I woke to the sound of rain hitting the outer fly of the tent. It was warm inside my tent as I cooked my oats and enjoyed a nice hot cup of coffee. As I unzipped the tent I felt the cold wet air of the morning.
The trail left the old quarry by the side of the forestry road that was my home and made its way up through a dark steep track. The forest canopy was thick preventing the early morning light from penetrating onto the trail. It was almost dark enough to need my headlamp.
An hour of climbing and I exited the forest onto a trail of wind blown tussock grass. The rain, fog and strong wind had me scrambling for extra layers of clothing. Twenty minutes of hiking in these conditions and I lost all dexterity in my fingers. I could no longer open and close my hand properly and I started to loose all feeling. I picked up my hiking pace which was not easy in the difficult conditions. To warm my hands I would rotate blowing warm breath on my fingers while hiking. This temporarily bought feeling back. It was cold and I was struggling.
It was 10am when I reached Martin’s Hut, a run down rustic hut full of holes and set on a floor of earth. It was shelter from the wind and rain and I needed shelter. I got my stove out and set about making some coffee and cooking up a pot of pasta. The several hours of hiking had taken its toll on my energy levels. Just trying to stay warm was enough to make me tired. I could feel the warmth of the coffee travel down my throat into my stomach. Alone in the hut I considered calling it a day and staying there for the rest of the night. It was still a long way to the next town but that town promised burgers, hot showers and a place of refuge.
I spent an hour in the hut, eating and drinking warm food. I battled with myself. Should I stay or should I go. It is a battle every hiker faces when they have to choose between comfort and discomfort, staying dry or getting wet, resting in a warm sleeping bag or doing battle with a cold muddy trail. Thankfully, the years of hiking has hardened me and I embrace the hardships, they are only temporary.
The rain continued to fall. The condition of the trail improved and despite the muddy trail I was able to slip and slide my way in good time. This part of the trail followed old trails used by miners from years past. old mining machinery sat in situ, abandoned when all hope of riches were lost.
To stop the rain hitting my head I wore my well earned Triple Crown hat under my OR Hellium Rain Jacket. I climbed up a very small rise in the trail. I was looking down at my feet when my head cracked into a fallen tree. There was a sickening crunch, crack and grinding sound as the bones in my neck cracked in the same way they do when visiting a chiropractor. A wave of pain hit my neck and I had to stop hiking. I rested on a log next to trail. I could feel all my fingers and toes so nothing was broken but I was in a bit of shock. When I was 21 years old I damaged my neck while waterskiing. Six months of rehab and a loss of movement in my neck was the result. Many years later I still suffer neck pain from that day and restricted neck movement, but it doesn’t stop me from doing things.
After a couple of minutes the adrenaline wore off. I twisted and turned my neck and strangley it felt like my movement and stiffness was better than before I walked into the tree. Did the incident make my neck feel better, I thought. I had more movement as I twsited and turned my neck and despite the minimal pain it felt better, just like a trip to the chiropractor.
This was the most amount of movement my neck has seen in as long as I can remember. This bought a smile to my face. When I’m finished with the trail I shall seek out a chirpractor again and start seriously stretching the neck muscles. When my neck injury happened I tried everything to fix it, I mean everything. The only thing that worked for me was a mix of chiropractic and yoga, both of which I no longer do.
After hitting my head it wasn’t long before I made it off the trail and onto farmland and a main road. In the distance was the coastal town of Colac Bay, famed for it Blue Cod fish and the Burgers at the local bar. In true hiker trash fashion I took off my muddy shoes, socks and rain gear and walked bare feet into the bar. A couple of other hikers were there.
It was Thursday which meant $10 burgers. I ordered the famed Blue Cod fish burger, chips and a beer. This bar is used to having dirty, smelly hikers wander in. They look after us hikers and have cheap camping out the back of the bar with hot showers and free laundry. I warmed up, shared stories and decided that I wasn’t done for the day.
If I could hike just a little bit further to the town of Riverton, 13km away I would have a chance of hiking from there all the way to the end of the trail in one day. It would be a big day, in fact if I could do it, it would be the biggest day I have ever hiked in my life. The struggles of today and many other days of hiking over the years told me that I was capable of doing things I once thought impossible.
I had a problem, the rain and long days of hiking caused an aweful rash between my legs. While at the bar I went to the bathroom to put cream on to eleviate the pain and reduce the rubbing. If this continued it would be a very painful end to the hike. Hikers all have their favourite method to end rash. Things like talcum powder are used by some, vaseline by others, bodyglide is also a favourite. While hiking the Pacific Crest Trail I learned about using a non prescrition steriod cream used by ladies to treat itchy vaginas. Sorry if that offends anyone but that cream has served me well over the years to stop the pain, reduce the rash and repair the skin. You can just imagine my embarasment as I walk into a pharmacy to buy such a product, but it works very well.
I left the bar and followed the beach for several kilometers before heading inland to the town of Riverton. I walked into the full campground at 9pm. The sun had just set and it was getting dark. As the campground was full the owner let me pitch my tent in their garden, they never turn away a TA hiker, they told me. I showered, ate, set my alarm and drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow, if all went well, I would reach the end of the trail, 66km (41miles) away.