The hike begins

Tues. Sept 12. 2017. Official Day one. The coffee/wine shop in Broomehill is a must see, if just for the eclectic collection of bric a brac, memorabilia and artefacts. Stayed at the Broomehill caravan park. Very tidy and neat. $30 site fee but the use of washing machine, dryer and bbq free.

We set off about 10 am, starting at the Post Office. According to the brochures this is not the official start of the track but it seemed the most logical to us. We walk 17km and stagger into camp feeling like death. So fatigued and everything hurts. I’m not sure whether it is my hips or legs or feet or back. Camp set up on a seldom used track on a hill. It looks like it was probably once the site of a school. A variety of tracks today. We started on the highway and then turned off onto a gravel track and sand.

roadside camp
First camp

A variety of tracks today. We started on the highway and then turned off onto a gravel track and sand. My small blue hiking tent is very cold. The fly flaps around in the wind and the actual tent is only mesh.  

Day 2

The next day we managed 21 km on gravel tracks. Gravel is so hard on feet. I have numerous blisters of varying size. Previously I have only ever had one blister when hiking and have never given anyone much sympathy. That will change from now on. I am so tired. Sat for a long time soaking my feet in cold water. Tonight I discovered that my tent is not only cold but has a condensation problem so cold water dripped on me through the night. I packed two sleeping bags and a fluffy coat to sleep in. I’ve already raided another blanket from mum.

Day 3

We are walking through farmland in the WA wheatbelt. It looks so much like home (in a good year) I feel like I’m on the world’s longest crop inspection. 

crop inspection
crop inspection

There are red-tail black cockatoos in the pine plantations squawking up a storm. They are funny to watch and help pass the miles.

I’m not sure how far we walked today. We abandoned the sealed road and walked along the disused railway line to the small town of Nyabing. This was so much better on our aching feet.

railway
Walking the railway route

John and Bev got out a different tent (because they have spares of everything) and put it up for me. Instead of a hiking tent just big enough for one I’ve got a huge canvas two-pole tent big enough for six. I usually sleep on a mat but I’ve been struggling with hip pain so I’ve taken some cushions from their troopy, plus a couple of old blankets. I’ve gone from teeny tiny to palatial.  Both of us have blisters that have burst and so we sat with our feet in the sun for a while.

Nyabing is a lovely, neat and clean town. Like most small towns it is struggling to keep afloat but there seems to be a really progressive town spirit here. The sporting reserve/camp area has newly renovated showers and toilets. 

The railway ended at Nyabing and we had no other option than to follow the highway for the next 18kms. This as hard, hard walking. Very happy to turn off and head north on the gravel. A local bloke pulled up to see what we were doing and when we told him, he gave us $100. That boosted our energy levels!

We spent a bit of time at John Holland Tank and found some Gnamma holes that we re-covered after our investigating.

gnamma hole
Gnamma hole

Day 4

The following day our route was flooded so we had to detour adding unwanted extra kilometres to our trip. The wildflowers along the roadsides are stunning and make up for the extra distance. The down-side is that the bees are swarming. Although they are not aggressive it is a bit of a surprise to find thousands of them buzzing around your head. We’ve learnt now to just sit down and wait for them to pass.

wildflowers
Wildflowers

The days now blend into one another with nothing noteworthy in my journal. Get up, walk, walk and walk some more. The land seems bigger here somehow.

Days 9 – 11

We had just made camp in a small bush reserve when a friend of a friend who had heard about our adventure arrived with homemade bread, sausage rolls and quiche. Friends from Horsham also joined our camp for the night. Good friends lift spirits. 

We are now walking about 25 kilometres each day. I’d like to say it is easy but it is not. It is hard. Hard on feet, legs and spirits. Especially when we have to walk on sealed roads.

The grapevine is working well and a few days later we have another delivery of fresh eggs and with homemade goodies. In exchange we will speak at the school in Newdegate.

school visit
School visit

Talking with the kids was the best fun. After a very brief talk about John Holland and an even briefer talk about brain cancer we go to the important stuff.  Questions. ‘Do your feet hurt, are you going to find gold, how much gold would you like to find, did John Holland’s mum pack his lunch before he left? etc.

After that I let them loose in my backpack and we talked about all the things needed for safe hiking. Lots of the kids had bought money and they added that to our jar. The pile of donations is growing daily.

The owners of the Newdegate Myriadena Motel and Caravan Park really looked after us. While our party set up camp sites, Judy and I were ushered into motel units. They were basic but clean and cosy. The luxury of a real bed. And a shower. That night the wind howled but we were tucked up and warm so it didn’t really matter to us.

The following morning the park owners gave us a weather forecast. Winds of 140km gusting to 200km. We decided to walk a section of road and return to Newdegate for the night. We booked four motel rooms; no one wants to put up a tent in cyclonic winds and the owners have done us a super deal as their way of contributing to our cause.

There are plenty of quandong trees and the fruit looks delicious. I can’t convince any of the back up team to pick and stew them though. We headed out into the wind and walked 16 kilometres. I doubt that the wind is 140kms but it is still awful and the dust stung our faces. We headed back to our now luxurious-seeming motel units….only to discover that the region was without power . Local info had the power being off across the region with estimates that it might be two days before it was back on. Nothing for it but to head to bed at 3pm. Happily, the power came back on about 5.30pm and we had freshly cooked farm eggs on toast before heading back to bed.