The Walking Begins
Click here for part 1.
We start walking. We assemble at the official start, the Visitor Information Centre in Portland and head off at 9.25am…after a last nervous pit stop. By 10.25 we’ve taken a few happy snaps and are walking well. At 10.26 we are frantically scrounging through our backpacks for rain ponchos. We are soaked. We get our ponchos on and over our packs. Now looking like four hunchbacks of varying height and colour, we soldier on. Walking through the streets of Portland is a bit weird anyway and by now we look completely crazy. By the time we stop for smoko the rain has passed and it is quite pleasant. A scenic stroll through farmland and forest is rewarded by seeing our first koala who sat watching us with idle curiosity (or perhaps boredom – with koalas it’s hard to tell).
We missed a turn off and had to backtrack but eventually made our first camp. I chuckle because one of us is concerned there is kangaroo poo in our camp clearing and I think ‘welcome to camping. If that’s the worst we encounter it will be a tame trip’. Bev meets us with a thermos of boiling water and Tim Tams. John has set up the folding chairs for us. I can see what they are doing. Before long they will be setting up our tents, cooking food for us and we’ll be the most pampered hikers that ever there was. I decide not to be churlish and drink my hot cup of tea thankfully.
Darkness falls and the animals are out. Kangaroos are thumping through our camp. Spot-lighters are shooting nearby. In the bush there are wild dogs howling and on the farmland adjoining our camp there are a pack of dogs barking frantically in response. ‘The Cry of the Grey Ghost’ springs to mind. Add to that the occasional cow sounding like it is about to give birth and it is rather noisy out here. The cicadas and crickets sound muted in comparison.
The next day we continue along an old growth messmate forest. It is just lush and peaceful, in a noisy sort of way. Birds call, insects chirp and trees whisper to each other. By lunch time we arrive at what we thought would be our next overnight camp so we decide to continue walking after our lunch break. I’ve started to develop some blisters. Every step is agony – but on the bright side it’s only every left step.
The Great Buffalo Hunt. That afternoon Jenny had walked on ahead then came rushing back saying ‘I know you will all think I am crazy but I just saw a buffalo sitting on the track’. It had turned towards her with an enormous set of horns (Hmmm, really?). We followed to the place she said she had seen it. No buffalo – but definitely a musky feral animal smell nearby. We thought the problem was solved when about 100 metres further on we found a small herd of feral goats and decided that must have been what Jenny saw. She remained convinced that the horns were much bigger than any feral goat’s. (We later found out that buffalo are on a list of feral animals in the area and sheepish apologies were made to Jenny).
Speaking of animals, as we walk we can hear the occasional kangaroo crashing through the bush as it takes fright and plenty of birds. I’m sure all the Kookaburras are just laughing at this insane mission. I’m glad, the birds are the only ones who see us. Thankfully, it’s not a fashion show out here. My outfit consists of: Good hiking boots, good quality woollen hiking socks (2 pairs), long black compression pants, navy baggy men’s shorts that come down almost to my knees, long-sleeved green shirt that is several sizes too big. Neoprene sun visor to keep sweat from running into my eyes and hair away from my face and on top of that a floppy bush hat with insect mesh veil. This fetching ensemble is completed by two hiking sticks and a bright blue backpack with daggy (and somewhat grubby) looking sweat rag pinned to the strap.
We decide to walk into the Fitzroy campsite. Walking to a campsite where there is a toilet is a great idea – until Jenny comes back with the story that when she closed the lid there was a large huntsman on it. Nope, not going in there. I’ll hang on indefinitely if necessary. Spiders bother me. Or more accurately, they are all deadly poisonous daughters of Satan put on earth just to scare the bejeepers out of me. Fortunately, I have a husband with no fear of spiders whatsoever. It’s one of the many reasons we can’t get divorced. But I digress…spiders will do that to you.
While walking, I have an epiphany. I’m working so hard at walking fast and keeping up with the others that I’m not appreciating what is around me. No one but me (and the others somewhere in the distance) and the bush. No technology and the mad frantic pace of family life. Nothing but nature and a backpack but I’m not seeing it properly. I’m seeing, but all I’m thinking about is keeping up with the others.
Time for a game change. I slow down. So does Jeanette. She takes photos (I would too if I’d remembered to pack a camera). I gaze at the tress. We find a bus in the distance and wonder why it is there. We dawdle into camp. Bev has cooked chicken pasta for tea and it is too hard to explain that I want to get out my teeny tiny stove and cook 2 min noodles so I just accept with good grace and thanks.
At midnight I’m woken by light rain on the tent. I discover that my new waterproof tent is very much not waterproof. There is water dripping in around the windows and the door. At least it is only light rain. At 6.45am it’s still raining. I do not want to get up and turn on my torch to survey my surrounds. The outside of my sleeping bag might be wet but I am toasty warm inside.
Turns out, things are not that bad. The clothes I need for the day are in my sleeping bag pre-warming. My slippers*, wet but I’m not intending to wear them either. All else is ok. Hang on, there is a spider sheltering between the door and the insect mesh. That is definitely not ok! Shoo spider. And the kookaburras could stop laughing too.
*Why do I have slippers on a hike? Because Bev packed a pair of soft sheepskin lined slippers into their 4WD just in case anyone got sore feet.
Click here for the rest of our adventure.
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