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. 

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