My goal was to use all of my experience from my bronze, silver and gold hikes and to physically and mentally challenge myself over the 67km.
Start – Patonga General Store, Patonga
Finish – Yarramalong General Store, Yarramalong
Gold Qualifying Adventurous Journey
Day 1 – Patonga to Mt Wondabyne Campsite
11.5km; Grading: moderate, some hard
We arrived, met everyone and had a discussion about the 4 day walk we had ahead. We looked at the topographic maps and planned our route before heading off on the Great North Walk towards Mt Wondabyne.
The terrain was moderate with a climb up onto the ridge that we then followed for a few kilometres. There were large rock platforms and the views were amazing.
There had been a lot of rain recently so there were large puddles and a lot of running water in the creeks. This allowed us to carry very little water as we could collect it at many locations along the walk and purify it. The supervisors taught us the best locations to pick up water and to look at the maps and see where the creeks were getting water from were coming from. For example, there was a creek that had really clear running water but it ran past a pig farm that the farmers dump their waste into. Although they have to clean all the water before they can release it there is always a chance it could be contaminated so we waited for the next creek to collect water.
We had lunch on top of the ridge looking out at the views and in the cool wind. We could see Mt Wondabyne off in the distance so we knew we were getting closer. By this time we had split off into groups of about four to seven which we found worked better than walking as a big group as it was easier to work together, everyone got to contribute to decision making and everyone walked at different paces. Once we reached the campsite we scouted out the best spot and set up out tents for the night. We were camped just at the base of Mt Wondabyne so we did a ten minute walk to the summit and enjoyed the sunset.
After the sunset, we built a fire and all sat in a circle and made dinner. We had a discussion about the day and how it went. I learnt about the importance of purifying water and choosing where you collect your water from. I improved my map reading skills and observation skills. Although the Great North Walk is well signposted and navigation is less of issue some of the signs are not very obvious and can easily be missed so being observant and constantly checking the map is paramount.
Day 2 – Mt Wondabyne Campsite to Mooney Mooney Creek Campsite (North)
16.5km; Grading: hard
We began the day with a discussion of where we would be walking and we had to show our supervisors exactly where we were going before we were allowed to leave.
We ascended to the Scopas Peak before crossing the suspension bridge over Piles Creek on the way down the other side of the mountain. The day involved one large climb and a few smaller ascents and descents.
We had morning tea at a waterhole with a waterfall. The water was super cold so we put our feet in to cool down but it was too cold to swim and there were a lot of leeches around.
We had lunch again on top of the ridge with beautiful views. Our groups changed a bit as we worked out everyone’s walking paces. Yesterday I led at the front with a new friend Vicky as we were the fastest in our group and with the most navigational experience. However, today a friend of mine from school that we have been walking with was having a tough time with the hills so we walked at the back of the group with her. It made me realise how important it is to stick together as a group and walk at the speed of the slowest member. I questioned how I would feel if I was struggling and everyone walked off without me and so we walked with her attempting to be motivational and encouraging her particularly on the steep ascent.
The whole group met up in the afternoon for afternoon tea and then walked on to Mooney Mooney Creek that we had to cross together. We then walked under the F3 before continuing on the flat along the river to the campsite. There was a creek right near the small swampy campsite so we collected water for dinner and set up camp.
At dinner we had a debrief of the day and were able to reflect on what we had learnt. Today I learnt about the importance of sticking together and looking after each other. We need to walk as a group at the pace of the slowest person and make sure everyone is okay. I also noticed the differing vegetation in the top of the mountain compared to down near the water where the ground is moist and the vegetation greener. I learnt that looking at the vegetation can help you find water and leeches.
Day 3 – Mooney Mooney Creek to Forty Acres Campsite
22km; Grading hard
Today we had to look at the maps and determine the route we would be taking before we were able to head off.
We had to do a creek crossing very early in the day that had strong running water and was deep enough to get our shoes wet. We decided to work as a group and lay some branches across the water to walk along. We also got long stick to lean and balance against as we walked along on the logs that we shared. The first person would walk along the branches using the stick as support, then throw it back to the next person and so on until we all made it. By working together we all got across safely and relatively dry.
We then walked past the Lower Mooney Mooney Dam and ascended to the large water tanks that supply the area with fresh water where we had morning tea.
We then walked through undulating terrain before descending down to the Somersby Store where we had lunch and dropped the silver participants off. The gold participants then continued along a road before diverting off along service trails and creeks.
We ascended on a fire trail up to the ridge then descended again and walked along flat ground for a few kilometres to the campsite. The site we were originally going to walk to would have been very swampy and covered in leeches due to the rain so we stopped at a different campsite 2km before. It was next to a running creek so we would also have a water source.
We spent most of the day fending off leeches and having to stop and check every 10-15 minutes. We had another debrief that night where I discussed that I have learnt that leeches are very tricky and great at hiding and getting into your shoes. Despite having about 100 make their way onto my shoes today alone, I am yet to be bitten so fingers crossed it won’t happen tomorrow.
Day 4 – Forty Acres Campsite to Yarramalong
17km; Grading: hard
Today started with a long gradual climb out of camp before undulating terrain. It was quite hilly before ascending to a quarry. We then walked alongside a main road where we had morning tea.
Next we continued along the road before turning off onto a walking track that descended for 5km down into the valley to Yarramalong. It was quite steep at first walking down large rocks under the power lines and then diverted off back into the bush on a fire trail. We had a debrief of the whole camp at an intersection before walking the last 500m down to the shop for pickup.
The day was spent fending off leeches again and looking out for everyone as we got more exhausted. Sadly I got a leech in the last 1km of the walk but I learnt how to get them off and treat a leech bite.
This gold qualifying hike was extremely physically challenging and I improved my navigational and topographic map reading skills. I learnt a lot about looking out for everyone and being an effective team member. I learnt about the importance of being patient and making sure everyone’s opinions are heard and taken into consideration when decisions, particularly about routes have to be made.
Despite the challenges, it was an enjoyable and I hope that I can share my newfound skills with other Duke of Edinburgh participants.
Teamwork and staying together is paramount
I learnt that it is important to stick together especially whilst navigating in bushland, particularly areas we had never been to before. This was demonstrated to me when we had a few struggling members that were unable to keep up with the quickest group. I realised that I wouldn’t want to be left behind so we should remain together and walk at the pace of the slowest member.
How to be safe from leeches
I learnt that the best mechanism against leeches was to wear good hiking boots that come up over your ankles with good thick socks or fabric ankle guards that prevent them from getting into your shoes. A lot of the people wearing mesh shoes had the leeches find their way through into their shoes. It is also good to carry salt to get them off your or just pull them off but that you shouldn’t put salt on them while they are on you as they vomit up into your bloodstream and you can get diseases passed on.
Water is important
I learnt that water is extremely important in maintaining body fluids and balancing the water you sweat out from the physical activity. As there had been a lot of rain recently and the supervisors knew the track well they knew where we could get water. There were a lot of opportunities to collect water and as a result I only carried about 1.5L on me but I had the capacity to carry 4L in case we found there wasn’t as much water as we thought there would be or the campsite didn’t have water so we needed to carry more.
I learnt that it is always good to carry more than you think you need or for emergencies. This was particularly demonstrated to me when a girl in our group ran out of water with still 5km to go until the end. We all pitched in and shared water with her to overcome the problem and it highlighted the need to always bring more than you think.
I solidified my knowledge on how to approximately determine the direction we were walking in by the sun and how long until the sun was to set. At one point one of the compasses broke so we were able to use the sun to determine the approximate direction.
We did a number of creek/river crossings at which I learnt the importance of teamwork. Particularly the deep one where we were able to find a solution as a group by using logs and sticks to lean against and make it across without falling in.
Preparation and Planning is key
I learnt about the importance of picking a route and planning as a group beforehand. As we walked in small groups, we needed to pick a common route in case something went wrong, the people behind would find them.
Preparation was important as it meant we had enough supplies, food and water to sustain us for the day/walk and didn’t need to worry. We decided the points we would collect water in the morning so we always knew how much we would need to collect and could do so accordingly.
Leave No Trace
The supervisors highlighted the need to leave no trace and preserve the environment for generation to come. They taught us the seven Leave No Trace principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Walk and camp on durable surfaces like established tracks and campsites
- Dispose of waste properly – pack it in, pack it out
- Leave what you find
- Minimise campfire impacts – use a light stove. Where fires are permitted keep them small and use only fallen fuel and sticks
- Respect wildlife – Observe from a distance and don’t feed them, store rations and rubbish securely.
- Be considerate of your hosts and other visitors
I decided that I would try and go ultra-light on this hike and dehydrate my own food. Although you can buy it already dehydrated they are quite expensive, not as yummy and you can’t control what is in them. I made three serves of spaghetti bolognese and dehydrated them and packaged them into servings myself which I just added to boiling water for dinner. They were extremely tasty, nutritious and I knew exactly what was in them.
- 2 x T-shirts
- 2 x Shorts (quick drying)
- 4 x undies
- 4 x socks
- Fleece jumper
- Hiking boots
- Hiking Pack
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Two man tent
- Mess kit – bowl, spoon
- 4L water capacity
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- Face wipes
- Basic first aid kit
- Zip lock bags
- Map bag
- Pack of cards
- Waterproof bags