Q: Where is the largest natural pyramid in the world?
A: South of Cairns, Australia!
Waslsh’s Pyramid is an impressive 922m tall tree covered pyramid 30 km south of Cairns. It is a spectacular natural wonder, and quite a popular backdrop for #trendy Instagram shots (Hint: take the road to Behana’s Gorge for the classic sugar caned lined pyramid shot). But if you really want to sink your teeth into Walsh’s Pyramid, swap out the sundress for athletic clothes and lace up your hiking shoes to climb to the top.
The 6 km return hike isn’t for the feint hearted. The trail head is laden with warnings about starting early, having enough water, and taking plenty of breaks.
AKA: “Be prepared for one hell of a journey and don’t say I didn’t tell you so….”
In typical Katie and Jeremy fashion, we were unprepared. We didn’t have hats or sunscreen, we only had 2L of water, and we were starting at a leisurely 9am. But hey, we had the right footwear and unbridled enthusiasm! “We’re in shape! It’ll be fine!”
Or would we…
The first leg of the trek was manageable. A slight incline. Not too much rock scrambling. Decent cloud coverage to block the sun. Great!
An hour in and I started to feel my legs, the heart rate was up, and we were both sweating profusely. The trail got rougher with steep rocks and tricky climbing conditions. My smart watch distance tracker indicated we were over half way there. No problem, we’d knock it out in no time!
30 minutes later and conversation gave way to heavy breathing. Surely we were nearly there by this point. It was just a matter of powering through.
Then we saw a grave message etched onto the rock face… “1/2 way there” with a cute little heart to lighten the blow. The words were a punch to the soul. The sign at the trailhead indicated that the final 1/3rd was the hardest… the worst was yet to come.
A woman sitting on the rock gave us a sad smile. “My friends had to go ahead, I just knew I couldn’t make it from here.”
We took a sip of water, regrouped and continued up.
Drama hit. Jeremy began furiously patting down his pockets in a “something is missing” scramble; an action I know far too well. Sure enough, “I lost my phone….” Shit. Backtracking seemed impossible. A new phone wasn’t in the budget. Waiting for the descent didn’t seem wise. Before full panic set in, I grabbed my phone and gave his a call. Walsh’s Pyramid is one of the only outdoor adventures will full phone service, thank god!
“Hello?! I just picked up the phone!!!” Crisis averted! We decided on a rendezvous point back in Cairns later that afternoon.
Growing up, every single adventure out the nest came with a sit down and “the safety rules.” Don’t go anywhere with strangers, always park in the light, be on the lookout for shady characters, and trust no one (did I miss any dad?) Living in NYC further ingrained the need to always be cautious coupled with a general distrust towards the human species. I assume everyone just wants to rob me in the eat or be eaten hustle. Things are different in Australia. There are honesty boxes for buying produce, often people don’t lock doors, and crime isn’t common. The fact that someone picked up an iPhone with no intention of stealing it still boggles me. Or maybe it’s just because it was an outdated iPhone 11….
The final third of the climb was brutal, as promised. Steep rocks, difficult footing, and no reprieve from the heart-pounding ascent. I consider myself fit. I lift weights, do cardio, and live an active lifestyle. This hike was a whole other beast.
A fun interlude….
A week prior, we met a nice woman named Brie at Josephine Falls. She was traveling alone, and was curious about the drone. We proceeded to get a few drone videos together sliding down the natural water slide, exchanged info, and became internet friends. I was shocked to see her passing us on the way down! Small world!
Finally, we made it to the top. I sprawled out on the rock in relief. I could feel my heart beat pulsing through my tired quads and glutes. The crisp breeze at the 922m elevation cooled the sweat matting down my hair.
My heart rate settled and I sat up to take in what would surely be an jaw dropping, awe inspiring vista worthy of the arduous journey it took to get there,
The view? Eh, it was nice.
The rolling banana and sugarcane farms were lovely, the view of Behana Gorge snaking through the opposite mountain was pleasant. But there wasn’t a “wow” factor that you’d expect and want after such an ordeal.
But that’s okay.
There is a certain pressure for expectations to meet reality. Raving over a $60 steak that is a bit overcooked because a food critic labeled it “best ever”, marveling over a snorkeling experience because it’s a famous destination even though the water was murky, hyping up an epic view after an exhausting climb to justify the struggle.
We tend to scramble to make an experience or cost “worth it.” But just because the end result falls short, doesn’t mean the experience should be a write off.
The issue lies in where we place value.
Maybe the steak wasn’t great, but the service and ambiance were a 10/10. The snorkeling wasn’t wowing, but the lunch on the beach afterwards was epic. The view at the top of Walsh’s Pyramid wasn’t jaw-dropping, but I felt so proud and accomplished to have made it.
An experience should be valued as a whole rather than what can be captured in a picture.
After taking in the vistas, we began the journey back down. By the end my legs felt like jelly and I was totally exhausted. But I was also extremely proud and fulfilled. Pushing myself and testing what my body is truly capable of is thrilling.
We finished the experience off by picking up Jeremy’s phone and demolishing three AUD$5 Domino’s Pizzas.
It was truly an experience to remember, and one I’d recommend if you find yourself in Tropical North Queensland.
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