Microadventure #5: The Hawkesbury

We cheated and left our desks before 5pm (4:20!) – we had a train and connecting ferry to make. The ferry dropped us off at our request stop as the last of the daylight beautifully set the scene for the start of our trip.

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The start was a little odd. It felt a bit like we were walking through people’s front yards and then we were literally on a path between and sometimes underneath houses. Then, with “town” behind us we continued along the coastline. It was pretty dark but we ran without our lights on since it was an access road.

We spotted a set of stairs leading up. We didn’t think it was the track we were after so continued on. Perhaps we’d regret this decision?

After ‘the bend’ we couldn’t find our track, but with a check of the map we found the narrow track and a pink ribbon. It would have been easy to spot in daylight…

Up past some sandstone caves and then the adventure really started as we slogged it up the hill, second guessing paths and moving a lot of large spiders to the side so we could pass. Every now and then there was a ribbon to confirm other humans had been this way too. I was having fun!

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We hit the crest of a spur and found a fire pit but it wasn’t clear where to go next. This was not at all what I’d been expecting the junction to look like. Thankfully the moon was bright and the direction we wanted to go, so we turned moon-wards and attempted to find a sensible path. B took over clearing the spiders.

This time we popped out on the ridgeline and had fantastic views from our rocky perch of the river below and plenty of stars were out by now. Happy Friday :D

But we’d overshot our turn (the view was worth it) and, with some technological help, found the next footpad to follow. These tracks were really not as well formed as we’d been anticipating but it was certainly adding to the adventure. Def no running happening though … clocking up 2km in 40mins!

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There were now two routes to choose from and we took the lower route. Invariably ending up on the high route at some point and then back on the lower route once again. The bush is certainly a different adventure in the pitch black. We passed TV antennas and had absolutely stunning views down to the water. On queue a train took the rail bridge and it looked like a xmas train as the lights reflected perfectly in the water. What luck.

We chatted about an interview we both listened to of an upcoming book release: Woman in the Wilderness. It’s about a Dutch lady and her kiwi husband living a primitive life in the NZ wilderness. It was timely to discuss such a book as we were having our own wild bush experience.

At last we made it to the creek junction and set up camp on a sandy bank not too far away. Tent up and fire going it was finally time to tuck into dinner – we were starving! We had a really, really lovely evening around the fire and eventually had to stop ourselves from building it up again and head to bed. I didn’t bother setting an alarm, even though I had somewhere else to be the next day – sunrise is at 6am these days.

Hehe of course we slept through sunrise, ooops! It was a Saturday though. Determined to check out our surroundings we headed down the creek for lovely cascades, waterfalls and river views. It was one chilly but refreshing morning dip too. Magic.

 

A quick pack up back at camp and we set off for the train station at the early hour of 11:30am. I was hosting afternoon tea at my place at 3pm, oh dear! More footpad searching, but at least we had daylight on our side. About a kilometre or so of this and we were on open fire trail. Time to start running!

B made a detour out to a top for more good views while I carried on towards the train station and he’d catch me up. All I had to do was take the first right he said. I did just this, and could see in the distance the road in perfect line with the fire trail I was currently on. I had well over an hour to go 6km, easy!

Queue finding the end of the fire trail, standing on top of a decent sized waterfall and having no idea how to get down to the road I could see in the distance … hah! I searched all the footpads around, I clearly wasn’t the first person to try this. Eventually I found one that looked like it’d go and went back to try and leave a message for B. He was already trying out some of the footpads so a quick shout out and we were back together and now on another wild adventure.

 

The rock formations were cool. At some point the track became more defined and then vanished all together again. We were now fighting bushes and the spotting of some bright orange led us into a ship building yard and to the road. We now had 3.5km and 16 minutes to make the train … NO CHANCE.

But it did leave time to buy chips, drinks and ice cream before the following train, which got me back to my apartment at 2:59pm. Thankfully the first guests didn’t arrive until 3:07pm….

I love these micro-adventures !

Micro-adventure #4: Blue Mountains

I’d not even been back in the country a week and I was already itching to get away on another micro-adventure.

We decided to head out west since the days were already starting to get shorter again – meaning this was probably our only chance to do this trip this summer. Alighting at the station to drizzle and a dark sky we looked at each other and questioned our sanity. Oh well, here we go.

We’d packed a tent but I’d also brought food to prepare a 3 course meal on the fire and I was now worried about getting it started!

The trail was slippery with all the leaves on it, but still beautiful with trees and some little cliffs about. B found some dry leaves under an overhang and stuffed them in his bag for additional kindling.

It only took me about 45 mins to reach camp and already I could see B had started collecting a reasonable amount of firewood. I chuckled inside and wondered if this could be a new measure of estimating pace difference.

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Our swim spot – the weather cleared for this moment :)

The drizzle had mostly abated. It took a little but finally the fire took and I threw the first two courses on. We then headed to the water for a lovely dip before rescuing and eating the prosciutto wrapped stuffed mushies and opening the first beer.

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Next up was baked trout and veggies with another beer.

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B whipped out travel scrabble and whooped my butt while I burnt the choc chip cookies – the fire was waaay too hot.

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All up a lovely evening and I was glad to turn in when we did. The rain started again.

In our attempt to minimise gear and weight we squeezed into B’s 1-1.5 person tent and I’d borrowed an extra wide exped mat to share. It worked reasonably well but I’m not convinced about sharing a mat ;)

Damn alarms!

I dragged my butt out before sunrise having guesstimated how long I needed to make our intended train. Beauty is that I only had to put my kit on and start running – B sorted out packing up the tent, the fire, etc – I could get used to this! At a later point than I expected he overtook me – he would now sort out a cup of tea for the train :)

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I was beginning to worry I wouldn’t make the train, but thankfully i recognised the final set of bush stairs. What I didn’t expect was to run through a massive spider’s web. How did B manage to leave that for me?

I made it to the platform with 2 mins to spare and couldn’t find him anywhere. Luckily he showed up as the train pulled in. I was confused about the lack of tea until he confessed he’d taken a wrong turn. That explained the spider’s web. Lucky he has fast legs.

Sadly there were signal delays and our train took 30mins longer than intended, however we were still in high spirits. Another sensational micro-adventure :D

Hitchhiker’s guide to the Greenstone/Caples track

Somewhere along the line I had this grand idea to attempt pack running between huts. Last week’s heavy pack with 10 days’ worth of food had convinced me to try this plan sooner rather than later.

The rough plan? Hitch from Te Anau to The Divide. Run to Mid-Caples Hut. Sleep. Run to McKellar Hut via Greenstone Hut if I had the legs. Sleep. Run back to The Divide and hitch back to Te Anau. Take the lightest bag without compromising safety. This meant I would be out for 2 nights (all going well) or 3 (if running with a pack was a little beyond me). I hadn’t actually looked up the distances, but figured they wouldn’t be anything stupid.

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Why the Greenstone-Caples loop? It was nearby, I’d done the Caples before so I knew what half the track looked like, there was a road at both ends, wardens at the huts and sufficient people on the trails (but not too too many) should I get into strife. Plus, it was a safe trail if the weather closed in.

The execution? I hadn’t rushed out of bed nor was pack finalisation a quick endeavour so it was at the late hour of 11am that I set out to run through Te Anau to the Milford Rd in the hope of a hitch. I always marvel at what does and what does not affect my head space. Running unknown distances between huts with no idea if my bag was too heavy for such a plan? No issues there. Standing alone on the roadside with my thumb out and worrying that I’d left it too late to catch tourists heading north for the day? Hell! I almost gave up and thought about going back and booking a bus for the next day. Then I looked at my watch, realised that I’d only been waiting for 10 minutes (LOL) and told myself to calm down. It was not very long afterwards that a lovely Singaporean couple stopped to give me a ride. Yay!

We got on like a house on fire and before I knew it we were 85 km down the road at The Divide and parting ways. They did a triple take when they learnt I was going to do the Greenstone-Caples track, which they knew was a 4 day tramp, as my bag didn’t look anywhere near big enough. They asked if I *really* had a sleeping bag in there. I laughed and said no – I just had a sleeping bag liner. I’d never left my sleeping bag at home before! Fingers crossed!

And I was off – wheee. The first bit was runnable but then I walked up the hill to the Key Summit turn off. I figured I had the time for this quick out and back and was rewarded with some reasonable views of the surrounding peaks. I ran back down to my pack – and can definitely say that it was wicked to be trail running with mountains poking over crests and some snow-capped.

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It wasn’t long before I was at Howden Hut and making use of the flushing toilets (!) – the Great Walks Huts do have good services.

On I ran through lovely, runnable forest before reaching the flats at Lake McKellar. Here I got my walking mojo on and ticked off the switchbacks up to McKellar Saddle. I’d done this leg two years ago in the rain so it was great to have views at the top.

This saddle is also one of my favourites – flat and wide at the top and lots of nicely shaped mountains around.

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Now it was all pretty much downhill to Mid-Caples Hut. Lots of birdlife, lovely views whenever a landslide had opened up the forest or I entered the flats. The track was well-graded and maintained – perfect and easy to run. I was actually happy to be running and not walking it.

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I did have rather tired legs when I arrived at the hut – just over 25km and 800 vertical metres of climbing. I was pretty happy with how well I’d been able to run with my pack.

Dinner was a packet of salt and vinegar shapes and two pre-made steak sandwiches. Yum, just so yum. I was not jealous of everyone around me eating Backcountry.

Everyone retired at 9pm for bed so I did too. It was rather warm in the common area and also my bunk room. I was curious to find out how warm I’d be in my sleeping bag liner!

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Day 2

I’d only woken up a little chilly the once – stupidly I’d left my buff and gloves on the shelf and was too lazy to go and get them, which meant I was less comfortable than I could have been. Regardless I did manage a very decent 10 hours sleep :D Next time I would make sure I had every warm layer within reach while sleeping.

I had a banana and some oat biscuits for brekky before heading out at the leisurely time of 10am. Most people had already left the hut and were on their way to McKellar Hut via the saddle. I took off in the other direction but with the same destination in mind. My legs were feeling pretty damn tired. Guess I shouldn’t have gone for an 18km run the day before yesterday … maybe I should have stretched more in the hut too instead of chatting …

I crossed above a gorge and then I was off.

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This part of the Caples track was less wide, graded path and more undulated single track through the forest. Again good weather, lots of birds around and no people.

It didn’t take me too long to reach the swing bridge and head towards the Greenstone Valley. The trail was lovely here and there was a very, very beautiful and green swimming hole.

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I thought there wouldn’t be much running up the Greenstone Valley, but the slope was runnable more often than not.

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I passed lovely mossy waterfalls, a number of groups and heard lots of wildlife.

After a couple of hours I did the small side trip out to Greenstone Hut where I ate my lunch and topped up my water supplies.

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I chatted away to a kiwi for awhile who was training to get back into larger tramps after a few years off. Now my sights were on McKeller Hut.

This section has forest sections, mud sections (but nothing(!) compared to The Dusky) and flats, and I loved it. It was nice not to be on a well graded path anymore and to actually be in and see the valley.

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At some point I came across a French guy who was clearly struggling. He’d started from the Greenstone car park that morning and gotten to the first hut so quickly that he decided to keep going; although he was now looking like he regretted that decision. I checked he was still coherent, gave him some advice and pushed on.

I’d had a fantastic day, but I can honestly say I was excited to see my destination 38km after setting out that morning!

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There were quite a number of people in the hut and two separate sleeping quarters. My natural nature couldn’t help itself – I chose the emptier room and would come to regret this a few hours later.

I found my new friends I’d made the previous night and we all chatted away about our adventures that day.

Dinner tonight was a packet of light & tangy shapes and 2 cheese and relish sangas. Thankfully the French guy showed up and I was shocked when he pulled a few kilos of bananas and 2 wheels of brie out of his bag. That was all the food he was carrying for 4 days! I gave him some chocolate and hoped he took my advice and traded some bananas for other food.

Getting into bed I made sure I had all my warm layers accessible and collapsed into sleep, I was exhausted!

Many times during the night I woke up. The temperature had certainly plummeted and there were not enough bodies in my room to warm the air. I spent most of the night in the foetal position – so tired I’d fall back asleep and then so cold I’d wake up. Repeat. At some point I gave up and climbed inside my pack liner! Why had I not slept in the other room? Why had I not carried my sleeping bag? Hah!

All was revealed in the morning when I saw fresh snow up on the peaks – I hadn’t expected the night to get quite *that* cold. Oh well, just an uncomfortable night’s sleep – I wasn’t in any real danger inside the hut.

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It was a very pleasant walk / attempt at a run around the lake but my goodness my legs were tired!

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I passed Howden Hut once more and then decided to drop my pack and run up and around Key Summit again since the weather was so much better today than on my first day.

Arriving back at The Divide I had to wait a little bit for a hitch. Once again a lovely couple gave me a ride and we talked about food all the way back to Te Anau.

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I then sorted out my pizza craving!

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The Dusky

Today I started the Dusky track. An 84km, 6-10 day walk that is claimed to be the best tracked walk in NZ. I was anticipating more sandflies than I’d ever seen before (disclaimer: I’ve been to Scotland), waist deep mud and getting holed up in huts due to flooding.

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I was picked up at 0730 with blue skies about (surprisingly), driven down to one end of Lake Hauroko with seven other Dusky trampers (queue onset of rain) and boated across (~45 mins) to the northern end of the lake (rainbow, waterfalls, rain, sun, mountain peaks, smiles all ’round). BYO boat!

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The captain was good for a conversation and soon we were being surrounded by sandflies at the Hauroko Burn Hut and bidding him goodbye. I was unsure what it would be like with a cluster of eight all heading off together and probably no other souls within many days’ walking from us, but it wasn’t an issue at all. In fact, I ate my lunch and then started out tottering alone for a good while. I tried to think how it came that I originally thought to do the Dusky track but I couldn’t quite remember the reason.

Right from the start the forest was a thing of beauty, which my camera couldn’t quite capture. The trees were green and the trunks mossy. And they changed. Sometimes tall and thin, other times large and gnarly. The track was more a running stream with stunning little cascades every now and then. Yes, my feet were soaked from the outset, but it didn’t matter.

At some point after the first walk wire I started walking with Josh. He’s an American who has been in NZ the past 10 years and the other solo tramper on the trip. He’s become a botanist in his spare time and was exclaiming left, right and centre about everything around us. I learnt a thing or two from him but most of it went over my head. He was very good company and we covered a diverse range of topics as we tramped along. Turns out we have the same side trip plans, which will make everything a whole lot safer to boot. Every now and then i’d hear him exclaim loudly behind me and i’d stop to check he was ok only to realise he was praising some rare tree or other. I smiled at his self-confidence – to be himself and not care that others could hear him. I do that on my own but hardly ever when others are around.

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There was a section where I came close to breaking a leg as I slipped between two tight tree roots down to my right mid-thigh and my too heavy pack tilted pulling me into the muddy pool I had been trying to avoid. I could feel the pressure on my leg bone build but managed to get myself righted just in time. Phew!

Have I mentioned the mud yet?!? There was a lot of it. And it quickly became apparent that there are many, many different types of mud and i was failing at judging which steps would land me in ankle, shin, knee or even thigh deep mud. I’m determined to work it out over the next days. To get me started I’ve started a mud rating from 0-10. 0=no mud. 10=so sticky that you can’t get out even with help (let’s hope I don’t end up in any of that!). 9=stuck but someone can pull you out. 8=stuck but you can get yourself out with a lot of effort. I’m still working on the finesse of the rest of the scale. I definitely encountered an 8 and potentially an 8.5 (or is that strictly an 8?) – I was alone with both legs up to my thighs in very sticky mud and it took a bit to get out. It was still fun though in that crazy l’m now covered in mud kinda way.

The rain eased off for a wee while but then it settled back in. The last section was starting to feel like a slog and my pace dropped off so I lost Josh’s company as I tried to carefully negotiate the tree roots on some steeper downhill parts (I was starting to feel the ten days of food in my pack). I was happy to get to the hut – 9km in ~5.5 hrs! As I came into the clearing I exclaimed at the peaks I could see by the hut. Oh I was looking forward to tomorrow :)

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The Halfway Hut was nice and cosy and over some span of time all the troupes arrived, we tried to dry gear, ate dinner and happily chatted away. Everyone was super nice. There were 2 Austrian blokes, a Dutch couple, a Kiwi couple, Josh and I. Josh introduced us to a new card game (shit heads) and at about 10pm I turned in for a lovely sleep.

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Day 2 – Halfway Hut to Lake Roe Hut

I had a great night’s sleep and quite a lazy morning at the hut. It was still raining and I wasn’t in a hurry since it was only five hours to the next hut. I left Halfway Hut well after the other trampers; only Josh remained. I didn’t do it on purpose but I think I was keen to walk on my own for a bit. The forest was once again pretty damn beautiful! So much green!

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I managed to find myself a good walking stick, since I’d stupidly left the one I had made efforts to find in Te Anau at the campground (not surprising given I’d only managed four hours sleep). I was really enjoying today’s amble and I was just smiling so much. There were hardly any muddy patches to boot (well, compared to yesterday that is!)

At one point I heard a loud crack behind me and turned to see a MASSIVE tree fall about 150-200m from me. My heart rate shot up – this was a blunt reminder that anything can happen on a tramp. I had my PLB in the roof of my pack but not my whistle … I’ll need to rectify that. I went back to check the area to make sure Josh wasn’t caught under it since it looked like the tree had fallen near the track. Luckily he wasn’t there, nor was the tree over the track.

I pushed on lost in my own thoughts, singing to myself and still smiling happily at the sights around me. I stopped where there were views of some peaks for morning tea and sat down on the river for lunch.

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There were two 3 wire walk wires to negotiate today. Not long after the second one i was exclaiming at being up above the tree line and in the tussock. Hello peaks :) I went around lake Laffy and soon was at Lake Roe Hut after first checking out the views from Lake Bright.

I didn’t dally for long. I dropped my pack, pulled off the lid (it turns into a bag) and grabbed my topo. Josh came with me up to Lake Roe and then we explored a few of the peaks on the western side. The views were amazing! He commented that it was nice to share the views with someone since he often walks alone, and I had to agree with him.

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Lake Roe and Tamatea Peak

I got the map out and started checking out my approach to Tamatea Peak for tomorrow. Sadly there was a snow cornice that would make the summit impossible, but maybe the Southern peak would work?? Josh had the same side trip plans for tomorrow so we agreed to head up together.

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Looking down the valley I’d just walked up

Back at the hut there were two DOC surveyors who’d been flown in for some days to monitor rock wren. Their dinner was torture to see … fresh everything! But they were very nice and we all played cards and then turned in for the night.

Day 3 – The Merrie Range

Another good night’s sleep. I got up earlier this morning and after a leisurely breakfast chatting I started preparing a day pack. Josh surprised me by saying he would push on to Loch Maree instead of doing a side trip today. So, after bidding goodbye to five of the troupes, I set out for Tamatea Peak on my own.

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My plan was to ascend as much as I could safely and then, time permitting, I’d head down and then up the 1407 knoll on the other side of Deep Snowy lake and possibly ascend the Merrie Range from there. I knew from my research where to start. The clouds were coming and going but I was confident the bulk of the clouds would part to give me some views. I meandered up, ever up.

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Deep Snowy Lake

I stopped for lunch on the non-windy side of the spur in a flat section. Then, since I had nowhere I had to be, there was nothing I had to do and I knew the forecast, I laid down, watched the clouds billow past and had a nap as the keas called above me. Bliss. 1.5 hrs later I continued up the spur and stood on top of the peak just to the south of Tamatea Peak (1595m).

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There was definitely no way around the snow cornice, but to my exclaimed delight I took in the sight of the basin to the east.

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Peaks for as far as I could see, lakes (one frozen) and snow drifts. It was gorgeous.

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I decided to see how close to the frozen lake that I could get before the snow or bluffs stopped me. I got quite a ways but then had to turn back since it was no longer safe. First I sat for awhile to take in the atmosphere and ate half a cookietime (yum) before I returned to the hut to have dinner with the Kiwis. They had a mountain radio, which provided an updated forecast at 1930 hrs.

What a nice day off :)

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Heading down the ridge back to the hut

Day 4 – Lake Roe Hut to Loch Maree Hut

With the mist having lifted enough such that I might get some views, I set out from the hut. Most of today’s tramp kept me up above the tree line and along the Pleasant Range. It certainly was pleasant with green hills and lakes all around.

The clouds were coming and going and I was delighted to get views across to Dusky Sound for lunch part 1. Mt Solitary remained in its own personal cloud as I started the descent to Loch Maree Hut, which was only 2km away but 900m below.

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Back in the tree line I was thankful that there were hardly any muddy patches – possibly helped by the fact that it hadn’t rained much in the past days.

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The never ending tree roots gave great down climbing opportunities and one section had chains. Not long after lunch part 2 I arrived to stunning views and perfectly blue skies at Loch Maree. Maybe I should have stayed up high for longer ?!

I gave half a thought to continuing on to the next hut since I had only one more day of good weather before the change comes through, however there were 7 trampers (the addition of a German duo) intending to stay at Kintail Hut tonight (according to the hut log book), which sounded too crowded to me.

 

Instead I went for a glorious but chilly (refreshing!) swim in the Seaforth River and then lazed by the riverbank for the afternoon; sleeping and waiting for my rinsed out clothes and hair to dry. There was just enough wind to keep the sandflies away :) A flock of the rare whios (blue ducks) were flying about to my delight.

I got back to the hut at 6pm. I hadn’t seen Fran or Adam yet (the Kiwi couple). I figured it would be nice to wait for them before starting my xmas dinner, but my stomach won out in the end.

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I enjoyed the closest thing to a Fondue Chinoise (Swiss xmas dinner) I could pull off in a hut while perched at a table with absolutely gorgeous views down to Loch Maree. This was certainly my favourite hut so far.

Tonight’s treat was dessert – a dehydrated Backcountry apple pie. Yummy. I chatted away to Fran & Adam and then turned in for the night.

Merry Xmas!!

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Day 5 – Loch Maree Hut to Kintail Hut

There were some pretty sections today and the river was nice – sometimes gentle and barely flowing and other times roaring down the boulders.

I’d almost forgotten about the squelching sound of mud after two days up on the ranges but was certainly reminded of it on a few occasions.

On the whole the mud wasn’t too bad and the way was fairly easy going but I was totally over this valley walking business!!

Somewhere along the track I came across someone’s bag of rubbish that clearly hadn’t been tied securely enough to their pack and now I had to walk out. It was also festering inside … eeew.

I’d planned to do a double day but then decided against it as this plan had put me into a rushed mindset that then had me thinking about my job and studies, which I didn’t like. This plan was further doused when I came across a couple who said that the following hut was sandfly ravished. After being eaten to bits by sandflies at Loch Maree Hut last night and kept awake most of the night by a rodent running amok (and eating through my dry bag and into my sweets!!) I was certainly not in a hurry to reach Upper Spey Hut. Instead I made an extra effort to take in my surroundings a little more.

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My favourite parts of today were the views of the surrounding peaks and almost 40 ducks swimming across Gair Loch. A fantail also put on quite a display for me. I decided I was just too cold for a swim even though the water was beautiful and clear.

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When I got to the hut I turned in for a nap (holidays sure are bliss!) and had another enjoyable evening with the kiwi couple. I hoped I wasn’t crashing their personal time together too too much. Bonus was another weather update via their rather cool mountain radio.

Day 6 – Kintail Hut Day

Right on schedule the heavens opened during the night. We woke to the river 1.5m higher than the day before and the path looking more like a swollen creek.

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There were sooo many waterfalls spilling down from the mountains surrounding our hut, which was very impressive to see. It was an easy decision to hang in the hut for the day. I did some writing and then went back to bed for a snooze. At about 11:30 I got up to feed my stomach breakfast.

The kiwis enjoyed a delicious serve of 2 minute noodles for brunch. I then played some cards, drank lots of tea, ate a lot and chatted with the Kiwis who spent the day writing their wedding vows, drawing pictures and then writing complementary stories as well as reading the hut logbook from cover to cover. Fran & Adam then produced marshmallows (!) so we made a little fire after dinner and toasted them until our sugar stomachs were full. I was taught another card game (Last Card).

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We certainly did a very good job of filling our hut day :) The river was pretty much back down to the level of yesterday as we climbed into bed at the late hour of 9:30pm. The weather prognosis for the next few days looked good.

Day 7 – Kintail Hut to Upper Spey Hut via Mt Memphis

We knew the weather would be cloudy in the morning so none of us were in much of a hurry to get started. The three wire bridge outside the hut turned out to be a doosy since the tension clearly isn’t tight enough anymore. I felt like I was going to tip into the river at any moment! Then the undulating, mud & tree root fest was on again. I was impressed when we had our first sighting of the Kintail Stream. It was like it had two riverbeds – the second very green from moss (and obviously less water flow).

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Up, and up. I was enjoying the view down to Tripod Hill and Gair Loch.

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There were a noticeable number of tree falls, some a little tricky to work one’s way around and then find the track again.

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Spot the track

Happily I was soon up above the tree line once more. Sadly there was still bog (!) but soon I left that behind as well as I set off to do a side trip up to Mt Memphis.

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Not far into this the mist set in but it was still easy enough for me to find my way (just keep heading uphill).

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Centre Pass

I stayed up top for quite awhile in the hope I’d get some views, which I did :) though they were “bitsy” views – this would be even cooler on a blue sky day.

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With map in hand, I descended back to my pack and then to Upper Spey Hut over the next few hours. I was SO excited to find boardwalk shortly before reaching the hut.

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It was our last night so we all had a snack gorge. Adam found a bag of salt and vinegar shapes, which he shared (yum, just so yum). And I pigged out and had both remaining hot chocolate sachets :)

There was a lot of bird activity about – wekas, fantails and we heard kiwis as we were falling asleep!!

Day 8 – Upper Spey Hut to West Arm Hut via Mt Memphis

We woke up to blue skies. Straight away my brain suggested going back up to Mt Memphis to see all the mountains.

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This would mean another night out because I couldn’t do that and make the 5pm boat. I had enough food so headed up after saying goodbye to Fran and Adam. We’d spent 7 nights together and they’d been great company.

Centre Pass from the northern approach

It wasn’t a huge amount quicker only having a daypack as I recovered ground from yesterday. Who knew mud, tree roots, fallen trees, etc could take so long to negotiate.

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There’s a track, I swear it

It was all worth it. The views on top were “wow – bloody, bloody wow!” I explored the whole top of the plateau this time before ascending to the summit.

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I had a second lunch back down at Upper Spey Hut, grabbed the rest of my belongings and started today’s actual walk at the early hour of 3:30pm. Goodness I love boardwalk!

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About half an hour in, I came across a Yugoslav coming the other way. He fired a lot of questions at me about the condition of the track. He wanted to know if all the other legs were better than “this”. Hahaha! *Dusky Novice* He should have asked all these questions before getting on the track :P I told him today was probably the best day of valley walking out of all of them – there was hardly any mud :P Still he fired questions at me and also told me that he’d brought shoes for speed and not for mud. I think he wanted me to approve his decision?! I looked down and noticed that his running shoes were still clean – he’d clearly been bush bashing to avoid the mud. When he then asked me about the history of the Dusky track and of track building in NZ in general I said goodbye and carried on my way. LOL.

This leg of the trip was relatively good; although The Dusky (adopting the tone of the Kiwi couple) threw in some sterling boggy areas for good measure. I was pretty stoked to see the last walk wire – not long to the hut now.

I’m not sure if it was the vegetation or the time of day but there was a lot of bird activity and calling, which was great. Also, with the sun getting lower the forest took on a new, gorgeous look.

Finally I hit the junction. It was now only a 30min walk along a very well graded gravel road to West Arm Hut. 1000m+ ascent, 1500m+ descent, climbed over a ridiculous number of large, fallen trees – a decent day indeed. I was done. Should have saved a hot chocolate sachet ;)

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Day 9 – West Arm Hut to Lake Manapouri

It was an arduous 15 min ramble to the ferry this morning. Now to go find my Israeli friend who’s gonna hug and feed me to death :D

First a shower and a visit to the washing machine are in order … I stink!

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Kepler track in a day

Today was my only good weather day of my spare three days in Te Anau. I headed up, with the hope to do the full Kepler track in a day and running it as much as I could without damaging myself.

I hadn’t actually trained nor did I have transport to the start, so I had no idea how I’d fare. The bail out point was to turn back at Luxmore Hut.
  

The alarm went off at 5am and for a moment I wasn’t sure why. Then I grabbed my running pack and crawled out of my tent. After strapping my ankle and filling my water vessels I set off under clear skies with perfect views of the mountains across the lake. It was easy going to the control gates and the official start of the Kepler track.

The leg to Brod Bay was very runnable and through a lovely forest that reminded me of the woods near my old house in Switzerland. As I went through “checkpoint 1” only a few campers had stirred. Soon after the climb up to Luxmore Hut commenced in earnest so I got into a tramping rhythm and ticked it off.

I exclaimed as I came out of the forest and into the tussock – I love alpine ridges! I very excitedly ran the next section – it was just soo stunning. I’d never run in terrain like this before and I was enjoying it immensely.

 

I came across a few trampers on their way down already. I stopped to soak in the views of mountains dramatically ending in an arm of Lake Te Anau and for peaks appearing over the crest. 

  
 
I stopped at Luxmore Hut to use the facilities, top up my water supplies and have something exciting to eat (artisan baguette with capsicum dip and aioli – so, so yum). There were two Aussies about to set out for the day and we had a great chat. This was their first time doing a multi day hike. Good on ’em!
  

Up to Mt Luxmore I came across a good number of hikers. I did manage to have the summit fully to myself for a good minute; but I wasn’t bothered as this allowed me to grab a photo of myself up high.

  
What followed was more enjoyable ridge top running past the two emergency shelters and with views of the Hanging Valley before the descent started in earnest. It was definitely a quad buster and I crossed my fingers that I didn’t bust mine. The views were all still really sensational. A number of trampers exclaimed as I passed them – they couldn’t believe I’d started in Te Anau that morning. I did have to ask myself when I became the crazy lady who goes on 70km adventures !?

  
I reached Iris Burn Hut just after midday without another soul around. The sandflies ensured that my stop was a quick one. (I need these at UTA El :P)

The next 30kms were relatively flat and runnable through very lovely forest. I came across Robbie, the hut warden from Iris Burn Hut, and we had a good chat about birds in the area and patterns in hut bookings before we each went in opposite directions. This had been a well timed break as I had started to struggle but now I had my running mojo back on. 
  

With about 15km of the Kepler track to go (not including the leg back into town) I started to hope I could scab a lift from Rainbow Reach Carpark to avoid the final 10kms. I was starting to tire! Alas it wasn’t to be and I couldn’t be bothered waiting for one of the tourist groups I’d seen to return to their car. 

I was now starting to wonder if all my muscles would hold up if I kept running. Gee I longed for a big arsed hill so I had a good excuse to walk. In the end I walked most of the final 10km anyway. I had nothing to prove to myself or anyone and since I was heading out for a 8-10 day tramp in a wilderness area in two days I kinda needed all muscles in working order. 

When I got to the control gates I congratulated myself and then asked for a hitch back into town. I’d done all of the viewing side trips as well so the day had been 75km in 12 hours. 

I celebrated back at the Fat Duck Cafe with 2 pints of beer, a venison shank and kumara mash. Then ordered chips since I was still hungry and a tub of exotic chocolate ice cream from the supermarket. 

The 2km walk to the campground from town was probably good for my tired legs but was still an effort. At 9pm I was sleeping like a baby. 

What.an.awesome.day =)

The next day was a fun and well earned rest day at the campground watching the rain pummel down. 

   

Faulconbridge to Springwood

Alighting at Faulconbridge Station I had no idea what the trails were going to be like today, having hatched this plan the day before.

We set off down a lovely, graded forest path (Victory Track) alongside Sassafras Creek. The trail was littered in leaves, the trees were grand and the odd overhang added to the wonderment.

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First stop was to take in the Clarinda Falls. Not deep enough for a swim, but worth a stop nonetheless.

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Then we passed some twitchers, who were probably annoyed that we scared off the birds …

We crossed the Sassafras Gully track and then the Wiggins track before coming to a beaut large pool, where we enjoyed our first swim of the day.

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There was a noticeable decline in the maintenance/quality of the track as we headed down to Perch Ponds and even more so as we ran towards Martin’s lookout. It was still mostly runnable and pretty fun.

Another campsite and large pool

We crossed the creek and climbed up to Bunyan lookout and went on further to Lost World Lookout for more breathtaking views.

Back down to the water again for a MUCH needed cool off before heading up the Magdala Creek to Springwood Station.

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Lovely trails indeed!

Microadventure #2 – Pindar Cave

I left my desk at 16:40 to make the train headed north. This was slightly earlier than the “traditional” 5pm departure time, but we hoped to reach the cave in time for sunset.

We were the only ones to alight at Wondabyne Station – the only train station wholly within a NP in NSW(?). We each stashed a banana and bottle of water for the morning before setting off up the hill. Sadly B wouldn’t have a bar of my attempts to walk the flat parts, but I tried anyway ;) Next were two sections of fire trail before the single trail commenced. This was good, although still a fair bit of uphill. One day I’ll be fitter! Sometimes we had to run a little hunched over, which I found to be good fun. There were a couple of spots with great views and the clouds lit up prettily as we approached the cave.

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A miscommunication meant I was standing on top of the cave watching the sunset as B was down at the waterfall! We then collected firewood and got dinner part two on the fire. B produced some rather tasty couscous, which was more than enough to fill both of us. He still cooked up the sweet potato too – and ate them with practically no help from me!!

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To boot, he produced two different cans of beer. Good luxury packing there. He lost some brownie points when I caught him checking his beers in though!! It’s so hard to get away from reception these days …

I reheated the waffles I’d made over breakfast that morning and served these with blueberries and cream.

Totally satiated, we sat mesmerised by the fire chatting away again. Eventually B found motivation for the both of us to go up and check out the stars from the top of the cave. ***Just magical***

Finding somewhere flat in the cave proved tough and clearly should have been scouted out before dark, but after take two we had it sorted. This was B’s first time sleeping in a cave. Although I’ve done so a number of times before, I still love the experience. Looking out to the trees with the silhouette of the cave roof is particularly special at Pindar Cave :) One needs to take care with the resident bush rat, who did visit during the night though.

I was awake to watch the sky light up pre-dawn, which was lovely. Then I was packed up and off to make the train. B caught me up in no time at all and then continued out in front to “clear the spider webs for me”. No complaints here.

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We hit the station as the train before our intended train rolled through, collected our stashed food and water (a crow had attacked my banana and damaged B’s water flask) and jumped in the misty river. Ah, this is the life.

There was a mum and two boys who came out of the nearby house to catch the same train. They mentioned the bull sharks in the river we’d just swum in :p

Definitely a successful micro adventure!! :D

Glenbrook NP – The Swimming Hole Way

I met B at the NP gates at 08:45 (well more like 9am, since he was late. I should add he was also the one who’d camped mere kilometres away). Today we had four swims on the menu with a forecast for 30+ deg and a possible afternoon thunderstorm.

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First we headed down to and along Glenbrook Gorge. The path down to the water is well defined but not so much so along the gorge.

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We went for a glorious swim in a deep section and then were surprised to find a mini trampoline. Neither of us was game to try the jump though.

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Next was a fun climb up to Mount Portal; timed perfectly to see the blue mountains train traverse the gorge.

Now it was actually time to start “proper running”. There was a gentle, upward slope to the fire trail that my legs weren’t too happy about – they preferred bushwalking today!

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We enjoyed a good lookout break at Tunnel View Lookout sans trains before a very fun single track run around Portal Waterhole (swim #2 B?) on the waterhole trail. B then found us some off trail to run through … …

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At the intersection with the road we topped up our water bottles and drank our fill (B had organised a water drop – nice) before continuing to the Oaks Trail and down a track that intersects with the Loop track to Red Hands Cave. A great single track but unfortunately I did my ankle in on this stretch. There was a super friendly duo we had a chat with at the cave before pushing on.

I was starting to feel very hot and was really looking forward to swim #2. This certainly was a delight to find. Nice, refreshing water temperature and a beaut waterfall to sit under and have the water pummel one’s shoulders. And now to try my home made Kale Toffee Bars.

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Back up the steep hill and around to Kanuka Brook for swim #3. Sadly B lost his sunnies in the scrub (turns out it was a lot less runnable than I thought!). The swim in the confluence was rather refreshing and different to the first two swims of the day.

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We now headed East back towards our bikes and along Glenbrook Creek. There were some baby sand dunes on the bend in the creek so I got B to do some sand hill reps to burn some of his speed :)

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Soon we were at Blue Pool for swim #4 and the final of the day. We swam a bit up the creek and then returned to our belongings. B showed off his boutique towel one more time before encouraging me to run up the stairs (!) to join the road and return to the national park gates.

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28km, 4 swims, 7.5 hours, totally knackered.

Smashed some ciders, pizza and kumara wedges before heading back to Sydney town. Bloody ripper of a day.

Kurnell to Cronulla, mid-week adventure

A rare novelty, I was 7 mins early for my 4:30pm train to Cronulla. The grand plan for tonight was to run the coastal tracks and meet up with a friend at sunset, who’d be out at Wanda doing some sand dune hill reps for an upcoming race !?!

Strangely the train was already packed (what’s everyone else’s excuse?). I changed onto a bus and got dropped off outside the National Park in Kurnell. My original plan was to start at the end of Polo st, cutting off the headland. However, after alighting and being excited by the prospect of bush tracks once more, I figured I should have enough time and set off in the other direction instead to do the full loop.

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It was a little bit of Choose Your Own Adventure working out which trail to take (hadn’t really studied the map) but I was happy with my choices. The tree lined trails were beaut and I was happily alone until I popped out at the Cape Solander Lookout.

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The cliffs were stunning and I traveled south, not seeing another soul until I reached the Boat Harbour. I was certainly loving this adventure and the office was already far from my mind. I was trialing out a new pair of shoes and they def made rock hopping more enjoyable too.

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I wove in and out from the cliff edge, up and over a sandy hill, past the light house and then past another vehicle access point. There were no 4wds or fisherpeople to be seen.

The tide was low enough to run around the bay (at boat harbour) and then I got a bit excited about the rock hopping and stayed down low too long. But this ended up with bonus crowd support, with some blokes looking down on me and cheering me on. When I got bluffed out I scampered up the heath, and I was clearly not the first person to do this.

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I was now on the beach tottering along and smiling at each of the runners I passed. The pre-sunset views were a  beauty. I was worried I’d miss my turn off so stopped to get the maps out (I’d forgotten to study them on my commute – got distracted by my phone!) This would cost me seeing the actual sunset, but meh.

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Now I had mere minutes to chow down the road to the rendezvous place. My friend was already there waiting, having finished his sets. I looked down at the dunes and refrained myself from telling him just how crazy he was!

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Somehow he convinced me to try one, which I refused unless he punished himself further too! So here i was, with 13km of trail and beach running under my legs, running a 750m sand dune hill circuit! LOL! I didn’t say it, but it was a crazy kind of tormenting fun. Haha!

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We took the roads not the beach back to Cronulla (we were both tired), pulling in for a quick dip en route. Now … what to eat for dinner !?! :D

Mid week microadventure – Heathcote NP

At 4:55pm on a Thursday afternoon, I was bolting to make the train heading south. B had dreamed up a mid-week micro adventure and it certainly was a beauty on the menu. The adventurousness was upped by B’s desire to run and not walk the trails !?! So here I was, madly dashing my way through commuters that were wandering through the central tunnel, carrying my 30L ‘city’ backpack kitted out for my first overnight fastpacking adventure (and wishing yet again I’d allowed more time to make my train. But this did mean I had confirmation I could run with my kit). I’d purposefully left the tent at home – no way was I running with that! (Disclaimer: The forecast was for no rain.)

After a quick (or not so quick thanks to a commuter holding up the only bathroom open on the platform) top up of water bottles, toilet stop and shoe adjustment we were off down the streets of Waterfall and then on the Bullawarring Track. I seem to never tire of seeing bush trails, and the minute we were on this one I could feel the stress of the office dissipate.

The Bullawarring Track is a typical trail of the area. Single trail, sections of rock and others of sand or stairs, and just plain old fun. We popped out at the Kingfisher pool and breathed in the sight of it. Lovely.

On we ran. It was a little weird with a lot more kit than usual on my back, such that I noticed it on the technical descents with my centre of gravity shifted, but we still seemed to be making good progress. Past the pool the track was a little overgrown so we had to walk quite a bit to dodge the flora.

Not long before the turnoff to the Goanna Track B discovered this was a 7.5 and not a 6.5km run to camp. I’d changed up the route a little and he clearly hadn’t paid full attention. A few friendly jokes followed. The burning question was would we make our swim with any daylight left? (I was more concerned about finding the final trail and campsite :P)

Eventually we hit the track junction but we didn’t stay on our branch for long, turning off to take a short cut across to another unmarked trail that would bring us to a little known campsite next to a swimming hole. I had expected it to be a lot less scrubby than it actually was (oh well) but this was a micro adventure after all, and it certainly added to the outing.

At the end we hit a major track, stayed on it for a mere few 100 metres and then we were off on a wild track chase. The sun had already set and we were well into twilight. I had a bit of difficulty finding the footpad (oops sorry about the sand-filled shoes from making you cross an unnecessary gully B!) but eventually we hit it. It looked like a highway in comparison to where we’d started minutes beforehand. Thankfully, there was a lot less scrub on this trail than I’d anticipated.

We slogged up the knoll and then down the other side to cross the river and set up camp just outside the RNP (and maybe just perhaps a little on military land…) With the last of the light we went for a glorious and long swim. Just magic.

It didn’t take much to get the fire going and B produced some beer to toast the occasion. Plus a tasty dinner of risoni, which I’d never tried before. The military were flying around in helicopters and we heard the odd bang – we hoped our ‘neighbours’ (The Holsworthy Field Firing Range!) would quieten down soon. (And not encounter us!)

Post dinner we had a few marshmallows while our Chocolate Cake a l’Orange baked away in the fire and the tea water boiled. Bliss !

I think it was about 10:30pm when we finished dessert – so much for an early night… I should have been an adult and forced myself to go to bed, but I wasn’t soooo sleepy and the fire was hypnotising. What followed was a few hours chatting away until the last fire embers went out. Then we both unwillingly turned in … but not before walking down to the pool once more to take in the views. Such a perfect evening.

B had carried a tent but, given the few hours left until dawn, he decided to lay out under the stars too to avoid faffing in the morning. A mosquito tried to annoy me, but I was in too good a mood and eventually sleep claimed me.

Dawn broke and sometime afterwards I, rather reluctantly, crawled out of my sleeping bag. Shame I didn’t have a day off – but then that was the beauty of the mid-week micro adventure … knowing that we’d made the most of the evening and that soon we’d have an entire weekend to enjoy.

One more quick look at our swimming hole, with a subtle mist along the surface, and we were on our way again. We had 6.4km and 1h18mins to make our train back to the rat race and our desks. We made light (but heart rate raising) work to get back out onto the major trails and we were both relieved to avoid the sandy climb through the gully from the evening before.

We were now traveling along the Pipeline Firetrail passing the Lake Eckersley turnoff to the campground (pffft who’d camp there?) then the Battery Causeway and subsequently arrived at Mirang Pool. With 40mins still on the clock we dropped down to the pool and had a revitalising swim! Can you believe today is a work day !?!?! :D

Back out again we finished off the Pipeline Road and turned happily onto the Friendly Track single trail. Just 1.6km to go. B took off to procure tea for the train ride and I ticked off the stairs. I was so content and so relaxed. It was momentarily confusing around the scout grounds and then I was on the final street leg up to the train station.

There was a miscommunication (I didn’t think B was serious about the tea and he hadn’t seen me pass him nor had I seen him standing in the café having just dodged being taken out by a car) and we almost missed the train! But we made it and I was suuuuper grateful for the cup of tea as my body temperature plummeted.

We devoured Greek Marathon Bars and a banana and were soon surprised to find the train pulling into Central already. We went our separate ways to arrive at our respective desks before 9am – we’d certainly made the most of our 16 non-office hours! The throng of people couldn’t put a dent in my smile.

Great trails, tasty food, amazing scenery and perfect company. Wonder when and where the next micro-adventure will be :)