The surface of the Earth is tumbling over itself, fighting to make itself alive
Atoms, not long ago, within rocks kill and consume each other
The Universe is in free fall, stars and planets huddle together in galaxies
But even these huddles fall through empty space
Hurtling to who knows where
My mind is also hurtling, torrents of information pour in
Ideas absorb them and jostle for pre-eminence and control of this temporary form
To what end?
I’ve framed this all quite horrifically, but it only seems horrible while I hope to control it
A sickening lurch as I reach for something firm as stars and galaxies and minds spiral and crash violently into one another
But if I let go, it becomes a dance
To what end?
Rather, why not?
The ACT is filled with many hidden gems to explore. Places that seem untouched and tranquil are only a stone’s throw away from campus. So with the end of winter near and spring around the corner, head to some of these places for a mystical time away from campus. Grab some sturdy shoes and your phone and get exploring!
Recommended by an avid outdoors-explorer, Jozef Meyer.
See the end of the article for some useful pages full of free and detailed maps!
Let’s start with the basics:
Black Mountain – the classic
A standard location for many – it’s close, it’s quiet, it’s easy to walk to but can also be challenging depending on where you go. You can also choose to drive to the top. The views of the city are beautiful, and if you go there at night, the city sparkles. It’s free and right behind campus.
Mount Ainslie – perfect views of the Nation’s Capital
Mount Ainslie Lookout is another popular destination. It’s located in the city centre and a 13-minute drive from Campus. Mount Ainslie will give you stunning views of Anzac Parade and the Parliamentary Triangle. If you want to hike it, you will need approx. 1.5 hours (return) and again, it’s free.
Mount Majura Circuit – the quieter one of the bunch
Although its views of the city are not as noteworthy as its neighbour Mount Ainslie’s, Mount Majura offers you a more remote location where you can have time to be alone and away from the hustle and bustle of campus. Think open grassy areas and more rugged trails – but still a relatively easy walk. There is a carpark at Hackette Gate, right at the base of Mount Majura, which is an 11-minute drive from the campus. Free entry.
Mount Stromlo – Schmidty’s favourite
Many people will be familiar with Mount Stromlo – it houses the Mount Stromlo Observatory, which is the headquarters of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The mountain itself isn’t particularly special to hike, but it offers one of the greatest mountain biking facilities in Australia and the stargazing is beautiful. The drive to the top will take you approximately 22 minutes, which is worth it considering the beautiful night sky.
Now onto some funky places:
Yankee Hat Mountain Walk – the top pick from the list
This place will take you about an hour’s drive to get there, but it is a standout. The location is full of history and is home to many ancient Indigenous rock paintings. If visiting these beautiful artworks, keep in mind that the artwork is vulnerable – do not touch the art or the rock surface, and be respectful of the heritage and culture that these artworks represent. The total distance of the walk is 6km and is suitable for all levels of fitness. Note that there is no phone signal in this area. Free entry.
Mount Painter – the dramatic ending
This is one of those places that is all about the destination, and not the journey. The views at the end are unmatchable, and it is relatively close to campus (right behind Black Mountain). It will take you an 11-minute drive to get there, and approximately an hour return to walk the trail, unless of course you get caught up in the beauty of it all. Free entry.
Gibraltar Falls – for those who really want to explore
Located in Namadgi National Park, Gibraltar Falls is a 45-minute drive from campus and offers stunning waterfall views. The falls have a 50 meter drop, and offer unmatchable views of the valley. Think Yosemite vibes, but on a smaller scale. The trails aren’t well marked, so definitely bring a map (see links below). Free entry.
Always remember to take an updated map whenever you’re exploring. We recommend heading to the following sites for some great maps!
SIX Maps: https://maps.six.nsw.gov.au
SIX Maps Etopo: https://maps.six.nsw.gov.au/etopo.html (for more intense walks)
Frequently throughout myths and folklore we can see the presence of nature spirits. Their names are varied and numerous: nymphs, faeries, sprites, elementals. Through different locales, cultures, and times, these capricious and mercurial embodiments of the natural world remain a constant. Some of the most well-known among these spirits are creatures of water. In almost every mythology there are malicious water spirits who will drown the unwary, or benevolent presences delivering fish, fresh water, and prosperity. The stories which surround them tell us a lot about the relationship between humans and the water so ever-present on our planet.
Most notorious among these water spirits are the seductive sirens who lure men to their deaths. In reality the sirens of the Odyssey were not the beautiful, mermaid-like temptresses we might imagine. The sirens Homer described were half woman, half bird. But the idea of a spirit luring the unwary to a watery grave was not unique to the Greeks. In the British Isles there is the Morgen, a female spirit who bewitched men with her beauty and illusions of underwater gardens, and the kelpie, a shapeshifter that would take many forms to coax people into the water where it could devour them. Slavic folklore tells of the Rusalka, the beautiful, restless spirits of drowned women who appeared in streams to lure passersby to their death. Though these images of seductive and beautiful femmes fatales may seem familiar, deadly male water spirits abound also. In Slavic myth we find the Vodyanoy; in Finnish myth the Nakki; in Japanese lore, the Kappa, and in the Solomon Islands the Adaro. The portrayal of these spirits and their interactions with humans reveals the relationship of those humans with water itself. Stumbling across one of these beings was seen as an ever-present danger when one ventured near rivers, lakes, or the ocean. And being drowned by one was often a result of not taking necessary precautions, being reckless, or guided by impulse rather than rationality. This is also true of interactions humans have with water. Particularly in ancient times, death by drowning was a constant risk, but one that was essential to life.
While water elementals in myth echo the ever-present danger and mercurial nature of water, they also remind us how important it is to our survival. Sirens may be the better remembered ‘mermaids’ of Ancient Greece, but far more commonplace in Greek and later Roman society were water nymphs: naiads, nereids, oceanids, and many others. While these nymphs retained the unpredictability of more malevolent elementals, it manifested in them as carefree, youthful energy. They were known for singing and dancing and were often associated with and bound to specific bodies of water. Nymphs were well-respected in Greek mythology. Seen as minor deities, they were often placed in the retinue of gods and goddesses. Other such benevolent or neutral spirits occur in widespread mythological traditions around the world. In Chile, there is La Pincoya, a female mermaid-like figure who summoned fish, and rescued those who were shipwrecked. In various traditions in Africa, the figures known as Mami Wata were capricious but ultimately benevolent spirits who brought bring water to the people who worshipped them. Selkies are Scottish folkloric beings who transformed from seals into humans, and featured in tales where they married or were forced to marry humans. Irish Merrows are the closest to the modern conception of a mermaid; beautiful half-fish, half-humans, they played lovely music from underwater. They were mostly considered peaceful and benevolent, and could interact with, or even fall in love with, humans, despite also being capable of luring humans into the water in a trance. These more ‘friendly’ portrayals of water spirits, that often coexist in the same traditions as the decidedly more dangerous entities mentioned before, add a level of complexity to the story about humans’ relationship with water. While the danger of drowning is ever-present, the life-giving nature of water, and the fish that dwell within it, has never been forgotten. The presence of often humanlike nymphs and mermaids in myth and folklore is interesting because it can show the fascination, wonder, and joy humans have always found in the unpredictability and freedom in nature, particularly in water.
Water spirits endure to modern times, but their representations now reflect a more confident and secure relationship with nature. Drowning is no longer a constant concern, and Australia in particular is known as a nation of swimmers. Our portrayals of mermaids reflect that view of water and the ocean: indeed, any fear of the depths below now manifests in the decidedly non-mermaid -like figures of sharks and sea serpents. Mermaids inhabit an escapist fantasy space, with children’s media like H2O: Just add water, Ponyo, The Little Mermaid, Aquamarine and the Ingo series of novels. We can wish we were mermaids, romanticise the beauty of breathing underwater and swimming effortlessly through the sea. Other ideas become caught up in the mermaid myth. Dolphins become an approximation of horses for an undersea civilisation. The legend of the sunken city of Atlantis pops up as a fantastical underwater metropolis of merpeople. Our portrayal of entities that live beneath the surface of our blue planet no longer reflects a respect, fear, and awe for a water which is both life-giving and lethal. Instead it conveys the curiosity and wonder evoked by the oceans as the last undiscovered places in our world.