Monday, November 4, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 018 - Railton to East Devonport

Day: 18
Date:  Monday, 04 November 2019
Start:  Railton
Finish:  East Devonport
Daily Kilometres:  23.5 (27.3 TT less 4.3 saved through TT re-route plus 1.0 in towns)
Total TT Kilometres:  470.2
Weather:  Mostly overcast, cool to mild and breezy, with occasional light showers.
Accommodation:  Ferry
  Breakfast:  None.
  Lunch:  Egg & bacon pie, vanilla slice
  Dinner:  Pizza, ice-cream
Aches:  None really
Highlight:  None really
Lowlight:  The 13km roadwalk from Railton to Latrobe, required because of the closure of the official TT route following a dispute with a landowner, was not much fun.  Although it is a public holiday in northern Tasmania, there was still plenty of traffic and quite a few trucks. There was not much verge to the road (more of a narrow rough ditch), but I still retreated there every time I met an oncoming vehicle as I walked facing the traffic.  I thought I was OK staying on the edge of the sealed surface when there were no oncoming vehicles, but learned my lesson when a car coming from behind overtook another vehicle and missed my left elbow by a few centimetres at most.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I took my time getting up, knowing I did not have a long day, and didn't leave the cabin until about 8:45am.  I was guessing I only had a couple of hours walking to Latrobe, a bigger town than the tiny Railton, so decided to wait until I reached the former before eating breakfast.  I miscalculated and it took over three hours of tedious roadwalking (see above), though the forested countryside was attractive, to reach Latrobe. Once there, I detoured into the town and found a very busy bakery open for business, and ordered some lunch, since it was now midday.

Half an hour later, I was walking again, this time along a less busy road that followed the broad Mersey River estuary towards Devonport.  I could smell the sea air. After 90 minutes I entered suburbia and then reached the unprepossessing East Devonport port area. Although check-in to get on my overnight ferry to Melbourne supposedly doesn't start until 5pm, I walked down to the passenger terminal and found it open, arriving at 2:30pm and reaching the official end of the Tasmanian Trail.

I did a quick change in the toilets into some less smelly/dirty clothes and sorted out what gear I needed to keep with me on board after I checked my backpack, although ultimately, I decided to keep my backpack with me and just leave it on my booked recliner seat.  I boarded soon after 5pm and the ferry departed at 7:30pm.

My ferry arrives in Melbourne at 6am tomorrow and then I have a 4km walk to the main railway station from where I will catch a train departing at 8:30am for Sydney.  From there another train to Gosford where Julie will pick me up at 9:30pm tomorrow night, all going to plan.

While I enjoyed the Tasmanian Trail, and it met my expectations for attractive rather than spectacular scenery, I do think it is more suited to mountain bike travel because there are so many long road stretches.  Although I had feet problems the whole way, I think they have improved since buying the New Balance shoes at Deloraine three days ago, and generally, I feel I got into the hiking groove properly by the end of the trip.  Now looking forward to next year.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 017 - Sheffield to Railton

Day: 17
Date:  Sunday, 03 November 2019
Start:  Sheffield
Finish:  Railton
Daily Kilometres:  15.3 (12.3 TT plus 3.0 in towns)
Total TT Kilometres:  442.9
Weather:  Mild and mostly overcast with some showers later in the day.
Accommodation:  Cabin
  Breakfast:  Apricot Danish
  Lunch:  Chicken salad roll
  Dinner:  Hamburger with the lot and chips, ice-cream.
Aches:  None really
Highlight:  The first 5km out of Sheffield followed the course of an old rail line through farmland and forest.  It was soft underfoot and the walking was easy. I listened to the Deloraine Community Radio station which plays music I like (though even I find some of it a bit old) with little interruption and I found myself singing along out loud as I walked along and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Lowlight:  Now that I'm in a more populated area, I'm again seeing a lot of rubbish dumped along the vehicle-accessible forest roads.  At one point, I met a guy driving along slowly in a pickup with a large slab of concrete in the tray, and I have little doubt he was looking for somewhere to dump it.
Pictures: Click here (For some reason, pictures for the last two days were not accessible. This has now been corrected and the links for those two days work.)
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I slept fitfully, waking a few times with pain in my feet, but managed to doze in bed all the way through to 9am and checked out of the motel at 10am.  As planned, I walked to the bakery next door and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before walking out of town, admiring the many murals adorning the walls of buildings.

Once out of town, the TT followed an abandoned rail easement for 5km through farmland and forest (see above) and then entered a pine plantation, following forest roads.  It was pleasant walking, apart from the dumped rubbish (see above), and I found a quiet place to eat the roll I had bought for lunch from the Sheffield bakery.

From there it was another hour or so walking on rural back roads and old trails to get to the very small town of Railton. Unlike Sheffield, Railton seems to be a very quiet town in decline with nearly as many closed stores as open ones. 

I had a short walk around town, bought a snack, and walked to the cabin I had booked on the outskirts, arriving around 3pm.  After attending to a few chores while watching cricket on TV, I later walked back into town to the fast food store and got some dinner.  It was an easy and enjoyable day, and I am almost sorry my Tasmanian Trail hike is nearly over. One day to go.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 016 - Deloraine to Sheffield

Day: 16
Date:  Saturday, 02 November 2019
Start:  Deloraine
Finish:  Sheffield
Daily Kilometres:  48.3 (45.2 TT plus 2.0 navigation error plus 1.1 detour into Sheffield).
Total TT Kilometres:  430.6
Weather:  Overcast with lengthy rain periods
Accommodation:  Motel
  Breakfast:  Cereal, raisin toast
  Lunch:  Chicken Caesar salad sandwich
  Dinner:  Soup, a tad of rehydrated spaghetti bolognese (couldn't get it down), ice-cream
Aches:  Exhausted overall and feet very tired
Highlight:  When the rain stopped around 9am, I had dress-circle views over a beautiful green rural valley as I walked along Cox's Road.
Lowlight:  Lots of cobwebs across the trail through the forest in the morning, which I collected across my face and body interminably.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
True to the forecast, it was raining lightly but continuously when I left my cabin at 7:15am.  I walked the 500 metres into town and bought a sandwich for lunch from the bakery before continuing out the other side of Deloraine and walking the 9km on roads to rejoin the official TT.  Around this time the rain stopped, and I enjoyed a nice walk along Cox's Road (see above) before entering the Gog Range forest. It was very pleasant forest walking, apart from the cobwebs, but my mind was on the looming ford of the Mersey River which had been described as potentially difficult on the TT website.

I reached the river around noon, about the same time the rain started again.  It was difficult to see how deep the water was in some parts, and the river was wide, but the current was not strong, which gave me confidence that I wouldn't get into trouble.  I took it slowly and got wet up to my groin, but crossed safely and happily. My goal for the day was to get about 10km past the river crossing before looking for somewhere to camp, and feeling OK, I continued on in the light rain.  My shoes and socks were wet from the river, and I was beginning to feel quite damp all over. The trail was easy forest road, although it seemed to always be ascending or descending, and the forests were a mix of eucalypt and pine plantation.  At times the trail seemed to ascend into the clouds and there were no views from anywhere in the Gog Range.

It was too wet to stop for a break, so I just kept walking, but must have switched off in my little rain-hooded world and missed a turn.  By the time I realised, it was easier to continue on, following a different road in the same forest, knowing from Maps.Me that I would rejoin the official TT further on.  The error cost me about 2km. Because I wasn't taking breaks, I was still making quite good time, and decided I would walk further than planned until I reached the edge of the forest and then camp at a river shown on the map.

After a very long descent, I reached the river, but found the area wasn't particularly good for camping.  It was continuing to rain, and I didn't relish the idea of setting up camp in the rain, and perhaps packing up a wet tent in the morning.  I began to think about how far it was to the small town of Sheffield which I had originally intended to reach about lunchtime tomorrow, and wondered whether I would be able to get accommodation there.  Unfortunately, there was no phone signal at the potential camping site, so I had to decide whether to continue walking into the farmland, where I was unlikely to find another campsite, in the hope that once I had a phone signal, I would be able to book accommodation.  By the time I got a signal it was 6pm, and I was lucky enough to get a room at the only motel in town. However, it was still 10km away and I was starting to get very tired.

The last 10km, though hard on the body, particularly because it involved some long ascents and descents, was actually some of the most beautiful scenery of the day.  The steep green pastures had backdrops of spectacular mountains and mountain bluffs. To top it off, the rain stopped around the time I booked the motel, and I began to feel a little warmer.

I finally reached the motel around 8:20pm and pretty much collapsed in a chair in the room (in which the receptionist, knowing I was going to be late, had turned on the heater).  After a shower and getting into some warm dry clothes, I felt much better and ate my dinner watching the second half of the Rugby World Cup Final on TV.

I only have about 13km tomorrow to my next booked accommodation, so I will sleep in as late as I can, have breakfast at the adjacent bakery, and check-in as early as I can at the next place.  My feet are sore, as to be expected after 48km with a pack, but I enjoyed the day despite the weather and am happy with my fitness overall.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 015 - Deloraine

Day: 15
Date:  Friday, 01 November 2019
Start:  Deloraine
Finish:  Deloraine
Daily Kilometres:  ~4.0km wandering around town
Total TT Kilometres:  385.4
Weather:  Warm and mostly overcast
Accommodation:  AirBnB Cabin
  Breakfast:  Apple pie and milkshake
  Lunch:  Cornish pastie
  Dinner:  Hamburger & chips, milkshake.
Aches:  None really
Highlight:  Wandering around six of the Tasmanian Craft Fair venues and looking at some of the 260 exhibitors on a comfortably warm day in attractive Deloraine.  I find the ingenuity and skills impressive, but think it would be a hard way to make a living with so much competition in the same space. It wouldn't be hard to think of a score of friends who would have savoured the exhibition more than me, and I'm sure I didn't appreciate adequately a lot of what I saw.
Lowlight:  None really
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I had a slow start to the day, and attended to some chores before walking the 500 metres into the centre of Deloraine, which is a pretty little town set along a main street leading up from manicured parkland bordering the Meander River.  After a wander up and down the street, I visited the Post Office to collect my last mailed food package where the girl was very impressed that I had arrived on the exact date specified on the package as my ETD (all my packages say "Please Hold for Tasmanian Trail Hiker Due ~ dd/mm/yy").  I told her I was a "man of routine".

I had some breakfast at one of the bakeries on the main street, and as I walked from there towards some of the Craft Fair venues, I passed the town's small sports store and saw they had some discounted running shoes in a bin out the front that got me thinking about replacing the old Nike Pegasus shoes I have been wearing, and which I feel are well past their "use by" date (and are half a size smaller that I would like).  I visited three of the Fair venues, before deciding to return to the sports store to see what they had in stock.

The discounted shoes in the size I wanted (US12) were Asics Gel Nimbus, which have a good reputation, but after doing some Googling, I found their heel drop (how much higher the heel is than the forefoot) was 10mm, and I would prefer 12mm.  I have had lifetime Achilles tendon problems (five surgeries) and the higher heel drop (which Nike Pegasus also has) takes pressure off the tendon. Inside the store, they had some New Balance 880s, which have a 12mm heel drop, in my required size and I bought them.  I was once also sponsored as a marathon runner by New Balance, and have found them to be good shoes, though sometimes a little on the heavy side. The proof will be in the pudding when I wear them tomorrow.

After buying the new shoes, I had lunch at the other bakery in town, bought a few things at the supermarket, then walked back to my cabin, by which time it was 2pm.  I then walked to the three Fair venues close to my cabin and spent another hour looking around the exhibits, before spending the remainder of the afternoon, doing a few small chores and watching TV.

Later, I walked to a 50s-themed diner for dinner and packed ready for a reasonably early departure tomorrow (rain forecast).  Around lunchtime, I will have to ford the other major river on the Tasmanian Trail, the Mersey. A TT website update says that there is a deep channel that makes the crossing difficult, and suggests a road alternative, but I think I'll take a look first.  If I decide to backtrack, it should only cost me a few kilometres.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 014 - Liffey to Deloraine

Day: 14
Date:  Thursday, 01 November 2019
Start:  Liffey
Finish:  Deloraine
Daily Kilometres:  33.8 
Total TT Kilometres:  385.4
Weather:  Cool early, then mild to warm and partly cloudy (Total Fire Ban in southern and eastern Tasmania)
Accommodation:  AirBnB cabin
  Breakfast:  Trail mix
  Lunch:  Meat pie
  Dinner:  Pizza and ice-cream
Aches:  Feet sore by the end of day
Highlight:  It was a beautiful and peaceful early morning climb up the Liffey valley, passing by attractive little farms overshadowed by towering forested mountains.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I didn't sleep all that well, perhaps because I went to bed so early (7pm) to escape the cold wind, or perhaps because of the sound of distant farm machinery that woke me around 2am (sounded like a buzz saw ….. what were they doing?).  Anyway, when a nearby rooster began crowing shortly before 4am and magpies began warbling (a beautiful sound) shortly after, I gave up trying to sleep and packed up in the dark.

I began walking around 5:20 am when it was just light enough to see without a headlamp, and followed the very quiet road (3 cars in 3 hours) up the Liffey River valley (see above).  I enjoyed walking past these relatively remote farms set amongst fabulous scenery. I doubt that any of them make enough money to survive through farming, so I guess you have to be well-off to live there, or have a day job somewhere else.  One of the joys of this whole hike has been wandering the farm back roads and observing the derelict old buildings and machinery, often juxtaposed with well-kept farmhouses with fabulous gardens. Apart from some orchards, vineyards and hops down south, the farms have mostly been pastoral, grazing cattle and sheep (the latter generally with young lambs), and more rarely, horses, fallow deer and llamas.

Eventually, I climbed steeply out of the valley into a dark and ferny forest, with some pine plantations thrown in, which lasted for about an hour, before I began a gentle descent northwards through farmland towards Deloraine.  It was a very pleasant morning with little road traffic, and I wandered along looking at the world around me while listening to the radio. With about 10km to go, I left the official TT for my detour to Deloraine, and after more farmland, reached the town at 1:30pm, considerably earlier than planned because of my early start.  

I bought a pie for lunch at a fast food shop adjacent to the town's two schools, and while eating, messaged my friendly AirBnB host to see if she would give me early access to the cabin I had booked for two nights.  She responded affirmatively, and I arrived there around 2:30pm. The cabin included a washing machine, but no drier, so I hastily put all my laundry in the machine, with the exception of my barely worn long-johns and my down jacket, and set it going.  My hope that at least some of the clothes had air-dried by dinner time (so I could walk into town for dinner without being arrested, or being an object of local curiosity ….. although it is Halloween) was fulfilled, and I walked to a nearby pub for dinner.  There, I had an excellent, and too-big, pizza, marred only by the guy on the next table suffering from a formidable bronchial cough that had me holding my breath for a minute or two after each episode.

I have a day off tomorrow, and since the Tasmanian Craft Fair is on in town (touted on local radio as "the largest in the southern hemisphere"), I may have a look around, although it's not really my thing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 013 - Cramps to Liffey

Day: 13   
Date:  Wednesday, 30 October 2019
Start:  North of Cramps
Finish:  Liffey
Daily Kilometres:  28.3  (40.6 TT less 12.3 saved by short-cutting Bracknell, an option suggested in guidebook)
Total TT Kilometres:   351.6
Weather:  Cold at first, then mild and partly sunny with strong winds in the afternoon.
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Trail Mix
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Soup and rehydrated meal
Aches:  Feet sore, but not as bad as other days.
Highlight:  It was nice to finally leave the road and follow an old eroded track down off the Central Plateau.  The going was slow, but it was through beautiful forest and fern gullies, and even passed a large cave, before finally emerging into farmland.
Lowlight:  None really.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
The ground was hard on the firetrail where I was camped, but at least there were no rocks sticking up in awkward spots and I slept OK, if fitfully.  I was on the road at 7:30am and eagerly anticipating reaching the point 4km on where I would leave the road and join an old track. I wasn't disappointed, and although the track was eroded and covered in loose rock, I enjoyed the peace and forest as I descended from the plateau.

At the bottom, I emerged into very green sheep and cattle pastures and followed quiet rural back roads for the remainder of the day, with the high bluffs of the central plateau's edge to the west and south.

As the afternoon progressed, the wind became stronger, and I was reminded of the Australian Championship Marathon I ran about 40 years ago as part of the Victorian team at nearby Cressy.  The wind was brutal and the field became a long snake as runners tried to shelter behind each other. The other thing I remember about that race is that I didn't run very well.

The official TT route went through the small village of Bracknell (where there is a store) but there was a short-cut to Liffey, my goal for the day, that was recommended in the TT guidebook if a store was not needed, and I took that.  The TT campsite is in the grounds of the old Liffey School, and I reached there at 3:30pm. It is a lovely spot on the side of a hill with good views, but it's very exposed to a cold wind that is blasting through as I write this. It could be an early night.

I now have about 33km to Deloraine, where I will be staying the next two nights, using a revised TT route which has apparently been devised to avoid private land where the landowner no longer lets TT walkers/bikers pass.  Deloraine is not on the actual TT, which sort of skirts around it, but I have decided to stay there, and have time for a day off.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tasmanian Trail Hike - Day 012 - Miena to Cramps

Day: 12
Date:  Tuesday, 29 October 2019
Start:  Miena
Finish:  North of Cramps
Daily Kilometres:  37.3 (38.7 TT, less 1.4 saved due to bushfire detour)
Total TT Kilometres:  311.0
Weather:  Cool early, then mild to warm and mostly sunny with strong winds most of the day.  There was a Total Fire Ban for southern Tasmania.
Accommodation:  Tent
  Breakfast:  Cereal, toast & jam
  Lunch:  Trail mix
  Dinner:  Soup and rehydrated meal
Aches:  Good up until noon, then right foot PF worsened during afternoon.
Highlight:  None really.
Lowlight:  Difficulty finding water, then a campsite, at the end of the day.  Water had been plentiful earlier in the day, mostly seen flowing through culverts under the road, but when I needed a couple of litres at the end of the day, all the culverts were dry.  I eventually found a trickle and small pond and got water from there. Likewise for places to camp. I had seen many possibilities earlier in the day, but by the end of the day I had entered a very bouldery area, with no flat spots for camping.  Finally, I found a firetrail leading off the road, and camped on the hard stony firetrail about 100 metres past a locked gate. It may be an uncomfortable night.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
I woke around 6:30am and hit the road about 7:45am after an unrushed breakfast.  It was a fairly major road, which I had to stay on for the morning. The official TT route used some fire trails via Tods Corner, to cut out about 11km of the road, but according to the TT website this route was closed because of a bushfire.  Smoke from the fire dominated the scene as I approached the turnoff, but there was nobody stationed at the corner or any signage indicating the road was closed. I was tempted to try it to avoid the logging and gravel 18-wheelers on the road, but was worried that I might go some kilometres and then be turned back. I stuck to the road.  Despite the traffic (and there were long periods with none), the scenery was pleasant forest and there was a long descent off the plateau to Wiley's Marsh with some views, where I turned north onto a narrower, but equally busy sealed road.

Eventually, I reached a turn-off down to Arthurs Lake and followed a difficult loose bluestone road that paralleled the lake shore and was the service road for some high voltage power transmission lines.  I believe most of the "lakes" in this area of Tasmania are actually dams built by Hydro Tasmania and there are often pipelines and transmission lines visible, along with the occasional power station. As I walk, I often wonder what the place would look like without the dams.  (The only protest march in which I ever participated was way back in the 70s against the damming of the Franklin/Gordon River in Tasmania. It was eventually stopped by the Federal government in a court case, and I think history has demonstrated that the dam would have been redundant.  I later spent about 8 days rafting down the wild Franklin River, a trip which is still vivid in my memory.)

I didn't find the walk under the powerlines particularly interesting, but at least it got me away from the trucks for about 6km.  Then, it was back onto the road and a long steady climb back onto the Central Plateau, accompanied by the smell of bushfire smoke, and the Great Lake's eastern shore.  My goal for the day was to reach a locality called Cramps, where there was boat access to the lake off the main road, but I didn't want to make the detour to get water from the lake and guessed that camping might be forbidden anyway.

I continued on another 3km, eventually finding water and a campsite (see above).  Apart from the increasingly painful plantar fasciitis in my right foot during the afternoon, I had a good day.