My seat jostles like an old man anxious to get his bet on the race before it’s too late – tapping and jigging and hopping about in time to the engines deep in the heart of this steel beast. The swell starts to gently pull us across the dance floor and we sway from side to side while every now and then the tail slews left or right as someone up on the bridge makes an adjustment, and lights on the horizon slide first one way then the next as they slowly drop into the inky blackness and then out of sight. Now I can no longer tell what is ocean and what is sky. We bore on into the night, aiming for Tasmania and the Overland Track.
I sat in the car a little over twenty four hours ago and reflected on how deeply content I felt. How profoundly settled such a trip made me, never mind the fact that only twenty four hours before that I was in the air somewhere over Indonesia. I confess I lead a fortunate life and am grateful for every day, and every opportunity. And I am grateful, deeply so, for these friends I am traveling with who have taken a deep breath and agreed to walk a World Heritage listed track. All 74 kilometres of wet and cold and leech infested forest in the dead of winter. They have risen to the challenge and I love them all for it. But I love them anyway, track or no track.
But in these early hours of the trek, before we have even set foot on the island, I wonder if everything has been properly considered, and if I have made the right calls about food and equipment. I am sure I have. Experience tells me so. But this is new territory for me too and none of us have walked this walk. All we do is talk the talk. I wonder this will all look and feel in a week.
For the last ten days, even when in South Asia and in Singapore, I have been watching the weather. How will things pan out? In New Zealand the Antarctic born fronts have delivered extraordinary snow. But strangely the fronts are barely touching Tasmania at the moment and right now we have a seven day forecast that is remarkably benign. There are occasional showers forecast and no sub zero temperatures. However the winds are forecast to be high so I worry a little about that. Will those winds rip us in the valleys or will they be restricted to the ridge tops? I watched the weather as I landed in Sydney and was thinking about it as we left, our small convoy of two cars drenched by Sydney rain that does not want to let up even after a week of drowning the city.
We left at 8.20pm and drove south to Melbourne, joining the nightly run of trucks through Goulburn, Gungadai and Wodonga. We spent a day recovering in Melbourne before arriving at the ferry wharf at a little after 5pm and via a heart stopping moment of thinking I was about to drive up over the Westgate Bridge after finding ourselves in the wrong lane. But the last exit saved us and we were on that jetty with plenty of time to spare.
All the crew is here. Kim has driven down from Sydney and was here even before we were, while Jim has come all the way out of the Flinders Rangers and driven through the night via Adelaide to join us. Almost everyone! We have to pick up Michael (“McGee”) from the airport at Launceston tomorrow morning before we meet up with Paul, our logistics man who will be carting us down to the start point at lake St Claire. As I review everything in my minds eye I relax a little – I am happy that we have everything covered off but I will be a little happier when the logistics of tomorrow are all done and I have the group at the start point of the track, ready to go.
So we are all reclined in the chairs facing aft into the dark, chairs that vibrate and thump us gently to sleep. I look forward to the walk. After all the travel of the last twenty four hours I am ready for some shut eye. As I gaze out the window I wonder at the cold black out there and what is in store for us. Cold, to be sure. Hopefully no black.
Day 2 – Click here
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