These posts are taking me forever to write. It’s actually been a while since *spoiler alert* I finished (yes, I made it). However, after finishing I went straight back into full-time university. Sadly I’ve had to prioritise perfecting essays over writing blog posts.
Anyway, let’s get right into today’s post.
Day 11, Random place – Ouse region
As usual, I packed up early to avoid being caught in my probably illegal camping area. The night before had been so windy. My camping spot had been somewhat sheltered. I didn’t realise just how bad the wind had been until I started walking. There were downed trees everywhere. Especially wattle trees. They seemed to be the weakest and were laying everywhere, yellow flowers already shrivelling up.
I made it to the small town of Ouse by mid-morning. I restocked at the IGA. I was craving juice so bought a litre and drank it all before I left town. No sense in carrying all that weight. Maybe I shouldn’t have. I felt a bit unwell.
After the bridge, I got very lost. The path was just a mess of different dirt logging tracks. After reading a very confusing section of trail notes I decided to turn left. The track climbed through the plantation on the side of the mountain but I didn’t think much of it. I only realised that I was off track when the next landmark the trail notes mentioned just didn’t appear. Then I worked out that I was 3.5km off track. I had to retrace my steps. This added an extra 7km to my day. I was extremely frustrated, to say the least.
Day 12, Ouse region – another random place
The lighting the next morning was beautiful. Last night had been insanely windy again. It hadn’t let up much by the time I started walking and I resigned myself for another blowy day.
The trail notes instructed me to ring the owner of the land that I would pass through next to get over Mt. Bethune. He was surprised when I said that I planned to do it today, pointing out that I would probably get blown away.
I followed the trail notes to a farm that we were allowed access through. I felt as if I was trespassing as I let myself through multiple farm gates, walked through paddocks of sheep and up past the farmer’s house. After that, the trail led up a real steep hill.
The views were amazing all morning. They kept getting better and better as I gained elevation. There were a lot of false summits but finally, I got to the true summit of mt Bethune. It was definitely worth the climb. I stayed a little while on top, taking in the view and getting pictures. Eventually, the cold wind forced me to keep going.
The way back down the mountain was a lot rougher. I couldn’t find many trail markers so followed the trail note’s vague directions of ‘follow the ridgeline then turn left and follow the fence line down after the second saddle. However, I couldn’t work out what did and didn’t count as a saddle. So, after a while, I just turned left and went down the hill. I came to the dirt track that I knew I needed to be on. Problem was, I was on the wrong side of not one, but two barbed wire fences. The first fence was pretty low so I chucked my pack over it then jumped it. The second fence was too high to jump so I followed it until I found a gate to climb.
I spent the next few hours walking along country lanes over rolling hills. The paddocks were full of sheep and hundreds of tiny lambs. Most of the time when they spotted me, a sheep would startle and baa a warning to the rest of them. Then the entire herd would turn tail and gallop away from me, baaing so loudly that it hurt my ears. They weren’t very smart, most of the time they would run in the direction I was walking. Then they thought I was chasing them and got more freaked out.
The quiet farm tracks gave way to a bitumen road. It was fairly narrow and winding around hills. The cars flying past made me quite nervous and I stuck as far away from the road as possible. Luckily, after just a few kilometres I came to a gate to the side. I jumped over it and found myself on a bush track again, much better. The track led through what used to be a tip.
I found a little stream in a valley and stopped to eat. I probably wasn’t there for more than ten minutes when I felt something on the small of my back. I craned my neck around and saw a leech. While I’d been crouching, a strip of skin had become bare between the top of my leggings and the bottom of my shirt. The leech had somehow known to head straight there. I was very scared of leeches when I was little. While they don’t scare me anymore, I still find them disgusting. I pulled it off, cringing at the way it stretched and stretched and stttreeeettttccchhhhed before coming off. I was about to stand up and leave when I looked around and saw another leech on my hip. I pulled that one off too then saw a third leech advancing towards me across the leaf litter. This was getting ridiculous. I grabbed my bag, inspected it closely in case of more leeches, then got out of there.
There was another severe weather warning for that night, apparently even worse than the night before. The blown-over trees that I’d been climbing over all day had been enough to make me very cautious. I carefully found a spot to camp surrounded by small bushes that hid me but weren’t liable to kill me if they blew over.
This spot was most definitely on a farmer’s land. I felt quite guilty for camping there but the wind was picking up and it was starting to get dark. I knew that I would probably get lost if I continued on.
Day 13, random spot – New Norfolk
Packing up, I carefully packed up everything. I was always sure to leave no trace that I had been anywhere overnight. It’s just common courtesy to leave places exactly as you found them. It also means that locals will continue to welcome hikers in the future.
I’d had a pretty rough night and didn’t get much sleep. The wind was the strongest that I’ve ever camped in. My entire tent was shaking from side to side in the howling wind. It was getting blown over so far that the walls of the tent were pressed against my body. At one stage I thought that my tent pole had broken because I could feel the roof of the tent on my face, but it was just being forced down. I’m quite impressed with my little tent. I would not have expected that it would survive that much wind.
The day started off clear but with strong winds but deteriorated quickly. By 7 am it was raining and water slowly but surely began to seep through my layers of clothing.
I spared some of my dwindling phone battery to update my parents on my progress. They knew how miserable the weather was and told me that they were happy to organise, and pay for, accommodation that night. I was touched by the offer but pointed out that there wasn’t anywhere to stay until New Norfolk. That was still over 30km away. I doubted that I would be able to make it there.
Then I thought I got lost. This put me in a very bad mood… until I realised that I wasn’t actually lost. Instead of making me happy, this made me annoyed at myself for thinking I was lost when I wasn’t lost and… I’m sure you can guess where this is going. I simply wasn’t having a good day.
I was too wet and cold to stop anywhere so I just kept walking all day. I was mostly on country roads so the going wasn’t too hard. All I ate that morning was a few nuts. I was too frustrated to stop so I just didn’t. I walked and walked and walked for hours without a rest. I ran/shuffled down all of the hills. It was actually easier than walking as gravity could help. It also let me get very fast kilometres.
Until I realised that New Norfolk was actually a possibility. In fact, I’d made such good time that I might be able to get there quite early.
This motivated me to pick up the pace further. I spent the next few hours speed-walking and jogging down the hills, ignoring the complaints of my body.
When I was just five kilometres out of town, I texted my parents and my mum found me a room.
I was shaking with cold when I arrived and headed straight for the shower. I only stopped shaking after 20 minutes in the hot water.
Then I ate a huge amount of muesli to make up for my lack of food all day before ringing my wonderful parents. It was so good to hear my family’s voices.
Day 14 – New Norfolk – Judbury
When my alarm went off, all I wanted to do was switch it off and stay in the warm, dry bed all day. But, I had plans to make it all of the way to Judbury that day – which meant 41 kilometres over the Wellington ranges, my hardest day yet.
I was excited to stop at the Woolworths. I hadn’t seen a proper, big supermarket in ages. Everything was so much cheaper than the little IGAs and general stores. I treated myself to some bread (for some reason, that’s just what I really wanted).
The wind and rain had finally relented. The morning was clear, still and very crisp. I wasn’t surprised to see a dusting of snow upon the mountains.
The first part of the day was pretty simple – hike 6km to the small town of Lachlan via the main road. All I had to do was follow the road signs.
How to get out of Lachlan confused me. The directions to Jefferys track were vague. Actually, it was probably my brain being vague and no fault of the trail notes. A friendly man saw me looking lost and gave me directions. He warned me that the track was pretty muddy, jokingly telling me to call him if I needed to be towed out.
Jeffreys track started out okay. But, it got rougher the further into the mountains I climbed. It was gloomy under the trees. Before long I had climbed up into the clouds, a perpetually damp and cold place.
The recent rain meant that there was a lot of water over the track. In some places, the water would be like a lake stretching from one spiky, bush-covered side to another. This meant that the only option was to walk straight through. The water was icy-cold and my feet ached from it, but in a good way. After about an hour of wading through giant, muddy puddles I was getting sick of it. Especially as some were quite deep and the bottom was slippery. I fell over in one, only catching myself on one arm. To make matters worse, I’d also dropped my phone in.
Towards the end of the day, I kept checking the time and the distance I had left. I wasn’t going to make it before dark. At least I knew that there was a place in Judburry that I was allowed to camp at.
As usual, I started getting nervous as I walked through town in the dark. I am perfectly comfortable being out bush, in the middle of nowhere, alone. But walking through a strange town alone always puts me on edge. It was heavenly to curl up in my sleeping bag that night. I’d really been pushing my body to the limits over the last few days. I was so close to the end of the trail, I was actually starting to believe that I would make it.
All of the days here were pretty long-distance, meaning that I hiked over 146km in just four days, that’s an average of 36.5 km per day, with the longest day being 41km.
This takes the total hiked up to…