Day 8, Side of a remote highway to Miena – 36.10km
It was extremely cold when I woke up. I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag but I didn’t let myself think about that too much. I launched myself out and packed up as fast as I could. I didn’t want to lose too much body heat before I started walking.
But, packing up took ages. My tent had frozen solid overnight. I took all of the tent pegs out and it stayed upright. Even the lines stayed stiff! I stared at it in disbelief – it’s a really weird thing to see for somebody who’s spent most of their time up north in the warmth. I shook the tent as hard as I could, spraying bits of ice everywhere. I finally got enough of it off that I was able to roll it into its bag.
The cold often makes me miserable but it didn’t bother me that morning. I felt invigorated, as if I was capable of anything. Aside from a rare car going past, I was entirely alone. At such a high elevation, it was very quiet. I could not hear any birds, nothing. It was just me on a huge plateau. I think I sent a message to my family which rather ridiculously stated ‘I’m on top of the world!!!‘ It probably didn’t even send due to a lack of reception. If I look a bit crazy in my rugged-up selfie, that’s probably further evidence that exhaustion and nobody to talk to was starting to get to me.
I stopped for lunch at the intersection of the… I realised that I had lost my spork but luckily, depending on how you look at it, I’d also broken my sunglasses! So it made perfect sense to use the arm of my sunglasses as a spork. It worked pretty well for mixing but was terrible at scooping.
It was dusk when I staggered up to the hotel. I wandered into the bar and it felt so strange and overwhelming to see so many people and such bright lights. I asked at the counter about camping for Tasmanian Trail hikers. She told me to wait a moment and called a guy over to show me. He came around the corner holding about eight different kitchen knives. My eyes must have gone wide because the lady laughed and told me that he’d just been doing the dishes.
After I’d set up I went to the little service station. I walked in and just stared blankly and the shelves. I was too tired to remember what I still had in my pack. So I just bought a stick of lip balm for my cracked and bleeding lips, and a litre of fruit juice. I could restock in the morning.
Day 9, Miena to Bronte Park, 28km
I woke up early and packed up everything inside my tent quickly, despite the cold. I was feeling quite proud of my efficiency as I came out of the little service station with supply. Then I saw that it had started to snow. I got a bit too excited and did the whole clique ‘stick your tongue out and water for a snowflake to fall on it’ thing. I was just impressed to see that the tap didn’t work because all of the water inside was frozen solid. What a strange world I had walked into.
Yeah, I know, that’s not much snow at all. Barely even a dusting. For those of you reading from cold climates, try not to laugh. I was born in Cairns, after all. I’m not used to the cold at all.
It didn’t last for long so fifteen minutes later I was back on the road. The landscape was so bleak and there were no large trees in sight. I guess that’s what they mean by above the tree line. Still, there’s a certain beauty in the harshness of the landscape that I really appreciated.
Occasionally, there was the tiniest amount of snow. I discovered that it was actually better to be snowed on than rained on. The rain makes me wet, which makes me cold. Snow simply blows off, leaving me dry!
I managed to get to Bronte Park fairly early. The trail notes had mentioned somewhere to camp but I wasn’t sure exactly where. I went into the little general store and ask asked the lady at the counter. She’d been talking to another lady. She told me that I could just go across the road to the caravan park/permanent holiday shacks place. She gave me directions to where I could set up. I asked if there was anyone that I needed to see but she said, don’t worry, you’ve talked to me. Just go set up. So I did.
Later on, a man came over and ask ‘you know that you have to pay $30 to stay here, don’t you? Have you seen the caretaker?’ I told him that I was pretty sure I had and she’d said I could just camp. A little while later a different lady came over. Apparently, she was the new caretaker. It was all rather confusing but they didn’t end up charging me which was nice.
I took advantage of having electricity to charge my phone and power bank. Then I rang my family. We were talking about everything and nothing at all for well over an hour. I’d been too busy to feel homesick but then, hearing their voices, I really started to feel lonely. They’d only moved away from Tasmania a few weeks ago but it felt like much, much longer. Hiking distorts your sense of time.
Day 10, Bronte Park to … random remote location – 41.6km
Bronte Park is tiny but it does have a rest stop with toilets and the general store. After my early finish the day before, I was feeling motivated to hike a long distance. I didn’t have anywhere in mind to make it to, so decided to walk until it got dark.
I walked past so many lakes. It seems that the central plateau is simply a patchwork of lakes. They’re very pretty but I started to get very frustrated at one in particular. I was walking around the border of it for what felt like hours. It just wouldn’t end.
It was past 3pm when I realised that I still hadn’t had lunch. I just don’t get very hungry and need to force myself to stop and eat. I would rather just keep hiking and get more kilometres done. Obviously, that doesn’t work in the long term as nutrition is such an important part of long trips. So, I made myself stop for 10 minutes and ate muesli.
By the time that dusk fell I felt very worn out. I saw a pretty good spot to set up but checked my trail notes to see how far I’d gone. 38km. That was so close to 40. So I kept walking.
I followed a ridgeline around, power-walking to get those last few kilometres done before it got too dark to see. There were so many potoroos out. They kept hopping across the path then hiding and watching me. They weren’t very good at hiding because I could still see them.
I finally hit the 40-kilometre mark that I’d been aiming for but there was nowhere hidden enough to camp. I kept walking for another twenty minutes until I found a place that I was comfortable with.
I was curled up for the night when I heard a car coming along the sandy dirt track. It sounded like it was slowing and I got scared. Maybe I wasn’t hidden away well enough. It struck me just how alone I was in such a remote area. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when they continued past. The track was washed out near where I was, so of course they had to slow to drive through it. I really needed to get some sleep and stop being so paranoid.
So, there you go…
I’ll be back soon with the next section – the Derwent Valley. Until then, have fun adventuring!