This is the story of a Jack and Jill, who like going up hills…
We are two bushwalking enthusiasts who live in Launceston, Tasmania. We started bushwalking together in 2018 after meeting at a local trail running event. By day Tracey (aka Xing) is a Beauty Therapist and Ben (aka Bender) is an Electrical Designer. We have two teenagers (17 & 18yo) and 10 cats… yes you read that correctly, it is not a typo!
Where do we bush walk?
Before we met, we were each already fascinated with the collection of mountains in Tasmania known as “The Abels”. You can read more about what an Abel is here, but in short they are Tasmania’s 158 highest mountains by elevation and prominence. We had both climbed about a dozen Abels before we met.
Unsurprisingly this shared passion soon saw us heading out almost every weekend to explore a new mountain. Within a year we’d climbed 50 Abels together. In early 2021, we’d climbed 100.
There are many resources available both online and in print that cover the history, routes, vegetation, geology, views and every other aspects of these mountains. We of course highly recommend The Abels Vol 1 and Vol 2 by Bill Wilkinson. The long-published series of Tasmanian bushwalking guidebooks by John Chapman should also be considered an essential resource for keen hikers.
So why Bender & Xing?
When we first started climbing the Abels, we would start by reading the appropriate essay in The Abels and scouring maps as part of the planning process. We would also read forum posts, blogs and watch videos on YouTube for useful bits of information to ensure we were well prepared. Infact, we still do this to this day! Seeking out the knowledge of local bushwalking groups and joining in on their trips also allowed us to grow in experience.
We found that a lot of the information we were finding both online and in print was now out-of-date. Many of our bushwalking friends were discovering the same issue. It turns out a decade or even just a few years can make a big difference in the bush.
Tracks and routes had changed. Access roads to trail heads were closed, gated or destroyed by fire or flood. Maps were being updated with tracks realigned or sometimes removed entirely. Camp sites were overgrown or closed down. And so on and so on.
So benderandxing.com was born. We took our walks diary and turned it into a blog, sharing our adventures and photos. We seek to give back to the community useful, up-to-date information to assist others visiting these places. As we had been assisted by those who’d shared information before.
I love to write. It’s my way of sharing stories and knowledge. Bender has been a passionate photographer since his teens, and his photos help to tell the story of our shared adventures.
A video editor and multimedia producer in a former life, Bender was attracted to producing short films of our trips, to exercise his creativity in a different medium. Thus, our Bender & Xing YouTube Channel was created.
What do we share and where?
We share our trip reports on our blog, via various bushwalking social media forums and on YouTube. Tracey has previously been approached by and had a trip report published in Bushwalk Australia, a branch of bushwalk.com who produce an eMagazine.
We share our trip reports over various platforms simply because people use different platforms – individuals research in all different ways. If we are to be serious about giving back to the bushwalking community then it would be remiss of us not to share over multiple mediums. After all, Facebook and social media, online blogs and YouTube are all tools we use in our own research before trips.
We only share information for routes and areas that have previously been documented and published. These may be formal tracks or informal routes, local or remote, but they all share one thing in common – they are all already in the public domain.
The information we share is also dependent on the walk or mountain itself, taking into consideration factors such as ease of accessibility, available facilities, its popularity and the value in highlighting potential dangers or issues with the walk itself.
For remote, ecologically fragile and/or less commonly visited areas we purposely limit the level of detail on particular routes and the like. We do this in the interests of both walker safety as well to not unduly influence walks in areas ill-advised for less experienced bush walkers not already familiar with Tasmanian wilderness conditions.
For the same reasons, we won’t hand out our GPS trace files or routes to people we don’t know, and politely request that people don’t email us asking for them.
We don’t share details of undocumented areas, waterfalls, Aboriginal or European heritage sites and we never will.
We believe that sharing knowledge allows others, should they choose to visit these areas, to do so in a safer and more enjoyable manner. Mostly, we hope by the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) messages in our blogs and videos that we can inspire people to consider both :
- Their personal safety and ability to successfully undertake bushwalks in the usually rugged and remote areas of Tasmania without unduly risking themselves or their fellow walkers, and:
- Their impact upon these often sensitive environments, by adhering to strict Leave No Trace principles and encouraging others to do the same.
You might hear us bang on about drones in Parks-managed areas being a no-no, the fact that certain walks require strong navigational experience or even see us get cranky if we find rubbish under tent platforms, but we’re not providing an idealised tourist brochure. We want to educate, advise and protect, to the best of our ability.
Our wilderness areas belong to everyone. They do not belong to only a select few. Everyone has the same right to visit a place as another person – as long as we all treat these beautiful places with the respect they deserve.
Educating people to walk safely and tread lightly is extremely important to us. The only way to properly protect our parks, reserves and World Heritage Areas from inappropriate private development or government regulation is to use them. The more people that visit them, that enjoy them, the more people who appreciate just how special they are, and become advocates for their ongoing protection the less likely we will lose them to private developers.
There is a certain faction of the local bushwalking community that don’t want the sharing of information to the broader community and visitors to our state. Indeed, a small number of people have actively sought to stop us blogging etc. via online bullying and harassment, both to us directly and towards administrators of other bushwalking social media outlets – all under the guise of “conservation”. They seek to oppress, we seek to educate. It is ok for them to share a differing opinion to us however online bullying, trolling and antisocial behaviour is never acceptable. #bekind
That said there are a far, far greater number of people who through comments, messages and emails have thanked us for helping them in their own journey. Its lovely when we’ve met walkers we don’t know out on the trails who have told us that they excitedly look forward to our next trip report. There are also those who for physical or personal reasons can never visit these places. Instead they visit them virtually though our eyes – that is something that gives a lot of pleasure to Bender and I.
Adventure, Knowledge, Sharing. Who is Bender & Xing For?
Bender & Xing is for all of the everyday-normal adventurers like us – and also for those that can’t adventure. We don’t make money from Bender & Xing and doubt we ever will, but what we do produce in spades is happiness and gratitude. We will leave you with the following quote and until next time… we will see you out on the trails.