Snowy Walk 2018

2018 wasn’t a big year for bushwalking and had been pretty stressful, especially for Grandpa with family stuff, work, grandkids etc. but I had another week long walk through the Snowy Mountains in December. This time we headed north from Kiandra and followed the Australian Alps Walking track to Bimberi Peak and then out to Blue Waterholes. I joined the same NPA group as last year camping next to lovely old and historic huts each night.

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We were to meet early on Monday morning in Cooma, so on the way down, I visited our daughter and grandkids. It was hot, so they headed off for a swim in the creek, then out to the back paddock to find a suitable Christmas tree. We spent the rest of the afternoon making decorations and playing with puppies.

Sunday afternoon, I set out for Cooma and fuelled up just down the road. Never before have I done this, but I put petrol into my diesel car! Ahhh! Only 5 litres but I didn’t know if this was enough to cause a problem. Blokes in the service station were not sure either and there was varying courses of advice from other customers. I would trust Grandpa’s advice but with the wonderful NBN now connected at home not working and Grandpa not having a mobile phone, I couldn’t call him. The neighbours were out, other mechanically minded friends were not answering their phones either and NRMA would just tow my car to the nearest service centre and work on it tomorrow. So I could only take the safe option and called my son-in-law to come and help. Wonderful Todd, came with jerrycans and tools and drained the tank so I could refill it with diesel.

So finally, I was on my way, much later by now. Eventually, everyone got back to me and they all said “no worries, that amount wouldn’t have caused a problem”. Next time, I will know.

One of the best parts of going for a long walk is the preparation. I like to dehydrate some of my own food as I know what is in it and it tastes just as good rehydrated. This time I tried Hommus and bananas as well as the old standby spag bol and a nice lamb curry. The hommus and flat bread was for lunch which is the trickiest meal to plan for. It was great for the last few days when cucumbers and cheese had expired.

I also like to go low tech, so we have stuck to our Trangia but it is difficult to decide on how much metho to take. I have taken 1 litre for a week long walk and had lots left over so I thought 500ml should do it. After the first night cooking and rehydrating dinner and a cup of tea, I thought, no way was this going to last the whole week. But I found that if I only put a small amount of metho in the burner it boiled the water so much quicker and noodles could just be brought to the boil and let stand to become ’al dente’. Lesson 1.

Barely had we got ourselves settled into our walk, when it was boots off for our first creek crossing, a double crossing in fact, a creek and then 20 metres to the Eucumbene River. Even though it is midsummer, the water was flowing fast and cold. The day was quite chilly and windy but the weather was meant to warm up during the week.

We walked across some wide plains and saw lots of horses and piles of horse shit. The first night was spent near Witse’s hut, there were lots of gaps between the slabs but it was a good place for a fire and chat. The clouds came over grey but there was no rain.

Day two was clear and sunny with numerous creek crossings and then Murrumbidgee River. Lots of undulations today with some bush bashing and it got much warmer. First time ever, I started to get blisters. Lesson 2 – wear boots a few times before long walk to get feet used to them again. Tonight at Miller’s hut, a mish-mash of corrugated iron, was a very pleasant spot near a creek for a wash.

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Day three started cloudy which is a good thing as my legs got sunburnt yesterday. Lesson 3, the UV rating is much higher down here and wearing shorts at home is not the same thing as wearing shorts here in the alpine area. More ‘wild horses’ today and big riding groups camped at the next campground plus road gangs doing up the roads for Snowy 2.0 exploratory work, so it was nice to turn again onto the walking track and we stopped at Hainsworth’s hut for morning tea. There were lots of wildflowers blooming, paper daisies and billy buttons and lots of others I don’t know the names of.

We spent a lot of time discussing the NSW legislation which now gives protection to the wild/feral/horses/brumbies in the Snowy Mountains National Park. In fact gives precedence to the protection of these feral animals OVER our native species. This is so mind bogglingly stupid and has given every ‘horse lover’ in the country somewhere to dump their horses. There are certainly some horses that I imagine ‘look like’ a brumby, whatever that is but there are many hundreds and maybe thousands more that look just like your very nicely bred suburban horse. And they are breeding very well too. Rant over.

We arrived at Old Currango homestead around two. I found two mushrooms growing just near my tent, so that was a gourmet treat to go with my Deb potato, tuna, dried peas and cheese for dinner. We had to walk for water but a cup of tea and a sleep was good. When I woke someone said ‘rain is coming’, so I quickly grabbed dinner makings and stove and headed to the hut. We watched the rain travel down along the valley and miss us completely. What a spectacular sight, I think we have all seen photos like these and it was magnificent. Later, I just sat and watched the sun go down and the birds from my tent, a scarlet breasted robin and gazed out over the plain. Very peaceful.

 

Day four we were ready early and left before 8.30, the day was going to be hot but most of our walking was through forest and shaded. We had lunch at Pocket’s hut, just restored and you could still smell the paint. I also tried my hommus for lunch, fantastic.

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There were gentle undulations until right at the end when it was a severe up and then down to Oldfield’s hut for two nights. I felt one blister pop on the way going down, ouch. Oldfield’s was the best hut so far, you could imagine people living here hundred years ago or more. Now it just seems too close to Canberra airport and peak flight time was rather noisy. There were lots of kangaroos and wallabies, playing, fighting, mating and generally going about their business. Everywhere so far we have been seeing so many feral horses and not a lot of kangaroos, we discussed this and don’t know if that was a real connection or just coincidence. Another reason why the horses shouldn’t be there.

Day five was a day walk up Bimberi Peak. It sounded daunting 15km and 800m ascent and descent. We could see it right in front of us from the hut and it looked big. It is the highest peak in ACT and NSW/ACT border runs right along the ridge, so when we got to the top, we had one foot in ACT and one in NSW. The walk was not rushed and so much easier without full packs on. On the way back, we stopped at the creek for another wash and felt pretty good, even me blisters were feeling better.

Day six we decided to cut short the last night and walked to Blue Waterholes where some of the cars were parked. Then it was all over and back to Kiandra and zoom, back up the freeway to home.

The Ultimate End-to-end Larapinta Trail

I just couldn’t get enough of the scenery of central Australia on my walk to Mt Giles in 2016. So, when a full pack end to end Larapinta walk was offered in July 2017 I just had to do it. I knew it would be hard and it was but so worth it. I trained and learnt a lot about specific muscles that would help me carry myself and all my gear for 15 days. At work, our Exercise Physiology students ran a staff fitness program and I now know what the difference is between my gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and about hip flexors and how they help when walking up and down hill and carrying a load. I still wasn’t real sure about how I was actually going to do it and survive. But too bad, I just have to do it or die trying.

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I did invite Grandpa, you know, just in case, but no, “you go and do it and enjoy yourself” he said, what a champ! 2017 has been my year of bushwalking in case you hadn’t guessed after our big motorcycling year in 2016.

I am becoming quite familiar with Alice Springs and this time I flew in 2 days before the start of the walk. I wanted to acclimatise a bit so I wouldn’t feel like dying on the first day like what happened last time. We had a meeting with the guides and the group the afternoon before setting out and they gave us the run down on what to expect and went through our gear to make sure we had what was needed. I had some luxuries, like my little chair and some red wine and some snacks, not that we had to worry about going hungry as there were food drops along the way.

We set off from the Old Telegraph Station and headed west across the highway and the railway track. The day was quite warm and the pack was heavy and I was regretting some of my luxuries but too late now.

One member of the group was suffering badly and fell behind, I was glad it wasn’t me this time. Our first campsite at Wallaby Gap set the standard for the rest of the trip, plenty of dirt, a shelter, toilet, water tank and a beautiful waterhole and red rock.

The second day was a killer, up at 5.30 for porridge and ‘cowboy’ coffee then 27km which seemed to never end and a burnt, hard campsite at the end. The next day was a cruisy 10km to Jay creek and it seemed like we were on holidays. I camped in the sandy creek bed without the fly on my tent and watched the moon and stars. Some members of the group started to suffer from blisters but my feet were doing fine.

I was starting to get a feel for this adventure. The next day we had our first challenge, take the high route along the ridge to Standley Chasm or the low (and boring) route. We stopped at the junction and the guides gave us a great pep talk and off we went up and over the top. It was our first real view of Mt Sonder, about 180km away. How the hell were we ever going to get there? We were all feeling trepidation about how we would keep going to the end.

There were some hard days to come, over Brinkley Bluff, down Razorback Ridge, scaling up a cliff to Giles Lookout, boulder hopping up gorges, sandy creek beds and rocks.

Did I say rocks, hard, sharp, pointy, broken, rounded, endless, endless rocks. For every heart pounding ascent there was a spectacular view to make it all worthwhile. By about Day 6, I was confident that I would make it and everyone in the group agreed that nobody was allowed to wimp out now.

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Our guides kept us going with encouragement, stories and lots of great food. Even though we didn’t need the extra weight of fresh veggies and our share of the food, it was so great to get into camp and have our ‘salty snacks’, tea and then dinner and dessert cooked for us. Larapinta wraps for lunch were better than any café fare and I was amazed to find that I found the Kraft packaged processed cheese that went out of fashion years ago could taste SO good after the fresh stuff ran out.

The guides knew how to motivate us, apart from food they would lavish praise at the end of the day or after a particularly hard part. You know, “Well done there”, “Awsome job today”, “You guys are epic” etc. This all went to our heads so much that we needed more and more reassurance to keep us going and we would complain if we didn’t get it. We talked about what would be the best way to commemorate our epic, awesome effort in the first of these treks the company had put on. Well a couple of months later, we all got a certificate of Awesomeness! How awesome is that? Pretty cool.

Another load to carry was 4 or 5 days supply of trail snacks, snakes and muesli bars. All that sugar adds up surprisingly to about 2kg. Add 4 or 5 litres of water and I was having a good workout everyday.

Each night we camped at one of the shelters at the end of each section along the track, except one night we camped up on a high ridge, you know, just to enjoy the view and had to carry extra water up. At each camp there was water in a tank resupplied by National Parks, a toilet, a shelter to cook, hangout in or sleep for smaller groups than ours and a map of the whole walk where we could ever so slowly measure our progress. It was such a thrill to reach the highlights or pass the points we had been dreading. We had two nights of luxury at the trek company’s permanent camps set up each winter for their ‘daywalk’ trekkers. As they were outside of the National Park we could have a fire! What a treat, they had sit down toilets and a ‘birdbath’ with hot water!! And tents set up, so we could just dump our stuff and sit in a chair!!! While the guides cook up even better treats like bread and butter pudding and ice cream.

It was such a letdown the next morning to leave but I chose this hard option after much long and hard deliberation to be right out there carrying everything and not glamping. I am so happy with that decision.

We saw quite a lot of other walkers, in groups or solos, it was quite busy really in some places but there was plenty of opportunity to enjoy the solitude and peace. Then you would get to the ‘tourist’ spots and it was overload time. We might take advantage of an icecream or proper cappuccino but we were keen to get away from the crowds and look at trees.

And sunrises and sunsets.

I had one down day around Day 13, partly, missing home, knowing the end was getting closer and it was hot and we were walking through sand. It didn’t last long, we climbed our last, well second last hill and there was Mt Sonder, so close. There is an Indigenous story about a woman turned to stone as she slept with a man not from the right skin colour group. You can see the profile of her face, breasts, pregnant belly and belly button. It is so beautiful.

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We would be camped at Redbank Gorge the next night and then we would walk up there to watch the sunrise, which is what you do at the end (or the beginning) of the walk. Getting up at 2.30am to have breakfast and walk up in the dark just seemed like the most natural thing to do.

The sunrise was spectacular and so worth it and the feeling of having DONE IT!!! All 234km.