Meet the Merinoers - Roger Kolodziej

Ready to meet this month's merinoer? You are? Great! 

Meet Roger Kolodziej (Roj), a Polish-blooded Australian-born hiker with a passion for exploring the great outdoors. From the beautiful landscapes of Morskie Oko in Poland to the pristine coastal view in Royal National Park, Roger has hiked it all.
Join us as we chat with Roger about his adventures, his must-have gear, and his top hiking tips as a bloke who has done a fair bit of the stuff. 

Ottie Merino [OM]: What got you into bushwalking/hiking and when did it start?
Roger Kolodziej [RK]: My father loved the Australian bush. As a kid I wasn’t really into it as such, we did a lot of road trips but nevertheless grateful for the experiences I had. Much later in life, some major life changes brought the interest back in a huge way, I was longing a way to escape the everyday. The reset you experience and the appreciation suddenly was back. From then on in I was fascinated and wanted more.

OM: So you’re a Polish-born Australianhave you had the chance to head back to Poland and see what hiking it has on offer?

RK: Back in 2018 my family in Poland took me to Zakopane, a town in the south of Poland. We visited a place called 'Morskie Oko' which is a spectacular lake with a mountain range bordering with Slovakia. The weather was perfect, the alpine forest was giving off all its amazing smells…We then climbed to another lake above this one called 'Czarny Staw' where we looked back on the main lake, absolutely spectacular! I do believe I cried it was that spectacular.

Morskie Oko

Morskie Oko looking down from Czarny Staw

OM: What an amazing place. I completely understand the emotional pull these moments have. I'm like that whenever I visit NZ.

During the last leg of 2022, you did a Tassie tour. Can you tell us more about it?

RK: A road trip like no other, perhaps one of the greatest holidays of my adult life. Focusing on the west, the middle and the south eastern part of Tassie.

West coast: some beautifully isolated coastline and spectacular mountain ranges. Weather was not on my side unfortunately to take in the western coastline upon a hike to the top of a mountain there.  

Cradle Mountain and all its amazing trails: I spent three days there and hiked in four seasons. The Twisted Lakes Walk in the rain and heavy wind back down via the Face Track and Lake Wilks. Day two was part of the Overland Track via The Horse Track in sleet and snow almost blizzard conditions, the third day back up the Horse Track in beautiful sunshine to the Cradle Mountain Summit which I can tell you is not for everyone, some serious rock scrambling.

Bruny Island, a few small hikes, the East Cloudy Head Track was most certainly a highlight: views of the south coast, some beautiful sweeping coastline cliffs. A must do is a boat tour which took in the same cliffs, seals and some amazing rock formations.

The South Coast National Park: walking along basically the first leg of the South Coast Track, seeing the most southern part of Tasmania and indeed Australia breathtaking. Also catching up with some friends I had not seen in a long long time was certainly a highlight.  This trip really lifted my confidence in doing my first multiday hike soon enough.

South West National Park

OM: What's your most favorite hiking/bushwalking destination to date, and why?

RK: My local go to is the Royal National Park, Burning Palms via Garrawarra Loop: stunning coastal cliffs, coastal bush meets the sea, the wild pacific ocean with a palm jungle thrown in: a good trail to show visitors. My other favourite would be down the south coast, Moreton National Park: Rusden Head Trail, Mount Bushwalker and its surrounding trails, some gorgeous places to be seen beyond the popular spots.

OM: If you could only bring 3 hiking gears with you to survive a 2-day hike, what will it be and by?

RK: Merino shirts (Ottie, of course) and thermals, proper gear (food, hydration) for conditions expected! Don’t let poor quality let you down.

An PLB, you never ever know when you might need to hit that button for assistance. My pick is the Safety Alert brand— waterproof, cost effective, no subscription required. Just remember to fill out your trip intentions before each trip.

Decent footwear and socks, I cannot express enough how important this is. I use a mixture of Solomon trail running shoes, boots (for longer hikes) and Merrells.  Low cut boots are the preference as you need your feet to feel and understand the conditions and feel the surface underneath for what it is… having loads of ankle support isn’t always a good idea. Another must is making sure your feet are measured correctly by a reputable shoe store. For example, I have a wide foot (2e width) so pretty much all standard shoes are not suitable for me.   

Roger wearing Men's Long Sleeve Merino Tee in Otway Fern at Montezuma Falls, Tasmania

OM: What is your advice for those who are only starting out on their hiking journey?

RK: Start by doing a lot of walking in your neighbourhood, get that fitness up to a degree if you haven’t already. Start small and work up to bigger walks. Definitely the right shoes, basic, good quality gear for day walks. Always let someone know where you’re going! It's not about taking on the biggest, most demanding walks first. Most of all enjoy yourself and maybe use the phone to take photos only while you’re out, the sharing on socials can wait till you’re done: you’ll thank me later.

Follow Roger's adventures on his Instagram.