Estragon: I can’t go on like this.
Vladimir: That’s what you think.
– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Well, post-hiatus, I’ve had to confront this post. You know what? I’m not sure I want to, as really, a large part of this day sucked and reliving it is causing me to start foaming at the mouth. Then again, maybe it’s the chicken I just ate? Only after I’d hoovered it did I notice it was close to the ‘use by date’.
Don’t worry though, the only way in this joint is to tell you all about what happened. My misery is your entertainment, although I may bill you for some of the psychiatric services I’ll need after writing this.
Really. On paper, day two on the northern circuit shouldn’t have been too demanding. It involved an 18 km walk from Five Mile Beach to Tin Mine Cove, Wilsons Promontory via Johnny Souey Beach and Lighthouse Point. It included passing through a few beaches and sections where a rough track had been cleared the previous year. No problem, right? Unfortunately it seems perception didn’t relate to reality, as this was one of those days that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re cruising along and suddenly something will pop up, which is time consuming and then the snowball effect starts…
Actually, I should mention one thing before I forget. I was accompanied on this walk by long-suffering sidekick, the Smuffin. This isn’t news, but there seems to be some confusion about him. It’s reached the stage where I’m going to create a ‘walking companions’ tab on the home page. Lately I’ve been asked, “who’s the Smurf?” or “is Smuffin your dog?”. This news has been relayed to the Smuffin who has now proclaimed, “That’s it! From now on I want to be known as the Smuff-Man!!” I’ve informed him this won’t happen, as Smuff-Man, sounds like the name a cross-dressing, one armed banjo player who likes to juggle would have. I think it’s easier for everyone just to give him a bio on the home page.
Okay, back to the beginning. Five Mile Beach. It’s a great spot to sleep in the bush and really, we’d scored perfectly with the tide. Miranda Creek sits opposite the campsite and it has to be crossed to continue the walk. Oh yeah, your drinking water is over there as well and we were banking that a small stream would be running in early May.
How was the crossing? Well, it was a cinch, as the tide was more or less out. Smuffin went for the short wade across, whereas I went for the extreme wanker method. Instead of taking my boots off, I decided to go down to the beach and cross where the creek crosses the sand. This was good in theory, but it took me a decade of clambering over rocks to get back to where I should have been. By the time I got there, all I found was a stick and a hat…
…which Smuffin had abandoned in order to reach our rather important drinking water for the day. Luckily for us it was flowing nicely. Fresh as well. We didn’t even treat it.
With water topped up, it was now time to get serious. There wasn’t much time to warm up. As in none. The steep hill opposite the camp was the route and it felt like I was walking up a wall, which was problematic, as my breakfast hadn’t had time to settle. During the vertical climb there was a real risk of porridge expelling, preferably, via the nostrils or if really unlucky, a number of other orifices. All at once.
As the officially accredited photographer, I had to stop often to record the trip. These frequent pauses were solely photographic and nothing to do with being a fat bastard, wondering why I was walking up a vertical hill voluntarily. In fact, I’d paid to do this crap. The views were nice though, as I looked back at Five Mile Beach from 29,000 feet.
In the end it wasn’t too bad, although there was a bit of slipping and sliding, which was overcome by an age old chestnut. A continual torrent of profanity. Once over the headland, it was pretty easy walking on a cleared track with frequent markers. After a few undulations, the landscape opened out and our next target…
…of Johnny Souey Cove was in sight.
I must say, the markers were frequent and any tree of note along the way was branded accordingly with a large, reflective disc.
Approaching Johnny Souey Cove, the scrub thickened a little…
…before we dropped down to the beach.
Looking at the surroundings, this also looked like a great spot to camp. There was no time to potter and investigate though, so we continued on. With the tide still low, this short, sandy beach was a cinch.
This is going great, isn’t it? As I write this, it feels like I’m surrounded by angels playing harps and feeding me grapes, whilst I lie back in my toga. Sans underwear of course.
You say to yourself, “I wonder where things will start going wrong?” Well, wait no longer, as it’s about to happen in about 0.2 seconds. At the end of Johnny Souey beach, the headland of Three Mile Point had to be crossed. The trouble is, unlike what we’d previously walked, no track was immediately discernible. There was a sign, although it appeared to point to nothing in particular. Okay, no problem. We’d spotted some rough scratchings up the hillside and elected to follow them, as it seemed as good as anything on offer.
Oh, but it was quite steep though. In fact, the slipping and sliding recommenced and one step would be followed by three backwards. As he’s built like a wombat, Smuffin used his low centre of gravity to sashay upwards and was soon out of sight. I was left behind and unlike last time, extreme profanity was no longer assisting me. I really was out of tricks.
In the end I utilised some extreme grass-grabbing and began pulling myself up. This was going quite well until a particularly slippery section of grass caught me out. I bet you didn’t know this, but grass isn’t the most secure object to hold your bodyweight if you fall. Did you know this? So, fall I did. Let me explain.
Essentially I was on a fairly vertical surface, so I was prepared to slide a bit before coming to a halt. Mentally, that was my plan, but somehow I ended up horizontal and began rolling. As I rolled over completely, I figured I’d come to a halt with only one spin. Surprisingly though, I didn’t stop and began another full roll. Suddenly, it felt like I was on the spin cycle under full wash settings.
Second roll was duly completed. Surely it’s over? Oh no, I began a third and by now my mind was racing with thoughts, “Will I ever stop? Am I going to reach the beach and roll out into deep water and drown? Am I actually going to roll around the world and come back to this same spot and begin rolling again? Am I actually a toy on a human hamster wheel, being used for the joy of aliens?” A lot of valid questions, but no answers. By mid-roll, I’d relaxed mentally and accepted my fate. Pondering about humanity, the lack of empathy in the world and too much porridge for breakfast.
My past flashed before my eyes. Waking up hungover, covered in chicken bones with my naked chest smeared with KFC grease and a stripped carcass under my head on the pillow. Shooting a pair of my socks in rage due to them being full of grass burrs. Breaking the world record, without the use of artificial additives of movies or books, for choking the bishop in one day. All these highlights were there and who knows what else would pop up if I’d kept going? Unfortunately for you, as this reminiscing is just getting good, I stopped.
Catching my breath, I wondered how life had come to this. What’s the purpose of the hiking when this happens? I guess the reasoning is so I can pad out this post with five (count ’em. Five) paragraphs about the one tumble. I paused for quite some time, mainly because I was dizzy, but also because my body was killing me. Falling over at 50 is just not the same as being 30 years younger. Oh, a photo was also required to catalogue some of the damage.
I made a mental note I’d need to have a shower once the hike was over. My legs were also now littered with cuts. It kinda goes back to the first post in this series. Why am I wearing shorts? Best of all, I had to stand up and do it all again.
On the second tilt, I took a slightly different route and inched my way up the hill. Again, it was worth looking behind, as the view across Johnny Souey Cove was quite nice.
Eventually, I reached the top of the hill and found Smuffin nowhere where I thought he should be. The reason for this is because I’d be buggered if I could find a track. It was a real hit and miss affair and the whole, wearing shorts caper, was haunting me, as the low undergrowth slashed and cut into unprotected skin.
Using guesswork, which consisted of walking forwards, whilst keeping the ocean to the right, we fought and battled our way towards Three Mile Beach. It was pretty time consuming stuff, as we slogged on…
…before the small beach, which led to Three Mile Beach beyond, was clearly in sight.
Finally, we made it to the small cove and it was time to count the cost in lost skin. Smuffin wasn’t too bad, other than some extreme redness from scrub battering.
Oh, hang on. I forgot about his arms.
Note the time. 1.20 pm. We still had hours of daylight left. What could possibly go wrong? Strolling on, we inched around a small, rocky point…
…before finding ourselves on Three Mile Beach for the longest stretch of sand walking to come.
Earlier, the low tide when crossing Miranda Creek was a bonus, but you just know the pesky moon will come into play later in the day, as the water was quite high along the beach…
…and only seemed to be getting higher.
It certainly did create a slow slog. Soft sand and dodging waves was the order of the day. At one point, a small inland dam/lake/bunch of water was of interest…
…but more intriguing things were to be seen in the other direction. A number of trees were covered by the tide. It made me wonder how they grew there in the first place.
The bare branches certainly made an unusual sight…
…but it wasn’t the only timber to be seen along the beach.
There were also other treasures from the deep. I’m not sure how fishing rods get lost, but here’s one…
…not to mention a large, pink magnet.
Hang on. It’s not a magnet, it’s a goddamned life preserver from the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. Here, Smuffin will show you.
Three Mile Beach took a while to cover and even with all the careful plodding, I still had my boots covered by a wave at one point, but it was just about over. At the end of the sand sits Lighthouse Point and guess what’s there? A beacon. You thought I was going to say lighthouse, didn’t you? Anyway, it was only a matter of quickly zipping up the hillside to join Tin Mine Track, which would lead us back across the peninsula to our camp at Tin Mine Cove.
Oh, but as we approached the end of the beach through high tide…
…the way to the top was not immediately clear. At low tide, it’s a matter of strolling along the rocks and locating a rope within a small gully and walk/pull yourself up. You know what? Why have I not read anywhere, that getting to this point during high tide is problematic? As in, not feasible at all?
Thinking we may be able to hop around the rocks, Smuffin set off…
…to which I followed and we found this. No, you cannot walk here at high tide. Not unless you’ve got a wet-suit, gills and a peanut-sized brain. It’s insane.
So, we backtracked and wondered how we were going to head uphill. Really, there’s only one spot near the rocks, so we began slogging up.
You’ve no idea, but immediately we were being slashed to ribbons by ti-tree and other stuff. The scrub was so thick, weird stuff began happening. Smuffin called out, “Hey! Look at this! I’ve found half a Black Diamond Ergo Cork trekking pole! As luck would have it, it’s exactly the same as yours, so now you’ve got a spare!!”
Well, this is all good, but it just happened to be mine. My poles were lashed to the side, on the outside of my pack and somehow, the bush ripped one of these secured poles in half. I stopped to put it back together, but whilst doing so, I found the snow baskets which sit at the bottom of the poles were missing. Yes, they’d been ripped off as well. Is this possible?
We finally crawled up to a higher point and our target, the beacon, was clearly visible. I guess it was only about 100 metres away?
Don’t let the quaint picture above fool you. Between us and the beacon was an infernally, annoying gully, which dipped down so the scrub was above our heads and then rose up in a mass of ankle snagging, skin shredding bush. Not finding any alternative, it seemed the only way to minimise the pain was by aiming for the shortest distance. So we set off and it wasn’t pleasant at all…
How far away was the beacon? At one point I reckon it was about 60 – 80 metres away. Guess how long it took us to cover this distance? I’ll tell you.
ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN FUCKING MINUTES.
Phew, that’s better. Yes, you have no idea of the level of abuse, which we displayed here. Somehow it was even higher and more descriptive than the profanities Admiral Lütjens uttered when he realised the rudder on the Bismarck was jammed.
The end result is we suddenly popped out onto a track which leads to the beacon. What was the cost for this foray? Smuffin had bought a pair of sunglasses on the drive down and they were now gone, so they’d lasted approximately 36 hours. I reckon they’ll be sitting there for the next million years, as no lunatic would consider heading into that crap to look for them.
Oh, the skin wasn’t getting any better either…
For all our turmoil and tribulations, at least there was the reward of a magnificent, noble beacon to admire.
Don’t panic. I haven’t lost the plot. Yes, I’m sure the beacon is fully functional and does its job superbly, but it looks like a bunch of crap. There I said it.
Anyway, we were now shaking from the shock of the past 100 metres, yet we still had some mileage to cover. It was now late in the day and there was no chance to sit down and meditate in order to re-zen. Heading off, Tin Mine Track was easy to follow, but not necessarily fast walking…
Daylight was rapidly fading, as we made fairly good time across the peninsula. Tin Mine Cove was in sight. Well, it’s out there somewhere…
…but, amongst all of this motoring a crazed moment happened. First, some background information. Remember this photo?
No, don’t look at the absurd outfit of leech defence socks and Vlad Putin trousers. Look at the stick! This is Smuffin proudly displaying a stick, which he picked up along the way during the Great South West Walk in 2012. On the move, he whittled it into the smooth, shiny state you see here. It ended up on most walks and even had a strap attached to it. In fact, you can see what I’m talking about in the bleeding hand photo a few pictures back. It was quite the durable stick.
Well, with this background information in mind, you will now appreciate the trauma of what happened next. Whilst strolling along the Tin Mine Track, there was a slight stumble and his body weight went across the stick, causing a disappointing, snapping sound. Oh yeah, it wasn’t pretty.
The stick which had travelled all over Victoria was gone. It was a tragic incident and Smuffin was visibly affected. At first he swore like a sailor with a wasp in his underpants, but then stood and proudly uttered this poem, straight off the top of his head.
‘In the wilds, I found this stick,
and it stood straight and longer than my dick.
But now it’s broke,
and I’m no longer the same bloke.’
Somehow at this terrible time, he created a bittersweet moment of beauty in such a touching eulogy. I was brought to tears. I think.
Now though, what follows is the most common sentence uttered on the blog. ‘Light was fading fast’. Yep, it was time to fish out the headlamp, as we waded through thicker bush in sections…
…before the light was so low I had no choice, but to retire the camera for the day. Here’s the last shot.
Motoring on, we finally cleared the scrub and landed onto Chinaman Long Beach. I’m not sure what I was thinking (standard practice), but I assumed the Tin Mine Campsite was accessible from the beach?
The light was gone and with headlamps operating, we walked up the beach, but my idea of just strolling to the camp were dashed when an ominous black shape began revealing itself. It was another headland and lo and behold, yes, the sign pointed off the beach and inland. The annual ‘Bash to the Beacon’ had knocked the wind out of us and there was no enthusiasm for a pitch black walk along a rough track.
Belting through bush, getting snagged by undergrowth and ducking under fallen trees in the dark wasn’t much fun. At times the track would vanish and a bit of pottering around would have to be done. Tempers were flared, as the overriding wish was to just finish this stinkin’ day off.
Eventually we fell into a clearing, which just happened to be the campsite. It was pitch black and we were spent, so there was no thought of trying to find the water source. It was a matter of making do with what we had and setting up the tents with the idea of flaking out as soon as possible.
Talk about a daft day. We were covered in scratches and were knackered. On reflection, two areas killed us by taking so long. The nutty climb to the beacon, as I had no idea we couldn’t get around at high tide to find the right route up. Oh, also the section immediately after Johnny Souey Cove. That’s the reason we were finishing in the dark.
In the final wash up, looking at the GPS revealed the proof was in the potatoes. Yes, it did say 19 km took us 11 hours. Not one of our best efforts, compared to our usual, not so best effort.
How do I sum all of this up? I’ve no idea, but I do know when I finally lay down in my tent I was aware of a million cuts on my legs above the gaiter line.
Soon I was slipping into a coma and I began to dream. As the wind passed through the trees above it whispered to me,”Hey big boy, you love hiking through spots of wilderness, don’t you?” In reply, I turned to, ‘Arnold the acting brick’ for guidance. Using his theatrical, timber-block style of delicate, succinct prose, it was both the direct and enlightening response I needed. Come to think of it, it really was the only answer to a dream where the wind was talking to me.