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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Tiger Trails Tarkine Hike - Day 5 - Across the Huskisson

[image]Since I've been in Tasmania, I've found I often need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet. I finally realised that it's because I'm sleeping so much longer than I would normally, due to hiking in the months around winter. Last night I had to get up but also had to put on some socks since my feet were cold, and also had to do some midnight surgery on my right big toe, as my boot seemed to have pressed my nail into the toe, and it was hot and painful. In the morning it was still sore, but not as bad.

It only rained a little overnight, and the river went down a little more. I got packed ready for the river crossing. After breakfast, we packed the communal gear and walked down to the river crossing point. The water was still rushing very powerfully.
Darvis had told us we would use a technique where a small group would cross together, supporting each other by holding onto a stout piece of wood. We were grouped by Darvis into two groups of 4 and one group of 3. It was somewhat funny when Noboru realised what we were going to do, as he had either not heard or not understood the talk last night.
Darvis decided that he, Paul, Chris, and Natalie would go firs, and after a little preparation they stepped int the water. The water made a big wake around Darvis as it hit him, partly protecting the others from the force. It was quite deep – up to his crotch. Their progress was very slow. After about 15 minutes, we started timing them, by which stage they were only about 5 metres from the shore.
Suddenly one of them half fell over and the effect was like skittles, the went over one after another. Fortunately they only fell part way over before enough balance was regained to stand up fully again, everyone on the shore was holding their breaths though.

Inching onward, the were still not even halfway across after about 45 minutes. We were all starting to get concerned, and Darvis shouted back asking me to check up and down stream to see how hard crossing would be there.
I went downstream through the bush, and found a rapid we could see from the crossing. The water right next to the shore looked very deep and swift. I stripped my pants off, and got in with a stout stick for support. I barely got a metre from shore before the water was hip deep, and impossible to move in. At every step, I was forced downstream. I gave up and got out, and Ben who was with me, suggested we try upsteam.
We went upstream to near some big rocks, which were sticking out of the water. I got in again, and found it a little less deep, but still very powerful. I managed to get out about 5 metres by going diagonally with the water, but suddenly lost my footing, as I was supporting myself almost entirely by bracing the stick diagonally into the river bed. I plunged into the water up to my chest, and stayed that way for several seconds as I was pushed downstream. Finally I found a foothold with enough purchase to resist the flow and was able to stand again. My jumper, shirt and thermal top were wet, which made me worry a bit, as they represented most of my warm clothes. Fortunately I'd hitched them up, so it was only the bottom parts which got wet.
Returning to the main crossing, I decided to test it to compare with the other spots. I found it was the easiest of the three, and could have made it out to where Darvis and the others were still crossing, although I was still heavily reliant on the stick as a brace, and couldn't have done it alone with my pack.

We waited on shore as they continued inching across. We could see that their legs were bright red from the cold, and I knew from the short time I'd been in the water that their feet would be completely numb.
Finally after about 1 hour and 40 minutes, they reached the other side, to cheers and clapping from us. We noticed that Chris had lost one of her sandals.

After waiting for Darvis to go downstream to act as a rescuer, should something go wrong, Ben, Noboru, and I got in the water.
For the first 5 metres we were all just moving together, but suddenly we all went down briefly, dipping our bodies and packs in the water. Whilst seeing the others take so long, we had decided to charge it, otherwise it could take 5 hours for all of us to cross. After almost going for a swim, we got organised – one would move their feet while the others held the pole steady as a hand hold. I was on the upstream end, breaking the water, making it very hard to move my feet onto secure foot holds on the slippery rock bottom. We were moving fairly fast, with Me moving first, then Ben, then Noboru, Ben again, then me again, and so on…. After we got to halfway, Rob Brendon, Chelsea and Zinta set off.
After about 20 – 25 minutes, we made it to the other shore, and my feet were completely numb – it felt like they were made of wood for all the feeling they had, which made clambering along the bank to the track tricky. As Darvis's group was crossing, the sun came out, lighting the track on the far shore, so when we got there, we sat in the sun, and tried to get warm and dry. I couldn't believe Darvis' group didn't have hypothermia.

After getting dry, we set off up the hill, which soon levelled out, and came to a recent regrowth area, which the track stayed in for quite a while. The track then went fairly suddenly straight up the side of a very steep hill, and we were all a bit out of breath and hot when we reached the top. From here, the track went back into old-growth forest with huge Eucalypts.
We stopped for lunch in an area free of undergrowth, then continued on. The track wound back and forth around obstacles on the original ancient bulldozed track. At one point, Darvis suggested we stop and sit down for 5 minutes in silence, to just be at one with the forest. I laid down and it was very relaxing, peaceful and tranquil.
We continued walking along a ridge in a little dryer forest with huge Eucalypts, and occasional views out over the surrounding valleys and ridges

Our campsite was a fair way along the ridge, and it was nearly dark when we arrived. Again it was in amongst the big Ecucalypts, this time it was a slightly wider, clearer part of the track.
Darvis, Paul and I went to get water, as it was a fair walk away. We jogged down the hill to the stream in about 7 minutes, then filled all the water bladders and bottles, put them in our packs, and trudged back up the hill in about 25 minutes in the dark.
When we got back, the others had managed to get a fire going, but it was almost out, since the wood was a bit damp. With a bit of coaxing, though we got it going well, and it was a very nice change for the last night of the trip. We were running a little low on the food to go with the rice that was in the food drop at the creek. Noboru, however came up with a pretty nice dish based on dried mushrooms. We were all a little sad the trip was ending tomorrow.

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