Oh no, here we are again. Do I have to relive the last day of my Viking Circuit walk from a few weeks back? Who are you people? Sadists? My mental condition was stretched by the last epic post and just contemplating this one has me foaming at the mouth and shaking violently.
Mind you, the reaction may be a result of the medication I’m now taking. The unfortunate news in the fiasco world is an old neck injury from a few years back has flared up again. I’ve two prolapsed discs in my neck, which I guess were caused by bustin’ way too many vigorous moves on the dance floor and an extensive history of biblical pole dancing. It’s weird though, as my dancing partner Józefa never got a similar injury? It was lucky I met her, as previously I had to dance with an election polling booth and as you can imagine, it just wasn’t the same.
Anyway, all walks are on hold and I definitely won’t be carrying a pack until I return to my friendly neurosurgeon who once said, “If you don’t get that disc taken out, the problem will probably return”. Damn, don’t you hate it when doctors know what they’re talking about? So, here I am munching on a combo of Valium and Oxynorm (oxymoron?) like lozenges. I guess I’ve got enough material from walks which never made the blog to talk about if I’m laid up? If not, I’ll just do a few entries about myself. You know, talk about the sheets I like to use on my bed or my ironing routine. I reckon you’re all hanging out for a few lifestyle posts?
Enough waffle, as I need to waffle about the last day of this hike. Remember the last post? A 16 hour fun-fest of agony? I forgot about one other thing. During the final descent to the Wonnangatta River in the dark, I developed some brutal cramps in both legs, thigh and calves. Especially if I had to climb over fallen trees. Talk about a thoroughly disappointing time and I can’t say I cramp too often, but I blame it on the gallons of sweat I lost during the steamy day.
On a sidenote, why do those muscle clenching cramps always form in annoying spots, rather than somewhere useful? How much better would it be for the cramp to form in your package? In an instant you could have a tackle as strong as timber. Actually, ‘timber tackle’ could be its medical name? In a moment you could go from ‘at ease’ to ‘pile driving love machine (PDLM)’?
Anyway, back to the walk. My sleep besides the Wonnangatta was certainly a crappy one. Firstly, any movement of my legs and suddenly a muscle snapping cramp would take hold and secondly, I had no mattress due to NeoAir detonation the previous evening. I laid it out, but soon realised lying on a air-filled mattress, without any air in it, is kind of crap. I must say I was glad it was the last day and I was quite keen to get the bloody thing over and done with.
Morning brought a clear blue sky, which again made me rue bringing wet weather gear. One day I might be up in the alpine area and it will rain or be marginally chilly, instead of frying to death under clear skies. A tree near my tent was an early photographic opportunity and I was impressed by how quickly I was able to abuse the polarizer.
Now to find our way out of the place. We had to cross the river and find the Zeka Spur Track. Guess where it was? How about five feet away, directly opposite us on the other side of the river? I’m not sure how the General got us there the night before, but it couldn’t have been more exact location to escape from.
I took a few photos of the Wonnangatta River, but I fell for the oldest trick in the book. The lens had fogged up, so this is the only one you’ll get, which doesn’t look like I was in a thick mist.
Apparently there are some spots to cross the river, but we couldn’t be bothered looking for them. Boots off and wade across was as good as any idea we had. I should have photos, shouldn’t I? Well, I don’t, which just shows how melted my brain was in the morning. Normally I try and capture every bloody thing that happens on a walk.
Oh yeah, another decision was made early on. There are a couple of ways out of the place. One is to follow the Zeka Spur Track, which is a full-blown 4WD road, until turning off onto a disused track along Wonnangatta Spur. The other is to avoid nearly all of the Zeka Spur Highway, by heading off on an unmarked spur, which eventually links up with the Wonnangatta Spur. The latter is a lot shorter, but due to mental disintegration of walking off-track the night before, we elected to go the longer, but easier to follow option. No problem, right?
There was only one thing though that bothered me. We were wading in the river at around 600 metres, but I knew my stinkin’ car was happily taking in the sights of the Howitt carpark at 1600 metres. With not more than 10 km to travel all day, it was going to be pretty much an uphill slog all the way and considering the way my body felt, I just knew my face would be sans smile. Well, that doesn’t happen very often anyway, I’m half English, so I’ve got the genetic code to whinge, so it can’t be helped. The other part of me is Greek-Cypriot. This means I like to eat lamb chops.
So, we crossed and followed a small path before coming to a roadblock. Some sort of small stream was flowing by, which meant a brief rampage through blackberries. Isn’t it a prick (no pun intended) of a plant? By the way, did you know the botanist Ferdinand von Mueller scattered blackberry seeds from his saddlebags during his travels through the Victoria? I’m not sure of his thinking, but apparently he was trying to help us out by providing a food source. Mm… I guess that one didn’t work out too well? More like Ferdinand von Pumpkinhead.
Anyway, we struggled through…
…before appearing onto a path, which opened up in a gentlemanly manner.
It was quite comfortable walking, but there was one thing going on that was mildly disconcerting. The sound of cicadas was incessant. I’m not talking a few here and there, I’m talking zillions upon mega-zillions. It was quite deafening and I was cursing I didn’t have a pair of fluffy ear-muffs. What’s the noise all about? Isn’t it a mating call? If so, I was walking through a decadent landscape of cicada humping. Quite disturbing. As they get it on underground, this cacophony surrounded me, but I was hoping to spot at least one who had been thrown out of a cicada swinging orgy pit by bug bouncers.
It took a while, but finally I found this individual. I’m not even sure if he was alive or was just mellowing out having spent all his energy with some smokin’ hot cicadas overnight.
Moving on, my thoroughbred walking companions had left me chewing their dust again. I thought they might wait for me where the disused path I was walking on, intersected the Zeka Spur vehicle track. Reaching the intersection though, they were nowhere to be seen, so I resigned myself to a day heading uphill on my own.
I was a little apprehensive about the road, as I was yet to find anything online, which said anything remotely nice about it. The only bonus I could think of was not having to worry about navigation. Put the mind in neutral and just plod up. And up it did…
Pictures never really show things how they are. It looks quite pleasant, doesn’t it? Unfortunately there wasn’t a breath of breeze and already the sun was biting. This produced a lather of sweat and flies decided to join my saturated party. Sometimes I forget how bad flies can be, but it seems at this time of the year, there are millions. I’ll paint the picture in a minute, but first a few more photos. Zeka Spur Track looks exactly the same in every picture I took. All it does is continually…
…and bloody up.
It took only a kilometre or so and the fun had well and truly worn off. I was taking frequent breaks and in the bright sunlight I felt the sweat flow. Oh yeah, those flies again. At one point I remember stopping. I could feel sweat dripping onto my neck from my ears, my shirt, filthy from the crazed descent the night before and falling over multiple times, was stuck to me. I felt my hands being sunburnt and the flies took hold. I’d swipe my hand across my face, but immediately others would land on my lips, nostrils or into my ears. It was impossible not to have dozens on my face at any one time. In the end I gave up, put my head down and continued trudging.
In all the slogging, I can only remember one short part where the track briefly levelled off and descended a short distance…
…before heading up again. Hemmed in by trees there weren’t even any views, so it was a pretty tedious affair. Mind you, I was staying mentally busy by contemplating alternative names for the track. In the end, the best I could come up with was Sucks Balls Track. What do you reckon? I reckon it would fit in well with all the other bizarrely named locations on the map.
Believe it or not, but this was only five kilometres or so of climbing, but it seemed to take an eternity. Oh yeah, it continued to go up…
…and the only life I saw was a dead cicada on the track. There’s no justice, is there? Fancy, the only life I came across was already dead. I presume he died of absolute boredom.
Even in my fly covered state, I was switched on enough to keep a lookout for the old path, which leaves Zeka Spur Track and heads off up Wonnangatta Spur. The thing is though, my notes didn’t really explain what I was to look for, so it’s lucky the thing was marked on the GPS. I’m not sure if this was the start, but according to the GPS, this was it. Huh?
Remember, on the right is Zeka Spur, but where the fallen tree lies is the Wonnangatta Spur track. Well, that’s what the GPS said anyway. How was I meant to spot it? Anyway, maybe there’s a more obvious opening further up, but I couldn’t be stuffed looking for it. All I wanted to do was get off the Zeka Spur ASAP, so I ploughed up the small hill, thinking I’d have some casual terrain to stroll on.
Little did I know, but the landscape ahead of me was covered in fallen trees…
…and rarely did I see some nice clear grass to stroll on.
Actually, I’m not sure if someone is taking the piss. This ‘track’ on the spur must have last been used approximately one million years ago. There is a track there, but I only saw it about three times for about ten feet, before it vanished again. In the end, I gave the finger to looking for the track and opted to head up following the ground with the least resistance.
It’s hard to describe, but I’ve never stepped over or gone around so many fallen trees in my life. It was a complete fallen tree-arama.
You know what else was dumb? I hadn’t put my gaiters on for this day, as I thought I’d be on comfortable tracks the entire time. Well, that went out the window, as this was a grass stomping affair and I hoped not to squash any hidden snakes on the way.
It was only at this point I actually had some sort of view. The Viking was visible through the trees…
…as all I did was walk uphill, whilst keeping a bit of an eye on the GPS. More for reading material than anything else, as it was quite tedious.
Man, it was bloody hot as well. I thought I’d bring sexy back to hiking by showing a bit of skin. Unfortunately though, letting my knees out only got them sunburnt.
I must say, this spur wasn’t all bells and whistles like I thought it would be. The stepping over tree caper had thoroughly worn thin.
I’ve really got nothing else to add. It was hot, it was uphill and I’d had a gutful. Finally, I reached some open ground and I hit the track I’d been on a few days earlier which led from the Howitt carpark to Macalister Springs. It was easily one of the happiest moments of my life.
I was so ecstatic to see this sign again, I felt a cramp in my trousers…
…and the next picture was the best one I took all trip. “Why’s that?” you ask. It’s because only a few hundred metres further on was my car. Never did I feel so grateful for the end of a walk than this one.
Reaching the carpark, I dumped the pack and retrieved a bottle of water from the boot and proceeded to drown myself. I’d set out from the Wonnangatta with 4.5 litres and I’d run out near the top. Leaving water in the car is one trick I learned years ago. Enough to guzzle until I become waterlogged and a bit extra to pour over the head and wash some sweat and grime off.
There were two other blokes getting kitted up at the carpark. Where were they walking? Well, they were off to do the Viking circuit of course. They asked me a few questions and I told them it would be the greatest walk they’d ever do in their lives. I may have been lying.
What do I think of the entire circuit? Even now I’m not sure. I’m glad I did it, but I can’t see myself even contemplating doing it again. The Crosscut and Mount Speculation are fantastic and I can see myself returning there, but the rest? I’m sorry, but you can jam it. Actually, if you have a friend with a 4WD, I’d say leave it down near the Wonnangatta River. Avoiding the entire Zeka Spur slog would be a blessing. Maybe if the final day hadn’t happened, I’d have nicer thoughts about the overall walk! There is nothing to add, but the last day pushed the boundaries of crapola.
Why did it hurt? Well, let’s look at the profile from the GPS…
Oh, I see. There doesn’t seem to be many flat bits? Actually, when I think of the entire walk, all it seemed to consist of was uphill sections and knee smashing descents. I can’t really think of any flattish, mellow walking? Definitely one for the hiker who loves a bit of ball breaking.
A perusal of the GPS indicated one thing. There was more climbing on the last day than the Viking tilt the day before. No wonder I was absolutely rooted when I reached the car.
So there you have it. The Viking Circuit in all its fun and glory. Is that it? Oh no, how about this one?
Remember my two companions, MK and the General? How they didn’t wait for me when I reached Zeka Spur Track? Well, I had the last laugh. When they reached the Wonnangatta Spur they weren’t sure of what was ahead, as they only had a map. I was the one with both GPS and compass. You know where this is going?
Oh yeah, they ended up walking the length of Zeka Spur Track until it reached Howitt Road! I can only imagine the horror, as that was an additional 13 km of hideous track from the turn-off onto the spur. Mind you, even though they walked all those extra miles, they still beat me to the top, but at least I wasn’t on the road. I would have been suicidal if that was the case.
All over? Yep, it’s Christmas and the year is finishing fast. Next post will be my end of year special, which will include some hits and misses, plus a few photos I couldn’t sneak in during the past 12 months. Time to go…
Lovely write up – as usual.
You should look at crowd sourcing some funds for a walk. I'd like to see you do the Port Davey/South Coast Track in Tasmania, or more of the Cradle Mountain National Park, or Maria Island. Or what ever.
How about the Kokoda Trail.
Thanks, but I'm not sure anyone would give me money to just walk and blog about it? Surely people are not that generous to fund my lifestyle?! Mind you, the South Coast Track has been on my radar for years. One day maybe!
The one trip which really has bugged me is the Larapinta Trail. I've got leave in May, so that's on the agenda for then. Mind you, it's pending my neck problem, which really is problem! At the rate I'm going I might have to end up under the knife, so if that's the case, there'll be nothing epic for months.
Ken, not sure about the Kokoda Trail? It's never really appealed due to the thought of dozens of people tramping through the bush at once? Not my sort of style and also the price! One I looked at was about $8000! If I'm spending money for a walk, I think I'd like to do the John Muir Trail in the States. That appeals to me and I'd like to fit in an overseas jaunt in the next few years. Depending on my neck of course!!
I thought that the combination of steep terrain, heat and humidity would allow for many comic moments/near death experiences. By the way it was nice to see the Zeka Track having walked up it in mist and not seen anything much. Also shouldn't the Wonnangatta spur leave the Zeka Track on the right hand side. That is my memory and in the John Chapman lonely planet guide.
Sorry about your neck, Greg. Sheesh, I hope you can work out something long-term 'cause that sounds like a real pain in the… Well.
One of those glad-you-did-it-but-never-again walks, eh? Or maybe not even glad you did it? That road walk does seem like a bastard.
I'm hoping you're able to tackle the Larapinta as it seems unlikely I'll get a chance in the near future. The South Coast Track is great as I've said – just bring a snorkel for the mud pits.
Mate, I've no idea if the Zeka Spur can look good in any weather 🙂 I would have appreciated some cloud and a cool breeze, as I melted trudging up it. You know what? I reckon it sucked so much, if a car came past heading my way I would have put all pride aside and tried to get a lift!
Yeah, I remember reading about the variation, but if I wasn't so mind-frazzled from the off-track business the night before, I might have given it a go.
Thanks Goat. Yeah, this neck thing has held me up a bit over the past two years. I had a cortisone injection, which was sort of a temporary fix. It put me off doing week long hikes since though, as I'm not sure about carrying a heavier pack. The whole thing creates a snowball effect, as less walking is happening, so I end up putting on a bit more weight and so it goes! Anyway, doing an MRI next week and off to the neurosurgeon again. I reckon if he says operate, this time I'll take a punt and do it. Hard to put up with this constant pain, so maybe the operation will be a fix. Wait and see!
I was glad I did the walk, but it was certainly tainted a bit by all the rushing. I really didn't get a chance to mellow out and take in the surroundings. That's me though, as a walking machine like you would have killed it without much fuss!
Yes, depending on the body, Larapinta is May. As always, a bit up in the air though! I had this idea years ago to do the South Coast Track in winter. I think now, I'll just be normal and look at it in the warmer months. Sometimes there's no point making things even harder for myself!
Another post that made me want to cry (not laugh-cry, but cry-cry). Can you please write about ironing, your sheets, or even trouser cramps in more detail next time so I can recover?
Nothing worse than a bit of cry-cry! Have a thought for me. You might be in your armchair reading this, but I had to relive the horror by writing it up!
Oh yeah, I'm very particular with my ironing, so I could do an 'Ironing 101' post? Mm… trouser cramps could be controversial. I'm not sure if I can pull that one off!
Thanks for dropping by!
Where do I go with that last comment? I have succeeded in restraining myself. Well done Me.
Ás you know Greg, I had a similar experience on ZST and also used my blog to winge about it. I wonder though if we're "telling it like it is"..
..or just a couple of pussies
Yes Me, you've done well restraining yourself. This blog is rated 'PG' you know! 🙂
Hi Andrew, yes I read your post of the ZST. What I noticed though was you did it about 3 hours quicker than me! Man, I was trudging for the entire day and it felt like I was never out of first gear the whole way.
Oh yeah, I'll make full admissions. If someone is built like a shaved matchstick then they'll wonder what all the fuss is about! My woes are part of the curse of being a fat bastard 🙂
Thanks for dropping by!
Wow! For a track to look steep it's got to be ridiculously hellish to walk up, and that's what your photos of Zeka Spur look like, never mind the commentary! I find the Mormon Track at Walhalla enough if a challenge, thanks. I'm not visiting this one! : )
Greg I wish hikers would give the Zeka Spur track a big miss as a way out of the Wannangatta Valley. There is nothing to recommend a slog up a dusty road. A much better alternative I did recently in a party of four was to head upstream criss-crossing the river for about 3 km following the old overgrown 4WD track that has a pad kept open by foot traffic of the numerous Sambar deer population. Contrary to rumour the blackberries are not a problem. Where a stream joins the river from the south is a flat spot for 2 or 3 tents. Its directly opposite a prominent knoll on the northern side of the river marked as 947 metres on the topo maps. Could camp here overnight (we did). From here you head south next to the stream for a short distance and quickly pick up a very prominent rocky ridge that climbs steeply to the south west with view points along the way and brings you out just near Macalister Springs hut. Highly recommend it as a better alternative to the dreaded Zeka!
Hi Dayna, it's hard to describe how crap it was! The thing is, most of the time hard days seem to mellow with time. So far, not this one! The athletically trim would race up it and not give it a second thought, but for me, any 1000+ metres of elevation climbed in a day is going to hurt! What made it worse is it was on the back of the previous day, which was a little mental. A sort of cumulation of crap 🙂
I think I read about the Mormon Track in a blog post of yours? I'd better have another look at it 🙂
Hi Jim. Thanks for your comment.
Thanks also for the tips! I did actually think the blackberries were a bit of a problem further up the river? Glad you've put that straight, as finding that sort of info can be a bit hard to find.
Your directions are good as well. A few things though. I did read about it in the Chapman notes and ran it by my walking companions. The result was a bit of a consensus to stick with the 'known' road, as the idea was, "Who cares? Let's not have to think too much and just walk out". This theory is always a good when one doesn't know what's to come!
I'd read most people slam the Zeka Spur as being a shocker, but having not experienced it, I wondered, "How bad can it be?" 🙂 I also didn't really know it was as formed and road-like. For some reason I thought it was a little disused and a bit overgrown? Just goes to show I know bugger-all!
If I was back there again, I'd utilise all my hindsight and say, "Don't go near that stinkin' road!!"
Actually, for a bit of comedy, how bad must it be during this heat wave? I melted with the temp in the low 20's. Anything over 30 would be beyond purgatory 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to comment, as hopefully it puts others who read this on the right track to avoid the dreaded ZST!