This must be paradise. I look at the emerald green water in front of me that reaches until the horizon. “That is Passage Peak, Esmar, you are going to run there tomorrow morning”, says our host Michelle and she points at a green hill in front of us. The shape of the hill reminds me of the legendary rock of the Lion King. In this movie the Lion rock is the center of the animal kingdom. Passage Peak looks like the perfect place to rule the mighty water world.
With a couple of Dutch travel agents I am invited by Etihad Airways to participate in a dreamtrip to Queensland and we just arrived on Hamilton Island. Hamilton Island is paradise in paradise, a dream in a dream and heaven in heaven. It is the biggest inhabited island of the Whitsunday Islands and is situated in the heart of the biggest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. Hamilton Island has a surface of only five square kilometers, but more than twenty kilometers of well maintained walking tracks.
Empty lobby of the Reef View Hotel
“Hi Esmar, I’m Steve, nice to meet you.” It is 04.45 AM in the morning when I meet the sportinstructor in the empty lobby of the Reef View Hotel. I can see Steve is a real good and experienced runner when I look at his slender muscled body. Steve is going to guide me this morning to Passage Peak to see the sunrise which is said to be amazing.
Aussie bush and cockatoos
It is very dark outside and completely silent, except for the screaming of the cockatoos. The white parrots with their lovely yellow crowns fly around happily like seagulls in Holland. We start in a moderate pace and soon we walk on a bush road. After only 100 meters I got a sharp feeling when I breathe. It must be because of the humidity I am not used to and probably also because of my jetlag and lack of sleeping hours. I try to breathe normally and fortunately the strange feeling is gone soon.
We are running in the Australian bush, the trees are leafless at the bottom and get greener and denser at the top. It feels like we are in a tunnel of branches and green. The vegetation is getting more open. But because I need all my energy to focus on running up I don’t have very much attention for the environment right now.
Passage Peak, the climb
Passage Peak is 239 metres above sea level and the climb is only two kilometers long. Because of the heath it is only possible to run early in the morning or in the evening. Especially the final part is quite steep (18%) with plenty of steps which make it very difficult to keep running. My Dutch legs don’t let me run anymore and the last part I try to walk fast to the top. When I reach the top I am exhausted, but I am already overwhelmed by the view and it was well worth all my effort. The sunrise is about to start and the view from the craggy rock over the water world with the sky turning pinker every second is already taking my breath away.
“Yeah”, I hear some voices screaming. And there are three girls from my group who woke up even earlier than me to walk up Passage Peak. I hit the big flies from my legs who even sting through my thick long compression socks. “The flies love black Esmar”, Steven smiles. Damn, I just chose the wrong outfit this morning, I think. Besides, I am very grateful to All4running that they let me try these socks for this run because the climb pushes my leg muscles to the max.
The “Circle of life”
Then the magic begins. The first rays of sunlight start a spectacle when they surround the dark islands in the water with an aura of light. The girls and me are really impressed and feel it is really special that we enjoy this moment together. The “Circle of life”, the theme song of the movie the Lion King, I mentioned before, is playing automatically in my head when I turn 360 degrees to absorb everything there is to see.
Highlights of Hamilton Island
“Esmar, wanna go for another loop?”, Steve asks. Over winding paths, going up and down he proudly shows me the highlights of Hamilton Island. I really enjoy the trail that descends to South East Head. The ever present view of the water that becomes more tropical blue every minute is enchanting. The vegetation is getting lower. I especially fancy the striking grass trees which belong in the Aussie bush. The ground is sandy with a lot of loose stones and turns to a red color by the sunlight.
The next photo stop is Escape Beach, a secluded beach perfect for a lazy sunny day. At this moment it is low tide so I can’t see the perfect white beach now, but it is still lovely. The location would be perfect for the Dutch reality program “Expeditie Robinson”. In this program 16 people are challenged to survive at uninhabited islands. Last but not least is Coral Cove, another beautiful beach. Unfortunately we have to climb again to get back to the trail to the hotel. “Even for Aussies it’s hard to run here this time of the year”, Steve says when I apologize because I really cannot run up anymore.
Loss of concentration
Oh no, I can’t focus anymore. Because of the loose ground i slip and fall down. I am so happy that I am almost home so I get up. My hands and knees are covered with sand and blood when I finish the last meters. I have never been so happy to see a hotel before.
It’s clear that I pushed my body to the limit when I knock at the door of the wrong hotel room. But when I am relaxing on a luxurious catamaran to Whitehaven Beach, my knees covered with two big plasters I feel completely satisfied and full of energy. I am sailing the emerald green water with Passage Peak behind me. The mighty rock of the waterworld. I did it this morning. Passage Peak, check!
Thank you Hamilton Island. Now I know how it feels to run in paradise.