Voyages of discovery. Walks of discovery. Opportunities to gain personal insights. Learning about and sensing the land, sea and air. These are the aspects of experiences I want. I seek. I need. And so my ambitions were no greater when I set out recently to join a local walking group.
A couple of months ago I read a notice in the Community section of the free monthly Eastern Shore newspaper about a walking group called the Ramblers. Some readers will be aware that I do not own a car and do not drive so that accessing the Tasmanian environs away from the Greater Hobart Area requires me to have transport either public or with others. When I read the newspaper it occurred to me that perhaps ride-sharing might be part of the Ramblers package so I made contact. Soon a package of information and the latest Ramblers newsletter landed in my email inbox. Inside was a quarterly program of walks of different degrees of difficulty across various locations in southern Tasmania.Joining the group appealed because I would have access to areas of Tasmania’s bush and wilderness otherwise unavailable to me, and to places with which I am unfamiliar. While I much prefer the joyful solitude of bushwalking, I accept that sometimes compromises must be made. If I must walk with others in order to see otherwise unseeable environs then, I decided, so be it.
To become a Ramblers member, a prospective needs to undertake 3 Medium difficulty walks within 3 months and then be approved by the Committee. A Medium walk is classified as being between 10 and 15 kms in length, usually taking about 5 hours, with steep gradients and may sometimes be ‘off track’. I am adverse to hills. My legs have never liked lifting my body – not at any age, weight or fitness level. I am used to it, know it is a permanent situation, and find it difficult to explain when walking with others whose legs like to lift them up. I know their usual thought is that my fitness level is the issue; it is not and never has been. I accept that most others, who are not slowed when walking up any incline including climbing or clambering rocky mountains, must necessarily be faster and want to motor on. Nevertheless, I wanted to see how my speed and endurance stacked up against members of the Ramblers Club. I wanted to test the Ramblers and determine whether this was a group which could accommodate me.
A month ago I set off on my first Medium walk; on Mount Wellington. This seemed like a safe starter option for me. I knew the mountain reasonably well and realised that if I didn’t like the group pace or my feet hurt or for any other reason I could simply leave and make my own way home (via hitching a ride with a stranger, taking a bus from Fern Tree, walking some distance, or taking whatever other means of transport crossed my path). The following map shows a roughly drawn line indicating the path of our five hour walk.
We left from the upper car park at The Springs (near the bottom of the map), started on the Pinnacle Track (on the left), changed to the Organs Pipe track and followed that to The Chalet (situated just above the road for vehicular traffic to the top of Mt Wellington), crossed the road and dropped steeply down then connected with the Hunter track, and continued past Crocodile Rock. At Junction Cabin we turned towards The Springs and took the Lenah Valley Track back to the car park.
The map below cuts the whole walk in two – in this case our starting point from The Springs near the bottom of the map is clear. The red line indicates the start of the trip and the green line refers to coming back to the carpark. If you are wondering what the brown line refers to; that is the main road for the cars and buses to the top.
The map below also cuts the whole walk – in this case, the pinnacle of Mt Wellington is clear. Again, the red line indicates the start of the trip and the green line refers to coming back towards the carpark.Perhaps three quarters of that walk involved uphill sections; I plodded on and did not delay others by more than a few minutes. The pace was so fast that, through the 5 hours, I blinked only a couple of quick glimpses of gorgeous Hobart way down below. I took no photos. Instead I applied all my concentration to placing my feet and keeping up.
I was glad I completed this walk. What did I learn about the mountain that day? Next to nothing. What did I learn about myself? A few things: relief that I was fit enough to almost keep up, delighted with the miracle that the soles of my feet were not painfully sore when walking as had been usual for decades, surprise that my legs were persistently able to lift me up on each uphill section albeit not as fast as many of the 70 and 80 years olds in the group – they may ramble but they don’t amble, strengthening belief that some body types are designed better for this sort of activity, and a dawning awareness that this might not be the group for me.
The people were friendly and wonderfully supportive. I was made feel very welcome. But The Ramblers is unashamedly a social club, and after years of joint experiences they all love to chatter away as they walk. This doesn’t work for me. I walk in the bush to have time and space to think, to relish the silences, revel in the birdsong, hear the wind, and become, as much as possible, one with that natural world.
Nevertheless, despite and perhaps even because of the experience, I looked through the future walk program and decided immediately to choose the Hartz Peak walk. To give that a try. Almost 15 years ago I had walked up the Adamsons Peak track a little further south in preparation for walking the Overland Track from Cradle Mt to Lake St Clair, but I had never been near Hartz Peak. I knew nothing about it. I wanted to learn.