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Adventures on a bike; sometimes on foot

GOW: The Great Ocean Walk – a non cycling outdoors holiday

Years. Several years in fact. That’s how long i have been talking about hiking the Great Ocean Walk. I’ve never been to that part of the world and it seemed like a fantastic way to see such a famed part of the world without being stuck in a car on winding roads moving from tourist trap to tourist trap.

Of course, from inception to actual execution, several years passed however in 2017, it was time to make it happen.

I’ll admit to being a complete novice when it comes to self supported hiking. I’ve done my fair share of expeditions, but usually my bike is carrying all the gear for me and so this presented some interesting logistical conundrums that i needed to spend time figuring out how to solve.

Firstly, I wanted Gea to have fun on this trip rather than it being a death march (lets not mention the Blue Mountains trip). For her to enjoy herself, we really needed to minimise how much she was carrying. As such, we decided that she would carry her clothes and sleeping gear only. While i would carry the tent, my sleeping gear,  my clothes, cooking gear and food. As such, we got her pack weight down to a fairly manageable 12 kg’s or so. She’s still a light weight so 12 kgs was her upper limit of all day weight before sadness would set in.

Don't mention the Blue Mountains

Don’t mention the Blue Mountains

Of course, needing to carry 6 days worth of food then meant that my pack weight was creeping North of 25 kgs which was more than this sorry old donkey was capable of with a dicky back. So as it became apparent on some of our training hikes that I was going to struggle to carry that much and not hurt myself, we were forced to look for other plans. Enter Walk91, with whom we arranged a food drop. We left half our food with them and they met us at the end of the 3rd day and dropped off the food. It worked really well and they were very easy to organize despite me only giving them a few days notice. What would I have done differently next time? There definietly would have been a 2L goon bag of red wine in that drop. The Johanna camp site is epic and glass of red in the evening would have been amazing. Also, i’m pretty sure it would have been easy to find other willing sommeliers amongst the other hikers. It would only be neighbourly for them to help us lighten our load. The only other thing, I completely overpacked in terms of food and in the end we had to actually discard food. For 6 days i had enough food for about 8.5. I just didn’t seem to get as hungry while walking as i do on the bike.

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Gea and Ross simply don’t need this much food. Timmy and Ross perhaps but Gea and Ross, certainly not. There was plenty of leftovers

 

So counter to how i normally roll, we read every available bit of information about the trail prior to departing rather than just winging it. All the guide info suggests an 8 day itinerary, however we didn’t want to spend that much time going that slowly, so we opted for a 6 day itinerary which we though would give a nice balance between a few big days, and a few relaxing slow days. We elected to do double days on the first 2 as they were described as being the easiest and then settling into single days from then on. It worked out pretty well. We got much stronger as the hike went on and although we were completely smoked on the first night, we did better and better until we were finishing some legs before noon.

What choice bits of info would I impart

  1. Download the Great Ocean Walk Ap and listen to it each night in camp prior to setting out. It has amazing stories and information about the places you walk from early settler times, to indigenous tales to info about plants and animals. It was a great resource and I was glad we discovered it.
  2. Nordic Walking Poles – best things ever. I’ve done the oxfam trail walker a couple of times and the difference they make to how foot sore you become and your overall travelling speed is too much to ignore. Gea and I both used them and couldn’t recommend them enough. They are also brilliant on crazy steep clay hills in the rain – I would have been on my arse numerous times without them.
  3. Know your fuel usage for your stove. I didn’t. I went out with a new stove and blew through gas at an alarming rate and was very lucky to procure some with our food drop.
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This was good but, but 2 litres of vino in a food drop would have been better

So our story starts with a crazy tight schedule that i somehow devised to get us to the start line. I elected to work as normal on the Saturday morning till 1 and then take a 14:30 flight out of Newcastle. I usually can’t get the shop closed until a bit after 13:1o and the airport is 15-20 minutes away so i was cutting it tight right from the start. Thankfully failure point 1 was passed with no adverse outcomes. In fact, the flight was a little late which aided me at failure point 1 but put the pressure on for failure point 2.

We then had to get the Sky Bus from the airport in Melbourne to Southern Cross Station and find some gas for our stove since you can’t fly with it. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem but on a Saturday afternoon after 17:00 that was a whole different ball game. I had managed to find a Mountain Designs in Docklands which was open until 18:00 and i had checked with them and they had ‘heaps’ of gas but it was 4kms from the train station.

So we eventually arrived at the train station at about 5:15 and our connecting train through to Geelong was scheduled to depart about 18:20. So basically i just dropped my bag on the ground and sprinted out the door doing the full Harold Holt to try and make it on time. Lets just day i’m no longer an accomplished middle distance runner. The poor staff at Mountain Designs had a sweaty, confused and agitated man appear on their doorstep 15 minutes before close and i’m pretty sure they pondered calling the ambulance to report and old dude having a heart attack.

So ‘heaps’ of gas cannisters actually mean 2 of the small size when i arrived. Hmmm, I was hoping for something more akin to 2 of the large ones but beggars can’t be choosers so I bought what they had on offer and then wobbled my way back to the train station as fast my now very sore legs would carry me. A lazy 8 km run for the first time in a decade the night before setting out on a 100k hike probably isn’t optimal preparation however failure point 2 was passed without my predicted failure.

So we managed to make the train with no hassles also, which saw us pass failure point 3 as the fickle fates of public transport were somehow aligning to get us to where we needed to go. From there on, it was a V-line bus from Geelong to Apollo Bay and we were sorted. We slept in the cheapest hotel we could find as we had a 0700 depart the next morning and we didn’t arrive until around 2300 so it didn’t really matter where we stayed.

Walk 91 weren’t open the morning we were due to leave, so instead, I arranged with our hotel to hold our bag of food and the walk 91 team would swing by and grab it later that day when they were out and about. It was an exercise in blind faith that it would all work out as I  handed it over to a confused receptionist at the hotel. In the end it was all sweet and our faith was rewarded.

Success – We were at the start of the great ocean road with hearty breakfast in our belly and coffee coursing through our veins. Time to see what the day would bring.

Links:

Preamble

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

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