When Laura Waters hiked the entire length of New Zealand not only did she discover that she’s one bad-ass woman (our words, not hers), but she also learnt about the power of the wilderness. She had escaped the pressures of city living and those pesky expectations of others and felt free. Now, three years later, she’s again craving isolation and challenge, and this time it’s the Bibbulmun Track, in Western Australia, that’s caught her attention. She will be hiking 1000 km from the Perth Hills to Albany – a solo journey she expects to take between six to eight weeks. Ahead of her departure, The Adventure Journal chats to Laura about the joys of being “on the trail” and what it takes to get her there.
The Journal: What are you looking forward to the most?
Laura: I can’t wait to get back out in nature where it’s peaceful. A lot of this trail is far from any civilisation. The first section is 12 days long and there’s no civilisation in the middle of that, so that’s what I really like – just getting away from everything. It is a well-known trail; well set up for hikers (with) three-sided shelters, water tanks and toilets a day’s hike apart, so that’s all you need as a hiker. To have that sorted takes a lot of the headache away and you can just enjoy the ride, enjoy the scenery.
The Journal: What practical measures do you need to take for this kind of trip? What are you packing, doing about food and are you carrying a tent?
Laura: There are sleeping shelters where you can just roll out your mattress but if they’re full it’s good to have a tent and also it’s much warmer in a tent and I won’t get creepy crawlies running over my face in the night. So I will be carrying a tent… a one-man, one-kilo tent… sleeping mattress, sleeping bag, stove, gas, all my food… a little titanium pot and I will be doing some food drops because the trail goes through a town every week on average.
The Journal: Are you trialling freeze-dried food?
Laura: Dehydrated. I have a food dehydrator but it’s quite an art getting it right. With carrots you’ve got to slice them just the right size. They’ve all got to be fairly similar size and then it can take anywhere between six and 12 hours, which is obviously a big range – depends on humidity and the ambient temperature – and if you dry it too much you lose all the nutrients but if you don’t dry it enough you get moisture in there and then the food spoils.
The Journal: That’s quite technical.
Laura: I know and I don’t want to find that I’ve prepared all of this food and get out into the middle of nowhere and my food’s not okay… so I’ll probably have to mix a bit of dehydrated food with a bit of shop-bought.
“My journey hiking the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand was a game changer,” Laura Waters.
The Journal: As you’re preparing for this trip, you’ve been writing a book. Can you tell us about it?
Laura: Three years ago I finished hiking the whole length of New Zealand. It took me five months to cover 3000 km over some pretty challenging terrain. It’s pretty slow-going at times and there’s often no definable trail on the ground to follow – a lot of river crossings – so that was very challenging and I’m in the latter stages of working on that book now… it’s about the journey itself, what it’s like to hike that trail (Te Araroa), but also how it changes you, because five months in the wilderness far from anything that reminds you of who you are and what you are really changes your outlook on life.
The Journal: Are you craving that feeling again?
Laura: I am. I totally am. When you spend that long out in the wilderness to then come back to the city where it’s crowded and busy and it’s all about fashion and technology and what you own and what’s happening in the news and rubbish on TV… to strip all that away from your life just makes you feel incredibly light and free. I’ve never been happier than I was with one bag of belongings, one outfit, no make-up, no mirrors. I just feel deliriously happy and light, so I’m looking forward to getting that again.