Whew! Finally, we got to sleep in! Just kidding. We woke up at 5:30am so that I could take a shower before my interview and so Hayden could lend motivational support and finish packing. I had been studying so late the night before, I hadn’t had any time to pack my stuff. I went through two technical interviews in a row starting at 6:30am, with only adrenaline and the promise of breakfast keeping me alert enough to conduct a conversation. I thought the interviews went well, and I stressed about it more over the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which Hayden loved, by the way. I thought it was good, too, but Hayden loved it.
We got our belongings together, piled them into our Nissan Micra, which managed to fit all our stuff inside (with not much room for breathing in the back.) We had a long, 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. At the beginning of the route, a sign notified us that we were travelling the Great Eastern Road. Wow! Another cool road! The drive was really beautiful and the road was winding and all around really fun to drive. We barely saw any other cars. It was practically deserted.
At the end of the drive, I was still tiredly stressing about the job interviews, but lo and behold, I checked my email and found an offer email! It was amazing news, and fantastic timing considering I was about to wander into the wilderness with no cell reception for 3 days.
Before starting the big trek, we bought a topographical map from the visitor’s center and ate a lunch of granola bars and fruit. Then we began the 2 night circuit around the Freycinet Peninsula. We started the hike around 1pm (necessarily late due to my interviews combined with driving distance) and had 13 kilometers ahead of us. The beginning of the trail was very typical forestry and greens and browns. We even saw a wallaby hanging out in the trees!
The first big thing on the trail was Hazards Beach, which was the trail through to the end of the beach. It wasn’t pleasant backpacking through sand, but it was a cool experience to walk along the water’s edge. At the end of the beach, we sat down on a big slab of rocks and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich snack. While at the supermarket in Hobart, Hayden had contested my desire to bring jelly because of the weight of the glass jar… but it ended up being a great snacking food, SO THERE Hayden.
Eventually, we started getting chilly from the ocean spray and decided it was time to hit the trail again. While the trail wasn’t difficult, man were we tired from our late night/early morning. We saw another wallaby on our way. Not much later, we reached the beginning of Cook’s Beach, which meant the end was in sight! Just down the beach — a mere 30 minute walk — was Cook’s Hut, the campground where we’d be staying the night. However, towards the end of our hike and with only 5 hours of sleep, a “mere 30 minute walk” seemed like the longest trek in the world. During our trek, we saw a wombat scurrying along down an embankment, around a little creek, and up the other side! He was so cute, trotting along with his little wombat legs. I would love to see a wombat run again.
Somehow walking across Cook’s Beach only took us 20 minutes, though, and we were there! It was only 5:30pm. We’d made really good time — only 4.5 hours, including breaks! We were so happy to be there after a long, hard day. Immediately upon entering the campsite, there was yet another wallaby just hanging out, probably waiting to be fed by campers who don’t follow the “keep our wildlife wild” and “don’t feed the animals” rules. Nonetheless, he was very cute and stuck around the whole evening, without letting us get too close.
Hayden cooked us up some dehydrated Spaghetti Bolognaise, which was so yummy after such a long day. After dinner, we crawled into our tent and passed out at 7:30pm.
We woke up at 7:30am. After our long, long, long day of interviews/driving/backpacking, we had gotten a wonderful 12 hours of sleep. We had 12 kilometers ahead of us, which was 1 less than the previous day, but we would have a lot more elevation. But nah, we had the whole day to do it and we were running on the power of 12 hours of sleep! We took our time getting started with our day. We boiled water for oatmeal and I got adventurous with the oatmeal packets. There were three flavors, and I randomly selected which one I was going to eat. I had the Golden Syrup flavor (it was good) and Hayden had the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon flavor.
[ Side note: Hayden is reading this over my shoulder and is making fun of me for including the part about which specific oatmeal flavors we each selected. Well, I’m just writing the stuff that I want to remember later! And that was fun. Randomly choosing which one I was going to get. I’m not exactly a thrill-seeker. Ugh, see, now Hayden’s made me write two whole paragraphs about oatmeal. ]
The entire previous day, I had kept asking Hayden if he wanted an apple or a tangerine, since I was the one carrying them and very much wanted to be relieved of that burden. He always said no. Finally, he wanted an apple for breakfast! I went for my pack… and realized that the fruit wasn’t in there. I’d accidentally left it all in the car, and I hadn’t even realized it! I was so sad. Luckily, we had enough food to last us just fine without the fruit, but I grumbled at myself for leaving it.
We got back on the trail around 10:30am, heading back through the Cook’s Beach path to get back to the main trail. Our hips and shoulders were both bruised from the previous day’s long hours of backpack-wearing. Even so, in the morning after all our rest, Cook’s beach seemed so much shorter than it had the evening before.
Back on the main trail, we started our 12 kilometer trek for the day. It turned out to be more difficult than I had expected, and I had to take a break after only an hour of backpacking. But after eating a granola bar, I felt much better!
The trail got a little easier after the first hour of elevation, which the map showed was the steepest part. What a relief! We could tell that the second day’s trail wasn’t well-traveled, because the path was crowded by long grasses and branches sticking out on either side. Whenever Hayden was leading, he’d let the branches recoil and hit me in the face. Grump.
Most backpackers took a shorter route around the circuit, and most people just day-hiked an even shorter path altogether. The trail that day was very empty.
Hayden and I reached the turnoff to an optional 750 meter (one-way) hike up to the top of Mount Freycinet and stopped for lunch there. Looking at the map, we figured we were about halfway. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches again, once again proving how great the jar of jelly was for hungry backpackers. There, we contemplated doing the optional hike to Mount Freycinet, but it was a really cloudy day, so we probably wouldn’t be seeing anything phenomenal, and we were about to hike over Mount Graham anyway, which would offer similar views. After a long lunch break, we hauled our packs back on and started the hike up to the top of Mount Graham.
Though the path up the mountain was not quite as steep as that at the beginning of our day, it quickly became clear that what Mount Graham lacked in elevation, it made up for in the quality of its trail. The trail was formed by the land — piles of rocks, big slabs of rock, small creeks, and sometimes what I thought must really have been a dried-up waterfall… There were no arrows to tell us we were on the right track anymore, so we plowed ahead, climbing up rocks and streams and wondering if we were really going in the right direction. Rather than zig-zagging up the mountain, as Hayden said most trails did, the trail up Mount Graham went straight up, through the path of most resistance. The rocks were all slippery, and we had to be careful about our footing to keep steady with huge packs strapped to our backs.
It was definitely not easy, though it was purportedly only an 800 meter distance to the top from our lunch break point. When we reached the top, it started sprinkling and Hayden got really concerned and made me tie a trash bag over my pack to keep it dry. We stopped to take pictures of Wineglass Bay (our destination for that evening) from the top of Mount Graham. It was gray and rainy, but we could see it in the distance! The worst was over, we thought again.
But the downhill was hardly easier than the uphill. While the trail was less steep, it was no less slippery and we had to very cautiously move down big, wet slabs of rock, hoping that the trail would get nicer. In the distance, we saw what looked like a dirt trail. A dirt trail! Oh, boy! We splashed through creeks filled with squirming tadpoles in anticipation of the dirt trail. However, in the spirit of our day, it wasn’t a flat dirt trail like we’d hoped — it was another uneven, slippery rock trail. We took another break to eat chocolate and see how much progress we’d made, and thought that we probably had another hour left.
Somehow, the trail started squeezing us between thin trees and to the edge of a dirt dropoff into a stream. The only way to go forward was to go down the creek. Uh, okay… We perched on the edge of the embankment, swinging from tree branch to tree branch to stay out of the water. That part was cool. We were like monkeys!
Finally, we reached a downhill that seemed to mark the end of the trail. The trail, though still ill-maintained, had finally turned to the familiar combination of dirt, tree roots, and very small rocks. Only 30 more minutes, I thought. Yay! 30 minutes later, I decided that we were probably closer to an hour out. We were thoroughly disappointed, but we kept on trekking with plans to eat the rest of the chocolate once we’d finished.
An hour later, the sight of the campsite toilet was wonderful. We entered our campsite, shoved our bags on the ground, and went to look at Wineglass Bay. We were here! We were finally here! It was 6pm, even later than the night before. The hike had taken us 7.5 hours, and we had been the only ones to do it that day — no one else had passed us or reached our same campsite by the same trail. That was pretty special, because it probably won’t happen again throughout our travels. Though it had been difficult, for different reasons than the day before, we felt so accomplished and worthy of the challenge. Woohoo! Sitting on a tree root, we ate the rest of the chocolate and stared out at Wineglass Bay. The sound of the tide was so peaceful.
It was dinner time! Hayden and I had decided that tonight we were going to have two dehydrated meals. A feast! Except we quickly discovered that there were no rainwater tanks at this campsite, a mistake we’d made when reading the information packet. We’d finished all our water from the long hike — we were out of water, and we still had to get back to the car park the next day!
We started making plans for how we would survive. It was really only a 1.5 hour hike the next day, and we could be a little thirsty until the end of that. But as for dinner that evening… we needed water to make our dehydrated food, or we’d also have to go a little hungry. (No more hope of two dehydrated meals tonight.) We found a motionless stream full of brown water near our campsite. Hm. Too bad I’d left the fruit…
But destiny was on our side! There were three ladies camping at the same site, and they noticed our plight and took pity on us. They had come to the campsite via the easy route from the other direction, and gave us their extra water! Now we had 1.75 liters of water to work with. We were so grateful! Hayden and I felt like we were in The Martian, trying to work with the scarceness of necessary supplies. We distributed 500 mL between us each for drinking water the next day, and planned on 400 mL to make one dehydrated meal packet, with the last bit of water for drinking that night.
After consuming our dehydrated Beef and Pasta Hotpot dinner, we realized that we’d brought a roll of nonperishable salame! Food! Yay! Surprise salame tasted even better than regular salame. We were satisfactorily full after the salame, and settled down for the night in our tent. Crisis averted!
I started reading my Midnight City book under the light of my headlamp. The book was so fun and action-packed. The scene opens with our main character, Holt, hiding under an abandoned car on a bridge. Then these thugs find him and attack him and threaten to bring him in to their boss… but the thugs weren’t what Holt was hiding from. Suddenly, huge mechanized claws begin snatching people from the ground back up to alien ships in the sky, and everyone’s running towards the treeline for cover! Just in time, Holt makes it past the treeline… but one of the thugs made it with him! Oh no! The thug gets the upper hand in the fist fight… and then Holt’s dog, Max, springs in and helps Holt win the fight!
I told Hayden all about it, trying to convince him that he should read the book, too. Plus, there’s a dog in the book! Our main character’s sole companion in a post-apocalyptic world of chaos and distrust. Wow. What a cool story.
I should write those plot teasers on the back covers of novels.
After I got a good taste of my new book and Hayden noodled around on his phone and discovered there was 4G coverage at Wineglass Bay, we went to sleep. I had never been so happy to sleep on the ground. In the middle of the night, I was jarred awake to the sound of static. I thought it was an awful alarm. It could have been the end of the world, and I would have thought it was an awful alarm. “What is that?” I demanded in my confused, half-asleep state. “Rain,” Hayden told me.
I fell back asleep under the protection of the tent’s rain fly.
The tent had held up! What a good boy. Overnight, a critter had gotten into Hayden’s Ziploc bag of trash (he’d left it in an exposed side pocket of his bag) and had strewn the trash around next to our tent. We were told not to feed the animals, Hayden!
Right as we woke up, the three ladies camped nearby told us that they’d found even more extra water for us! We now had 2 more liters! Even with that extra water, we decided we’d better not waste any on oatmeal, just in case. We ate granola bars and jelly on bread (the jar of jelly saved us) for breakfast and looked forward to more food once we’d reached the car park.
A wallaby and her joey had made friends with the ladies next to us, and were hanging around the campsite. They were so cute. They were probably waiting for people like Hayden to leave food trash lying around.
Before we left, we walked around Wineglass Bay and took pictures of it in the morning light. Camping there meant that we were the first ones to arrive!
My hip was giving me trouble after two days of carrying a heavy pack, so we had to take a break midway down the Wineglass Bay beach. I had Hayden crack my back and, though somehow the pain transferred itself to the other hip instead, I felt much improved. We got to the end of the beach and decided to hang out on some rocks for fun. Hayden ate peanuts and I made another peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the last of the bread. A bird came to say hi, and also to ask if he could eat our food. After I finished my sandwich, the bird kept following Hayden around staring at the peanuts.
We got on the trail (the final stretch to the car park!), which was much better maintained than our previous day’s adventure trail. It was a piece of cake. Halfway through, we stopped at a Wineglass Bay viewing point with all the other tourists — we’d found them! Lots of people had come to see the bay, take a picture of themselves standing in front of it, then head on back, since it was only an hour return trip from the car park. Darn! We accidentally took the long way. We got our picture of the bay like all the other tourists and headed on our way.
It was only 25 minutes until we’d reached the car park. As I crossed the line marking the end of the Freycinet circuit, I felt so happy! We’d done it! 32+ kilometers behind us! Our Nissan Micra was waiting right where we’d left it — good rental car!! We were also reunited with our fruit, which I ate gratefully while sitting under the hatch. Yum.
In Freycinet, we drove to a supermarket and cafe where we picked up more groceries for the two nights of car camping ahead of us and had a giant lunch. Burgers and fries had never tasted so good. Afterwards, I went across the street to use the bathroom. No words or photographs can describe the utter joy that I experienced when I saw a real, flushing, please-leave-trace toilet. No, really — pure joy.
Back on the Great Eastern Road, we drove towards Binalong Bay, where we’d see the Bay of Fires.