73 / Part One - Adventure is about getting comfortable with the not knowing.
From April 9 – 17, we undertook a Nine Day Trek, walking the South Coast Track in the remote wilderness of Tasmania. What follows is a personal account of our trip.
“Adventure is about getting comfortable with the not knowing.”
This came to me one day on the walk. I didn’t realise how profoundly true this statement – for me – would prove to be.
It’s really an analogy for living. Get comfortable with the not knowing and you’ll cruise.
And yet in our day to day living, we spend huge chunks of time, clutching and grabbing for sure outcomes, desperately trying to gain control of our lives. So much energy spent in trying to control the uncontrollable when really the need is to be in the moment doing everything you do and acting in everyway to discover, to be, your personal best.
Try to be the best version of yourself and nothing else matters.
And here’s why:
DAY ONE MONDAY APRIL 9 – MELALEUCA TO POINT ERIC
Our adventure started a day later than expected. Poor weather has pushed us out = downside. Upside = another day of Hobart cafes and wandering and heading to a cinema, one with broad couches. Kind of like your parents living room followed by chicken pho and prawn crackers and another night of crunchy sheets. But here is our taxi pulling up outside the Par Avion building - Cambridge airport, just outside of Hobart. A light misty rain begins to fall.
A small plane with three others passengers sets out for Bathurst Harbour. Bizarre to think that in less than a month, I’ve been to Bathurst Island and Harbour at either extreme of our incredible continent.
The flight from Hobart out to Melaleuca is one of the most magnificent I have ever flown. As townships begin to dwindle on the right, to the left first Bruny Island and circles of salmon leases. On the hills, signs of considerable logging turn to national forest and the vast expanse of the southern ocean. Ancient forms of the Maatsuyker Islands - prehistoric shards jut skyward. Uninhabitable rock, occasioned with green, sleeping giants. Granite cliffs fall, hundreds of feet into the ocean tumbling to reveal the southern most point of Australia – South Cape. We will walk there.
Below now the pilot points out Cockle Bay – our finishing point – and later Cox’s Bight – the place we’ll walk out to today, and spend our first night. Look carefully and below a white snake of a path, cut into the quartz mountains. Glimpses of the Track. And the track winds on and on and on. It’s a dream like state allowing your eyes to wander its bends from high above.
Landing at Melaleuca – I would come to read as the domain of the King Family – Grandfather Charlie – Deny King and his sister Winsome – later Deny’s wife Margaret and their two children – together they carved a family home at the bottom of the world, so far from civilisation, so remote and yet in constant contact via walkers and yachties and scientists, all coming through and staying in the Nissan huts Deny built by hand after WW2.
There’s a kind of low-key Ranger guy standing about. He’s a volunteer counting Orange Bellied Parrots and signing people in and out. He’s a bit of an Eddie the Expert as he offers knowledgeable suggestions and tips, like wear gumboots - the whole way. He’s flying out tomorrow, if the weather holds. He’s not feeling optimistic. Interesting. I take on board his comment, but do not relate it to being able to affect us.
As we wait a harried looking Dad arrives, glancing nervously about for his daughter. She’s flying back out on the plane we just flew in on. The girl is brushing her teeth. When she arrives carrying a rucksack and detesting every moment it’s hoisted on her shoulders, she grumbles about the need to carry her rubbish out. She’s 16 and a total pain in the neck. She sports rather detailed facial piercing. The dad says goodbye. He’s heading back out to Port Davey where he left the rest of his group. His shoulders slump in exhaustion, not at the weight of his pack, more at the gnawing weight of responsibility that it is to raise a teenager.
Now another couple, in their 60’s, carrying small packs. They too are on this morning’s plane out. They don’t make eye contact and are ringed by an aura of recent post-argument-itus. They just look shitty and do not respond well to my cheerful ‘Good morning! Got any tips for us?’ style of banter. As she stays focused on adjusting her boot, they complain about the need to wade through water. A lot of water. Exasperated.
We on the other hand are raring to go. A quick disinfect of our boots under the vigilant eye of the Parrot man; we purchase a supply of gas - 3 new canisters - a quick, distracted look at the Museum and we begin, setting off across the airstrip, towards one of the few signs we will see over the next 9 days.
We take the very first steps of our walk. Me carrying 15kg. Mark, 22kg. If you’d said to me a couple of months ago, I’d be contemplating walking anywhere with such a pack, I’d have scoffed. Yet, here and I am.Welcome to the South Coast Track.
In 1949 Deny King walked the same path, a billy can of beans and bacon strung about this neck, his ‘good’ suit folded in a calico flour sack, tied with rope at all four corners to make a rucksack – striding out across Button Grass to rendezvous with his future wife Margaret, in Hobart. Button Grass. Button Grass. How we would come to know you. A firm mound, a thicket of dense spikes sitting upon a bed, a sea of mud.
At first, a flat path, becomes duckboards that soon lie submerged in about 10cm of water. What? Little did we know, submerged duckboards would become an absolute luxury. Climbing out of Maleleuca, the path becomes a white quartz swathe between bush and a recent fire – left green, central, white path, right, black.
We gently twist and turn along the path down to the sea and now the stunning sweep of beach that is Cox’s Bight, out across sand to Point Eric where we put up our tent for the very first time. Our tents name is Nemo.
Weather – 21 degrees and no real wind, a clear night.
First night dinner – Freeze-Dried Risotto with Corn and Peas by the Tassie company – Strive. Verdict – Bland 5/10
DAY TWO TUESDAY APRIL 10 – POINT ERIC TO LOUISA CREEK
This morning we awoke in out tent to the gentle roll of waves. It is perfectly still – calm, no wind. We walked out along the sand to the nearest creek to get water and wash. Then back for sun salutations and a stretch on the sand, followed by tea and muesli.
Packing up takes effort. It will be interesting/exceedingly challenging to do so in the rain. Imagine if we had no rain this whole week??!!
As we sit a helicopter smacks our tranquillity, landing on the beach. By the time we’d stode the 2km towards him, he’d taken off. We now know the imprint of a helicopter on sand. By the footprints there had been a lot of people. Intrigued to know what they are up to?
We leave the beach and head up across the plains. Intermittent duckboards. And now another helicopter descends and lands less than 50m away from us. Out jump three people. We chat and discover they are working on the track, creating duckboards right across the Button Grass in this section. They’ll be here all week, though, we learn from these guys that the weather on Thursday is meant to be very ordinary. There’s a big front coming through. Thursday is the day we plan to cross the Iron Bound. We shall see.
Let’s talk food. So our ten days of sustenance, with absolutely everything we need being carried on our backs looks like this:
Breakfast – Muesli with hot powdered milk, a squirt of honey
Snacks – Scroggin every second day, Sesame Slice every other
Lunch – Wraps – Cheese – mine BabyBel; Mark’s parmesan; me Salmon Jerky; him Beef Jerky; two cherry tomatoes each; him chutney; me avo in a tube.
Tea and Miso
Dinner – Rehydrated meal, couple of pieces of chocolate.
Are the calories going to be enough?? We shall see.
After Wraps we begin to seriously climb.
This is our first challenge. 300m to climb to Red Point Hill. Small yet rather taxing then a drop to a stunning campsite on the elbow of a river where the banks are shrouded in fine green fairy moss and the banks are of fine sand.
And getting to the campsite requires wadding a deep stream while holding onto a rope for guidance. Bare feet - the water is so bloody, bloody cold.
A wonderful day.
Fauna Update – One spotted – and highly curious - Quoll
Note – Two Ice-cream headache river crossings in bare feet.
Dinner – Boeuf bourguignon - Verdict – Beef on Mashed Potato by Back Country Cuisine – have to say, it was rather delicious – 7/10
DAY THREE WEDNESDAY APRIL 11 – LOUISA CREEK TO LOUISA RIVER
An incredibly still day with fine rain. Not cold. A short day, walk-wise, only 6.8km – which was good as I found today quite taxing – most likely due to being three days in a row of walking with a pack – this is new territory for me.
Today there were a lot of submerged duckboards which means every step is tentative as you feel you’re about to go for a complete sixer – covered with a gentle slime, they are like glass. The walk dipped in and out of gentle undulating hills and a low cover of Teatree – roughly about 1m tall, a kind of neat garden scape framing a backdrop of mountains. Crossing Louisa River was MAJOR major ice-cream headache syndrome. We made camp by 11am. The forest is still and very damp, it feels like a place where people hide. The river a constant back drop, an unsettling, muffled roar.
Someone has had a fire, it lays dormant with the remains of Easter egg foil in the ash - the only rubbish we have seen. This and two Par Avion baggage tags. For some reason, I guess because the intent was festive, the sight of foil amongst ashes is almost justifiable. How I’d love to light that fire. But the Captain says no! We pitch out tent – tea – lunch is hot chicken soup. I think by the end of this trip I will never want to see rehydrated chicken ever again. I am also mindful of the amount of preservatives we are pouring into out bodies. Now with the portent of tomorrow being a rest day – working off the bad Thursday forecast shared across Button Grass from the crew of a helicopter – this finds us pushing our itinerary and provisions out by a day.
With this in mind, we become a little stingy with rations and scrapping Scroggin allocations and replacing them with Seasame Snacks. I am amazed at how the Captain can switch on and off his hunger. Mine is a constant gnaw. I am either fine and not thinking about food or ravenous and obsessing about running out. Will I have to live in a state of hunger? Silly and over dramatic I know and I must trust our planning and be ok with the concept of diminishing supplies – cos this is what well organised rations are meant to do – diminish!!
Dinner – Green Chicken Curry with Spice
Verdict – Best yet 8/10
Cards – Rummy is our game of choice – I beat the Captain convincingly and go 1 up in the tournament.
Mark is reading Free Food for Millionaires. I've just finished King of the Wilderness – the life of Deny King. I can attest, they bred them tougher in the 20th Century. Have just begun Hannah Kent's Burial Rites - desolate, icy, bleak, set in the wilderness of Iceland - perfectly apt.
DAY FOUR THURSDAY APRIL 12 – THE BASE OF THE IRON BOUND RANGE
There’s a gale on the top of the Iron Bound Range. There will be no crossing today. A disappointment. This morning Mark is he awake and moving by 5.45am. He’s already been up the track and assessed and today we will stay put. It would be impossible to stand on the open rock plateau of the Iron Bound, ridiculous to try and climb it as thick clouds fly across distant peaks.
It’s 8am now and Mark is outside making me tea, hunched over the burner with a bottle of honey, tea bags and instant milk at his feet. In the mornings, I take a little longer to get by mental bearings and if there’s an offer of tea in bed, who am I to rush? So, from a small green tent, I’m writing this whilst wearing a head torch. The stillness of last night has been replaced with the crescendo roar of a train. Being camped so closely to the rapids it’s difficult to know what is wind and what is river and then the wind stops, the rapids remain and we realise what we’re dealing with – as the gale builds and builds – the power of the wind and it’s ability to suck and pull the gum trees above, up on the opposite bank, is astounding. I’ve read of people being tossed about by gust, pack and all, just picked up and plucked meters off the path. I don’t feel the need to experience this for myself.
But here in this nook, we are safe and secure. I can hear a bird quite close. It will be another hour before any light touches the forest floor. Another two before sun, if there is any, is above the tree line. The forest floor is dank and subtle and actually quite comfortable. Today will be a day of reading, cards and thinking, broken intermittently by meals and the hope that tomorrow the wind will abate. Not such a bad day.
I wonder what is going on in the outside world. I hope all is ok. I miss being able to speak with A and H. These last few days have made me reflect on what really matters to me.
My list of stuff that truly matters reads like this:
my children and my beautiful husband;
creating meaningful work;
with great teams of people who become friends;
being kind to myself;
feeling calm and considered;
having time to think;
maintaining real friendships.
If I can achieve these things, I have lived my live with honesty and integrity and meaning.
After breakfast we’ll venture out to the base of the hill and explore and see what’s going on, to stretch our legs and see this gale for ourselves.
The belting might of the Southern Ocean has crossed the shore.
In full roaring power she claims the forest as her own.
Ancient gentlemen angling skyward, stand watch by a river.
With each gust she grows, takes aim, assembles.
A confusion of tusks.
A welt of groan.
Deep felt clunk on clunk.
A recalcitrant clash.
Reluctantly sucked back, readiness for the next,
She seemingly withdraws.
Though she ponders, builds once more.
The ebb and flow. The wham.
Ceasless. No lull.
Canopy splayed, tossed in and out upon itself.
And here she comes, once more.
Our day was spent wandering up and down from the forest to the duck boards, testing the wind, while all the while the Iron Bound loomed above us – grey and steel like shards – like a Game of Thrones film set. There’s only one way forward and that’s to climb over the mother.
Another dehydrated Dinner. They’re all blending into one.
The story continues in the next post.....