So far I have Kayaked 800kms from Augusta to Geraldton, Cycled 820kms from Geraldton to Wiluna, Walked 1600kms from Wiluna to the Tanami Track, Mountain Biked 1350kms along the Tanami Track to Dalhousie Springs, Walked 450kms across the Simpson Desert to Birdsville, Cycled 2200kms from Birdsville to Cooktown, Kayaked 800kms from Cooktown to Cape York, Cycled 5460kms from Cape York to Wilson’s Promontory including some kayaking, Walked 900kms from Wilson’s Promontory to Mount Kosciusko, Kayaked 2500kms down the Murray River and Cycled 1000kms from Goolwa to Melbourne.
Now I’m about to Walk and Cycle 1300kms around Tasmania before my final challenge of Cycling 4300kms from Melbourne to Perth.
February 24th. Dandenong.
I started to pack my food into one-day food packs. I needed to get everything ready before starting my walks in Tasmania. The more organised I prepared myself in the comforts of home, the less I had to do on the road. Living out of a pack, a kayak or a vehicle does have its drawbacks although its great fun.
I checked out the mechanical parts of the vehicle and topped up brake fluid and oils. We then took my racing kayak off the roof as I wouldn’t need it in Tasmania, and packed the vehicle ready to take off to the island in the morning.
We said our goodbyes to Mike and Ann, loaded the bikes and then drove into town to shop. We visited all the outdoor shops – Snowgum, Paddy Pallin, and Mountain Designs before driving to the ferry.
After three hectic days of socialising and preparation, we finally boarded the ferry that would take us to Tasmania.
February 26th. Bass Strait.
As the ferry neared Tasmanian, crowds gathered on deck waiting to catch their first glimpse of the coast and for the ferry to enter the Mersey River at Devonport. I stood on the deck, watching, the bow cut through the waves, feeling that I had cheated. Why hadn’t I paddled over to Tassy? The paddle itself was risky but possible, with good planning and good weather conditions. Several people had in fact paddled there by using the islands off Wilson’s Promontory and the Flinders Range of islands. A Tasmanian paddler, Laurie Ford, had even paddled straight from Tasmania to the mainland without island hopping. That takes some guts and determination. However, with the notorious tides and changeable weather patterns, it could have added too much extra time to my already over-extended trip. So I took the ferry.
At 9.30am the ferry docked and soon after, the vehicles were rolling off the big decks. I walked off the boat and caught up with Tim as he was going through the quarantine blockade. The inspectors searched our truck and found a cabbage that shouldn’t have been there, so they took charge of it.
Arriving in Tasmania.
I cycled into Devonport, called in at the local radio and newspaper offices and then set out for Sheffield at 5.00pm. My aim was to cycle to Cradle Mountain, via Sheffield, and then walk the Overland Track to Lake Sinclair. From Lake Sinclair I would then cycle to the Western Arthur Track, where I would complete another walk, with a Tasmanian man called Peter. He had contacted me some months earlier, asking to do a walk with me.
As I cycled towards Sheffield down the narrow roads, it started to get chilly, especially on the downhill runs. I didn’t mind as there was too much to look at around me. Goats, each with their own kennel, grazed outside houses along the way. The countryside reminded me of my home in England – small farms with paddocks full of potatoes and onions, and narrow country lanes. When Mt Roland (1231m) came into view, a chill ran down my spine from the overwhelming beauty.
Arriving at the small town of Sheffield, we couldn’t help but notice all the huge murals. Every spare wall had been painted with scenes depicting the history, the culture and the beauty of the area.
February 27th. Sheffield.
The scenery was exceptional as I cycled towards Lake Barrington. Mt Roland dominated the scene but the small farmyards, old sheds and cows (with their calves) grazing between old fence posts gave it that magical touch. Finally, after doggedly pushing my way up hills, I came to the steep down-hill road into Lake Barrington. I flew down it at tremendous speeds and when the road flattened out, the lake, full of marker buoys, appeared. The lake had been the venue for the 1990 World Rowing Championships. I paused briefly at the lake and then set off back up the steep hill towards the Cradle Mountain. The route took me over steep hills, down valleys, across rivers, through forests and across a bare plateau, until there in the distance surrounded by clear blue skies, stood Cradle Mountain.
Tim and I rendezvoused at the information centre, paid a $15.00 fee and cycled on to Lake Dove. We had struck it rich. The view of Cradle Mountain (1545m) rising above and reflecting in Lake Dove was stunning. There I sorted my gear ready for the seven days of walking ahead, content to take it easy and absorb both the view and the warm weather like a contented cat.
Packing completed, we drove back along the rough track to the campsite. That evening we were entertained by Bennets wallabies, black currawongs, and possums, one cheeky possum even managing to get into the top pocket of my pack to steal some raisins.
February 28th. Cradle Mountain.
Tim and I, accompanied by David, whom we had just met and who was the son of a work friend, set off on foot for Cradle Mountain. Yesterday’s perfect weather had disappeared overnight. Now the sky was filled with clouds, some so dark that rain was sure to follow. It was chilly, but the steep climb to Marion’s Lookout caused sweat to pour off me. Once we reached the lookout, however, the exposed ridge attracted strong winds and cold air, cutting through our clothing.
A small hut, for emergency use only, was situated near the base of Cradle Mountain. Quite dark and dingy inside, it would certainly be a welcome refuge if the weather became cold and hostile. We left our packs in the shelter and started our climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain. Red paint markers steered us in the right direction, not in the most attractive way but with the number of day trippers that swarmed the mountain it was possibly the safest method. Several others tourists were walking along the same route so we chatted often. From the summit we had a clear view down the valley, across the lake and around the mountains. Unfortunately the grey clouds passing overhead took the sparkle out of an otherwise perfect picture. The descent to the hut was uneventful and after lunch Tim and David returned to the car whilst I continued my wilderness walk along the Overland Track.
Tim & David at a hut below Cradle Mountain.
It wasn’t long before the rain swept in, reducing visibility to zero and prompting me to bundle on all my spare clothes over my rapidly-cooling body. As I left the shade of the mountain and walked along the open and exposed ridge top of Cradle Cirque, the wind and rain became even more hostile. The track then began its descent, quite steep at times, causing great strain on my leg muscles. The driving rain continued but cleared only momentarily to give me glimpses of the valley and the mountain peak, Barn Bluff. As the track wound down and around, I came across Waterfall Valley hut. The hut, surrounded by small waterfalls, was quite small, so with four people already in it and another four people who’d arrived just before me, it was starting to look a bit cramped. I decided not to stay and walked on, crossing small creeks that were flooding from the recent deluge. Below the creek crossings were several waterfalls, but the foul weather deterred me from further exploration, so I continued to walk on. As I reached Cirque hut, the rain stopped. The hut was inhabited by two silent French guys. I stayed only ten minutes and then moved on, having decided to make the best of the fine weather. But within thirty minutes of leaving the hut, the rain started again. Fortunately I was rugged up with warm clothing; a goretex rain jacket and leggings, a polartec beanie and hood, thermal gloves and waterproof goretex mittens, and a fleece jacket, but I still felt a little intimidated and vulnerable in the severe weather that had set in.
After the snow.
I moved on, a lone figure crossing the exposed moors. The rain turned to sleet but I felt rather comfortable cocooned in my expensive but reliable clothing. My feet, however, felt soggy and cold as my walking boots weren’t waterproof. The sleet fell for some time and the area momentarily looked as if it was covered in snow. The track descended to Lake Windermere, and after following a while I found the Windermere Hut. With the weather being so hostile, I was very pleased that I had reached a sheltered place to bed down for the night. Five other people were already at home; two Germans, two Sydneyites and a man from Wollongong. The hut was fairly big, sleeping forty people at a pinch, with one pot belly stove.
1560 metre West Pelion.
March 1st. Windermere Hut.
My back was a little chilly in the night and although I’d slept on a self-inflating mattress, the boards had felt pretty hard. I got up, thinking it was 9.00am but it turned out to be only 7.00am. It had snowed in the night and, when I peered through the frosty window, everything was covered with a blanket of white. I opened the creaking door and walked along the track, leaving size eleven footprints imprinted in the snow. Behind the hut were some Bennets wallabies looking damp and bedraggled. They hadn’t moved far since the snow had fallen. With camera in hand I searched for beautiful shots of the snow-clad lake area. I felt quite excited walking around alone, exploring the wilderness on such a cold and beautiful, white, crisp morning. Only metres from the hut, tucked in behind other trees and next to a small clearing, were a bunch of snow covered pandani palms, some two metres high. The snow started to fall quite heavily on the hill behind the hut and down on to Lake Windermere, then the storm headed my way causing fluffy particles of snow to fall very softly.
The others were still in bed on my return to the hut so I quietly began to write. Later, I took another trip outside into the cold. The wallabies were now scooting around and foraging under the white blanket for food. Long icicles, like stalactites, were hanging from the tin roof. Back inside, I continued writing my diary with difficulty as my hands were freezing. The snow started to fall heavily and I momentarily wondered whether we’d get snowed in for the day. Finally the other campers woke up, complaining that their sleeping bags had not kept them warm during the night.
I was first up but the last to leave; preoccupied with my thoughts and the scenery outside. Eventually, by 11.00am, I was back on the trail through light forest and then across the more exposed Pine Forest Moor. The weather changed continually; one minute it was warm, the next cold, as wind ripped across the moors. I walked alone over untrodden fresh snow with snow clad mountains as far as the eye could see. Once across Pine Forest Moor, I came across the Fourth Valley Lookout. Reluctantly I tore myself away from the view point, which provided superb views of the valley and the spectacular Mt Oakleigh. I then entered a forest. There was an eerie stillness to the forest and the trees quite thick in places looked almost human as I trod quietly through. Had I entered an imaginary world, straight from a story book? Below the snow covered trees the ground was wet and muddy and the track wound continually, crossing tree root systems. Back out in the open, I met up with two hikers. One of them watched as his plastic bag escaped and sailed across the moor but he made no attempt to chase it.
Near Pelion Creek, the track continued through forest again. At the creek I met up with a bloke called Peter who was having lunch nearby. We plodded on together through the forest and the eroded muddy track. He was wearing sandshoes so he was continually fighting to stay upright on the slippery track. According to the map, Frog Flats was quite close but it seemed to take us forever to reach it. We paused at a small campsite before tackling a muddy section prior to crossing the upper reaches of the river Forth. The scenery at this point, in a southerly direction, took in the beautiful Mt Thetis, Mt Achilles and Mt Pelion West. At 720 metres above sea level, this is the lowest point on the Overland Track. After the swampy area and the clear views to the south, the track climbed steadily north-east then east through forest.
A view of East Pelion.
At a track junction we turned towards Old Pelion Hut. Within five minutes we reached the hut. The hut itself had real charm and character, and was nestled among beautiful scenery but it had one window, making it dark inside, with no fire and no seating. So despite its charm, and preferring a more open and light environment, we decided to move on to the new Pelion Hut a few kilometres further, surrounded by a number of distant high peaks and situated in a lightly wooded forest near Douglas Creek, however, it had no character at all. We were greeted by three wallabies. I walked north of the hut to a treeless, low-lying, swampy plain that looked over Mt Oakleigh, to view the area and to meditate. As we settled in, several huge possums and wallabies roamed the grassy area next to the hut.
Old Pelion Hut.
March 3rd. Pelion Hut.
Comments written in the visitor’s book were pretty accurate. ‘Watch out for mice’, the visitors continually wrote. Before retiring, we had made sure our food was locked away but the patter of little feet awoke me a couple of times in the night, nibbling away at something I couldn’t see. Twice I even felt them running over my head. Apart from this little disturbance, I managed to sleep quite well, though I had vivid dreams about motorbikes chasing me and a ring being ripped off my finger.
Peter had put his food in a plastic bag and hung it from the rafters by wire, but in the night the mice had been clever enough to get at it. His bag was chewed, the end of his cheese had been nibbled and fine pieces of silver paper were strewn on the floor below.
Dillon, who also camped in the hut, made an early start to attempt to climb Mt Ossa for the second time. He had tried the previous day but the bad weather and a snow storm had forced him back. Peter took forever preparing his breakfast, a cheese-tomato toasted sandwich, on his trangia stove. His food supplies seemed to consist of fresh bread and tins.
By the time we got on the track it was 9.45am. Peter was very sluggish and tired, complaining continually about the climb, but he did enjoy the forest areas. At our rest spots, leeches crawled up our boots and latched onto our packs. At 12.15pm, and at the turn off to Mt Ossa, we dropped our bags just off the track. The weather was fair yet cloudy with some patches of blue shining through, but after the severe weather the previous day, we hadn’t expected anything better. As we skirted Mt Doris on our way up Mt Osa, we met Dillon on his way down. He had been walking for two hours without finding the proper track up, because of the snow covering it. However he did reach the top this time. As we approached a steep gully at the start of the final ascent to Mt Ossa, the snow started to turn to slush, which made walking very slippery. The view became better the higher we climbed. Three women hikers on their way down were quite chatty and proud of the fact that they had reached the summit of Tasmania’s highest mountain. We had lunch on rock slabs on the summit between boulders and crevices, overlooking some of the finest and most remotest mountain peaks in Australia.
Our descent was hasty and we reached our packs by 4.45pm. Peter was tired out, but the route to Kia Ora Hut was downhill so that helped to increase his enthusiasm. The light was perfect and the sun was shining directly on the tree trunks, bringing out their brilliant whiteness. The sun also shone deeply on the fluted dolerite cliffs of Cathedral Mountain down in the valley, bringing out an unusual redness usually associated with northern Australia. As we crossed the creek in the Pinestone Valley we paused to view the mountains to the north, south and west – Mt Pelion East, Mt Massif and Mt Ossa. Kia Ora hut was quite new, spacious and full of light. Seven other people were already there, drying their boots and clothes near the stove in the warm room. Outside, the sun was just setting. I stepped outside and watched the setting sun light up the huge rock wall of Cathedral Mountain.
Cathedral Mountain on left.
March 4th. Sunday. Kia Ora Hut.
I left Kia Ora hut at 8.00am and walked through forest to the Du Cane hut which stood in a small clearing surrounded by leatherwood and myrtle trees. Castle Crag towered above it to the west and Cathedral Mountain to the east. The old shingle hut was quite large with a rickety, uneven floor, and had been restored for its historic value. I moved on deeper into the damp myrtle forest crossing several small streams that fed from Falling Mountain. Twice I diverted off the track to visit Fergusson Falls and Hartnett Falls, which were both worth the effort.
The track then climbed gently to Du Cane Gap (1070m). From there it was a steep descent through thick myrtle forest to the Windy Ridge Hut which faced the impressive vertical cliff face of Mt Geryon and the Acropolis. The terrain through to Pine Valley hut was mainly forest with the occasional clearing. It was only 2.00pm when I arrived, still too early to stop, so I had a short rest and decided to walk to the Acropolis.
The track climbed steeply through thick forest before it came out high on a ridge. As the area opened up, I was greeted by a beautiful snowgum tree and the warmth of the sun. After climbing through a forest full of palms and across rocks below a cliff, I reached the top. The view was magnificent. I hurried over to the main summit then walked along the ridge over large square boulders to where I was drawn to an incredibly long drop off the side of the mountain. It felt quite frightening as strong gusts of wind came hurtling through. The vertical pipes at the north-west edge of the Acropolis were exceptionally spectacular and it was hard to imagine that the rock formations were natural. I returned to the hut, sharing it with eight other adults and two children.
March 5th. Pine Valley Hut.
I continued back through the forest and headed towards Narcissus Hut near the shores of Lake Sinclair. The hut serves as the rendezvous point for the ferry which runs between the south shore of the lake at Cynthia Bay, and the north end, at Narcissus Hut. It is popular with day trippers and overland track trekkers who do not want to walk the last 13 kms around the lake to Cynthia Bay. A radio is available in the hut to call the ferry when required.
I’d decided to walk to Cynthia Bay around the western side of Mt Olympus, via a more scenic route. The Cuvier track climbed steadily, sometimes steeply through forest towards the Byron Gap. At the saddle I could see the Acropolis but then the clouds moved in, and the southern sky became very dark. Moving down from the saddle, I passed a patch of thick palm trees, some eight to nine metres high. Intermittent light rain continued to Lake Petrarch on the western side of Mt Olympus. The track ascended over button grass then moved through forest very similar to the jarrah forest in W.A. It was quite dry in the forest with many dead and fallen trees. From there the track crossed a big button grass plain which made walking a little more difficult because of the big turfs of grass. I soon stumbled on the Cuvier River, and a little after, at last, in the distance I could see the lake and Cynthia Bay. I finally arrived at the ranger’s office at 4.45pm and signed off. Tim was waiting and had already booked us into the camp site.
March 6th. Cynthia Bay.
It was cold and I thought about lying in but was overcome with guilt, so I roused myself. I was cycling out of the park at 9.45am. At the end of the road, only a few kilometres from the camp, I paused at a roadhouse for a Mars bar. I moved east, working hard to combat the chill of the morning. The forest on either side of me looked pretty sick with bare upper limbs and many fallen trees. I looked back for the last time. Mt Olympus was looking rather specky but soon faded from my sight, as I powered on towards my next grand walk, the Western Arthur Track.
Passing the open area of Brady’s Lake brought back memories of my visit there in 1979 to watch the Australian Slalom Championships. It is considered to be one of the best slalom sites in Australia. The road continued up and down hills, one so steep that I flew down it with such speed that my ears nearly froze. I arrived at the Mt Field National Park, near Russel Falls, at 7.45pm. A sign on the back of an old lady’s car in the park said, ‘Greenies Get Up My Nose’. I rang Peter Eberstein to make sure plans for our walk across the Western Arthur Track were still going okay.
March 7th. Mt Field National Park.
Heavy dew resulted in a lot of condensation in the tent. I was a day ahead of schedule to meet Peter so I was in no hurry to go anywhere. For a change we had baked beans on toast for breakfast. With clear skies and the promise of a warm day ahead, I decided to sort out the gear for my next big walk.
It was a day of relaxing and checking out Russell Falls and the beautiful bush below it. That evening we went to the local pub to have a counter meal. Back at camp, I nodded off as I wrote on postcards inside the vehicle, and woke again at 1.30am so decided to ring Jenny. After I’d finally made it to bed, a possum started running about between the roof rack and the vehicle roof so I had to get up to chase it off.
March 8th. Mt Field National Park.
I’d showered and was off on my bike in perfect weather conditions. Inspired by the mountains towering around me, I just had to get a photo of myself riding through them. I stopped, placed the camera on a white verge post, set the self-timer and pedalled off. Within a few seconds the camera clicked, and I returned for my camera and cycled off again.
The weather changed and it started to rain and a friendly ranger offered me shelter in his vehicle. When the skies had cleared I set off again turning on to the Scotts Peak Dam limestone track. At several locations along the way, numerous beehive trays could be seen. Stray bees flew all around, causing me some concern as I cycled into them. The summit of Mt Anne (1425m) was under cloud as I passed. It is the highest peak in the south west, and can be climbed in a long return trip from the road, but is recommended only for the experienced and fit.
The steep hills started to ease as I got closer to the shores of Lake Pedder. By this time it was getting colder and the rain was whipping across the lake. Lake Pedder was dammed amidst much controversy. I reached Edgar Dam camp ground at 4.30pm, but there was no sign of Tim. He had gone to pick Peter up from near Hobart and I didn’t know when to expect him back. At the dam wall it felt really cold as the wind swept up the lake, but the brilliant views of the lake and Mt Anne as the clouds drifted away were well worth the visit. Behind me, and beyond a small lake nearby, the clouds lifted over the Western Arthur Range. Finally, with no Tim in sight, I decided to cycle on towards Scott Peak dam. Finally Tim caught up two kilometres before the dam. Tim had apparently missed the turn off and ended up going towards Strathgordon. I met Peter for the first time. We spoke briefly and then I cycled to the start of the walk where a registration shelter stood.
Cycling from the Overland Track to the Western Arthur Track.
Cycling from the Overland Track to the Western Arthur Track.
That evening we camped at the Huon River campsite in the company of wallabies and possums. Peter and I chatted, becoming more familiar with each other, both of us probably wondering how compatible we’d prove to be on the strenuous ten-day Western Arthur Range walk that was ahead of us. Peter had been an abalone diver for nearly 20 years, had skippered fishing boats, and owned a miniature donkey stud. His favourite passion was fly fishing.
March 9th. Huon River Campsite.
We broke camp and moved on to the beginning of the Western Arthur walking track. It was extremely foggy as we filled in the registration book with visibility down to three metres. Right from the start, the track was muddy and the dew and moisture that gathered on the foliage saturated my trousers. Cobwebs, sparkling with dew, spanned the track but we pushed through them, and dodged the deepest mud holes. At 10.30am the mist started clearing and we could finally see where we were headed. I kept quite clean but Tim and Peter had mud up to their backsides. By 11.40am we experienced our first complete view of the range; the mountains didn’t look too high but the peaks were extremely steep and rugged. Just before Junction Creek, Tim decided to return to the vehicle so we stopped to have lunch with him before he left. Along the way we met up with an old man who had set himself a very fast pace, and then later a young woman who had walked to Federation Peak and then traversed the Western Arthur Range, alone. She was wearing shorts and her legs were covered in scratches. We spoke briefly and moved on to the base of ‘Moraine A’ where we rested. The old man who had passed us earlier could be seen power-walking up the hill and was soon out of sight.
On the way to the Western Arthur Range.
I filled my water bottle at the creek and took on the climb. Soon after the start of the climb, Peter showed signs of fatigue. Every 50 metres he would stop for a rest, although at that point the climb wasn’t too steep. He urged me to go ahead and he would meet me at the top, as he simply wanted to take it easy on his first day. There was no way I was going to leave him, so we continued on, Peter resting frequently. I became more and more uneasy about Peter’s health as the rests continued. At one stage, after an extended rest, I found him propped up against a rock, looking like death warmed up. He was trying to eat some bread but couldn’t swallow. I wondered whether he’d become dehydrated. He was carrying no water as he’d intended to drink from the pools and streams along the way. The water from my bottle revived him for a short time and we continued along the same pattern, Peter now drinking frequently. Of immediate concern was whether we would keep going or turn back, but Peter insisted we keep going to the top. We probably had little choice anyway as Tim would have left the point of our departure by now. So we kept going.
Our biggest problem was the lack of water; my supply was dwindling fast with Peter requiring so much of mine. The springs that Peter expected to find along the way were nonexistent, so I had no option but to try for the top and find water there.
I lifted my pack, left Peter with some water, insisting he rested until I got back, and climbed. The track was steep but the magnificent view of Mt Hesperus and surrounding area spurred me on. Several small soaks dripped between the rocks, and I cupped my hand to collect a little. Disappointingly, at the top there were no fresh, clear lakes, only shallow bog holes from which I had to siphon water.
Looking down to Lake Pedder.
I left my pack and descended, topping up my water bottles from the water dripping from the rocks. Peter was still at the same place when I returned but we were still a long, long way from the top. We discussed the situation – should we go up or down. It was 6.00pm and getting late but we decided to keep climbing. Peter was a determined, independent character, but I managed to convince him to let me carry his pack. Without the load, his pace quickened but it was still hard work as his energy had gone. I helped him as much as I could but that was difficult on the narrow, steep track, so I decided to take his pack to the top and then return to help him. The summit was pretty exposed with very few camping spots but I found a tight spot behind a large boulder. I set up camp quickly, just in case it got dark before I returned, and then started to descend towards him. Before I’d got too far, Peter was nearing the top. He was struggling and really looked sick. I could see that he had been vomiting. I gave him the last of my water and led him to our tent hidden behind the rock. He lay down while I tried to siphon some water from three holes that I dug in a sandy, wet patch on the east side of the boulder. The soak took time to fill but eventually I filled the bottles. The water was dirty so I filtered it through my hanky.
Peter rested while I fed him soup and tried to get as much liquid into him as possible. He said little. After tea I sat on a rock overlooking Lake Pedder and to the west Port Davey Harbour. The stars were bright, the air cold, and although the wind howled there was a strange silence around me. Reflecting on the day, I thought how lucky we were to be here and then, at 9.45pm, I bedded down for the night.
Our first camp on the range.
March 10th. Mt Hesperus.
Rain fell on the tent at 5.45am and then at 6.00am it poured. The rain increased throughout the morning. It wasn’t a good time to be out walking, so we stayed where we were. Peter was feeling much better and after the previous day’s scare he was happy to drink plenty of fluid, keeping a bottle next to his side and drinking often. Peter looked at a barometer that he always took with him when going on a long walk, and said it was indicating better weather was on the way; in fact it would clear by 10.00am. Two hours later it was still raining very hard so we talked, wrote and finally dozed off.
At 4.30pm I decided to brave the elements. It was still raining and the wind was icy cold. I returned to the tent, half frozen. I had a meal of muesli, cheese, biscuits, chocolate, nuts and dried fruits. Peter had bread, jam and salami. Peter took out his barometer again and it continued to say that the weather was improving but it didn’t seem that way outside. After my meal, I braved the elements once again.
Our first camp on the range.
Moving well away from our camp, I searched for a suitable site where I could dig a hole. Once I downed my trousers, my bum was exposed to the freezing wind that was whipping across the mountain. The rain fell, and my hands became numb as my fingers fumbled to control the thin toilet paper. As I crouched there and looked up, I could see clouds racing across the sky and whipping down the mountain side. As I returned to the tent I picked up flat rocks to pave the vestibule area of the tent so that we could keep our packs above the mud hole that had developed.
March 11th. Sunday. Mt Hesperus.
Peter went out to the toilet and to check the weather fairly early so it was good sign that he was recovering. It was very cloudy, visibility was very poor, and it was bitterly cold so we decided to wait a little longer. I wrote, slept, wrote some more and about 11.00am I moved out of our cocoon to get some fresh air and have lunch.
About 12.15pm I heard voices. I quickly vacated the tent and met five hikers coming up the mountain. Four were from Melbourne, the other from Canada. They moved on through the thick cloud, hoping to find a nearby campsite where they could warm up. A little later, three more people arrived. They, too, were longing to find a decent camp.
Two hours later, as I made my move to the toilet, the skies began clearing and patches of blue sky drifted in from the east. Below, Lake Pedder was shimmering, and Port Davey was starting to appear. For the first time for two days I could see Mt Hesperus but I could also see that more black cloud was coming towards us from the west. Peter came out of the tent clad only in his underpants at the same time as an American couple climbed over the rocky rim. The woman said, “I would never walk in shorts on a day like today”, not realising Peter was in his underpants and had just got out of bed.
The clouds returned as we retreated to the tent. We talked and I wrote but it was difficult to muster the right words to put in my diary. By bedtime it was warm, the wind having changed direction and severely increased in strength. The clouds burst, dropping heavy rain, and the tent shook so badly we thought it was going to take off. The rain created a lake under the tent but nothing came through the floor.
March 12th. Mt Hesperus.
The day hadn’t improved; in fact, it had deteriorated further. The wind had shifted to the S.W. again and the temperature plummeted. I felt too cold to leave my sleeping bag but Peter braved it for a short time at least (he’s got skin of steel) but he soon came running back in.
Peter fell asleep and it started to hail and the ice continued to slide off the tent. When the storm stopped, I darted out to the toilet but soon returned to my cocoon. At 1.00pm I heard voices so I raced out again and met two men from Tasmania, one from Deloraine and one from Flinders Island. Soon after, another man from Melbourne arrived. He had climbed Mt Feathertop the day after I had and had met up with Tim so he was quite chuffed to meet me.
The weather improved, there was blue in the sky and we could see Lake Pedder again. At 1.30pm we decided to make the break and quickly took down the tent and packed our bags. Our route took us up the hill near the peak of Mt Hesperus after which we descended before climbing again. Lake Cygnus was clear but hail swept across the mountain and soon reached us. Several minutes later it snowed, then the lake and the mountain tops disappeared in the white-out. The terrain to Lake Ceres became steeper with several hard ascents and descents. The track was steep and muddy, and water cascades flowing down the path soaked my already wet feet. Way ahead along our route, some amazing rocky mountain tops that looked impossible to walk over were visible. By 6.00pm we had made it to Square Lake in another hail storm, so we decided to camp for the night. Square Lake had a sheer cliff on its north and west side and the camp site that we chose was on uneven grass tufts but at least it was dry. We soon erected the tent and threw things inside. It was icy cold but fairly calm. We cooked inside the vestibule using Peter’s stove – a feast of spaghetti, peas, soup, muesli bar, milo and chocolate. I spotted a marsupial rat running across the grass just before I retired.
Checking the map.
March 13th. Square Lake.
The rat had been running around our gear stored in the vestibule all night and Peter had spent some time shooing it away. Although my bed was uneven, I slept rather well, only waking a few times when Peter was after the rat. It was foggy but calm when I crawled out of the tent. As we were packing up at 9.00am, an American couple came walking down the hill. They were annoyed about the weather being so awful, so although they had only just started their walk, they’d decided to walk out. It was a steep climb, but from the top of the hill we had a beautiful view of Lake Oberon.
As we joined the track coming from the lake, we could see three people hauling their packs up the rocks, on the track to Mt Pegasus. It wasn’t until we came to the same spot that I realised how steep the track was.
Walkers climb the range.
Further on, the track was blocked by huge boulders with a hole only big enough to accommodate a person’s body. Our packs had to be hauled up the rocks. We climbed higher to Mt Pegasus and then descended a steep track, picking our way through menacing tree roots and branches until we reached the base of Mt Capricorn. From the top of Capricorn it was an extremely steep climb down over loose rocks followed by a dirt stairway, its giant steps created by hundreds of walkers. It was a slippery and hazardous descent. When we walked forward down the steps, our packs would hit the steps behind, knocking us off balance so most of the time we climbed down backwards with our faces to the incline. It was so slippery and there were so few hand holds that the chances of falling several hundred metres were very real. With extreme caution we climbed over exposed tree roots as the track curved around sheer cliff faces. I can’t remember ever doing such a steep descent with a heavy pack. With some relief we made it to a saddle, safe from the vertical drops. Looking back up, we were amazed at how steep it was, and it was difficult to believe that we had done it without falling. But we had, and many had done it before us, so we weren’t really very clever! As we moved along the next slope towards Mt Columba, three other people, like dots, could be seen descending Mt Capricorn. We watched for quite some time as they moved slowly and carefully, at times using ropes to prevent themselves from falling.
Lake Ariel (bottom), Lake Titania and Lake Uranus.
Happy to be on flatter but wetter and muddier terrain, we started the last climb to Mt Columba along tracks intersected by tree roots and boulders. As we looked back, the views of the mountains and lakes down in the valleys were awesome.
We found a superb campsite right on the edge of High Moor, only metres away from a huge sheer drop, which ended near Lake Dione. No sleep walking tonight, I thought.
Great camp next to a sheer cliff.
March 14th. High Moor.
It rained in the night and we woke up to mist and rain squalls. I waited for a lull in the weather to go to the toilet and at 9.30am the rain eased. It was very hard to find a place well away from the camping area and creeks, as the hill sides were very steep and vegetated with small scrub. It was also difficult to dig a hole and squat on the steep slope. The cold and wind also had a severe impact.
The other campers started to pack at 10.00am. The mist was still very thick, but they had only seven days to complete their walk, so they had no choice but to move despite the un-favourable weather. Peter and I had enough supplies left, so we didn’t have to take any risks by moving in bad weather. The rain bucketed down all day so we rested inside. At 3.00pm it started to clear so we stretched our legs and explored the immediate area. From Mt Columba, the famous Federation Peak in the distance was clear of cloud cover.
Back at camp, I had my first strip wash in seven days. It felt really good bearing all on top of a mountain with great views. I put my clothes out to dry and trimmed my beard, using a mirror on the compass to guide me. At 4.45pm it started to rain again. We soaked our dehydrated meals in cold water to save fuel and cooking time.
Beard trim time.
At 6.40pm two Tasmanian mountain men came stomping down the hill. It was raining and cold, yet they walked in shorts and were soaked. One of the men had lost his bed-roll. They camped 50 metres away in a mud hole.
For tea I cooked soup, savoury mince and rice with beans, followed by rice pudding, Milo and biscuits. I went to visit the mountain men and took them some plastic bags and spare clothes to put under their sleeping bags to act as a bed-roll. Their camp was really boggy and their packs were just left out in the rain. Everything looked wet and dirty. Yuk!
March 15th. High Moor.
I had a great night’s sleep, didn’t hear any rain and I dreamed again, for the seventh night. Peter had also dreamed about fighting people and he was feeling annoyed because he’d wanted to dream about the bush and tranquility. It started raining again.
We decided we had to move no matter what as Peter’s food was getting low. It was still raining when we started packing but eased as we left. The terrain was up, down and around. Near the ‘Beggary Bumps’ there were some really severe climbs and plenty of tree roots. The ‘Bumps’ were a series of large, rocky pinnacles. We climbed down the ‘Tilted Chasm’ which would have been a great photo if we had the right lens, and then passed ‘The Dragon’. The cloud moved in. Later it cleared, giving us some good views, but then it started to rain. The climb up and down gullies and over tree roots seemed to go on for-ever.
A rugged walk.
Finally we rounded the twin peaks of Mt Taurus. The weather on one side of the mountain was clear but on the south side it was a complete white-out. There was a fine drizzle in the air and our clothes were damp. Haven Lake came in to view, nestled below a high mountain, but the mist coming from the south kept smothering it from view. A few tricky spots on our descent of Mt Taurus gave us a little shaking, but we soon reached the moor just before Haven Lake. We arrived at Haven Lake at 3.05pm having taken about four and half hours to cover roughly 4 kms. We stopped briefly before clambering up to the ridge where we had good views of Lake Mars and the mountains that we would be covering the following day. We met the track down Moraine K and headed east towards Lake Vesta, following a gully which turned into a waterway. There we found a flat area to set up camp for the night.
Clouds move in.
March 16th. Lake Vesta.
Peter had another violent dream in the night but mine was much more sedate. He then had a swim, washed and trimmed his beard but it was too cold for me. At 10.50am we broke camp and followed a steep hill down to Lake Juno, then crossed the creek and headed towards Promontory Lake. Small waterfalls from the two lakes cascaded down the hill, as we climbed and reached the S.E. end by noon. The track going across to The Phoenix was not well-defined but we managed to reach the summit and look back at all the rugged mountains we had walked.
Descending the Phoenix, we started our trek along Centaurus Ridge. The walking became much easier and the sky turned blue. We drank from small shallow pools of water on the track, using tubing as straws. After we reached West Portal, our route took us north across the crags of Andromeda. The sky started to clear although the thick clouds overran the southern side of the range within minutes. Water was a bit short but Lake Venus and Lake Mercury were too far down in the valley to contemplate using as a resource. The sky cleared enough to see Federation Peak in the distance. Walking was easier as the track became less steep but there was still a lot of scrambling. We turned to descend south-west on Lucifer Ridge with 2 kms still to go before we could camp at Lake Rosanne. The walk was quite easy down the gully for about 1 km until the thick trees started. Peter slipped and cursed, and then slipped and cursed again. We arrived at our camp at Lake Rosanne by 6.55pm, taking about 8 hours to walk 11 kms.
Drinking from a rock pool.
March 17th. Lake Rosanne.
The needle on Peter’s barometer went up quite significantly, indicating fine weather. But from previous experience we knew it didn’t necessarily apply to our part of the planet! After a bit of a scramble along the lake, it was down hill to the flats. It got quite bushy around the creeks which made walking quite difficult. Peter slipped down a few times, and I also overbalanced along the narrow eroded track, slipping on my backside going down the slope. After crossing the fast flowing Strike Creek by stepping on rocks, we met up with the Federation Track, just before Razorback Range. Here we had our last views of the beautiful and demanding Western Arthur Range. Razorback Range was easy to negotiate but it became boggier on the flats before Cracroft Crossing. At the shelter, we put our names in the book before crossing the Cracroft River by the suspension bridge, then rested and had lunch consisting of chocolate, cheese, nuts dried fruit, and muesli. I thought the track would be pretty flat as it followed the river but, on the contrary, it was extremely hilly. No wonder they called it the ‘Yo-Yo’ track. After continuously walking for four hours, we were surprised to find that we had only reached Harrison Creek. It was surrounded by rain forest, ferns and mosses and was very damp and dark. Peter had huge blisters, his leather boots were sodden and his feet soft and wrinkly.
March 18th. Harrison Creek.
We left the Harrisons rain forest creek, with its ferns and tall trees, at 9.30am. The darkness under the canopy of leaves sheltered us from the morning light. As Peter and I headed out from our ten day walk, we looked back as we struggled over the high forested hills near the upper-middle reaches of the Huon River. Through the tall canopy of trees we caught glimpses of the East and Western Arthur Range and from these small clearings the magnificent range beckoned us back. It was certainly one of the most rewarding and magnificent walks that I had been on, and totally satisfied with what we had achieved. We plodded on, dropping into valleys of rainforest and the damp humid air. The stimulating sound of the Huon River dropping over the rocky rapids filtered through the ferns and enticed us to stop frequently and admire the beauty of the now-wide mountain stream and smell the sweet fragrance of the rich plant life bordering its banks.
As we marched closer to our destination, crossing streams on stepping stones and logs, we dreamt of our next big Tasmanian walk – maybe Federation Peak or the South West Track, but were content to leave it for another time as we feasted on nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars and toasted muesli. My thoughts then shifted to food, showers and all those things you dream of when you’re wet and cold.
Peter’s walking pace had increased dramatically over the last 10kms, as he forgot about the painful blisters that had been giving him hell. He was determined to reach the end. Then came the magical moment; we met up with our support team – Peter’s wife, Caroline, of whom I had heard so much about on the trip, their friend, Helmut, and of course Tim. It seemed like a long lost reunion of several years. We chatted about everything, the incredible trip, and all the things that had happened to each of us since we had been away. Helmut had brought us cheese, salami, bread, German fat bacon, salad, fruit and a beer that frothed like a giant breaking wave when opened. What a party we were having in the middle of the walking track, forty minutes away from the vehicle with the mosquitoes and March flies biting! By 2.20pm we started our last few kilometres through the forest and arrived back at the car at 3.00pm. There we had another feast which included mutton bird, before I said my goodbyes to Peter, Caroline and Helmut, straddled my bike and pedalled up the steep hills through the forest to civilisation.
Caroline, Peter and Helmut.
The day ended several kilometres from our walk, at a picnic area outside of Port Huon next to the river. Jenny was very pleased to hear from me that day for the first time in twelve days. I wrote till midnight and slept in a picnic shelter next to the Huon River.
March 19th. Port Huon.
Leaving Tim to pack up, I followed the tranquil lower reaches of the Huon River. The mist cleared by 8.30am but not a ripple disturbed its glassy appearance. Yachts were moored in tiny coves while ducks, swans and other bird life floated harmoniously in the perfect untroubled environment. Islands dotted along the river created wildlife sanctuaries and gave the bird life extra security from the prowling Tasmanian Devils.
The road started to bustle as city workers filed to work and farmers drove their machines along the tarmac. Orchards dominated the road verges, the trees ladened heavily with juicy apples and every few hundred metres unmanned fruit stalls with honesty boxes were selling bags of apples for one dollar. I stopped at Huonville and bought some postcards and some junk food. On the other side of the river, heading towards Cygnet, the hillsides were full of orchards, apple pickers, machinery, small farms and garden gnomes. At Cradoc I left the river and moved inland, climbing several steep hills before arriving at Cygnet. From there I cycled east again, along country roads to Oyster Bay, reaching Peter and Caroline’s home at noon.
We were welcomed and treated like kings. Peter was still on a high, having completed a great walk, and was contemplating others in the future. Peter took us sight-seeing after which we rested, had a delicious chicken meal, sifted through photo albums, watched documentaries and talked until 1.00am.
March 19th. Oyster Bay.
I had a brilliant sleep in a soft bed and once up, had a relaxing day writing and socialising.
March 20th. Oyster Bay.
By the time I left Peter and Caroline it was 10.00am, cloudy and quite cool. I cycled to Kingston and then followed the coast road into Hobart where the ABC TV interviewed me.
After a cycle around the dock area, we parked the car and then walked into town to visit the bank and the Scout Outdoor Centre, before going to the van park. We pitched tents and had eggs and bread for tea. At 6.40pm, Caroline arrived. She insisted that we go back to stay another night at their place. We left the tents up and when we arrived at her home, Caroline cooked us a second tea.
March 21st. Oyster Bay.
Caroline drove us back to the caravan park on her way to work. After some sightseeing around Hobart, we had lunch at the harbour and then I cycled out of town, over the Tasman Bridge and out into the suburbs heading towards Triabunna, 87 kms away. The road became hilly and loaded with timber trucks which passed frequently. The rain increased and I became really cold and wet, the passing trucks making it pretty dangerous to be on the road. I arrived at the caravan park after dark and very wet. The manager was very impressed with what I was doing so gave us a free caravan for the night. Just what we needed on such a miserable night and we really appreciated the kind gesture.
March 22nd. Triabunna.
The night was so wild and the day’s forecast so severe with rain storms and high winds that we decided to stay in the caravan for another night.
March 23rd. Triabunna.
After thanking our host for the free caravan, I cycled from Triabunna to Swansea. Then I turned east and followed the Nine Mile Beach road. This brought me to a dead end not far from Coles Bay. Tim was there so I took the kayak off the roof and paddled across to the other side. This saved me about 35 kilometres of cycling around the bay in blustery wet weather. I cycled the last 10 kms into Coles Bay in heavy rain. We camped at the National Park camp grounds. There were no showers but lots of possums and wallabies.
March 24th. Coles Bay.
I walked 4kms from the campsite to the car park where the walk trail around the Freycinet National Park started. The car park was full of wallabies waiting for the tourists to feed them. With pack on my back, I started my up-hill walk, Tim keeping me company for part of the day. We stopped at a lookout before Wineglass Bay to view a most beautiful sight; the beach curving around the brilliant blue waters of the bay. When we reached the beach it was still as impressive, although clouds formed dark shadows on the water, changing the lovely blue to grey. In the sheltered bay a yacht and a fishing boat lay at anchor protected from the swell. At the end of the beach we sat and had a light lunch surrounded by wallabies which were not afraid to come close and search for food. From Wineglass Bay, our track continued up on to the plateau where the walking became wetter and in some places streams ran along the track. At this point, Tim returned to the vehicle leaving me alone to ponder the scenery which at times was hazy due to the moving clouds.
I walked on to Cook’s Beach and then through forest towards Mt Graham. Tapes that were to be used to guide runners in the forthcoming Three Peaks Race were tied to bushes along the way. The Three Peaks Race is a race that includes 317 nautical miles of sailing and 133 kilometres of running up three different peaks around Tasmania. I left Mt Graham at 3.00pm, descending and crossing streams, and reached a beach on the western side of the peninsular, near a hut. I checked the hut out, but it was dingy and dark and not the place for me, so I walked back to the silent beach in the still bay with a great view towards the mainland. Wallabies were spread along the beach like tourists going for an evening stroll. Two of them came for tea. The sun set over the mainland leaving a fiery haze on the horizon.
Friends invited for dinner.
March 25th. Freycinet National Park.
At breakfast, wallabies again gathered to keep me company. It was cloudy at first but cleared as I moved off, taking the high mountain way back to Coles Bay and getting great views of Schouten Island, the cliffs and the beaches to my south. I paused on the summit of a hill overlooking Wineglass Bay and could understand where its name originated from. The beach of Wineglass Bay formed the top of the rim of a glass while on the north side of the bay a rocky high coastline was shaped like the upper part of the glass into the stem. On the south side the lower, shorter rocky coast looked less like a glass but from a distance it still looked like a wineglass. The wallabies in the bush on my descent were as friendly as ever. I reached the beach to find the yacht had gone, leaving the southern part of the bay bare. I met a couple at the north end of the beach who had been talking to Tim. They said that they had rafted the Murray River the day after I kayaked it. As I climbed the hill, Tim, carrying his video camera, met me, wearing only his thongs to negotiate the rocky track. We had afternoon tea at the car park with dozens of wallabies before cycling towards the town of Bicheno.
Coles Bay in the distance.
Wineglass Bay on right.
March 26th. Bicheno.
I became acquainted with Bicheno whilst on the walk with Peter. He had done a lot of abalone diving around that part of the coastline and had told me all about it. When I eventually visited the blowholes I felt that I had already been there. Well I had really in 1979 but it was Peter’s verbal picture that had been so vivid and had stuck in my mind. I cycled past the wharf area where fishing boats were anchored in the lee of an island.
It was cloudy and windy again, testing my endurance as I moved towards Elephant Pass. I’d been warned about its steepness but reached the top without the struggle being as bad as I had expected. A cosy tea rooms at the top, specialising in pancakes, beckoned us so we tested them out. It was difficult to get back on my bike with a stomach filled with pancakes but I managed to cycle down the hill to St Mary’s where I stopped briefly before joining the Esk main road. The wind became gale force, with gusts that pushed me two metres from side to side like a cork. Tree branches, grasses, weeds, leaves and dust circled around me along the road. Rain poured down at times and my head felt the pain and the strain of the cold and the hard work. At 7.00pm I decided to camp on a minor road 32 kms from Launceston, having cycled 160 kms.
March 27th. Near Perth.
The wind eased a little overnight but picked up again in the morning destroying my hopes of an easy ride amongst the screaming traffic along the highway. I reached the outskirts of the small town of Perth, crossed the river, eyeing up a couple of rapids that were too shallow to kayak.
I left Perth against a strong wind in an attempt to reach Launceston within the hour to meet the press. I hit the highway and increased my speed, especially on the downhill sections, and caught up with Tim. We waited for the TV cameras. Eventually they arrived and I was asked to cycle out of town again and ride back down a long hill. As they followed me down the hill taking footage, I went so fast that I caught up with a truck, going slower than me, and passed it. After the interview I cycled into town.
March 28th. Launceston.
Most of the day was taken up with shopping and sightseeing so it was 4.00pm by the time I headed towards Beauty Point, following the Tamar River. It was quiet at Beauty Point when we arrived. The manager at the caravan park let us camp overlooking the bay, free of charge. That night, as the full moon rose the possums came out in force. I also started reading ‘Feet of Clay’, a book about a woman who walked from Sydney to Perth. I had the impression that there was a lot conflict between Fyona and her ground crew. Nearly ten months into our trip and Tim and I were still getting along exceptionally well.
March 29th. Beauty Point.
It was a big day for Beauty Point as it was the start of the Three Peaks Race. Celebrations were the order of the day with a running race being held and a carnival in town. I cycled down to the start. Yiannas Kurus, a Greek marathon runner, and a legend in running circles, was the star attraction. He is an unbelievable distance runner who has taken part in several Sydney to Melbourne marathons.
The Three Peaks race finally got underway. The yachts hustled for positions, causing a few near-collisions but as they left the harbour the crowds cheered. My relaxing day came to an end at 3.00pm, when I started cycling towards Devonport. The clouds had blown in but the sun still broke through occasionally. A steep hill slowed me down, and as I reached the top I saw a sheep with its head stuck in the wire fence. Blackberry vines were also wrapped around its head. When I came close, it tried desperately to get free, losing lots of wool from its neck in the struggle. I stretched the wire from around its neck and within moments the sheep was running off, bleating with relief, towards the rest of the flock.
The bitumen road turned into dirt. I was riding my race bike with narrow tyres so I decided to run the gravel section. It was warm and up-hill most of the way. After I had run for thirty minutes, the road changed back to bitumen so I changed to the bike and reached top speed as I cycled down a big hill. Suddenly, after looking into a paddock, I steered off the road onto the loose gravel. It was scary as I tried to keep control of the bike at high speeds but I managed and eventually rode back onto the bitumen.
I met Tim at the Bluff Caravan Park near the ocean. That night, at 1.45am, I finished off the book ‘Feet Of Clay’. It brought tears to my eyes.
March 30th. Devonport.
We moved to the ferry and decided to splash out and dine in the carvery, all you can eat for $18.50. It was a great meal and Tim went berserk with the sweets. We had been on the road for about 10 months, and all but a few of our meals had been stew or dehydrated food so it was always a pleasure to eat some proper food.
There was a full moon over the ocean. I just love full moons. They really bring a highlight to the days out in the bush. It’s the most special part of the month. I retired at 11.30pm. The ship rolled quite violently over-night.
March 31st. Sunday. Bass Straight.
Melbourne’s sky-scrapers came into view, marking the end of our Tasmanian trip and the start of our last leg home. Tim was up with the phone so I rang ‘Australia All Over’ but they were too busy to talk to me again.
Once off the boat, we drove to Mick and Ann’s to collect my marathon kayak before heading down to Portsea, where our friends Mike and Sue Cusack lived.
April 1st. Portsea.
The day was spent cleaning, repairing and servicing the vehicle. When John had been with us I hadn’t had to worry about the vehicle as he’d always taken care of it. But Tim wasn’t as mechanically minded so it meant that I had to do most of the repairs and servicing. After we had finished all the dirty work and placing all our gear back in the vehicle again, Mike took us on a tour around the point, pointing out the historical and wartime nature of it. A small gap between Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale, just across the bay, is the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. At certain times, especially on spring tides, the water rips through the gap at an enormous speed.
Ahead of me now, were several thousand kilometres of bitumen road that led home to Perth. All I had to do was to cycle there.