Walk a mile in Neil Fahey’s shoes – Interview with an Aussie bushwalker

Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with various bushwalkers, hikers, backpackers and trekers from around the world.

The series is designed to introduce you to some of the characters we have met in the outdoor blogging world. There are some great people who really enjoy getting out into the bush or wilderness.

In this post we interview Neil Fahey, an Australian, who runs “Bushwalking Blog“. This is a great site that shares many of Neil’s trips both locally (near Melbourne , Australia) and when he gets the chance to travel.

Hiking Paddy Track, Eastern Sherbrooke Forest, Dandenong Ranges National Park (VIC)

Hiking Paddy Track, Eastern Sherbrooke Forest, Dandenong Ranges National Park (VIC)

How about a bit of background on yourself. Live where? Work where?

I live in inner-suburban Melbourne which is great for me because I love the cultural richness of the city… I don’t have to go too far from home to eat amazing food or to experience mind-blowing music, art, theatre or dance!

I work as a computer network technician at a primary school and I do a bit of web design work on the side (including my position as one of the web developers on the 15/15 Film Festival Committee), so I spend a very big chunk of my time sitting behind a desk. This is probably one reason I’m so driven to get out there and take it all in whenever I can!

When I’m not out enjoying the city life, working, hiking or blogging about hiking, I’m usually watching movies or trying to write/record/produce music (I say trying because I’m a total hack).  

How did you first get into bushwalking / backpacking? Any particular mentor or group?

I grew up in Wangaratta (north-east Victoria) so I had my first experiences of the bush when I was quite young and during my teenage years I developed a strong interest in conservation. The small country town thing really wasn’t for me so I moved to Melbourne when I was 17.

Enjoying the scenery near Splitters Falls, Grampians National Park (VIC)

Enjoying the scenery near Splitters Falls, Grampians National Park (VIC)

After a few years of city-living I started going away for weekends and doing the occasional short hike. However, I didn’t really get into it until we started planning or trip to South and Central America (for mid-2009)… We had booked the Inka Trail and my fitness level was poor at best, so I reverted to the only form of exercise that I really enjoyed and started trying to hike whenever I had the time. I was visiting some pretty special places so I wanted to document them and I was also having trouble finding detailed information about places to hike, so I decided to start a blog/guide which would help other people in the same position and also give me a way to record my adventures. That’s how “Bushwalking Blog” came about and it turned out to be another motivating factor to keep me hiking – Now I just can’t get enough!

Solo or with someone? Who is your preferred hiking partner?

I’m quite happy hiking alone… I’m more quiet and therefore less likely to scare off the wildlife, it gives me time and headspace to think and there’s also definite advantages to being able to go at my own pace and spend as much time taking photos as I want.

That said, turning a hike into a social outing is great in lots of other ways! My wife is obviously my favourite person to hike with, though unfortunately she doesn’t have quite as much time for hiking as I do, but I’ve got a few mates who are up for an adventure every now and then too.

Getting roasted next to flowing lava after hiking to Volcan Pacaya (near Antigua), Guatemala

Getting roasted next to flowing lava after hiking to Volcan Pacaya (near Antigua), Guatemala

If you had a couple of months off just to hike, what would be the three multi day hikes in the US you would complete?
I’ve actually never considered hiking in the US… There are so many other places in the world I’m keen to visit that it doesn’t come in very high on my list. However, after a bit of Googling I’ve made some decisions anyway:

1. I visited the Grand Canyon with my parents when I was about 10 years old and part of me has always wanted to go back there. If I ever do make it back I’d love to do the 2-day hike to Havasupai Falls, not only just to see (and swim at) the falls but it’s always interesting to see such sudden changes in landscape. This looks like an incredible natural oasis in the middle of what I remember as being a completely dry, sparse landscape.

2. I’d love to see the geysers and swim in the hot-springs of Yellowstone National Park. It looks like there are loads of options available to do this, with hikes ranging from 3 to 7 days.

3. Yosemite National Park looks like one of the other more beautiful spots in the States. I’m sure my wife would love to see El Capitan, the worlds largest piece of exposed granite (since she has studied geology and is slightly obsessed with rocks) and there are also a whole bunch of waterfalls deep in the valley that I’d love to see. There seems to be many possible hikes of varying lengths (I’ve found some ranging from 1 to 4 days) in the park so I’d be looking for one that took in some of the waterfalls and allowed views of El Capitan.

On the hike to Lake Sachavacayok, Peruvian Amazon Basin

On the hike to Lake Sachavacayok, Peruvian Amazon Basin

Alright, unlimited finances, money and time what would be the three multi day international treks you would complete?

If only that were possible! There are so many to choose from but I’ve settled on…

1. Milford Track, New Zealand – I’ve always wanted to see Milford Sound so I can’t imagine a better way to really take the place in! Several companies offer a 5-day/4-night guided hike so I’d probably look at doing that.

2. Ganden to Samye, Tibet – I’d actually just be happy to visit Tibet, regardless of which hike I was going to do, but this does look excellent. It’s a 4-5 day trek but considering I’ve got unlimited money and time, I’d probably take a side-trip to the ancient Nyingmapa Buddhist Retreat too.

3. Mont Blanc Circuit – Not sure how I’d go with this 170 km hike but it would be beyond amazing! Over 10 days it climbs over 6 passes, takes in glaciers and alpine meadows, has views of some of the most beauriful peaks in the world (obviously including the famous Mont Blanc) and takes in 3 countries (France, Switzerland & Italy)!!

My three favourite bits of gear are? Why?

1. Keen Trailhead Targhee II shoes – The only shoes I’ve found that perfectly support my feet (and I’ve tried on A LOT of shoes). I suffer from plantar fasciitis so the support is really important. I loved them so much I decided to buy a second pair in fear that I might not be able to get the same shoes next time. I took one pair around South and Central America with me for 3 months and wore them nearly every day – I gave them a heck of a beating but they’ve survived incredibly well!

2. iPhone 3GS – I’m sure some people will scoff at me for this but I love it! There’s Google Maps for directions to where I start my hikes, an in-built compass, photos and video (in case I forget my regular camera), a notepad to write down anything I observe along the way (when I think I might forget to put it on the blog) and I’m currently using the iMapMyRun application to track pace, distance, time and to draw a map of my hike (via GPS) which can later be viewed online. Did I mention I love it!?

3. My first-aid kit – My mother-in-law actually put this together for me out of bits and pieces she had lying around the house and I think it’s got pretty much everything I’d ever need. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use it so far but I feel a lot safer going out there, knowing that I’ve got it in my bag.

I really hate it when I am bushwalking / backpacking and …..?

I see dog poo, cigarette butts, drink cans/bottles and other general rubbish lying around in the most beautiful places! It’s such a shame that people have no understanding of (or just dont care about) the damage they’re doing!

I knew we were in trouble on that trip when …….

I’ve actually been lucky enough never to get myself in any real trouble, though there has been times when I’ve momentarily lost the track or had close calls with snakes. The worst thing that has happened was probably when my wife injured her foot on day 2 of the Inka Trail but being with a tour group, we knew we’d be okay. They actually sent two porters back with a tarpaulin to carry her on but she powered on through despite the injury!

With the tour-group at Machu Picchu, Peru, after 3 and a half very long days of hiking!

With the tour-group at Machu Picchu, Peru, after 3 and a half very long days of hiking!

What trips have you planned in the next 12 months?

Sadly I wont be travelling overseas in the next 12 months but I’m planning to cover a fair bit more of Victoria – I’m most keen to check out Wilsons Promontory, mainly because I’ve never been there before but also because I love seeing the bush regenerate after such devestation… I also plan to get out to as many of the other fire-affected areas as possible, as they slowly reopen to hikers. The other Victorian place I’d love to see is the old-growth forest in East Gippland, before it all becomes woodchips!

My travels in South America this year (up to nearly 5000 metres above sea-level) have made me curious to see the highest point in Australia, so I’d love to hike Mount Kosciuszko (even though it’s only 2228 metres!).

What is your favourite outdoor website?

I’d be lying if I said that my own website (“Bushwalking Blog“) wasn’t my favourite! At least for the purpose of finding hikes to do (though obviously it’s not as helpful to me because I’ve already done them all!). I started it because I wasn’t happy with the other resources available so obviously I’ve tried to make it better.

Having said that, not all outdoor websites are meant to serve this purpose… Some (such as “Our Hiking Blog”) are a broader outdoors/hiking resource. I’m sure I haven’t seen them all but of the ones I’ve seen I would probably say that “Our Hiking Blog” is the best (and no I’m not just saying that because that’s where this interview will be published!)

The fact that the best sites out there are started by individuals who make nothing or very little for their time, says a lot about the type of people who appreciate the outdoors!

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

I don’t really have a favourite but most of my gear has been bought from Paddy Palin and Mountain Designs in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD. The staff in both stores were very friendly and between them, they had almost everything we required. Mountain Designs also have a membership program which provided us with some nice discounts!

Many thanks to Neil for taking the time to answer all these questions. We have really enjoyed reading his story and hope you take the time to check out his site.

Have you got a story to tell and would love to share it with Our Hiking Blog readers across the world?

Have you got a suggestion for an interview of your favourite outdoors person where you think others may enjoy reading their story?

Please leave a comment with your suggestion or send us an email and we will try and get an interview arranged.

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