 3 fold miseries that I was carrying in the material world !! It had my accommodation, bed, cooking gear, food, clothes etc. I was so pleased to drop that on to the ground. And my body thanked me profusely. Don’t get me wrong…that item there is one of the best backpacks you can get in the market. It has all kinds of ergonomic arrangements to ensure that your body is not punished with heavy weights. It did do that job well. Its just that when you walk for 5 hrs, every item in that bag including a spoon adds to the weight.
I decided on a nice spot amongst the bushland to set up my “Snowgum” tent. I knew there would be foxes and bush rats wanting to tear into my backpack for food. So, I had to shift my stuff into the tent. It might look small but that is a 2 person tent. Plenty of room. And very very very durable. Super strong. Can handle strong winds. I love my tent. That black section in the front is the window. It had 2 doors on either side too.
Please meet “Jetboil”. This little gadget helped me cook Chef Kurma’s “Curried Chikpeas” (Page 118, Vegetarian Dishes) in no time, 2 sets of Masala Chai and still has the power to cook another round of sumptous meals. Luckily, we had a small hut next to where we set up our tents. I am cooking in this hut now. When I first started using “Jeboil”, I was kinda nervous. It came with all the warnings – will explode, has poisonous monooxide gas, can kill large number of people, severe burns likely etc. Hmmm…not what you want to know when your hands are frozen, a packed hut and no light. Anyways, in Kurma’s list of items, there were about 14 spices you need to make a grand curried chickpeas. I had 3. I knew I forgot something !! Anyways, I made good use of what I had – turmeric, tomato paste, water. And the chickpeas. Hey…it smelt good and looked fine.
That’s my little altar set up in my tent. They were all excited to be in the trip too. Can’t you tell? The food was offered with great love, prayers read out, bells rung. From the corner of my eye, I could see about 8 packpackers from around the world peeping into my tent to see what in the weirdest world I was doing. An english man deduced that I was feeding my Indian gods, a french lady settled for a “sacrifice of some sorts” and an australian said “Ssshhh”. Anyway, they all heard the maha-mantra for the first time. Another french tourist asked me, if I was a “Hare Krishna” and why I still had hair on my head.
This is the next morning after a night of tough sleep. It was so cold. The temperature the previous night was 0 celcius and although I had a good tent, the cold from the earth beneath seeped through my sleeping bag. I need a better sleeping bag ! I was the first to wake up as usual and after some primitive body cleansing, I started on my chanting rounds. This time it was tough to chant as it was still cold and eerily quiet.
This was totally unexpected. Just when we had all given up on the quality of our trek, sad about not having seen any wonderful views, rainy day 1, cold day 1 sleep…there was light on day 2. Plenty of it. It must be the brahmajyothi rays emanating from Lord Krishna’s transcendental body. After all Mt. Feathertop is only a few kilometers away. By the way, this is the view from our tents and the hut.
Some of these backpackers who camped alongside us, decided to start the feathertop trek straightaway when the light was good. We also decided this was the best.
These are some snowgum trees destroyed in the bush fires few years ago. However, many of the plains have reported good growth. These trees take considerable time to grow to its full. The plains are still dry inspite of good rains. Everyone has to be very careful with their fires.
After a bit of walking through narrow ridges, we get a glimpse of “Mt. Feathertop”. We have to get to the farthest peak there. And look, its snowed a bit too. This climb was very steep and once again we had to put in everything. Our toes and heals were beginning to ache. But we must go on.
And we reached the goal. We were all so happy. Lots of cheering, plenty of group photos and just soaking the scenery. And the sun had a beautiful hotness up there. In the horizon, we can see Mt. Hotham. We had a 182 meters climb over 1 kilometer. It was strenous for sure. By the way, Mt. Feathertop is Victoria’s second highest mountain.
I just love this blue covering over the hills that I see in Australian landscapes. This is what makes me what to trek over and over again in this country. It just is spectacular.
While we headed back, we could see much clearly the path we had taken the day before in the heavy wind and rain. It was good to experience both the good and bad. Seasons will come and go whether you like or not. We must learn to accept it, enjoy it and cross it.
Right in the middle of the pic you can see Mt. Feathertop. This is the actual starting point which I spoke in picture 2. We couldn’t see anything then. But when we finished the trip, it was all clear. We had put our faith in our trek leaders, worked as a team, maintained a positive frame of mind, accepted nature’s moods and everything turned out just fine.
These treks are like our devotional services. Sometimes, we may not understand why we do the things we do, the difficulties, the curious onlookers, where we are going, whether we can do it etc. But if you put your commitment, hard work, have a good attitude and be patient…there will be a day when you will hit the goal. And then when you look back, you wonder how you did it. And when you know that you did it, you can’t wait to tell other people about it. And that’s what I did just now. And that’s what we do in Krishna Consciousness. We always want to tell everyone about the amazing trek back to Lord Sri Krishna.