Tasmanian Trail blaze, Gabrielle Kotanidis
Australia,  Tasmania

Tasmanian Trail – Section 1, Northern Farmlands

Starting the Tasmanian Trail felt very sudden. Last week was exam week and I had four to study for. As soon as I’d done the last one on Friday afternoon I rushed around town, getting all of the last-minute supplies I needed before leaving that weekend. I didn’t give myself enough time to second-guess my plan of hiking 470km across Tasmania solo.

Day 1, Devonport to Latrobe

9km

My trip didn’t start smoothly as I messed up catching my metro bus to the intercity bus terminal. I got on what I thought was the right bus but it was going in completely the wrong direction. I freaked out because I was running out of time, got off at the next stop and called a taxi instead. Before I’d left I had told a friend that I would probably mess up with catching busses as I left. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy. In hindsight, I think I was probably on the right but and after doing a big loop it would have taken me to the terminal. Anyway, the taxi worked and I was able to get on the bus to Devonport.

Getting to the trail head

The bus trip to Devonport took less than two hours and only cost me $1.80! As an under-18, full-time student I get all of the discounts. I slept most of the trip, doing exams had left me feeling pretty worn out.

I only had to get to Latrobe that night, so I enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the estuary. With only two days of food, my pack felt so light! So, so much better than it was on the Te Araroa. I think my obsessive weighing and culling of gear in the weeks leading up to hiking the Tasmanian Trail has paid off.

I found the guidebook that I purchased from the Tasmanian Trail Association to be very helpful. It’s easy to follow and already worth the expense.

Day 2, Latrobe to Sheffield (via Railton)

32km

I left Latrobe quite early and headed south in high spirits. It was so new to be hiking alone and it felt quite meditative. As I walked past paddocks, the cows and horses would walk with me until they reached a fence and had to stop. I soon found myself talking to them, I guess it only took a day for me to start going a bit crazy!

I didn’t stop to eat breakfast until I’d done over 10km. It just felt too cold in the drizzle. Then I saw this bus stop, it made a great shelter!

People are so friendly here and keep stopping to offer me lifts. When I told one guy how far I was hiking he told me ‘ya have rocks in ya head girl. I admire you but seriously, rocks in ya head.’

I discovered some amazing caves and a waterfall as I neared Sheffield. I did the short caves loop at Redwater Creek, loving how pristine and wild everything looked. Then… I couldn’t work out where the Tasmanian Trail went next.

There were no trail blazes so I just followed the yellow blazes. Then I realised that I had walked a second lap of the caves track. I tried a different path before working out that I was going up a mountain to Kimberley’s lookout. I retraced my steps back to the caves but there didn’t seem to be any other paths. I could see on my map that there a farm road that was part of the Trail wasn’t far away so I went directly through the bush towards it. Bushbashing is hard and I fell over in the mud multiple times. My ankles were scratched and bleeding from sharp grasses.

It was a huge relief to emerge from the bush and see the farm track in front of me. I had to jump a fence to get to it and a really picturesque farming family saw me. They were in their raincoats and gumboots and the little blond kids watched me curiously.

I got to Sheffield as it was getting dark. I couldn’t work out where the trail campsite was. Probably because I was too exhausted to think properly. After ages shivering in the rain and trying to read a map I gave up and decided to set up in an out of the way corner of the show grounds. As I was setting up my tent the main pole broke. I managed to patch it by taping a tent peg to it with strapping tape. Then I got into my wet tent, curled up in my damp sleeping bag and tried to warm up.

Day 3, Zero Day in Sheffield

I got up very early as I didn’t want to be caught camping in a potentially illegal spot. It was still raining and I was feeling pretty miserable as I put my wet, muddy clothes back on. I went to a cafe because it was the only place open that early. Their fire was lovely and warm. There I tried to decided what to do next. I knew that it would be stupid to leave for the next stage with wet gear. I stayed at the cafe until the IGA next door opened, talking to a friendly couple and petted their over-enthusiastic guide dog.

After restocking at IGA it was a struggle to lift my pack, six day’s worth of food is very heavy. I later found out that you can buy supplies at Quamby Corner Caravan Park so I had not needed that much. I also got large ziplock bags that I hoped would keep my gear dryer and a roll of gaffer tape that I hoped would patch my tent pole better than the strapping tape which was already starting to come off.

After restocking I went and sat in the mural park under a roofed area to shelter from the rain. There aren’t many places to stay in Sheffield and they’re all quite expensive. While I was sitting there the man who I’d been talking to in the cafe saw me and invited me to their house. They let me warm up and hang up some of my gear to dry. I booked a room while sitting on their comfortable couch and being slobbered on by the guide dog. Before I left they gave me a pair of leather hiking boots. I guess my old runners have so many holes in them now that they look pretty terrible. People are so nice.

Drying out my tent and backpack

I was able to check in to the accommodation quite early and spent the day drying out all of my gear.

Day 4, Sheffield to 31km south of Sheffield

I left Sheffield quite early and walked along winding country lanes. It was still raining but I was in high spirits. I knew that everything in my pack was staying dry due to all of the ziplock bags. Light rain is actually quite nice to walk in. It keeps you cool and the clouds stop you from getting sunburnt.

The northern coordinator from the Tasmanian Trail Association came out to meet me at one point. He knew I’d be going past as I’d been submitting progress reports. He checked that I knew to do a bypass around a river crossing as it would be too flooded to cross.

The bypass took me along a dirt logging track for some way. I eventually rejoined the trail that afternoon to walk along another country road. As it got late, I started to worry that there wouldn’t be anywhere to camp. Eventually, I found a hidden corner by the dirt road and set up before it was too dark. I was so tired that I didn’t mind how lumpy the ground was or how thin my sleeping mat was. I fell asleep right away and didn’t wake until dawn the next morning.

So that was my first four days hiking the Tasmanian Trail! There will be another post coming soon about the next leg of the trip – the Forested Ranges.

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