Friday, February 21, 2020

Pine Valley, Tasmania - Last chance training

Get up, eat, run 20ks to appointment, run 10ks to post office, run 11ks home. This is how I fit in my last long run before Gone Nuts 50. It would have been ‘ideal’ to do the whole run continuously. But I don’t live in ‘ideal’ right now. I live in ‘do what you can, when you can’. Once home I threw all our pack-hiking kit in the car, grabbed left overs from the fridge for dinner on the run, and picked up John on the way to Lake St Clair. The BOM had forecast average weather but it was our first weekend without kids and without me working for months. We have to grab opportunities like that with both hands, especially with the Tasmanian summer receding quickly. However, there were no signs of that recession as we sweated our way through the two-hour night hike to Echo Point cabin and put up our tent quietly just after midnight. Apart from a few surprised possums and magnificent wedge tailed eagle on the way to the park, all the other wildlife was sleeping.

Salt and vinegar rice crackers. Essential for any proper adventure.

 Despite clear signs in the park cabins to be courteous of other campers, I was woken in the morning by a woman with a hyena-laugh who was apparently talking to the most hilarious man in the southern hemisphere. She was American. Figures. But it was 8am so it was time to porridge then trek the 12km to Pine Valley where we planned to leave our packs and do some lighter traveling up the mountains. About halfway in we stopped for hot beverages and found out that our gas cannister was empty despite John’s calculations that we’d not used anything close to the 24 boils cited on the can. Apparently we should have used this website’s advice instead of having a philosophical argument about what constitutes a boil. John seemed slightly nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make coffee for the next 24 hours. His nervousness was justified.

John's "oh shit" face. My "you're a dead man" face. Slightly more difficult to pick.

My legs were a bit fatigued from the 50+km the day before but up to The Acropolis we headed, feeling quite ‘bouncy’ with only our light running packs, jackets and some snacks. The jackets turned out to be unnecessary (but ALWAYS taken anyway) as we scrambled to the northern point of the summit overlooking Mount Geryon. Just, wow. A clear day surveying the bowl formed by the Du Cane Range, with its jagged dolerite has got to be one of the best views in the country. I’d recommend a morning foray to get the sun’s rays bringing the quintessential Tasmanian rock into relief. The air was so still and we struggled to remember when we’d lingered on a summit without thermals. Oh yes. Frenchman’s Cap. But we try not to relive that day.

Mount Geryon from The Acropolis. Breathtaking.

We half ran, half fell down the steep descent and, back at the hut, managed to trade some phone charging from our power pack for some gas to heat our dehydrated meals. We’d started chatting to two sisters and their friend from the Queensland Sunshine Coast who were almost finished the Overland Track. They were very well-prepared with home-made dehydrated meals and sufficient chocolate stores. Once finished they were renting a campervan and then hitting the Three Capes track. We had some furious rounds of Uno with them before hitting the bunk beds. There was only one other sharing the very modern hut so I was reasonably confident of getting a good night’s sleep. However, the temperatures plummeted with the clear skies so some more bodies and associated heat might have been useful. I’m considering bringing a pressure gauge to ensure the correct PSI of my sleeping mat for that ‘Goldilocks’ experience. So far, the test is to sit on my mat and let just enough air out that my bottom touches the floor. This means I’m lying IN the bed instead of bouncing on top. And who brings +10C sleeping bags to the Tasmanian Highlands?

Overlooking the Labyrinth. Not sure what John found so interesting about those rocks.

After two days of heavy pack walking, soaking feet in ice cold creeks and no phone reception, I’ve discovered the true meaning of peace. I could imagine spending a lot more time in that area, with warmer sleeping gear of course. We met two rangers over the weekend and both where very friendly and resources of information. We learned what Devil poo looks like which is important. One ranger also commented on the different experiences that people call camping. The camping that’s often observed in holiday parks involves basically bringing your home outdoors. Sinks, refrigerators, televisions. And usually a lot of booze which seems mandatory and the at the root of most of the negative camping experiences I’ve had. I’ve commented to a few people that Derby, which used to feel very safe and family-friendly, now seems overrun with young men under the influence of alcohol who roam through the campsite at midnight with their ‘doof doof’ at maximum decibels. At other ‘car camping’ locations I’ve also dreaded sun down as the temporary inhabitants fall further under the influence of the JD and coke UDLs they’ve been consuming since midday. I can’t imagine anyone like that venturing out into the mountains. Sure, the Overland track is heavily trafficked and not considered ‘extreme’ by most mountain people. However, it is still a wild place and things can go really wrong if people aren’t prepared. Rangers at the start of the track assess people and turn them back if it looks like amateur hour. At any rate, UDLs weigh too much to cart 65k through the mountains. I’m sure people have many different reasons to venture out to these remote locations, but I do wonder at the similarities between them when it comes to the appreciation of nature, silence and respect for the quiet enjoyment of others.

Waiting for the boat back to Cynthia Bay. Inhaled about 30 March flies while trying to nap.

I do believe there are very good reasons to keep some places less accessible and only for those who are willing to put in the effort to get there. Instead of changing the landscape to suit us, we might better consider how the journey can change and develop us as human beings.

The Labyrinth. Didn't make it through. Next time.

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