No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.1
Our adventure begins on the first day of a new year. We have spent a relaxing few days on Bruny Island swimming, fishing and generally getting into mischief. The overwhelming density of people on our little holiday leaves us with an eagerness to escape. Our upcoming walk to the Spires should provide us with a solitary experience away from the swarming masses of the bustling community of Bruny Island.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.1
Our party of three includes Ben the brilliant, Andrew the awesome, and … David. This is our first extensive off-track walk. Of course we have nothing to fear. We’ve developed a healthy level of respect for the southwest from previous trips in the area (my personal favourites being the Arthur ranges). Although it must be said that Ben has had significantly less experience than the two of us. Everyone likes to be thrown in the deep end. So we withheld all information regarding the expected terrain and told him of the delightful stroll through the wilderness and what a pleasant time we were going to have. Picture us seated on lush green grass overlooking a stunning panorama, eating from an elaborate spread of gourmet delicacies. From experience I know that several tins of tuna later, after numerous cuts and bruises and an unreasonable quantity of mud, that his appreciation of the scenery will be far greater than any fantastical delusion.
Our level of preparation is unrivalled. Or should I say dads’ preparation? In the months preceding this trip, dad has created extravagant spreadsheets including variables such as average gradient, scrub factor, distance, wind velocity and light intensity. Add to the equation total weight including food and gear. After a series of complex formulae are applied, an estimated walking duration is calculated. Waypoints and intended route have been drawn up and the appropriate maps are loaded onto the GPS. As you can see, the navigational preparation is exceptional. The amount of work going into navigational preparation is balanced out by his impressive disregard for physical preparation.
And so it is at some malicious hour, we find ourselves on the road heading north-west of Hobart (A big thankyou to Andrew who picked us up at an hour when any sane person would be safely tucked in bed). Our first near miss comes on the road to the boat launching point where a large tree has most unsportingly decided to fall in a direction perpendicular to the road. Fortunately, the tree is suspended at a sufficient height, such that we are able to pass comfortably without incident. Our next test comes as we approach the launching point at the mouth of Lake Gordon. Mere metres from launch, the terrain decides it likes the taste of rubber. Any attempt to continue reversing or move forward and the wheel is swallowed further. I don’t think Andrew is in the mood to walk back to Hobart, so we decide to attempt to rescue his vehicle by digging out the wheels and using the standard I’ll rock the car while you accelerate technique. After a bit of resistance, the soil relents and Andrew has his vehicle back.
Once out on the water our next job is to ensure we don’t run into any of the pine trees protruding from the dam. Following the realisation that Andrew isn’t a fan of losing his car I get the impression that he probably isn’t open to the idea of parting with his boat either. Apparently the dam level is 30% below capacity, thus compromising the intended drop off point by several kilometres.
I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole – and yet – and yet – it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!1
The day 2 itinerary stated that we would continue from the unnamed lake to the Font. It was here that we expected to photograph the much elusive thylacine. Taking notes from Bear Grylls (how would you survive if you found yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a high quality rain jacket, an expensive knife, a reliable flint, a length of rope and a high tech backpack?) we would set a trap and capture the beast. We would return home to fame and fortune and never have to work again. Unfortunately at our current rate we will be lucky to make it to the Font.
Dad tells me he’d much rather we carried a bit of extra weight as a trade-off for the luxury of a comfortable, well designed tent (MSR elbow room 3p). That’s all well and good for him to make these bold statements. But the tent is not on his shoulders. I have a conspiracy theory that he is trying to slow me down to level the playing field. Today he takes his maniacal obsession to increase the weight differential to new levels. He decides to carry an insufficient volume of water and inevitably runs out after a short period of time. A couple of hours in, dehydration is beginning to cloud his already askew judgement. It’s a hot day and our packs are not light. Ben and I are just debating whether to throw him over the side of a cliff to enhance our own chances of survival when we come across water dripping off the side of a rock.
Forty-five minutes later and we have managed to syphon the steady dripping water flow into our water flasks making use of a modern device constructed from our plastic laminated map. After drinking a sizable volume of water, dad begins to regain his sanity and no longer claims that he is a time traveller from a parallel universe. He does, however exhibit worrying eating habits. When we decide to stop for lunch of savoury biscuits with tuna and cheese, whilst Ben and I are ravenous and eager to consume as much as possible; dad struggles to digest a small quantity. Ben and I begin making funeral arrangements.
Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.1
The inevitable happens. Rain. Our already compromised schedule is being eaten by an incredibly large two headed, five legged hairy beast with teeth the size of small refrigerators and breath as smelly as the waste transfer station in South Hobart. The creature regurgitates the schedule before swallowing it again and emitting a loud, satisfying burp.
Despite the setback, dad is as happy as we’ve seen him for the last few days (I get to rest!). I spend most of the day reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When I need a laugh all I have to do is take a look at the state of dad’s legs. His gaiters finish well below his knees and his shorts are a size and a half too small; leaving quite a significant surface area of skin exposed for the scrub to work with.
Day two saw us reach the unnamed lake where we planned to camp on the first night. We will not be progressing from the proposed first campsite until day four! Our schedule has allowed for two days of inclement weather. Today we have used the first.
Curiouser and curiouser.1
Our third day of walking was to be a day trip along the northern section of the spires aiming for a return trip from the Font to Rocky High Innes. We begin the day at the unnamed lake with a recalibrated plan to camp on Shining Mountain if we can’t make it to the Font.
Descending a particularly steep section of our route, a rather large chunk of loose rock becomes dislodged and slides down the cliff face, hitting my brother squarely on the forehead. His eyes roll upward and he falls backward off the cliff face, landing in a somewhat awkward looking position on his back. He rolls over, mumbles something incoherent about trolls and goblins; before scurrying away on all fours in pursuit of enlightenment. Dad and I look at each other and shrug. That’s a shame; he was carrying half the fuel. We’ll have to go easy on the stove from this point onwards. Shortly, the terrain flattens out and Ben comes up beside me. It is at this point that I realise the rock had in fact missed his head and he had not fallen, but escaped with merely a scratch down his arm. All is well. We still have the fuel after all.
As we traverse toward the northern end of Shining Mountain we finally get a spectacular view of the Spires. We spend several minutes taking in the magnificent beauty of the mountain range. A sheltered spot on Shining Mountain with a relatively small tarn makes for an ideal campsite with a stunning view of undulating mountains westward.
The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at HIS time of life.The King's argument was, that anything that had a head could bebeheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense.1
The intention on the fourth walking day was to complete a return trip from the Font down toward Southern Cone. Our amended plan is to do a daytrip into the Font and up Flame Peak. Ben and I are quick to nonsense dad’s suggestion that he would be better off resting at the campsite while we do the daytrip.
A rod is erected at 30 degrees over dads shoulder, fixed to a length of string tied to a chocolate bar. Dad has no choice but to keep walking if he intends to reach the reward. And so the three of us set off with a single backpack containing water and lunch. We have come up with a plan to tackle dad’s metabolism troubles. After an emergency meeting with medical staff it is suggested that dad continually snacks during the day to keep his body processing food. This seems to significantly improve his digestion. However, once we reach the Font he is quite adamant that he has come far enough. So Ben and I continue on in search of the defining view of the trip, leaving dad at the Font with the task of writing an entry in the prestigious logbook. We scramble up steep gullies and force our way through patches of scrub for a while. After choosing an unwise route up an increasingly precarious ridge, we are forced to retreat a small distance and look for a safer alternative. We eventually find ourselves on the top of a spike overlooking the Font with a fine view in several directions (our view to the west is interrupted by the high point of the range towering behind us). Upon returning to the Font we catch dad brandishing a wild look and manage to glimpse the entry in the log book before he slams it shut: Something about all walk and no pancakes makes David a dull boy.
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).1
The itinerary states that on the fifth day we shall journey from our campsite at the Font to Lake Curly. Our campsite on Shining Mountain means that today should theoretically be a relatively short, easy day. Theoretically feminism is a good idea.
It was today that our biggest regret of the trip was realised. An essential item was lacking from our kit. As we walked across Perambulator ridge, we were kicking ourselves that no one thought to bring a pram. What is the use of walking along a ridge supposedly so smooth that you could wheel a pram along it without a pram?
Coming off Conical Mountain should be a nice, comfortable stroll. Unfortunately, as we traverse the ridge we come to a section that seems hardly possible to descend directly. It is decided that we take a round-a-bout route down a gully before ascending back onto the ridge further along. So we lower ourselves through awkward steps and scrubby sections. Before long we find that it is too difficult to make the ascent further up the ridge. We make the decision to descend all the way to Windy lake. We find ourselves indulging on our standard lunch after wasting a significant amount of time bashing our way through a totally unnecessary detour to arrive at what is likely to be a very infrequently visited lake. Our visit is welcomed by a large colony of blood-deprived mosquitos. As we gaze upward we realize that we could of should have would have stayed on the ridge and simply continued toward our destination.
We manage to ascend up the hill overlooking Lake Curly and sidle around until we find a suitable point to begin our decent toward the delightful quartzite beach. A short while later, after our routine nude swim, we find ourselves in high spirits consuming pancakes on the beach. I’m not joking. It was a glorious afternoon and we were eating pancakes on the beach. Yes: Pancakes on the beach!!
We’re all mad here.1
Last night a storm closed in. It was raining all night and this morning it is refusing to relent. Today will be our second and final rest day.
Our final itinerary is mapped out with plans A, B and C. Our ideal scenario (Plan A) is to make it to Lake Wugata tomorrow as originally planned, before continuing to the car and home the following day. Taking into account our actual progress so far, plan B is to get to North star tomorrow and hope to find a source of water to camp by, the following day to walk to Lake Rhona, requiring a third day to reach the car. Plan C suggests we get to Lake Wugata, followed by Lake Rhona, then a third day to reach the car.
We assess our dwindling supply of rations and conclude that we probably have three days maximum remaining. We have reached that point in the trip. Yes, that’s right, the discussion has begun: If we were forced to resort to cannibalism, who would be the first to be sacrificed. It is an easy decision. The slowest of the three of us also has the most meat on him.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.1
You’ll probably find this impossible to believe: This is the first day of the entire trip that has followed the intended itinerary!! We successfully walked from Lake Curley to Lake Wugata. We wake up in the knowledge that today will be a big day. After parting with our beloved beachfront campsite, we bash through the surrounding scrub and ford a creek to start our day with wet feet. Always a dampener (pun intended). Our route follows a series of hills and ridges through varying density of scrub. We make steady progress throughout the day.
It is the last two kilometres before arriving at Lake Wugata that has haunted us the most for the entire trip. Our map and aerial photography of the region show dense vegetation on an unfriendly looking uphill gradient. We are anticipating nasty Tasmanian scrub forming a thick, high barrier, laughing an evil laugh as it tears us to pieces and attempts to penetrate our packs. The scrub extends infinitely in all directions and we expect our remaining sanity to be driven from us as we finally emerge as staunch feminists.
Standing at the beginning of the end, we shudder at the distasteful thought of what we are to become.
A couple of hours later we find ourselves enjoying the delightful campsite by Lake Wugata. Politically incorrect jokes regarding the role of women in society are flowing and our mood is best described as one of elation. We managed to follow a rough (wombat?) trail through the scrub, resulting in a far easier than expected pass through what was expected to be the most difficult part of the trip. Our thoughts are beginning to turn towards a hot shower and a home cooked meal.
“…Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.
“– so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the cat, “if only you walk long enough.”1
The day begins full of optimism as I stumble out of the tent to a marvellous view: The sun is shining through the mist, creating an unexplainable phenomenon. Only a picture will do this scene justice, so I fumble around the top of my pack and return with my camera. I frame what is going to be the shot of the trip. I press my finger to the shutter and a message appears on the screen: Insufficient battery remaining. With that, the camera turns itself off, much to my disgust. I implore my fellow expeditionary to join me in observing the unexplainable. But when they finally emerge a few minutes later the scene is drastically changed and the mood has completely disintegrated leaving me as the solitary witness to a beauty rarely experienced by man.
We begin our journey through a cover of mist. Our progress is slow due to the slippery rocks in which we are required to negotiate on route to Lake Rhona. After a short period, we decide to check for reception on a device known in the civilised world as a mobile phone. A call is made and the relevant persons are informed that we expect to be home by about 20:00 tonight. Beyond Lake Rhona progress is easy and we make short work of the track. We pass a couple of parties on their way to Lake Rhona looking remarkably clean and well groomed. Civilisation is within reach.
We decide to wade the Gordon rather than take our chances shuffling across a slippery log. When we get to the Lake Rhona carpark we find the vehicles of the Rhona walkers parked in an attitude of what dodgy bridge? A simple conclusion is reached that these must be modern vehicles with the ability to fly short distances when the terrain is unsuitable for driving. So with the finish line in sight, wet feet, exhausted rations and a state of mind bordering on insanity, we set off for the final ten kilometre march toward the damaged bridge.
We march and jog alternatively until we reach the Florentine bridge where we unlock the car and sink back into the luxurious fabric seats, ecstatic. We can finally make the journey home where a hot shower and a home cooked dinner await. Except that we can’t. The bridge has been repaired and some sort of invisibility function has been activated on the car. In fact, if we knew any better we would say that this is a totally different bridge on a totally different stretch of road. Impossible? Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. We march onward, concluding that the bridge must be unmarked on the map. We must have made a wrong turn just up the road.
Several hours and several theories later, with darkness fast approaching, dad and I stop to consult the map and GPS. Ben has lost motivation and he is a significant distance behind us. Dad suggests that we seriously consider turning back to where we have dropped our packs (by the Tiger road turnoff) nine kilometres earlier and camp the night. This is the most demoralising concept. By all rights, we should have been home a few hours ago, feasting on a beautiful home cooked meal. And here we are with one packet of oats, aching feet, and quite unsure where our trusty automobile is located. I convince dad to at least make the ten kilometre mark. We walk for another few kilometres and again stop to consult the GPS. I ask dad to reread the coordinates. That can’t be right. We’re off the top of the map! At this moment we have a shared epiphany. The road is heading north-west; the Florentine river is spiralling north-east. We extrapolate from the top of the map and conclude that we are within two or three kilometres of a point at which the road meets the river. This can only mean one thing. A bridge!
With a renewed sense of hope, we feel a much needed surge in adrenalin and set off with our head torch lighting the way forward. A short time later we find a damaged bridge, barricaded by a wall of boulders. Parked to the side is an unobtrusive little red corolla. Invisibility function deactivated. Relief. Elation. Hunger. Our next mission is to locate the last member of our party. We drive triumphantly down the road before catching sight of a young man wandering in a trance like state mumbling things about quests and dragons. We stop the car. After turning him upside down, shaking him firmly and removing the worst of the sticks and shrubbery protruding from his ears, mouth and nose; Ben begins to become coherent. “Ya know, this has been just like Deltora Quest.” We slap him a few times. “Book 3, page 148, chapter 7, paragraph 4.” Time for the old cold water over the head trick.
Until next time, don’t lose your muchness.
Check out photos for the Spires trip here
1 From Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland