Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mount Kosciuszko

Images will be added soon
Route: Mt. Kosciuszko Circuit ( Thredbo - Main Ridge - Charlotte Pass )
Weather: Mostly sunny with occasional rain
Date: 16th - 18th November 2007
1. Austin
2. Su Ling
3. Ramesh
4. Florence
5. Jason
6. Jian Sheng

Total Distance: 30km (to be confirmed)

On the 16th of December 2008, six mentally unstable hikers decided to tackle Mt. Kosciuszko (Kozzie) Circuit in two days. The plan was to meet up at Austin's home at seven something in the evening and leave by eight, reaching Thredbo by four o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately ( as always ), Su Ling was held back in her university due to power failure which resulted in her losing many weeks of work. So what does she do after the tragedy? Climb up Mt. Kozzie of course!!! In the mean time, the five of us aspiring blood donors sat around Austin's mosquito infested compound. Why? As I said...mentally unstable. The unexpected setback was however planned for. Being a group comprised of Singaporeans and Malaysians, we were very well aware of the dreaded Singapore/Malaysian Timing and gave ourselves a 4 hour buffer for our estimated 8 hour drive.

2 hours later at 10pm, Su Ling arrived and once our backpacks were loaded, we were set to go. Well...almost. 15 minutes into our ride, Florence announced..."I'm hungry" which resulted us having to stop by an Indian restaurant. Coming out from our warm and fuzzy van into the cool windy night, Florence hugged herself and made a statement (which shall not be published) that will not only stun us, but one that we will probably won't forget either. After about 20 minutes, when everyone is back in the van, when Florence is sitted happily at the back of the van with her curry rice, with me beside her shouting at her when she almost tipped the sauce all over the place, we were finally truly on our way to Mt. Kozzie.

What happened during the drive to Thredbo was a blurry memory due to me sleeping at the back seat, undisturbed by my fellow mates. Aaaaah...the benefits of not having a driving license.

When I finally awaken from my well deserved slumber, we were in a some tiny pleasant little town, lost. The roads were singled lane in each direction, lined with rows of trees with an occasional street lamp in between which gave it a "You are Sixteen, going on Seventeen" Sound of Music ambience to it. Going to the police wasn't of much help either because it was closed. Who wouldn't have guessed right? Even Clark Kent needs some sleep. After some detour and a toilet break at the town centre, we eventually found our way and nothing much happened after that besides trying to keep the driver awake.

At around 6 a.m. 17th January 2007, we stepped out into the lightening cool dawn of a village called Thredbo.The village itself was situated along a hilly contour and what struck us most about the place was the architecture of the buildings that covered the face of the hills. Being a tourist hotspot during winter, one would expect Thredbo to be filled with high rise apartments and hotels to accommodate the skiers/snowborders/look-see visitors. No, not Thredbo. Cosy wooden cabins, cottages, small private modern homes which integrated well with the older buildings littered the whole of the village. Ramesh, our residential architect was evidently impressed.

Parked in front of the Visitor's Center below the hills, we discovered that we couldn't obtain our walking permits and aiflift tickets because it only opens at 9 a.m. Being the organiser of the trip, I knew that it was entirely my fault but being myself, I played the "I didn't know" escape route. With nothing to do for the next 2.5 hours, we exercised what all Malaysians and Singaporeans do best...EAT!!! Out came Austin's BBQ stove (no, we did not intend to carry that on our walk), and in no time we were having a big and hearty breakfast. So there we were, sitting around feasting on crispy bacon and eggs with some bread, topped up with steaming hot coffee and tea, overlooking the hills and river stream across the car park. At that time, dawn has already passed and it was a cloudy morning.

After eating and cleaning up our food scraps, we still had an hour to spare so we decided to take a nap (is this suppose to be a bushwalk or a luxury tour?) in the van. Flies were starting to emerge (pesky flies!!! ARGH) and we did our best to drive them out of the van and tolerated with the remaining few. Our short nap was a disturbed one, not accounting our unfortunate driver, Jason, who was in a deep coma.

At 9 a.m. Ramesh and Austin went off to get our permits while Florence headed off to purchase the airlift tickets. The rest of us were either changing into our walking attire or repacking our bags. Unfortunately, while we were repacking our bags, we somehow neglected to pack our 3 lofts of bread which was meant to be our staple diet for the hard day's walk. Luckily, we were able to cope with it in the coming walk with lots of eggs, cucumbers, cheese, ham and raisins.

When all our tickets and permit were settled, we caught the Snowgum Airlift that connected Thredbo to our track up the mountains. The ride up on the chairlift was a pleasant one. Looking back now, I'm glad that we did not walk up to our track. Not only was it extremely steep, it would require us to waste precious time walking up. But of course, at that moment, with our bellies full and spirits high, I thought we could tackle even the heavens. Once our feet touched ground and backpacks close to our backs, we were ready to "bounce" (Ramesh Richards , 2007). Upon searching for the walking track, we realised that we had to climb a series of stairs to reach the track. From what we had to go through to reach the top of the stairs, I seriously doubted I could finish the circuit in time. Everyone was exhausted before we could even reach the track and I found it very demoralising. Our heavy bags (overloaded for a 2 day trip, mine was 20+ kg) did not help our cause to tackle the highest mountain in Australia and finishing the circuit.

Reaching the top, we were met with a track which was a metal walkway with holes for water drainage, elevated above the ground to prevent us lumbering beasts from stomping the surrounding flora (and fauna) to death. Ironically, it potentially saved our lifes too. Not too long after we were cruising along the metal walkway, Ramesh spotted a coiled snaked snugged comfortably right below the walkway. After some ogling and dawdling over the snake (what do you expect from city kids like us?), we continued our journey towards Mount Kozzie. Bushwalkng here was a whole new experience for me. Unlike my previous trips where there were lush jungles, gushing streams and moist air, I found the Mount Kosciuszko region extremely barren with small bushes covering the terrain of the rolling mountains. Some parts of the ground were either water logged or pools of water moving slowly downhill, fed by the melting winter snow. With the sun high up in the cloudless spring day, everything seems to complement each other and it was a very pleasant trip with many suprises along the way.

Our first challenge was to traverse across a snow filled path right after the Kosciuszko summit trail - Charlotte Pass intersection. Having left our bags behind at the intersection, crossing the snow laden pass was tricky but not difficult, the snow being "crunchy" as its still early in the day.When everyone crossed over in one piece, we continued upwards. At that time, many tour groups were there just to climb Mt. Kozzie. Having passed us, we finally caught up with them at the top of the mountain. I have to admit that it wasn't as spectacular as I thought it would be. I felt that the walk up the mountain was much more rewarding. Nonetheless, we sat around, looking towards the distance and absorbing our surrounding. We also took turns taking photographs on a memorial plaque made out of stacked bricks, getting to be the highest person in Australia at that moment in time. Where is the media when you need them?

During our short rest at the summit, groups of people were sitting around having their lunch, chatting and some were even exercising to keep the blood "flowing". Before leaving, a couple whom I think are Chinese asked us to help them take a photo of them together. In return we also asked them to take a group photo of us with our camera. The weird thing was, when the boyfriend was busy taking a photo of us with Jason's camera, the girlfriend was happily snapping a shot of us with her camera! Creeped out, my imagination ran wild from her wanting to keep a picture of supermodels like us or worst, poking pins into our picture in a voodoo ritual.

Hurrying our way back down the mountain to the intersection, we had a quick lunch of ham and cucumber as our "bread". I'm delighted to announce that it wasn't too bad at all. Then again, hunger has a way of transforming tasteless scrap into a fine diner. Also, being in bushland country, I had firsthand experience of getting poked in the butt by the needle sharp grass while eating. And the worst part was, the minute sharp ends broke and remain stuck in my pants, promising me a walk of constant pants adjusting to relieve the "affected site"! Woe! The agony of it all. Oh well, like what Calvin's father says (Calvin and Hobbes), "suffering builts character". I say this suffering builts a thicker butt.

After lunch and with the packs on our backs, we were off again to the trail that leads to the Main Ridge off the Mt. Kozzie Trail. Approaching the snow covered path again, we realised that if walking without our packs were tricky, now it was a whole different ball game. Being heavier and snow turning to sludge from the noon sun, it was slippery to the point of being almost impossible to stay upright while walking. Not even a quarter way through, we decided to back track off the snow path and evaluate our options.

Back to square one, we discussed and we agreed on two things. Number one, its not feasible to walk on the snowy track and we need to find our way around it. Second, we have to make a decision whether to abort our original plan of doing the full circuit or to choose a different route all together. The group continued contemplating and so, not keen on aborting our plans, I decided to go ahead in front of the group to find an alternative route around the snow path. The one thing I loved about this place is that because of the vast treeless terrain, one could see far ahead where the trail is leading and therefore find a route around any obstacles, whether its snow or a pile of huge jagged rocks. Ramesh followed suit and soon the rest followed up. Austin and Su Ling has decided that they will not attempt to go around the circuit because its too dangerous and I could relate to them especially after slipping and crawling over the sludge. But then again, I really love this kind of challenges. Mind you, its always a calculated risk and not just jumping into hot water and not expecting to be boiled.

So there it was, our group was splitted into two. I did not want to persuade them to join us because I feel that everyone is responsible for his or her actions and in the wilderness, it could mean the difference between life and death. By me persuading them and if they gave in against their better judgement, I would be responsible if anything happened to them and I cannot and will not bear that responsibility. (Below my article, I have added some space for Austin and Su Ling to write down their account of their experience)

Writing this article after 2 month from the day we climb Mt Kozzie, what impacted me the most about the whole trip was the fact that although it was a very long walk over a constant inconsistent undulating terrain (get it? ;p ), it was certainly a very beautiful walk. One could see the rolling hills filled with jagged rocks and patches of snow everywhere. Spring bushes were flowering under the hot sun of a windy spring afternoon. The path that we followed is now made up of cobbled stones which reminded me of :

Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road
Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road
You're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Okay, enough of my wonderful singing...

From the trip, I also got to know my friends better, especially Jason. I learnt that my good friend Jason Kang is a passionate "complainer". The funny thing is, he admits that he complains alot and even asked us to ignore him while he's complaining! But what I thought was important was that all of us did not mind each other's company and there weren't any discrepencies within our group.

One event however will be one that I will probably would not forget. While we were walking along a sandy path along the slope of a steep hill, we came across a path covered in...u guessed it, snow! The whole problem with this scenario was that we were along a very steep slope and the snow covered the path completely through all the way up the mountain. The steepness was such that one mistake would have plunged us down to our rocky graves. With the sludgy snow now soft and with our heavy backpack, we could not in any circumstances make a mistake. After much deliberation, Jason and Ramesh opt to go for a straigtforward approach by walking on the snow where the path should have been. Faced towards the mountainside, both walk sideways, trying to grap hold of the ice along the slope for support. Slowly but surely, they somehow managed to reach the other side of the path. Florence and I however deemed that relying on ice as a grip support was too risky so we chose to climb on the lower part of the slope which was free off ice. Griping onto some branches and God knows what, we too manage to clamber our way up onto solid ground. After that high adrenaline episode, I'm thankful until today that we made made it across safely and that's no exaggeration.

Also, I vividly remember how hungry I was while walking and I constantly harassed Florence for her raisins which was a life saver. It seems that I always have issues with bread. Or the bread has issues with me. In my previous trip to Wilson Promontory, my entire loft of bread was eaten by a possum. And this time around the bread is left forgotten in our van, getting moldy. What next?

As for our ambition to stick to our original plan, it turned out it was an ambitious one. Originally, the plan was to give ourselves 2 days to summit the 2nd and 3rd highest mountain along side Mount Kosciuszko and 1 day to travel back. Now, with us trying to do it all in one day, not counting Mt Kozzie, we managed to summit both the 2nd and 3rd highest mountain with only our eyes. So much for insisting to keep to our plans. But then again, it wasn't entirely our fault as the forces of nature were against us. Still early in spring, sunset was at 7 and we were taking longer then expected. So in the end, we all came to a consensus that we will just continue on without due delay to avoid being caught in the dark. Finding for a campsite posed another problem. About 2 hours before sunset, we decided to find a suitable campsite and we realised that the walking path was actually the valley of the snow bounded mountains around us. With the constant melt of snow, we tried to avoid camping right at the base of the mountains and so we walked on until we found a wide open plain which proved to be the perfect spot, relatively compared to the surrounding options.

Setting up tent beside a cluster of rocks and boulders, it served as a wind stopper from at least one direction as well as being the perfect spot to attend to the many calls of nature. A small stream 5 minutes away was available too and at least here, the grass were soft enough to lie down on.

So there we were, tent set up(borrowed from Jessica Tan), boots off, eating boiled eggs (kudos to Florence and Ramesh) with cheese, ham and cucumber with a cup(s) of boiled chrysanthemum tea. After dinner, we resorted to just laying around, sun in our faces from the west, looking up into the blue reddish sky, enjoying every moment of our well deserved rest. On that day, the sunset was nothing short off spectacular. Colouring the sky with bloody red, it promises us a fine day ahead.

The night however did not went as "la-di-da" as we expected. Strong winds threatened to blow our tent right of the ground and once inside, the supposedly 4-man-tent turned out to be too small for us 4 monstrosities. Ramesh's feet were practically dangling out the tent's opening and we were the perfect epitome of the saying "packed like a can of sardines". But as for me, wrapped around in my sleeping bag over my new inflatable sleeping mat, with an addition of thermal underwear, wool jumper my mother knitted over my PJs, a beanie and woolen socks, I was warm and toasty, ready for bed. Not so for my fellow teammates. According to Florence, while I was fast asleep, Ramesh had to rush out in the middle of the night to vomit. Jason on the other hand felt extremely clautrophobic and decided to sleep outside in the cold and prevailing wind. When morning arrived, we had more ham and cucumber for breakfast and Ramesh seems to be just fine. Once our tent and gears were packed, we were off again towards Charlotte Pass.

Crossing Snowy River was just pure fun! Hopping over slippery stones with the risk of plopping our boots into the freezing water below, it was certainly a welcomed change of sight and sound. Also, instead of just constantly dragging our feet and dumping it right in front of the other in a constant motion, now we had to make sure each foot does not slip and each jump perfectly executed. Occasionally, I would just stop on a flat surfaced stone and admire the river. The river itself was crystal clear and with the rising of the morning sun above the snowy mountain around us, if was a sight worth stopping for.

After crossing the Snowy River, we had to tackle the most grueling uphill climb I have ever experienced (yes, at the time of writing, I have summited Mount Kinabalu and I still think its not as hard as described in Snow River). Weighed down with over 20kg, it was really painful indeed moving step by step, breathing become a laborious chore from the exertion. By the time we reached the top, we were soaked with sweat. I sigh with relieve when I finally reached the top. Dumping my bag on the ground and slumping over a brick wall trying to catch my breath, I was given a pleasant surprise. Austin from apparently out of nowhere came into sight and we greeted each other in suprise. In my exhausted state while walking uphill, I had completely missed their campsite which was nicely set up right beside our trail behind some bushes. After our seperation yesterday, Austin and Su Ling has taken the Charlotte Pass and made camp just on top of the hill that we had just climbed. The thing that I remember clearly about their campsite was that it was infested with billions and billions of flies! They just wouldn't leave us alone. Constantly swapping and cursing, I escaped the plague by running to the public toilet situated nearby, trying to wash up whatever sweat and odour that might be attracting those blasted flies.

When everyone was done freshening up, smelling of insect repellent and Austin's tent was packed, we headed into Charlotte Pass. Unlike the Main Ridge Road, Charlotte Pass was wide and mostly flat which I was only thankful for. Thighs sore and feet aching, I could not imagine surviving another leg of mountain climbing. Along the way, we stopped by a hut which was built in the memory of a man who died here and later extended to commemorate a group of young men that lost their way as well as their lives.

Continuing on our last lap of our journey, we took a toilet break at the Kozzie trail - Charlotte intersection (did I mention that there is a portable toilet there?). About 20 minutes later and some group photos, we made our way down the familiar metal walkway. Viewing the walkway from higher ground, it looks as if the walkway was snaking its way along the rolling hills which made it mentally tiring just thinking of the distance we had to cover even if its an hour walk or so. However, when the Snowgum Airlift came to view, we felt a burst of energy and we all picked up our walking speed. Also, I was famished at that time and couldn't wait to head back down to Thredbo Village for a meal...or two.

Hopping onto the airlift, coming down was easy enough. When we touched down, we dumped all our packs into the van and headed off to a nearby restaurant. Honestly speaking, I cannot remember what I ate but I do remember myself gobbling every bit of meat down alongside my "leaves" ( I hate vegetable, but today is exceptional ) and finishing off with a cooling ice chocolate drink. An appropriate finale indeed. Once we were done, we got to our van, arranged the packs and Austin volunteered to drive us home ( Is he on drugs? Where in the world did he get his stamina from? ) Me on the other hand, placed my un-car-licensed butt right at the back seat, doing what I do best. Sleep. And as for the unfortunate bread, or fortunate, depending whose view you are looking at, me or the bread, I have absolutely no idea what has become of them and do not intend to find out either. Melbourne, here we come!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mount Kosciuszko Itinerary

Destination: Kosciuszko National Park
Group size: Max 3 members ( First come first serve basis )
Date: 13 - 17 November 2007
Route: Thredbo Village - Rams Head North - Mt Kosciuszko - Mt Townsend - Mt Twynam -
Etheridge Ridge (via Charlotte Pass) - Thredbo Village
Distance: 38+ km (3 days)
Cost: 1. Melbourne to Yass Junc. (Countrylink train - $ 103 return)
2. Yass Junc. to Canberra (Transborders - $24 return)
3. Canberra to Thredbo ( Transborders - $103)
4. Thredbo YHA - $26 per night ( Thredbo YHA link)
5. Canberra YHA - $25 per night (Canberra YHA link)
6. Car rental 5 days - $339.56 ++ (Thrifty)

Note: I will continue to find cheaper alternatives until the 20th of October


A little bit of information on the trip, Mount Kosciuuszko is the tallest mountain there is in mainland Australia at 2228 m. Located in the Alpine region, the weather can be unpredictable and snow is known to fall even in summer. We will also be climbing the 2nd, 3rd and 6th tallest mountains in Australia. Below is the statistic:



Mount Kosciuszko


Mount Townsend


Mount Twynam


Rams Head North


What's that? That's right!! The plan is to tackle Australia's tallest mountains back-to-back. But here's the catch, Thredbo Village is situated at an elevation of about 1700m, which means there's about 500m in vertical distance to cover. However, I have to point out that the trip involves other mountains as well and a general standard of fitness is required in terms of weight carrying capabilities as well as being able to tolerate harsh environments (e.g. freezing nights).

One of the good things about camping in the Alpine park is that fires are allowed and we get to camp for free. In some areas (I'm not sure if this applies for where we are headed), campsites can be anywhere as long as the tent is out of sight from the main road.

Physical Capacity
  1. Able to walk 12-15km a day
  2. Able to carry 10-15kg across distances mentioned above
  1. On average, max temperature in summer is 15 Celcius at above 2000m(Expect cold nights). In November its slightly cooler with a possibility of reaching zero point at night.
  2. Frosts are common during spring
Graph showing average temperature ranges for this area

Schedule 1 ( public transport - Total trip cost at 280pp )

13 November 2007

7.45 am - Meet at Southern Cross Station
8.30 am - Depart for Yass Junction(Melbourne XPT)
4.01 pm - Arrive at Yass
4.20 pm - Transborder Bus (Route 980) pick up towards Canberra
5.22 pm - Arrive at Canberra and walk to YHA

14 November 2007
9.04 am - Depart YHA Canberra (Transborders)
12.20 pm - Arrive Thredbo Village
1.00 pm - Set of to Mt Kosciuszko

16 November 2007
1.00 pm - Depart Thredbo Village
4.15 pm - Arrive YHA Canberra (upon request)

17 November 2007
10.05 am - Depart for Yaas Junction
11.05 am - Arrive At Yaas Junction
11.29 am - Depart for Melbourne (Melbourne XPT)
6.55 pm - Arrive at Melbourne (Southern Cross Station)

Schedule 2 (Rent a car - 2 member at $222/3 member at $166 pp)
This cost is not inclusive of petrol but i doubt it will be as expensive as using public transport. Also, if the group is 3 man/women team (must be politically correct), a bigger tent needs to be rented out. Also, using a car gives us much more flexibility but
the downside is that the driver will probably be exhausted from the 7-8 hour drive. So resting in Thredbo YHA is highly recommended.

13 November 2007
7.30 am - collect car from Thrifty
7.50 am - Depart to Thredbo Village
5.00 pm - Arrive at Thredbo YHA (and maybe some exploring later)

14 Novermber 2007
Leave for Mt Kosciuszko anytime

16 November 2007
Arrive at Thredbo and recuperate in Thredbo YHA

17 November 2007
Depart for Melbourne and return the car by 5.30 pm

For those interested, you know how to contact me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wilsons Promontory

Date: 21 - 26 September 2007
Members: 1. Tan Yan Fen
Route: Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit (Tidal River (start/end)- Roaring Meg - Refuge Cove - Telegraph Saddle)
Total Distance: 52.8km

The trip to Wilsons Promontory was my first overnight hike. My hiking companion, Yan Fen who is a seasoned outdoor pro was my teacher to "outdoor living" throughout the trip. Both of us left for Foster town which is located about 40 minutes from Tidal River (main campsite) on the 27th September 2007 by a V-line coach. Originally the plan was to catch the bus at 4.30pm at Southern Cross Station but due to the famous "Malaysian Timing Syndrome", I caused both of us to miss the bus and was forced to catch the next one almost 2 hours later. In the mean time, we burned some time playing Sudoku and Crossword Puzzle in MX Newspaper outside Hungry Jacks and Yan Fen managed to down 4 packets of chili with some fries. Until now I don't know another 4-letter word for "Sins".

The bus trip to Foster took about 3 hours and when we finally arrived at 9 pm plus, Yan Fen asked me, "Where's the YHA? (Youth Hostel Association)", " I dunno", was my reply. "What's the address then?"......"I dunno". Lesson One, write down the address of of your accommodation even though its a small tiny town. In the end, Yan Fen resorted to asking another HOSTEL receptionist the location of YHA and I have to say you need some "shameless" attitude to do that sort of thing and I was glad she did it even though it was my mistake. (Yan Fen, in case you're reading this, I mean it in a good way OK haha)

The next morning, we were set to go and Mohya Davies, co-owner of YHA Foster with her husband, fetched us to Tidal River to start our hiking trip. The size of my hiking bag cannot be compared with Yan Fen's. While mine was an elephant of a bag, her bag was that of a school bag and I was flabbergasted. I couldn't understand how she would manage with a 3 day hike using just a day hike bag. Me on the other hand, had to withstand a total load of more than 25kg and it wasn't funny. This will lead to a lot of aches and pain in the days to come. Fortunately on the 1st day, my good hiking partner offered to carry my bag and she carried it for quite a distance. Never underestimate the power of determination. She was probably carrying half her weight on her back uphill. The only thing that was funny about the whole incident was that she was grunting and groaning all the way and even threatened to beat me up to release some stress.

The distance between Tidal River and Roaring Meg is 12.2km and it took us about 7 hours due to overly long uphill climbs. In fact, we discovered that by doing the circuit counter-clockwise, the general terrain was mostly uphill and it was taxing but challenging at the same time. Setting up camp was easy enough after some minor adjustments to the poles and we were ready for dinner. Cold baked beans never tasted so good in my 21 years of living. Yan Fen too had her ration of baked beans and after gobbling up the beans, i made managed to make some edible French toast which was a tad too soggy and plain. Not wanting to hurt my feelings, Yan Fen commented it was nice and politely refused a second serving and went straight to bed. Being a rookie in the wilderness, I left my leftovers outside to be cleaned the next morning alongside with my loaf of bread. Trying to sleep in the extreme cold night was an experience that I will never forget. Waves of electrical cold pulses went through our bodies throughout the night and our sleep was a fitful one with some periods where I was forced awake due to shivering. It was then I heard noises outside my tent. Having a look, I saw a possum like creature licking off my plate and the thought of eating from that same plate again disgusted me. Unfortunately, I decided not to do anything because if I were to go out, it would be freezing cold and my PJs would get dirty. That decision would lead to me to being in a constant state of starvation because not only did the "possum" licked off my plate, it decided to have dessert and ate up my whole loaf of bread which would have been my staple food throughout the trip. To add salt to injury, it left some dung right beside my plate before leaving. Stupid animal.

The Sun rose about 5.30am the next morning and both of us were still tired due to lack of sleep. I woke up about 9am and I had to attend to the Call of Nature. Urinating in the wild felt odd but at the same time liberating for some reason. It may be due that instead of me being told where to pee and where to aim, this time I got to choose any damn place I liked. After some breakfast and brushing my teeth, we packed up and headed towards Little Waterloo Bay which is 17km away at 9.30am. I have to say that the walk was much more pleasant although it was a long hiking day. The thought of "are we fu*cking there yet" crossed my mind several times but I refrained- myself from saying it out loud. The idea that we had to walk along the mountain contour when it would be more productive if we walked in a straight line was enough to test my patience. Yan Fen was more optimistic. She constantly strike up interesting topics to talk about and in the process, I got to know her better and myself in a deeper level.

Along the way to Waterloo Bay was uneventful but there were occasions where the scenery along the beach was just too beautiful to just walk by it. These were the times where we took timeout and just rested on the white sandy beach, looking out into the vast blue ocean and hearing the waves crashing relentlessly into the shoreline while the wind blew fresh cold air into our faces. It took some effort to continue on the long hard walk when what you were leaving behind was much more tempting.

After trudging for about 8 hours since we started, we finally arrived at Little Waterloo Bay Campsite which was situated close to the beach. Unlike the first campsite, Little Waterloo Bay was much more crowded and in a way it was relieving to be amongst other hikers. It gives you a sense of security knowing that you are not alone in the wild. Being all smelly for not taking a shower since Day 1, both of us decided to take a quick bath in the freezing sea. The cold was such that my body went from pain to numb in a matter of seconds. After jumping out from the water, strong gusts of wind send chill down my spine and I was hoping around on the beach in shock. Some sun bathers looked at me as if I'm mental. Yan Fen on the other hand seemed to take the cold better. She even managed to used some soap over herself and took a whole 5 minutes longer than me (considering a few seconds was all I could take, 5 minutes is a superhuman feat). Hunger pangs came after drying up and we ate our customary baked beans and some scramble egg. I washed up after dinner (yes, i learned my mistake) and both of us went straight to bed.

In an attempt to beat the cold, both of us came up with crazy ideas like waking up at 3am to continuing our hike in the dark and sleeping in the next campsite to using my stove as a heater. In the end, I stuffed my entire pants with toilet paper to increase the insulation around my body while my good friend Yan Fen stole my sleeping bag ( Note: She did not bring a sleeping bag for herself). The added insulation around my legs helped somewhat and I was ready to go to bed when I heard a group of Malaysian/Singaporean just arriving at our campsite.It turned out that they were not only a family of Singaporeans, they were loud ones too. Father was teaching his girls how to set up tent and mother with her friend (presumably) was chatting and laughing and giggling well into the night. I was tempted to go and say, "Aunty ah, sorry ah, some people need to wake up early you know? wah lau eh". In any case, hearing the father talk to his kids reminded me of my own father and I realized that I missed him very much and longed for the times we spent together playing golf on Saturdays and eating chilled coconuts and my favourite Nasi Kampung for lunch.

On our 3rd day (24 September ), we set off at 9am towards Refuge Cove with just 7.0 km ahead of us. The day was designed to be a leisurely day because Refuge Cove was reputed to be the best campsite in the best national park in Victoria. What we found out was that that 7.0 km was the hardest walk we have encountered so far since our trip. Endless uphill treks with lots of obstacles to negotiate was more than I expected. I started laughing to myself during the walk because in general, Wilsons Prom is rated as novice and here I am struggling. I have a long way to go before I will be ready to tackle the 7 Summits (Tallest mountain in each continent). When we were finally reaching Refuge Cove (also beside the beach), we were on top of a big oval rock overlooking the sheltered campsite and the cove beside it and the sight was just too amazing. At that time of the afternoon, the sun was high in the sky creating sparkles of brilliant light on the calm green blue sea. Along the serene white beach, crystal clear waves were beating gently against the shore and the lush green trees surrounding the cove was rustling softly, almost having a lullaby effect. Just offshore, a private boat was anchored and it bobbed slowly up and down hypnotically. The experience was so surreal that I would do the last 7.0 km twice, trice and many times more to experience this again.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and this time it ended far too soon. After setting up tent at Refuge Cove, Yan Fen and I had planned to at least swim in the enclosed beach and she also brought some of her notes to study. The water turned out to be as cold as Waterloo Bay and it was far too windy that day which made it uncomfortable because its still early in the spring season. After exploring the still beautiful beach ( I have to point out that besides our misfortune of cold water and windy days, I'm in no way saying that its not as beautiful as it sounds), we returned to our tent in which I took the opportunity to have a quiet afternoon nap and Yan Fen reading her notes. Having me taking a snooze was too tempting for her and she too gave in and took a nap. Dinner time came and I was wondering when i will be sick of eating baked beans. It turns out that constant starvation does wonderful things to your appetite and I savored every bean I ate and dug out every scrap of tomato juice there is. Satisfied, both of us turned in early because we had a long day the next day (16.6km) and we had to reach Tidal River by 5.30pm which is the time we arranged to be picked up by private shuttle back to YHA.

Initially, Yan Fen and I planned to leave camp at 3am because we estimated that it would take us about 8-9 hours to cover 16.6 km due to fatigue. Also, we were running out of food ( Yan Fen was out of food completely and I had a single can of baked beans left for breakfast). As usual, things didn't go as planned. The weather forecast predicted that there would be "isolated showers" in the region. That night it rained heavily. Still trying to keep to the plan, I woke up at 2.30am to get ready while my hiking partner was snuggling in my oh-so-soft-I-wish-I-could-have-it sleeping bag. It turned out I couldn't even see 5 meters ahead because my torchlight wasn't strong enough and I quickly abandoned the plan, going back into the tent damp and cold.

Rising up at dawn, we packed up in record time knowing that if we missed out transport back to YHA, it would be another cold night in the main camp Tidal River. We pushed and pushed hard, rarely resting for the whole day, only taking three 5 minutes breaks and an occasional minute breather. When we reached the swamps which was almost the final phase of our trip, for the first time , the trek was boarded with wood and the trek itself was flat. Welcoming the sudden ease to walk, we journeyed towards Windy Saddle enthusiastically and even broke into a slow jog along the way. Once we passed the swamps and was back on the mountains, something very unexpected happens.......

Along the mountain, there was a 90 degree bend to the left and along that path we saw a Caucasian jogger running towards us. Just for a split second, the jogger was blocked from view by a tree and did not appear on the other side. Thinking that the jogger spotted us and stop to let us through, I was prepared to thank him when I realized he wasn't there. Basically, he disappeared. Yan Fen gave me a frightened stare and ask " Did you SEE that???" and I assured her I did. Walking pass the area where the jogger supposedly disappeared, I looked back and waited a moment to see if he would appeared again (thinking there should be a logical explanation to all this) but he didn't. Scared, both of us walked as fast as we could and never turned to look back. Was it a ghost? Or is there a perfectly logical explanation? I guess we will never find out.

At Windy Saddle, there were a group of schoolchildren and we kept a lookout for the jogger that supposedly disappeared. Failing to spot him, we didn't continue to dwell on it. After the initial shock,we realized that we have made great time and was 2hours ahead of the updated schedule. Exhausted with aches everywhere from shin to ankle to shoulders and back, we took a 10 minutes break just lying on the small open grassy area of Windy Saddle. A fellow hiker with his 3 kids sat beside us to have a rest as well and one of them was a young charming boy with light brown eyes with a personality that was mature for his age. Outgoing and attentive, he quickly made Yan Fen fall in love with him (we got to know him better later in the day at Tidal River restaurant) and until now she regretted not taking the initiative of "booking" him early. Yan Fen swears that he would be a 'woman killer' one day when he grows up.

After our 10 minutes was up, we said our farewells and continued on. Upon reaching Telegraph Saddle we hit the winding main road towards Tidal River and upon arrival, both of us congratulated one another and was filled with pride and satisfaction being able to complete the journey.

From this trip, I learned the importance of the will to carry on no matter how hard the task may seem. I also made a very good friend whom I wouldn't have found if not for the trip. All in all, it was a trip which I will always remember and see it as a stepping stone to many more adventures.