By woods, I mean down the Bibbulumun Track and by short, I mean three days. I got my daughter to drop me off on the side of the highway on the Friday and my husband picked me up late Sunday afternoon and I walked the three days wooded trail in between, stopping for the nights at two of the open fronted shelters that are provided for the hikers.
All up, I estimated I walked around 45kms or so over the three days, with loaded up pack. Even though the huts are provided to sleep in (and they have a rainwater tank where you can top up your water supply in winter) you still need to carry in your food, your cooking gear, your sleeping stuff and basically everything you need to survive for the time you are away. There is no mobile phone access and no easy way to get out if you run into trouble. Most people walk with somebody but I’ve always preferred walking on my own. You meet up with others at night, of course, as the huts are shared on a first come, first served basis. And you run in into others on the trail, going the opposite way to you, going faster, going slower…
I decided to go on the spur of the moment. I had just found out that my husband was going to be doing an SES training course over that weekend; I wasn’t working; I didn’t want to sit around the house doing nothing. The weather forecast promised wet weather but they get it wrong so often and I never think rain is an excuse to not do something, anyway.
So, Friday I gathered together my home made light weight fuel stove (original courtesy of my brother – I have been a convert since then because it requires so little fuel and packs so light; really ideal for my basic hiking needs), some cornmeal and beef jerky (protein and carbohydrate,perfect lightweight hiking food, even if not very interesting), a change of clothes and a sleeping bag. I am sure there must have been more in there because that pack was heavy but I had the basic survival minimum and you seem to need as much for three days as for ten days.
Friday was nice. I only walked ten kms or so to the hut site. Set myself up on one of the raised wooden platforms (primo position!), with my self-inflating cell sleeping mat and cold weather sleeping bag. Arranged my food and cooking gear in a little kitchen setup out front. Retired to bed to read (one of the luxuries I always bring is a book).
Then three others walked in; they were end-to-enders, doing the whole BT in one go, rather than section walking like myself. Teachers from Queensland, they had come over especially to walk this trail and they were obviously good friends. Two girls and one guy: they sparked backwards and forwards with their humorous interaction and they were considerate enough hut companions to respect that I was social but low key about joining in. They lit a fire in the fire pit, sat around it and talked. We were all asleep by 8.30 or so – lack of light and physical tiredness usually mean early nights on the trail.
The next day dawned grey and ominous. I woke early and thought it didn’t look like it would improve by waiting so started off immediately after my cold breakfast of last night’s cornmeal and jerky – it sets into a savoury porridge and I like that sort of thing for breakfast anyway. I had a mountain to climb; Mt Cooke.
It started to rain as soon as I started to walk and it didn’t stop all day. At first, when slugging up that damn mountain, I welcomed the cooling effect of it. Then I got to the top and was nearly blown off by the wind. My clothes were soaked through and my boots filled with water so that they squirted out with every step. I didn’t stop walking at all until I reached the shelter; it was just so unpleasant that it was easier to keep going. The last few kms were a bit tiring and I must admit that I’d slowed down a lot; for the first time ever, I put in earpieces and used my ipod to distract myself. Normally, I walk and listen to the sounds of nature but today all that nature was saying was “drip” or “squelch” and having podcasts playing did take me away from the leaden plodding I was doing in the mud.
I was so glad to reach the shelter! The pack came off and it felt like the best thing ever to not be walking any more, while carrying that heavy weight on my back. I peeled off all my wet layers and upturned my boots to drain them. Then, totally naked, I rummaged through my pack to find my dry set of clothes. Except they weren’t. Everything in my pack was damp. Hours of constant rain had seeped through the old rain cover and I was so sad. Still, they were dryer than the ones I took off so I put the new ones on and wrung out the old, hanging everything up to try and dry a little.
A cup of tea, some lunch and then I retired into my sleeping bag to read away the rest of the day.
Part 2 to follow.