Let’s do this again, but make it twice as long!
It had been almost three weeks since my last long walk (not counting those nice little 10km strolls, obviously!) and I really wanted to get back into the swing of things. I’d enjoyed my last walk along the bike paths and wanted to show Dan the area, so I mapped out a 20km route for us. I stuck to the roads with the hope that there’d be a bit less water to negotiate, especially given two days of rain earlier in the week.
We set off just after breakfast, found a spot to park out of sight of the main road and started walking. I was a bit grumpy to start off, not for any particular reason, but within an hour walking had worked its magic and I was happy again. The route was pretty much all nice walking: easy to navigate and see progress, enough elevation change to keep the legs happy but not so much to be hard work. The weather was great for walking too, cool, not particularly humid, and overcast. We did have to apply the insect repellent a couple of times to keep the mozzies off, though!
We saw and heard quite a few birds - kookaburras, rosellas, magpies, currawongs, choughs, a shrike thrush, wattle birds, blue wrens, thornbills, fantails, willie wagtails and pigeons (at a distance - possibly bronzewing as well as crested). We also had the joy of seeing a bright-red-breasted scarlet robin, which flew onto a nearby branch and looked at us for a while, then darted off.
At some point we noticed two sets of footprints going the other way. It’s nice to know that other people come walking out here, too - not just dirt bikers, horse riders and firewooders. It was also good to know that the way we were going was going to be passable, since these walkers had come through in the last day or so, since the rain. Eventually, though, we turned down a road they had not taken… and encountered a fair bit of water over the road. Since we still had a long way to go, and since I didn’t think we’d meet too many more such obstacles, we took our shoes off and paddled across, toes sinking into the soft, fine mud at the bottom. It reminded me of the barefoot walk we did years ago. Instead of putting our shoes straight back on, we walked the next few hundred metres barefoot. The dirt was cold and hard, but I enjoyed it.
We stopped for lunch at the Blues Road crossroads that tickled me last time. Part of my prep for the Heysen Trail needs to be about sorting out my food carries and making sure my rationing will work. On this walk for lunch I packed us hummus (some of which I will dehydrate and carry with me), 6 Vita-Weats (my favourite crackers, sorely missed when in the UK), a couple of little sheets of seaweed snack (I'll cut up nori sheets for the Heysen) and an apple (heavy, so I’ll probably only eat these in or just after town). Six Vita-Weats is a surprisingly decent portion. I wasn’t hungry afterwards! I also recently purchased some electrolyte powders, so I added a sachet to one of the water bottles.
We crossed back over the Stockdale Road soon after. We’d been playing Twenty Questions/Who Am I?, and it was my turn. To give you an idea of our previous puzzles: I was Dan, then Dan was our friend Gemma, then I was kangaroo prints, and Dan was a blue wren. After lunch, I was the extremely ear-wormy song “Only the Lonely” by Roy Orbison. This tune plagued me through my last walk (which I've realised is because it is walking paced), and has also infected other members of the household to the point that it is like being Rickrolled. Dan cracked me up by making me guess he was the last Vita-Weat cracker he ate at lunchtime (I had 3 guesses left after guessing it was a Vitaweat he ate at lunch... but which one?!). It definitely passed the time, and Dan got stuck with my next puzzle: the Heysen Trail. Is it bigger than a house? I guess so, though maybe not at any specific point. But he got me back by being the Gelobar in Brunswick.
Anyway, at one point I did a quick detour up to touch the Briagolong-Stockdale Road (necessary to get my full 20km), and Dan waited with my pack. I carried everything for both of us for this walk and my pack and bumbag weighed over 10kg when I started, including two litres of water and all the food. It was nice to get a bit of pack-free travel in. I even broke into a little jog. It didn’t last long, obviously. I’m not a maniac.
Shortly after this, I thought I could feel a blister forming on my problem toe. Like a fool, I did not stop to check it out or put tape/a plaster on it because “there’s only a couple of kilometres to go.” I guess I have to make that mistake every now and then to remind myself why it’s good practice to stop immediately and check out the issue. When we got back to the car, it wasn’t a blister in the usual weird place at all (although that was sore), but on the side of my toe next to my big toe. I guess that I didn’t clean my feet properly after our barefoot sojourn and some grit had rubbed until the blister formed. Entirely preventable, if I wasn’t so lazy!
Still, we made it to the end in one piece and pretty good spirits. And it was only 1:45pm. So we toddled home, had a nice shower and a hot cup of tea with a couple of Tim Tams.
Now this was a training walk! 20km with pack and bum bag starting at 10kg. This original bum bag is huge, and I really stuffed it full on this walk with several snacks and all the items I might carry in it. It turns out the front pocket is just big enough for my phone, but the zip is short, which makes it a hassle to use. I just put the snacks in there instead. The next alterations I need to make are to fix up a sharp bit that cut me (end of the old zip) and change the angle where the strap connects to the bag to stop it falling forwards and leaving a big gap at the top.
Physically, that blister was the worst culprit, and it wasn’t really that bad. I popped and plastered it the following day and a couple of days later it was fine. With the heavy pack, I did get quite sore hips and slightly achy knees (thank goodness for walking poles), as well as the usual sore feet. I briefly stretched out my thighs and calves in the middle of the day and when we got to the car. Post-walk and the next day, I continued to stretch my calves and get my hips moving, and I recovered pleasingly quickly. At the end of this walk I thought I could definitely have got another 5km done if needed, especially as there was so much of the afternoon left. So I guess I’m ready to start the 25km hikes!
Food-wise, lunch and two snacks during the day was fine. I’ll also have breakfast, dinner, a third and a bit of extra scroggin each day. Ideally I’d be getting into each town with only one emergency meal in reserve, but in reality I don’t think I’ll be able to do full resupplies at every town, so I will be carrying some items (e.g. my own dehydrated food, vegan protein powder) for a much longer time between my resupply boxes. My next step with my pack is to start figuring out exactly what I’m going to take and finding out how I’m going to get all my food in there.
My latest arrivals are the paper maps for the whole trail. I'm having fun looking through them - there's a lot more than just a map on them. Also, some extremely excellently colourful anti-chafe undies - let’s see if they work!
This walk is on the Country of the Brayakaulung (Gunaikurnai) people. Sovereignty was never ceded and this always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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