The tide silently pushes still water into the upper reaches of the seeping grey green gloom of this gully. Snatches of froth and the occasional bubble betrays the silent upstream flow of water beside me. The ground is damp so footfall is muffled. That of my colleagues metres ahead is non existent save for the occasional scuff of boot on rock. The sun has retired though it is not completely dark, but I figure in another twenty minutes we will need to retrieve and don our head torches. Something trills above me, its call echoed in the bush, by others, on the other side of that sliding, clear water. One trill among a constant shower of bird calls and notes that are scattered down among us. Our escorting treecreepers and fly catchers sing out their last light lullabies. A single cracking call from a whip bird went unanswered and he sulked off and kept silent. Wrens scold and chitter among themselves high in the rocks on my left.
The bird conversations are a blessed recess from the constant chatter of other walkers around us. I make the most of it as our team of four walks alone for a short while, the second checkpoint well behind us. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of the dozens of walkers around us. To be launched out the gate at 0800 with a few hundred liked minded and similarly hearted folk is an inspiring thing. As the seconds counted down to the start, the adrenalin kicked in and some nervous tension built. We were all keen to get going. Not just our team of four but everyone around us. But my fellow, unnamed walkers would trap me in single file sections of the track in conversations that were occasionally humourous but which were often mundane in the extreme and usually intended for private ears only. Young woment trapped behind me for a section of the track yielded so much conversation in the vein of “Like, like like” and “Oh my God” that it was a relief to let them past at the first safe point to do so.
We got away from the start line at the start of the pack. Immediately after release there is a short but sharp lift onto the ridge above Brooklyn and it’s a good strategy to get up there and away rather than getting caught in the mob. A good start also helps mitigate the possibility of getting caught in a line waiting for inexperienced walkers (the vast majority) to negotiate simple sections of rock. Their trepidation creates long queues of good humoured banter but it does not help us keep to our timetable. The sun on our backs and our steady grind up that slope warmed us up pretty quickly. Plenty of other walkers raced past us. Most we would pass and repass of the course of the day. Some ‘blew’ within a few minutes and stood off the track, doubled over and heaving flanks. The finish line is 99km away and it’s obvious from the outset that many have no plan.
The first leg of 15km was straight forward and our pace of 5km an hour encouraged us to think we would have our planned timetable well in hand. The day was clear and warm, and we forced the fluid and salty into us as we went. Years of experience in this sort of walking mean we know how quickly the salt deprivation can be remarkably detrimental to progress as well as physical wellbeing. We tabbed along the firetrail start, the width of the track meaning we were in shoulder to shoulder company with lots of others as they overtook us, or we overtook them. Multiple times as the group shook itself out along the ridge. Most of the neighbouring conversations that overtook us seem to be about work which means there are lots of company teams out here. Or at least teams made up of company colleagues. The bush garden is just starting to release its colour and we walk through curtains of pink, yellow and blue in such variety that we could be tempted to stop and admire it all. But not today. We have a 100km target to reach.
Our effort ended at the 57km mark with injury and illness, and my notes a whole lot earlier than that. We are registered to have another shot at it in 2016.
49,756 total views, 97 views today