Saturday, 30 September 2017

Walpole

Water water everywhere and no boats in sight. Rain, and wading through water has been the highlights of the past section. Feet have not been dry for over a week. Each day is put on wet socks and wet shoes. Some of the water has been hip high. But long sections of ankle or shin high wading. 
But the bright spot is that the weather might be fine this next week. Okay, the occasional shower is forecast, but I'm hopeful.
Made some gaters today from a pair of tights, cardboard milk cartons and some duck tape. Also bought some tradie sock savers to go with my gaters to help keep sand out of my Vibram Five Fingers.  The arrival at the coast has been accompanied by walking through small scratchy bushes. My legs are getting scratched raw in places. I've been walking in knee high bicycle shorts since Collie after my pants became too loose.  I'm hopeful that the milk cartons are also snake bite proof as well. Though the plan is to not test that out. 
I cut the tights in half from the crotch through to the waist band, and sewed up each half into a long tube. I pull one half onto my leg, wrap the two milk cartons joined with duck tape around my calf. They stay overlapping, and then I roll the top of the tights down over them to hold them in place. The sock saver at the bottom holds the bottom together. Bike shorts at the top help hold it up. Short walk testing today seemed promising. Time will tell. I'll have duck tape with me to make any repairs needed in case.  But I'm sure no more scratched legs and hopefully less sand in my shoes and really hopefully snake protection.  Not seen any snakes since Donnley River, but keep hearing about them. 
Only about 200km to go. Suddenly the end is in sight. 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pemberton

Changed the cancer causing sunshine for the benign liquid type. So the last three days have been cool and damp. Very damp actually. This is going to continue through to Wednesday. After weeks of fine weather walking, it's a bit of a shock. Arrived in Pemberton this morning in heavy falls. Only staying overnight. It's a long weekend, and the start of school holidays, so all accommodation is booked out. Somehow walking in the rain seems like it will be easier.
Body is holding up well. Gear mostly ok. Doing more sewing repairs to my pack. With almost 600km done, it'll hold up for the rest. 
Mostly the same people at each shelter at night. Unless someone takes a rest day or double huts. Town's swap it about a bit. People staying longer, or leaving early. You hope for the non snorers. Had the early risers lately. Up at 4:30 to pack and have breakfast and start walking at first light to arrive at the next shelter before lunch. Then they'd have a nap. Why couldn't the sleep in till first light? 

With the rain, maybe not so many weekend hikers will be out this weekend...



Thursday, 14 September 2017

Balingup

Town's are nice enough; food, gear, water and washing. I'm even having hot showers as a change from cold.  But staying in doors especially with accommodation with central air conditioning if not for me. Not being able to open the window here in Collie is a real issue for me. The air con doesn't go lower than 17C ever.  Add in that I don't sleep in the beds, I'm paying a lot for that hot shower.  
Decided to hold onto the fleece till Balingup. And after a 2C night without needing it, it was abandoned today. 
Balingup is camp only unless you pre book the backpackers. Though it's hard to find that information out. 
Meet some of the local walkers this section. Surprisingly they rose at 4:30am to breakfast and pack and then walk in the dark. Not slow walkers either, arriving at the next shelter before lunch.  Lots of interesting stories though about the track and characters on it. The foundation should capture their stores and publish a book.
Onwards towards Donnelly River Village in the morning. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Collie

Another week down and just over 330km finished. While the first weeks were go hard and "do it", the last week had been more moderate. Taking it easy and pacing for the distance still to come.  Small aches and pains have crept in, and with the realisation of the  almost 700km to go, there's no wish to test the limits just yet and risk not finishing. Huts have been about 20km apart, also dampening the double hut enthusiasm.

More fire trail walking with some single track. The fire trails varied from unexciting hard packed clay to interesting, rambling old paths. It's a bit of a chore on the unexciting roads as the mind wanders into day dreams. Suddenly wrenched back with gut clenching anxiety when you realise you haven't seen or looked for a trail marker in a while. Then the fear of "have you missed a turn off!", followed by profound relief when one is finally spotted. There follows a commitment to pay attention, but you keep drifting off.  The mind also wanders off on the single track, but less likely to miss a marker there.

The markers are not always as frequent as you'd like. The rule is keep going in the same direction as the last marker. That works, except when it doesn't. Everyone backtracks sometimes to check the last marker. Sometimes you need a very eagle eye to spot them. Looking backwards for the northbound markers can help, as looking for old markers. Sometimes you go forward with hope that another will appear. If it doesn't, your lost. Go back!

I had a fall on one slippery clay section of track. The Vibram Five Fingers grip like a gecko on rock, but on clay it's like walking on ice. Both feet and hands into the muddy wheel ruts. More unhappily, the hip belt on my pack tore. I completed the next four hours with it leaning drunkenly to one side, leaving a sizeable bruise on one side. My pack is a Mountain Mule. An external frame pack which I'm told by more knowledgeable older walkers is at least 30 years old. 

I was gifted it one night, about midnight. It was pouring rain. A slight fog.  I was walking a suburban street when a beam of light broke through the gloom, striking the pack buried deep in a rubbish heap on the kerb. It called to me. And after some digging, I liberated it and it's accompanied me ever since. 

It's an external frame pack, with two sections. The bottom section is closed by a zipper. The top by a flap of fabric that ties shut. Neither seem large enough.  Apart from some adjustments to the straps, and replacing a missing pin with a bolt, if not done anything else to it. The fall tore the stitching on the hip belt. But a couple hours sewing and it's better than it was. As good as new I declared the next day. During the repairs I removed the belt and on restoring it, tried a different attachment pattern that is a bit more comfortable. 

My sleeping system problems have been solved by the addition of a small polyester lap blanket. Bought at Dwellingup for $7. It's small 1.27m x 1.35m, but big enough to cover most of me if I scrunch up. I lie down, drap the blanket over, then put the sleeping bag over like a quilt. I think the blanket stops the cold air getting in, while allowing warm moist air to leave. 

I'm still using two foam mats. The K-Mart mats compress with time and lose insulation ability. Starting at about 1cm thick when new, one is now 3mm think. The limit of its compression. The other newer mat is a more robust 5mm thick. I'm unable to part with the thinner mat as testing has shown that both needed.

One particular morning was very brisk. I set out walking along a path bordered with frost. But since then the temperatures have shot up with about 9C nights and some 25C days. It's so much warmer sleeping and with the weather that I'm contemplating leaving behind my fleece jumper in Collie. A sizeable space saving. I'll also leave my pants behind. With weight loss they are too loose, and chaff on my legs. Back to lycra bicycle pants, unpadded courtesy of the local Target store.

The next section is 12 days to the next large town, but with two small shopping options before then. Much thought expended on how much food to take. Enough for 12 days, or enough to get to the small shops. With my no cook meal plan, I'm wary of limited choices, so am taking food for seven days with a parcel sent ahead for the last five days. Still on minimal rations, but increase the amount slightly. I arrived in Collie with no food left having finished everything the day earlier. I was lucky to get another block of chocolate and bag of peanuts before leaving Dwellingup, and had some fruit cake kindly left at one of the huts. Without that, it would have been a very hungry arrival in Collie. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Dwellingup

Made it to the first town. Two weeks and 211km. Less than 800km to go! Walked a couple of 30km days. The last had the 20km walk into town following it. 
At the start of the day all is good, then get to the first hut and it's early and feeling good. Before lunch early. Enough time for another hut: double hutting. Eat up, shoes on, pack on and head off. After the first couple of km, thinking it was a mistake. Could have been resting back at the hut, but committed now, not turning back. The hours pass with lots of rests, stretching and more thoughts is why didn't I just stay at the last hut. Next time I will, I tell myself. Finally the hut is spotted and everything is better. Not better as in wake-up better, but relief that you've made it. 
Feeling it with tender feet after the 30km days. One small blister with the new Vibram Five Fingers. A seam at the end of a toe just touches. Will have tape that toe. Not sure what else I can do about that seam. Otherwise the Five Fingers are working well for me.
The trail is easy walking, (if not double hutting). A lot of it is fire trails. Some parts are recovering from bush fires of the past, showing the different stages of recovery. Some good views from the mountain tops. Pleasant days with only the last couple threatening and delivering on showers. Sitting out two nights in town to miss further showers, winds, and a 2c overnight. A bit of a drop from the usual overnights. And of course washing, hot showers and food. Did I mention the caravan park huts are heated?
The trail huts are wonderful. Not heated, but water tanks, seating and shelter. Can be busy though and I've slept out a couple of times under my tarp when they have been full. With fine weather a lot of people are out walking.
My pack weight is about 11kg before food and water. At the moment I've about 500-600 grams of food a day at the moment. Water, at most 2 liters so far.  I'll leave Dwellingup with food for five days for the seven day walk. I'll eat before I leave town and have a small snack that night, last day not eat till I'm in Collie. Not a ultralight pack, but not super heavy. Not everyone's idea of comfort either. Just weighed it again. I'll leave with 15kg all up, including one liter of water.
A small annoyance is my sleeping system. No matter what I've tried, I wake up sweating and chilled. In the bag, using it as a quilt, thermals on/off, light cloths, naked. Early morning I'll wake sweating and chilly. It's been 5-12c nights. Lately had some success wearing all my cloths, sleeping without the bag till I get cool, then use the bag as a quilt with vent gaps around the edge. Not sure what the problem is.  One thought is the bag isn't breathing enough, trapping moisture, hence the venting helping. I'll try using a small throw blanket to see if that helps on the next six nights. I'm getting enough sleep each night, sleeping from sun down to midnight or later before waking the first time, then every couple of hours till first light. 12 hours nights at the moment. It would be nice to not wake sweating and chilled. If I can sort that out I'll cut down a bit more on clothing carried. But till then I get to mix and match at night. 
In town, lots of eating. The cafe and pub serve large delicious meals. Then there is restocking the larder for the next leg. The local IGA has a good range of food for me. Breakfasts are oats, cashews, sultanas soaked over night. Chocolate, and trail mix, peanut butter, flat bread and some condensed milk make up the rest of the food.  Apart from breakfast, food is varied each day to make up  lunch/dinner. Best to save some to eat just before bed.  I'm not cooking, so less weight: no stove or fuel and only a peanut butter jar for soaking food. I'm calorie deficient on the meals, so am losing weight. Depending how much I lose, I'll have to increase the meals in the coming weeks.