Don’t expect to find officer worker Jenae Johnston in the gym on her days off.
She’d rather be out – bounding over rocks, taking in an escarpment lookout or exploring among the trees – just like when she was a kid.
“From a very young age my father always used to take my brother and I up to the scout camp and around Mt Keira,” said Mrs Johnston, a 39-year-old mother of two from Mangerton.
“We’d always be looking under rocks for yabbies and things. It’s been instilled in us to get out there and into the bush.”
“It’s not like the gym, where the view never changes. There’s always a different animal, and things look different depending on what time of day you go. If it’s been really wet, the mushrooms will have popped up on Mt Keira.”
After flooding her Facebook page with pictures of her bushwalking adventures, Mrs Johnston found herself in demand as a guide. Now she’s making it official with Bushwalk the Gong, a fledgling tourism venture that organises group walks to some of the Illawarra’s favourite and lesser-known trails.
Mrs Johnston’s favourite walks are those that show a diversity in plant and animal life, and where noxious weeds haven’t infringed on the natural landscape.
She believes social media is driving new interest in the Illawarra’s natural treasures, and that this could have flow-on benefits in promoting conservation and bush care, and deterring illegal dumping.
“I never used to see anyone doing any bushwalking (on social media posts). Everyone just flocked to the coffee culture and the beach and all those pop-up bars – I think everyone got a bit mesmerised by that culture,” she said.
“But then through Instagram there has been this crazy surge. On my own Facebook page I’ll see at least three people every weekend doing Sublime Point.
“For the past 20 years there hasn’t been a lot of appreciation of the escarpment. It’s nice to see people getting out there because it’s been a really neglected part of the Illawarra.”