This route is around 13km and has been a fond favourite of mine for quite some time. Out of the regular routes I enjoy on these hills, this one is probably the most demanding. It’s one I generally take when I’m struggling to process certain emotions, and it’s for this reason that this particular walk has been lovingly nicknamed my “pilgrimage.”

The way I see it, the walk goes through three stages – Feeling, Acceptance, and Growth. During the Feeling stage I use physical exertion as a safety net for my racing heart as I work through difficult emotions. In Acceptance I use the beauty of the view to ground myself, and in Growth I let go of the nets (so to speak) and begin resolving. It’s my therapy, my happy place, and where I feel safe to shed my skin.

The walk starts at the top of town and continues to climb from there. It’s intensely uphill for the first few kilometres so this route requires some work. Bringing food is the sensible choice, along with the expectation of getting a bit grubby.

There’s ground to cover before reaching the thick of the hills, involving some manoeuvring between trail and road to stay in the right direction. This small section intersects several tourist routes and usually results in some pleasant exchange to boost morale. But eventually the town slips away, and the more populated paths start to bleed into the more rural corners of the hills.

Some parts of the journey veer slightly off trail, and it can take some stumbling to navigate diagonally down the left face of the peak. Only once you’ve reached the bottom does a small path reveal itself, one that brings you back out to the trail that will eventually lead to your final climb.

A single, almost vertical track takes you onto the last stretch. It’s a long, winding path covered by low-hanging trees with their branches cutting slithers across the light. It requires a concentration of both effort and controlled breathing to break the summit without stopping, and even on the coldest days you can expect to feel sticky with perspiration, muscles on the brink. It’s beautifully agonising; the perfect mix of pleasure and pain to pull you fiercely back into life – call it Mother Nature’s prize for your efforts in strength and stamina.

As the ground finally levels out onto the small clearing it’s impossible to fight a smile.

It hits every time.

The second half of the walk is gently undulating, and closer to the main road. Still keeping to the path you can follow it around the base of the hills where the cattle sometimes roam. There are plenty of spots to sit and admire the landscape, but my favourite section is on a serpentine strip of road, heavily protected by its own turns. Trees line it either side, creating a canopy of floating leaves, effectively enveloping you in it’s own microclimate.

This is where I allow myself to take some pre-rolled Amnesia Haze out of my pocket and enjoy the euphoric elevation each inhale brings. The combination of physical exertion and fresh air makes for a gooey and sensual high, heightened further by an uplifting and energetic buzz, courtesy of the strain. I ride the high around the bends of the hill, observing myself and the life around me. Smoking the joint in its entirety, I relax into a steady walking rhythm.

From here there’s still a way to go before I reach home, but it’s a downhill stretch and I refuel with snacks, and fresh water from the spring. The Haze will hug me warm the rest of the way, and I spend the last of the walk internally setting goals and trying to make it home before sunset.

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