After drawing inspiration from my 'Top 10 Road Shots' blog post, I mentioned to my work colleague Haylee, who also happens to be an incredible photographer, how I was longing to escape Sydney and go on a long road trip.
"I know just the spot!" Haylee had recently ventured out past the Blue Mountains and came across some incredible driving roads which she knew I would appreciate, and so, for weeks we started planning our own road trip adventure. The plan was to wait until the release of my new T-shirts that I had designed for Stay Driven so that I could create my very own look book. I really wanted to create something that inspired people to get out there and drive and to explore the unknown, so I thought what better way to do this than to hit the roads for myself and drive, drive, drive.
After picking my T-shirts up from my local supplier, I booked us a motel and got everything prepared for the trip I had been dreaming about.
"I'm 5 minutes away!"
This was my queue to go down to the garage and start up the skyline. I raced down with my camera gear in one hand and 2 BBQ chicken rolls in the other and waited in anticipation for Haylee to arrive. After throwing her gear in the boot, we jumped in my car and headed towards the rolling hills. The destination was Oberon, about a 3 hours drive from a place I call home in Sydney.
We were on the road for just over an hour when we finally made it on to the motorway. Argh freedom at last. This meant I could somewhat relax and munch into those BBQ chicken rolls that I had prepared for us earlier. Thankfully I was having a 'good tummy day' so I had an appetite and could actually enjoy what I was eating and drive without being in discomfort. Unfortunately whenever my stomach is good, it usually doesn't last long but to my surprise, it stayed good for the entire journey, making the experience much more enjoyable.
After demolishing the rolls, we chatted about what was to come then zoned out to my playlist on Soundcloud. Next thing we knew the mountains were approaching.
I could not wait to see what was on the other side.
As we got to the other side, the traffic eased and we descended down the mountain, heading deep in to the valley where the roads wind quietly through small towns and horse pastures. This was the side of the mountain I had never seen before. I could not stop saying Haylee's name and the words 'Oh my God!' whilst smiling at her. She smiled back and knew just how appreciative I was. It's often easy to forget the beauty that lies beyond the city limits of Sydney, but the endless blue mountains and soft afternoon light quickly reminds you what lies out there, waiting to be enjoyed.
Each passing sign warned of curvy roads ahead and each was met with equal enthusiasm. Only crossing paths with the occasional solitary traveler, we had the mountain roads all to ourselves and they had Stay Driven written all over them.
These were the roads I had been dreaming about.
We pulled over to a spot that Haylee had stopped at on her last trip out to Oberon with her father (AKA my yoga instructor and acupuncturist) and she told me to hop out. We climbed up a grass hill which overlooked the Central Tablelands, leaving us both in awe of the picturesque mountains that surrounded us. So this is why they call them the blue mountains!
I looked down and saw my car and the roads that laid ahead and felt so content and grateful. The location was perfect, the weather was perfect, the roads were perfect.
How had I never been here before?
With the temperatures dropping, and the golden light fading, I raced back down the hill, stripped off my 2 jackets and handed Haylee my camera so she could capture some photos of me in my new Stay Driven T-shirts.
We both did our thing whilst giving each other some direction and the second she showed me what she had managed to capture, I jumped up and down in excitement. The tones from our surroundings were perfect and I felt so relieved that the photos turned out how I had hoped. All the things I had been stressing about leading up to the trip disappeared and everything felt like it was all coming together the way I had envisioned it. I felt so incredibly lucky to of had Haylee there helping me bring my visions to life, whilst creating memories that could never be forgotten.
After taking a million photos we hopped back in the skyline and continued our journey. Haylee mentioned that she knew a spot that she wanted to take me to so we got moving before the sun dropped behind the mountains.
'Slow down! Take the next left!'
Unable to see any left turns coming up I was intrigued to see where she was taking me. Then out of nowhere, I saw it...
I turned left and was instantly captivated with what I discovered. Were we still in Australia?
I was greeted with a never ending, off-road trail filled with pine trees as far as the eye could see. It looked as though I was about to drive through Canada and the symmetrical trees lead me in.
Whilst I stared in awe with a giddy face, I later sighed and was somewhat unsure whether my car would survive the uneven-rocky surface. Then I looked down at my shirt and saw the words 'Stay Driven' so I continued to move forward, ignoring the painful sounds of the rocks catching on to my front lip.
'Welcome to Jenolan State Forest!' We stopped about half way down and quickly hopped out to see our surroundings whilst braving the cold and increasing, whistling winds. With the skyline out of its natural habitat, and only the iconic, red tail lights visible, it felt as though it belonged in the woods despite the rocky path it had just travelled down.
I looked at Haylee, then looked around me and I could not believe my eyes. I did not know a place like this existed here in Australia and for those following me on Snapchat, you would have caught a glimpse at just how surreal it was.
The beauty of our surroundings left us captivated and thankful for what Mother Nature had created. Not a soul was in sight and all that we could hear were a few birds singing in the distance. We looked up and felt invigorated and protected by the tall emerald pine trees that were rising in solitary splendour. They say that the space between every pine tree is a chance to start new beginnings, and I couldn't wait to see where Stay Driven would take me next.
With my fingerless gloves on and my camera up against my face, I captured a few photos that I had been longing to take after being inspired by the several adventure photographers whom I follow on Instagram. As I looked down at my screen at what I had managed to capture, I smiled and knew that it was worth taking the risk and driving the skyline down the off beaten path.
We began to lose light fast from the towering trees and by this time it was well below 6 degrees, so we hopped back into my car, cranked up the heater and exited the forest floor. The never ending pines guided us out, so I took one last photo then focused on the road ahead.
After driving down the road, we passed by a hidden, twisty mountain hill trail and decided to spontaneously see where it would lead us to. Despite noticing that it was going to be another not so low-car friendly road, I stayed driven, eager to see what laid ahead.
At the time I wondered, were we even allowed to be driving up here? What if my car gets stuck? But being disruptive and one to break the rules, I kept pressing forward.
As the sun began to set and the sky's colours began to shift, we found ourselves at the top of the mountain, overlooking the beautiful landscape with a sea of blue mountains rolling into the horizon. We had reached the most perfect spot to end day 1 of the road trip.
Moments later the clouds enveloped the peaks of the mountains and the sun was swallowed whole. With the remaining traces of light in the sky, we made our way down the mountain top, heading straight for our motel...