New Zealand 2020
Okay, we’re back on the AAWT. Having already completed two weeks from Thredbo to Canberra, it was time to tackle the middle third from Thredbo to Hotham. After our first composition bootcamp as a musical duo, we caught a tram, then a train, then a bus and a car to Thredbo. We had allotted two weeks, and tried extra hard not to die, as our families would be twice as sad if we died before Christmas.
Mish’s dad Mick came with us for the first day. This meant that there were essentially three people with the same name and height… much confusion ensued. Our first day took us to Cascade hut where we spent our first glorious night reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on my Kindle.
Then came the second morning. Mick left in the pouring rain, while we bravely slept in until it had passed. It was a 20km day, no great ascents or descents, no bush bashing, no navigation, a little too easy if you ask me… That's why when the opportunity came for a 4km round trip through dense scrub to Tin Mine Waterfall, I was chomping at the bit.
Well folks, we never did find that waterfall, but on the plus side, I managed to lose the Kindle. Devastated. Not only about the pollution to our beautiful landscape, but we had only read the first chapter (which Harry isn’t even in). Now I know how Hugh Glass felt when he was crawling his way through America after being mauled by a bear with no food and profuse bleeding….Kindleless.
Anyway, we made it back to camp with our lives and though my pack was 200gms lighter, in reality it much heavier as the responsibility of providing our entertainment every night was now resting squarely on my shoulders. I knew the only way to atone for my mistake would be to concoct an original story far better than J.K. Rowling’s original masterpiece, as we walk up a mountain every day. Did I rise to the occasion? Yes, but more on that later.
Day three, we crossed Sam who was hiking the whole of the AAWT in the opposite direction. His brother was the one who was the avid hiker but pulled out just before they started with an injury. Sam who was originally the tag-on, decided to hike the 650kms by himself. Together we climbed… some mountain…oh I don’t know what it was called, they all blend into one after a while. (Mt Pilot, Michelle's edit)
Shortly afterwards we met Annie, who had hiked the whole AAWT, then decided to turn around and walk back again! I’d call her a nutcase, but she gave us a bottle of wine (from her own food drop), so she’s actually incredible.
We really needed ointment for some cuts and bites, and decided to hitchhike into Glen Wills. Fortunately a giant military tank picked us up and we zoomed out of the bush at an astonishing 30kms an hour. This marked the midpoint of our journey, which meant a day off!...well, almost.
We stayed with the Mayor of Glen Wills, aka Gordo, who runs the most gorgeous BnB he built himself. It’s a well known secret among AAWT hikers that 3kms from the track is a cheap night under a roof where the gracious host supplies you with beers and a roast!
But you can’t stay forever, our itchy feet put us back on the track and finally the views came a-rolling in. Mt Wills was my favourite part of the whole thing; cool hut, gorgeous views, tonnes of fun rocks and it was cold! From here on out it was just incredible alpine walking with a bit of tricky navigation and the odd snake here or there. One meany gave us a big hiss and thoroughly scared us, it took us a few minutes figuring out how to get around her/him before we realised it’d run away ages ago.
If you think this story is missing waterfalls and dingoes, you’re about to be satisfied. We saw a waterfall and a dingo! On the way to Cleve Cole Hut we’d heard about the nearby Howman falls. A waterfall provides a great opportunity for upperbody muscle building, which you can see all about here:
I’d like to tell you the adventure ends here, but alas it does not. Mother Nature was not content in taking my Kindle, she is a cruel mistress that demands regular sacrifice. This time it was my hat. It was an early Christmas present from Michelle, but then it became an early Christmas present for some mice, who wouldn’t even have looked half as good as I did in it. They ate my plastic bowl too!
Ahh well, it can be repaired. We found a hitch down from Hotham into Harrietville and it was once again time for a pub meal and wine.
To say I was unprepared for the AAWT would be an understatement. Mish called, saying she needed a new hiking partner for the final 3rd of her 650km hike from Victoria to Canberra. Having zero gear and even less experience, I felt like the perfect man for the job.
I had three days to quit my jobs, move out of my house and get down to Canberra for a lift to Thredbo. Once there it was decided my high school joggers with holes in them weren’t going to be sufficient, I bought some decent ones and was gifted my very first spork (a fetching hot pink). Before you knew it we were setting out from Thredbo the next morning.
Before we’d even left though, a young hiker came back into town having decided to quit the hike after 400km, his leg pain and the weather proving too much for him. To prove this ill omen didn’t worry me, I held in the vomit that’d been trying to escape my body for the first 20 minutes (the cold and lack of sleep over the past few days catching up). It worked and I think I’d have made a very promising new companion to Michelle if I hadn’t been holding my compass upside down.
But eventually I adapted. The long walks and the incredible cold make the warm food and sleeping bag at the end of the day all the more comforting. On the second night, we were somewhat forced into becoming the two most elevated sleepers in Australia, having lost the track over the Main Range in the snow. A brief flirtation with hypothermia was not enough to take away from the astonishing views and the incredible feeling of your body becoming an energy burning, mountain ascending machine.
There is something very satisfyingly primal about a lack of reception, screens or even standards of cleanliness (the latter of which I’ve never particularly adhered to anyway). Long stretches of isolation, no news from the outside world and fresh food, people always ask me if I got bored but honestly, there was no time to. With all the planning, the eating and 8 hour plus of sleep every night, boredom just wasn’t an option. Not to mention that when you know you're walking to Canberra, every kilometer comes with a tremendous sense of worth.
Then all of a sudden the hike was over. It was a very rude shock. During the hitch into town our driver told us that gay marriage was passed (finally)! Somehow society didn’t collapse and I was able to enjoy my first shower in 15 days. I’ve definitely got the bug, so stay tuned for more of my zany adventures of ill-preparation in the mountains!
Now this was a biggy. I remember first finding out about this hike when I was 23. My dad took me on a 3 day hike up Mt Feathertop, finishing at Mt Hotham. I was absolutely blown away. As we walked higher and the trees started to thin out to beautiful alpine meadows I remember thinking ‘this is it, these are the places I want to know more about.’
For some background, the AAWT is a 650km hike of mountainous and often remote walking from Walhalla (VIC) to Tharwa (ACT) across the great diving range. I spent a year planning and preparing for it with my friend Chris. To my complete surprise and pleasure I managed to complete it on the 18th of December 2017 in 43 days! It was an epic challenge to say the least and touch and go in parts managing injuries. I had a surprise hiking partner change 2/3rds into the hike which found Mickey on his first overnighter, which just happened to be 212km!
Yes yes the hike changed me and all that, I just don't think that you can do something this out of your comfort zone and not have it affect you? I definitely came back wanting more. I have since decided that some of the more rewarding experiences come with being a little apprehensive and uncomfortable (physically and mentally). Couldn't recommend it enough. x
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Mickey or Michelle, depending who has more to say on the subject :)