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MONDAY 1/12/14 TO THURSDAY 11/12/14


Matthew - Start at DevonportTony at Devonport

                                                                                                        At the Start of our Walk


The Lead-up to the Walk

Following our visit to Maria Island in September 2014 Matthew and I wanted to do some walking in the Central Highlands area, visiting some of the old huts as we went. For reasons that I can't now recall these plans were put on hold. Meanwhile, I resurrected thoughts about walking the Tasmanian Trail, a series of inter-linked, multi-purpose tracks, trails and back roads from Devonport to Dover - a distance of about 480kms. The Trail is primarily intended for horse or bike riders, who would be expected to take around two weeks to complete it, although there have been walkers who have trekked, with some support, in about 24 days. I realised this would not be a wilderness experience but I was attracted to the challenge of walking from one end of Tasmania to the other.

My plans were really to attempt this walk, carrying all my gear, alone towards the end of January 2015. I mentioned this to Matthew and his response was that he would be interested in doing the walk with me but he was planning a multi-day sea kayak trip with a friend at about that time. He said that he was hoping to get three weeks before Christmas and would I be interested in doing the walk earlier?

When I said that I would be interested in walking in December - and with the possibility of sharing the pain of walking with him - the decision was made. So, with not much pre-training, I joined us up in the Tasmanian Trail Association and gained access to the guide book for routes, camping sites, huts (deposit paid for a necessary key) and other helpful hints.

Day 1 - Monday 1/12/14 - Hobart to Devonport to Latrobe (10.7kms walking)

After a somewhat inauspicious start - arriving at the wrong bus terminal in Hobart and hurrying in drizzly rain to the correct one (I had booked us on Redline rather than Tassielink) - the bus trip to Devonport's Bass Strait Ferry Terminal was uneventful.

Having taken up most of the day in travelling to the beginning of the walk, our late start time of 3.30pm meant we only intended to go as far as Latrobe. The perceived benefit of this short walk was that it would allow our bodies to adapt to walking with 25kg packs, something neither of us had done since our 4-day visit to Maria Island in September 2014 ( Third Visit to Maria Island ).

We needed a couple of rest stops along River Road. Matthew changed his boots and wore Teva sandals as he was having some trouble with an Achilles tendon strain. We hoped it would improve over time and not get any worse on the trip south.

After setting up camp at the Latrobe Caravan Park ($25 ouch! for an unpowered caravan site) and changing out of our walking gear we wandered along to the town centre to get something to eat, rather than use our meagre food supplies too early in our trip, hoping we weren't too late for shops to be open.

On getting back to the tents we made use of the shower facilities and washed our walking clothes. It was a mild evening so we expected them to be dry by morning. We relaxed writing up our notes in the camp kitchen/shelter, listening to several friendly Asian people (fruit pickers on working holidays) as they prepared their evening meals.

Day 2 - Tuesday 2/12/14 - Latrobe to Railton (20.0kms)

It was an uneventful night, that is after a wine-drinking lunatic finally decided to stop wandering around talking and shouting to himself and headed back to his accommodation.

Breakfast was a cup of tea and a cheese sandwich that I had brought from home the previous day.

After packing up our gear we called in at a take-away in Latrobe for a toasted sandwich. We finally started our day's walk at about 9.15am. Initially our walk took us through the outskirts of Latrobe, along the sealed section of Old Deloraine Road, before making a left turn onto a gravel section of the road with a 'No Through Road' sign.

We were encouraged by this as it meant that vehicle traffic would be greatly reduced. At a locked gate the road became a rough 4WD track, very easy to follow, especially with the occasional ‘TT’ triangular signs and our route maps to guide us at road junctions.

Tasmanian Trail Sign

Near the end of the gravel track the TT signs directed us through a small, locked gate and diagonally up across a grassy paddock towards a large farm gate and on to Native Plains Road. At the time we wondered why we needed to go across the paddock but, later on at Railton, Kevin Norris (Northern TT Coordinator) explained that there were access issues further along the track that would have prevented us from continuing in that direction. Apparently, not all landowners welcome TT travellers.

Whilst walking this day Matthew had developed blisters between the big toe and the next toe of each foot and, just before Hoggs Bridge over the Mersey River, one of the blisters burst, making progress very difficult for him. (Matthew later discovered that the boots were too tight to fit the medium walking socks plus thin inner socks and the tightness was compressing his feet.  At the end of the day he said it felt like someone had been beating them with a stick.  Later he changed to only wearing the thin inner socks and this made the boots bearable.)

We sat on a grassy area near the bridge while he examined the damage and applied some Betadine and a bandaid to help to ease the discomfort. His feet did not look good. As a result, the final 4kms into Railton were very painful for Matthew. In town we called in to see Kevin Norris and his wife, Sandy, where we were made most welcome with cups of tea and water to help rehydrate us. (We had made the mistake of bringing only 1 litre of Gatorade each at the start of the day, instead of 2+ litres.)

Kevin and Sandy very kindly offered us dinner and breakfast but we politely declined and instead booked ourselves into the local hotel at $50 a night. Plain accommodation with showers down the hall but quite adequate for our needs.

We decided to have a rest day on Wednesday, to reassess Matthew’s feet situation and to decide whether to continue the walk on Thursday or abandon it altogether. Not our preferred option but certainly possible.

As mentioned above, Matthew had been wearing two pairs of socks, one thin pair and one thicker pair. He thought this didn’t leave enough room for his feet to be comfortable in his boots. He had bought the boots online and, even though they were the correct size, they seemed to be about one half a size too small. As I had a spare pair of thin socks I gave them to Matthew to replace the thicker pair to see if they made him more comfortable.

We took the opportunity to have a shower, wash some clothes and, at the local IGA shop, bought a few supplies for our evening meal (baked beans and 2 slices of buttered bread each). We enjoyed a relaxing evening and had a very comfortable night. 

Day 3 – Wednesday 3/12/14 – Rest Day at Railton

We managed to get a free breakfast of tea and toast at the hotel. We wandered around Railton for half an hour or so until Matthew sensibly decided to head back to the pub and rest his damaged feet. (He seemed to have had no further trouble with his Achilles tendon, which was a relief.)

At the newsagency/post office I saw a book about the disused Railton railway so decided to buy it and send it home, to await my arrival sometime in the future.

To help fill in the day I walked the 1.5kms along the old rail track formation to Sykes Memorial, where I took a few photos and tried (unsuccessfully) to make some sense of the engraved designs and symbols on the faces of the carved rock slabs. Even when I later looked up the website about the memorial I wasn’t much wiser!

Sykes Memorial at RailtonSykes MemorialSykes MemorialSykes MemorialSykes Memorial

When I returned to the pub we had a salad roll for lunch and watched the funeral service on TV for Phillip Hughes.

Meanwhile, Matthew decided he would be able to continue the walk if we reduced our pack loads by a few kilograms from the 25kgs that we had been carrying. We took off our pack modules, took out my tent, poles and pegs, my heavy tarp and small back pack. Matthew took out some of his extra clothing and 2 unused gas cylinders. We shared the remaining gear, probably saving about 4kgs each in the process. He left the surplus gear with Dan, a friend living in Railton, who offered to deliver the stuff to Hobart on his next trip, to await us on our return.

Dinner tonight was a bread roll with baked beans and cashews, followed by a cup of tea and squashed fly biscuits.

Another peaceful night, ready for the next day of walking.

Day 4 – Thursday 4/12/14 – Railton to Sheffield (18.5kms)

Fortunately, Matthew’s feet had improved and he felt OK to continue with our walk.

We left Railton at 8.35am, after not having had our free tea and toast breakfast as the manager was away from the pub at the time.

The main route for this day was along the old Railton/Sheffield rail route (closed down in 1957). Occasionally, the route crossed roads but eventually we reached Sheffield after passing alongside a firing range that, fortunately, was not being used at the time.

On reaching the Sheffield recreation ground we used the TT key to open the locked toilet door. We set up our tent and put our packs and trekking poles inside the toilet building while we walked into town, in light rain, to buy lunch. Matthew bought a few more supplies (cup-a-soups and pasta meals) for the following three days, as there would be no more shops until we reached Deloraine.

Campsite at SheffieldMt Roland in Cloud

We headed back to our campsite, where it had almost stopped raining, then went across to the grandstand where we sat, checked the track notes and maps for the next stage of our adventure and wrote up some notes.

Dinner was a salad roll and a cup of tea. We tidied the area around us, putting the rubbish in a 44-gallon drum that was near the toilets and were in the tent for an early night by about 8.30pm.

Day 5 – Friday 5/12/14 – Sheffield to Gog Range (16.0kms)

We made a reasonably early start, on the road by 8.00am, after breakfast of a banana and a cup of tea. The road took a few twists and turns until we reached Paradise Road – quiet and very pleasant going, even though there were a few ups and downs on the way. While walking on Old Paradise Road we met a young (20-something) European man coming towards us, carrying a small backpack. We said “Hello” and asked where he was heading to. He said he was intending to climb Mt Roland, and asked if the next turn left would take him there. He also said he needed to be back at Beulah Road on Saturday 6/12. As neither of us had approached Mt Roland from this particular direction we didn’t know and asked him if he had a map. He said he didn’t have a map and went merrily on his way. We both thought that, even if he found the correct track, the top half of Mt Roland was hidden by low cloud. We did not think it was possible to do what he wanted to do in the time available. As he left we shook our heads in disbelief.

We stopped for lunch, VitaWeat biscuits and cheese with Vegemite, at the picnic area near Minnow River bridge, just before we turned off Paradise Road and started walking along Lower Beulah Road. After we had walked about 4kms along the road we found a small campsite a short distance along a disused and overgrown access track alongside a pine plantation. We set up the tent and Matthew’s 3m x 3m overhead lightweight tarp to provide some shelter from the expected rain.

Gog RangeBreak at Minnow River BridgeRest at Minnow River Bridge


 Minnow River            Minnow River Ferns


Campsite Lower Beulah RdCampsite at Lower Beulah RoadCreek at Lower Beulah Rd

There was a creek a short distance away, through the bush across the road. We enjoyed a brief wash in the creek and immediately felt much better for it. We also washed some clothes and hung them under the tarp during the night, hoping they would be dry by morning.

Dinner was a Continental pasta meal with some nuts added for flavour.

Day 6 – Saturday 6/12/14 – Gog Range to Dunorlan (18.0kms)

There was rain overnight – very light but continuous. We appreciated Matthew’s overhead tarp in the morning as it made packing up a bit less unpleasant. Breakfast consisted of 1½ squashed fly biscuits and water.

On the road by 8.05am. After nearly 8kms we reached Dynans Bridge over the Mersey River, where we had a break, knowing there was a 1 hour climb out of the valley immediately ahead of us.

At the top of the hill the road continued undulating. At one point a man in a ute stopped to ask if we needed anything. We said that if he could spare some water we would appreciate it. He said he lived only a short distance further on so we followed his directions to a farmhouse, where he filled our water bottles for us. A kind gesture, very much appreciated.

By the time we reached Dunorlan we were becoming concerned about where we might set up camp for the night, as the surrounding land was entirely farm paddocks. This was one of the problems when walking the Tasmanian Trail.

Matthew saw a farmer driving out of a farm towards us and, as he approached, asked him if he knew where we could camp for the night. He (Robbie Elmer, when I asked his name) immediately said we would be welcome to camp in his paddock. As we set up our tent, with some relief, a dozen assorted cattle came wandering over to check us out, presumably looking for food handouts.

Campsite Dunorlan Paddock

We talked to them for about 15 minutes, by which time they were beginning to lose interest as we had nothing to offer them, apart from kind words.

Dinner was only instant porridge with sultanas, with a cup of tea to follow. During the early evening Robbie called down to ask if we needed anything. We said everything was fine and thanked him for his concern.

A very early night – in the tent before 8.00pm – with a cold wind blowing. This increased in intensity until it reached (I guessed) storm force levels. No rain thankfully and the tent was not damaged.

A problem arose with my suprapubic catheter. During the night I always use a urine drainage bag to collect my urine, to avoid the need to get up out of my sleeping bag at very frequent intervals. This night the bag I was using sprang a leak whilst I was in my sleeping bag. Fortunately, no real damage done and I used the spare new bag I had with me. However, I then had no spare bag and did not feel comfortable with that, especially as we had some remote walking ahead of us over the Central Highlands. Clearly, I would need to obtain another supply in Deloraine. Another problem for me was that, probably because of all the walking activity, at night I was suffering from bladder spasms, making sleep difficult. I had no way of fixing this problem.

Day 7 – Sunday 7/12/14 – Dunorlan to Deloraine (13.5kms)

We woke to cold, blasting wind. Not feeling inclined to cook breakfast or even to have a hot drink, we packed up quickly and left the paddock to start walking by 6.45am, preferring to wait for food until we reached Deloraine. We waved our thanks to the Elmers as we left their paddock.

It was only about 3kms to the Bass Highway (not actually on the Tasmanian Trail route but the most direct route to Deloraine) so we took this route in preference to meandering through back roads..

The remaining distance to Deloraine had some worrying moments as vehicles (trucks especially) flashed by at 100kms/hr or more.

To add to our discomfort we were struggling into an unpleasant headwind that buffeted us around quite a lot, with our heavy packs swaying from side to side. During the previous evening we had made an online booking at the Mountain View Country Inn Motel on the outskirts of Deloraine. Not cheap at $109 per night for 2 nights but we were really looking forward to a bit of comfort, hot showers and a chance to wash some clothes.

On arriving we had nearly four hours to fill in before we had access to the room so we left our packs at the motel and walked into town for a toasted sandwich and coffee/orange juice, then bought a few supplies at the supermarket for our immediate use. In Deloraine I saw the Llama Shop, immediately bringing back thoughts about how easy life would be if we had a pack-llama to accompany us on our travels/travails.

Llama Shop Deloraine

As soon as we could we enjoyed a beautiful shower and relaxed in the room during the afternoon. A meal in town at Ye Olde British Hotel – scallops, rice, chips for Matthew and grilled snapper with chips and salad for me. We relaxed in the room during the evening – cups of tea and watching TV.

Day 8 – Monday 8/12/14 – Rest Day at Deloraine

We discussed whether or not we had enough gas to last us through to the Central Highlands (where Matthew had previously hidden two new gas cylinders to await our arrival some days later). We decided we shouldn’t have taken the cylinders out of our packs at Railton. I discovered that Becks had in stock just what we needed so we bought two.

While Matthew relaxed in the motel room I set out to visit first a pharmacy, a community nursing building (closed), then a doctor’s practice and finally the Deloraine Hospital to try to buy some spare urine drainage bags. At the hospital I explained my predicament to a ward sister, who very kindly gave me two bags. I offered to pay for them but she would not accept any payment. I was very grateful.

On returning to the motel room we had a banana roll and a cup of tea for lunch, sitting at a picnic table at the front of the motel.

The next activity was to make a list of the items we thought we might need for the walk to Bracknell (expected to take us three days at our normal walking rate of about 15kms per day).

A Subway salad roll for our dinner, followed by another relaxing evening checking route information and maps for the next few days.

Day 9 – Tuesday 9/12/14 – Deloraine to Cluan Tier Road (16.3kms)

Before we left the motel room to start our walk we finished a 1 litre carton of milk. We didn’t realise it at the time but this was a big mistake.

For the past week Matthew had been suffering in silence from an upset stomach (apart from his other injuries) and really should have continued avoiding dairy products. We both forgot.

It seemed to take forever to actually leave Deloraine because we first needed to walk the 2kms from the motel down into town, then across the river and up East Barrack Street towards Osmaston.

We had plenty of rest stops along the road and by the time we reached Quamby Brook Road we realised we would need to ask a friendly resident to help out with refills of our water bottles. At a farm gate we saw a man checking his mail box. We thought it was too good an opportunity to miss so, after saying “G’day” Matthew asked if we would be able to fill our water bottles. He rode his trail bike back to the farmhouse while we entertained his friendly dog at the gate.  While we were chatting he also told us about getting the local creek water tested after finding dead fish in the local creeks.  The tests had revealed the presence of nasty chemicals that were believed to have come from forestry plantations.  This was more than a little concerning as we would need to drink from those creeks. We thanked him very much and continued on our way.

A few kilometres along Cluan Tier Road we found a pleasant, flat, open area to pitch the tent. The downside was that it had been left very untidy, with broken plastic car parts littered around. We set up the tent and put the garbage in a single heap, away from where we had camped. Not a very satisfactory solution maybe but it was the best we could do.

Campsite Cluan Tiers Road

As a result of wanting to use up our motel supplies, we had drunk two mugs of milk earlier in the day. Matthew had been suffering with an upset stomach all day. In fact, he had had an upset stomach for more than a week and had been taking Gastro-stop in an attempt to control his discomfort, but he had temporarily forgotten about this problem.

Almost as soon as we had put up the overhead tarp, it started to rain, gently at first. Our water supplies needed topping up so, not wishing to use the nearby creek for drinking water, we directed water run-off into the billycan and filled our water bottles. However, this was just the start of the rain. Very soon after we started collecting water there was an absolute deluge, to the extent that we were concerned about being washed out as water flowed not far from the tent. Fortunately, this did not happen.

When it came time to prepare our evening meal Matthew said he wouldn’t be able to eat anything. No cooking but I made a cup of tea, which I had with some biscuits and nuts. I was getting worried about Matthew and his lack of food intake. Also, we were both probably not drinking enough to remain properly hydrated.

Things were not really looking good for us at this stage. We still had two days walking along Cluan Tiers Road before we reached Bracknell, which is a small township with only basic facilities, no medical assistance etc. From Bracknell we were heading to the Central Highlands and would be out of touch except for emergencies for another seven days. I suggested to Matthew that I thought we should finish our walk here as we both had health/medical issues that did not seem to be improving.

He reluctantly agreed.

The rain began to ease off slightly but did not stop, which was a good sign for us to get into the tent and at least be comfortable.

As soon as darkness fell (about 8.30pm) we heard the sound of approaching vehicles. Matthew poked his head out of the tent and saw headlights of two 4WDs and a sedan, almost at full throttle. I expected them to be continuing further along the road but they stayed within 30 metres of us, yelling and shouting and were repeatedly driving through what the next day we discovered was a deep mud hole. After about an hour of this amusement they decided that was enough and left us in peace. 

Day 10 – Wednesday 10/12/14 - Cluan Tiers Road to Deloraine (15.5kms)

A peaceful night, apart from my bladder spasms that kept me awake for longer than I would have liked.

We took our time packing, with some feelings of disappointment at having cut short our adventure but also some relief that this would be the last day carrying our heavy packs.

When we reached sealed roads and farmland, we were entertained by various herds of cattle that followed us along their fence-lines to the ends of their paddocks. When we stopped for biscuits and cheese they milled around their gate, apparently expecting us to open it and take them somewhere else. It wasn't even milking time!

On this section we travelled for a while along Bogan Road. In our unkempt condition it seemed as though the road had been named for us. Matthew decided that the sign was placed high on a pole to make theft of the sign a bit more difficult.

Friendly CattleBogan Road Sign Deloraine Caravan Park

We eventually made it back to Deloraine and headed straight for the caravan park. This was a touch of relative luxury for us after the previous night, with showers, toilets, camp kitchen, tables and seats. We set up the tent near the camp kitchen then headed for the showers. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening, first in the sun outside then in the kitchen, chatting with other camping people after admiring their off-road camping trailers that they had set up nearby.

It rained through the night but we had the luxury of packing up the next morning in the kitchen that, fortunately, we had to ourselves at that time.

We headed up to the bus stop to wait for the bus that would take us back to Hobart, via Launceston to end our shortened trip.

[... to be continued ...]


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