Yesterday, the eight of June, a public holiday for the queen’s birthday, we drove to Olinda to walk to Sassafras and back. We parked the car close to the Rhododendron Gardens and could not resist popping in. Many of the trees and shrubs had shed their leaves, and flowers were a rare sight. But the gardens had not bowed out for the winter. Abundant grace and nobility surrounded us. At the very least, a tree devoid of leaves bursts with the promise of impending glory. This was eloquently present along a cherry tree avenue. Unashamedly naked, almost exhibitionist in the way they flaunted their alluring shape, the trees cheerfully invited us to gawk at them. But the invitation extended to also see beyond bark, branch and twig. We pledged to return in spring.

We left the gardens to tackle the round trip from Olinda to Sassafras and back. According to the instructions, we’d have ahead of us a seven-kilometre arduous walk, mostly through forest. We started by walking the length of Range road, a residential street of forest fringe dwellers. It ended where the forest began. We were soon dwarfed by gigantic eucalypts. Nature swallowed us up, along with a few other similarly afflicted trekkers. We descended deep down into tranquil, perpetual shade. Friendly forest sounds instilled calmness, despite my expectation of a steep climb ahead.

As they say, in trekking every descent leads to an ascent. When it arrived, we had no choice but to take it in our stride. Fortunately, our walking and climbing legs are sturdy, courtesy of many, many kilometres wandering uphill and downhill. Like Olinda, Sassafras was bursting with people defying social distancing to take advantage of the public holiday and glorious cold but sunny weather. We found a roadside spot on a horizontal tree trunk to have lunch. The walk back to Olinda, along a different path, entailed an unrelenting steep climb to Range Road.

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