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.


nutzs said...

wow wow. all the experiences and all that much that you went through from Yanfen.I could imagine how you felt as a reader. It felt so real as a hiker.

Are you going to leave this blog as a recount of your trips overseas and local? Hope to see more coming up in the future.

P.S. It seems that YF is more preprared than you in terms of stamina and 'preparedness to face the unexpected'. Haha just a random comment.

Yi Lin said...

Nice blog :) i enjoyed your style of writing. not bad at all. impressed. hahah! pictures you took of nature is beyond words. real beauty. I wish I could witness a sight like that someday.

Sally said...

hmm..looks like I'll need to get more 'hiking stuff' knitted to keep you warm...:)

dad said...

I too missed the time that we spent at the golf course. Hope to play a game or two when you come back for your summer break.... :)

Rowan said...

So nice...I'm starting to like hiking & stuff recently...Next yr want to go Mt. Kinabalu

Don't you dare snort!