Walking in nature is one of life’s simple pleasures, but when you do it in one of the world’s most spectacular and biodiverse landscapes accompanied by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, it takes the experience to another level.
It’s a cool and overcast day and an occasional shower drifts in over the Ravensthorpe Range when I meet a happy group of walkers at Archer’s Lookout. They are on a five-day walking tour around the area with Edgewalkers, a company that specialises in walking adventures and retreats that aims to bring people closer to nature and realise their creative potential.
The company is the brainchild of educator and adventurer Dr Erika Jacobson who has a PhD in transformative learning, and a love of nature.
The weather hasn’t dampened the spirits of the group. They have already spent a few days together, so they are well acquainted and immediately make me feel welcome.
Today we’re also joined by renowned naturalist, orchid hunter and photographer Terry Dunham, who Erika has asked along to share some of his vast knowledge about the trail’s wildflowers.
The bushland in the Ravensthorpe Range is classed as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and walking along the roads here, it’s obvious that it’s a special place. There are more than 1800 rare species of flowering plants and many of them are out.
Terry, Erika and her assistant Kirra DiConza all have an amazing knowledge of the flowers along the track. There are frequent stops and plenty of opportunities to learn about and photograph the flowers. Most of our 10km walk follows gravel roads along the ridge of the range and offers spectacular glimpses of the surrounding rural landscape.
Erika admits that before she began her business she didn’t know much about nature. “I didn’t know anything,” she says. “I didn’t really know what was what. “Wattle, acacia — I didn’t know they were the same thing. I would walk around … yellow orb, red bell, blue fan, white star … I didn’t know what anything was called but I have slowly been building a lexicon of knowledge.”
Erika is clearly in her element. She believes being in nature and coming together gives rise to a feeling of wellbeing.
“Walking is really about reconnecting with what we are part of without feeling any fear. “It’s us, it’s part of us, there is no other. Nature is home, and if it felt like home for more people it wouldn’t be destroyed so easily.”
She came across the term “Edgewalkers” while studying for her PhD. Edgewalkers are people who belong to two or more ethnic, cultural or spiritual worlds. Erika was born in Venezuela and grew up in Hong Kong before moving to Australia in 1982, so she identifies strongly with that.
So strongly that she secured the domain name edgewalkers.com.au back in 2008 without any firm idea of what she would use it for.
“I just parked it,” she says.
Then, when she began her current business back in 2015, it all came together and Edgewalkers was born.
We have a pleasant overnight stay in Hopetoun before embarking on our next walk. This one is along part of the Hakea Trail, which follows the rugged coastline in the Fitzgerald River National Park.
The park is a UNESCO-approved Biosphere Reserve and recognised globally for the natural diversity. It is home to about 20 per cent of the State’s plant species, 22 mammal species, 41 reptile species and more than 200 bird species.
A cool breeze whips in from the south but the turquoise water and the white-capped waves look stunning against the rugged coast as we begin our walk at Hamersley Inlet.
The Edgewalkers name seems particularly appropriate today as we walk along the southern edge of Australia. First along crisp white sand at Hamersley Beach, then rock-hopping our way around some stunning rock formations at Edwards Point before making a steep ascent to walk the coastal cliffs.
From up here, the splendour of the Fitzgerald River National Park really reveals itself.
We can see the windswept white sandy beach below us as we walk among the diverse coastal heath and mallee forests. Royal Hakeas stand like sentinels and a vast range of wildflowers add splashes of colour to the low heath. It’s a harsh environment but it’s bursting with life and colour.
East Mt Barren beckons in the distance as we wind our way down again towards the carpark at Cave Point. Time and the 12km walk have flown by. The group is buzzing. It’s been a challenging walk but a real feast for the senses.
I take my leave of the group with a sense of envy. Their next walking adventure is to East Mt Barren.
Mogens Johansen was a guest of Edgewalkers. They have not seen or approved this story.