I tried to think of a title for this that encompassed the epic, exhausting, terrifying, enlightening and slightly humorous nature of the whole thing, but there really wasn’t one that suited it. To try and describe what I went through for 7 days on this last holiday would be quite a lot of detail for the average reader who may not really care, but is actually just looking for a way to kill some time. So, I’m splitting it into two bits- a Reader’s Digest version and a less-digested version.
The Reader’s Digest version:
My hike was long, it was hard. I can say that I was carrying too much weight (I never actually weighed the pack), but I used almost everything in it. I am glad to say I didn’t have to use the first aid kit, or the rental locator beacon. To get there, I took a Titanic-sized ferry called “The Spirit of Tasmania” from Melbourne to Devonport, split the cost of one day’s rent in a car with a Brazilian, walked for 6 days, caught a ferry from a hut called Narcissus to Cynthia bay, took a shuttle from there to Deloraine, a bus from Deloraine to Devonport, and then “The Spirit” back to Melbourne (and a tram, train and bus to get back to campus).
I stayed in huts every night, which was a luxury I cannot describe–even with the mice in Bert Nichols hut. All moving water and rainwater on the track was clean from disease and good to drink. It tasted excellent, I might add.
Evening one I legitimately thought I was going to die. I was walking through a big snowstorm and winds at 50 knots (90kph or 60mph). It was getting dark fast, I was alone, cold, wet and I had never set up my tent before. I made it to the first hut just as the sun went down and could have kissed every person in there. If it hadn’t been for my pride, I would have turned around the next day.
I met some really cool people who were walking at the same time I was. They definitely helped my morale throughout. I saw some cool wildlife, though no Tasmanian devils. As you can read, they are listed as endangered (threatened by the AU government), and a facial cancer is spreading among them, making their numbers smaller.
This was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I loved it, I hated it.
Picture link here.
The not-so-digested version:
I’m going to assume you read the Reader’s Digest version and decided you wanted more, instead of having to repeat larger details already listed above. This is going to be closer to what my journal looks like, and I’ll split it up into days.
9/27- I was glad I took the earlier tram to get to the ferry on time, I wouldn’t have made it if I had been later. I was forced to check my bag at security because I might “stab someone with the trekking poles.” I laughed aloud when they said this, but took what I absolutely needed with me to my “ocean recliner.” That’s a really nice way of saying “your airplane seat that might make you seasick.” I met an old gentleman named Meddi, who was Welsh, and visiting Tasmania. His wife had already flown over. He used to live across the street from the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, where I now work. He told me about his world travels, and that he knew someone from Branson. I did not sleep the greatest in the seat, but I didn’t get motion sick. I ate dinner on the boat which was decent and realized I had forgotten to trim my toenails, which would probably bite me in the ass during my hike.
9/28- I got off the ferry at 7 a.m. and had to figure out how I was getting to the mountain. My options were: rent a car $540, get a taxi $200+, accept a ride from a nice Brazilian named Phillipe $40. Phillipe was great company and drove well, even though it was the wrong side of the road for him too. I helped him figure out the windshield wipers. Ate a quick breakfast, then onto the track by 11 a.m. starting at Ronny Creek, where I logged my name in the book, indicated where I planned on finishing and started going. All was good until I had to climb a rockface, with my pack on, and nothing to hold besides a chain held into the rock by metal poles. From there, things got nasty. It started snowing badly, and on a plateau like the one I was on, the high winds don’t make for easy going, and the fact that no trees were around didn’t help either. I stopped in Kitchen Hut to eat lunch, which consisted of trail mix and butterscotch and chocolate chip cookies. I debated there whether or not I should stay or press on. It would be dusk when I reached Waterfall Valley Hut, and I wasn’t sure if I could make it. I decided to try. An hour or so later, I questioned that decision heavily, because I was cold, wet and alone with no hut in sight and I legitimately thought I might die. The sign that read 1 hour to the hut was maybe my saving grace. I nearly ran and I made it there just after the sun set. I was so thrilled to be there. I made friends with Cynthia and Joy that night. Cynthia does search and rescue for the mountain, and was giving Joy a taste of it, as she had expressed an interest to work there. In addition to all of this, my bags were all soaked in shampoo and conditioner from the plane ride from KC to Melbourne making some substances hard to discern between soap and snow (to the eye anyway).
9/29- I didn’t leave Waterfall Valley hut until around 10:30. The walk to the next one, Windermere, was only 3 hours, and mostly horizontal. Noticed that there were sheep bleating noises coming from somewhere. These turned out to be Tasmanian Froglettes. I saw a couple of wallabies, a padimelon and a wombat. Unfortunately, did not get a picture of the wombat. Drizzly weather, but nothing dramatic happened. Got to know Andrew, Claudia and Sarah a bit more. They would be walking the same path I was for the rest of the trip. Andrew was from Chicago and his job relocated him to Canberra, where he met his girlfriend Claudia who works with Sarah.
9/30- Windermere to New Pelion Hut is a significant hike. It’s 17 km (10.5 mi) which took me 7.5 hours. I loved the first half of the hike. It was rainy, but the temperature was good. The ground was muddy and there were a lot of puddles and roots to work around, but it was manageable. My trekking poles were lifesavers. The fact that I didn’t bring gaitors/waders was a killer, but I made it work. Once your boots are wet, it’s hard to dry them out and you might as well just manage at that point. There is a certain point in the walk where it’s all uphill for the day, and that was Frog Flats. I ran out of water, but could “readily” drink from the streams. Compare this to a giraffe “readily” drinking from streams. This bit was rather miserable, but nothing exciting happened. I got to the hut, ran into the group I will refer to as the “Antagonistic Australians” and also Simon and Jon(as). I introduced Claudia to Hawaiian Punch powder mix. It is a wonder how Australians get along without this and moreso Kool-Aid. I made fried Spam, rice and bean burritos. Claudia tried Spam and was “pleasantly surprised.” It’s actually good, don’t judge. After that, I went to bed. The school group of thirteen 17-21 year olds were in my room, and they sang as a group for about an hour, songs like Halleluiah and Free Fallin’ (my suggestion), both of which reminded me a lot of Ben.
10/1- By that point I had forgotten what dry boots felt like. My right knee had begun to feel like it had been run over by a car. It’s still recovering as I write this. I had fallen a few times since day one, and my knees were littered with bruises. Went through some patches of mud up to my knees. This day wasn’t so much physical as it became psychological. For some reason, my demons ate at me that day and I dealt with them properly. Once getting to the hut, I found it was slightly smaller, and not gas heated, as the others had been. This one needed coal refilling, and so wasn’t necessarily as hot. This meant, in turn, our boots didn’t get quite as dry. On this day I was teased for having brought Spam by the Antagonistic Australians. They gave me shit until another Australian tried it, nodded it wasn’t so bad, and then they all wanted to try. Oh, and continue complaining about how I made the hut smell like it. This got old, fast. Everyone loves Hawaiian Punch. Simon and Jon have now requested that I send them kool aid and barbeque sauce from back home. They will send me Tim Tams in return.
I continue to be a side-sleeper through this trip, which doesn’t make sleeping all that bad except I wake up in the middle of the night with asleep limbs and this is terrifying when you are half awake because you imagine them getting no blood and falling straight off. I will note, I have all 20 digits while I am typing this.
10/2- This day was from Kia Ora to Windy Ridge/Burt Nichols Hut. I walked a fair bit of it with Jon and Simon. Walking with other people takes your mind off of the monotony of walking. But, it’s kind of hard to hear people when you have 2 layers of hoods on because the sky won’t stop pouring on your head. I fell twice that day, once in high, fast-flowing water on a rock and the other time on a very sleet-covered rock. Dinner was especially good and filling that night, and I shared my leftovers with the students who were all quite grateful. The A.As were still being rude. Heath and Heidi are two Californians who had been walking with us all since night one, and Heath speculated the A.As were attempting to flirt. Heidi earlier had told me that the group kept tabs on me to make sure I was getting in when I should, in case I were to get hurt or something. That was a huge comfort. Heidi and Heath are married and from San Diego, but living in Brisbane at the moment. Many card games were played. And Heidi and Heath brought Pass the Pigs!! Which, if you’ve never played this, you’re missing out. This hut was coal fueled, but was fresh out of coal. We got to talk to a ranger, and made plans for our way off the track. I was planning on sticking with Claudia, Andrew and Sarah.
10/3- Day 6! This was potentially (and actually) my last walking day. I left the hut at 9 a.m. and was hoping to make decent time. Oh, and it snowed 4 inches. Yay (read: very not yay). The mice in the hut did not get to my food. This is a success. Putting on all attire that morning was miserable. Everything was still soaked and also freezing cold. I couldn’t feel any extremity for 30 minutes of walking. I didn’t use my trekking poles that day and managed to not fall, another success. When I got to the hut stopping point for the day, Australian Dwight (one of the A.As who looks like The Office’s Dwight) told me the ferry was on its way if it wasn’t already there or left. I practically ran. Because it was late, I made it just in time. I insisted everyone leaving join in a group hug. Claudia, Andrew, Sarah, Heath and Heidi and me all stayed the night in the backpackers there at Cynthia Bay for the night. We dined in a nearby pub and I scarfed down every scrap of food set in front of me. It was probably the best $50 I’ve ever spent on a meal.
10/4- This was a day of mostly travel. Said goodbyes to H & H, got on a shuttle with Claudia, Andrew and Sarah, that dropped me off about an hour from where I needed to be, said some more goodbyes, then hopped on another bus to Devonport after a bit of town sightseeing (and maybe souvenir buying for some people? Maybe? Who knows?). Found out that bumping my ferry ticket back to Melbourne up a night would cost about 6 times more than spending the night in Devonport, so I found a backpackers, and stayed. Met a lovely British couple who planned on working at a potato farm for some quick cash on a working holiday visa, and hung out for the night.
10/5 and 6- I piddled around in Devonport for the day, since my ferry didn’t leave until the evening. Did breakfast, walked around (with my pack, hadn’t done enough already), caught a movie, then hitchhiked to the ferry (I was really tired of walking). Ferry ride was pretty simple going back. Got in early morning to Melbourne. Ran into Australian Dwight at the tram stop. He was quite nice, and actually apologized for all the antagonizing the A.As did, which I thought was quite commendable. No one who has ever teased me (and there’s a list, trust me) has ever apologized. After multiple forms of transportation, I finally made it back to my dorm room where I had a quick shower, a bite to eat, and then a good, 16-hour sleep.
I am alive. I made it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I loved it and I hated it at the same time. Pictures, again, are here.
Bring it on again…just not next week, please.