Monday, 5 November 2018

Hume & Hovell Track, New South Wales.


Overview:

The Hume & Hovell Walking Track stretches from Yass near Canberra to Albury on the Murray River.  It is over 430 km in length and is often derided as a 'road walk' and 'not worth the effort' (actual quotes people used to my face to describe what they had heard of the HHWT before I walked it)...

Well I say fuck that. 😜
True; there is a fair amount of road walking.  And meandering through pine plantations.
But I reckon it's absolutely worth the effort and remains one of Australia's least walked long trails possibly because of the lack of swanky huts and soft resupply options for hikers that are becoming prevalent elsewhere.

I saw more fauna, both native and feral than I can remember ever encountering on an Australian trail, some spectacular eucalyptus forests and the resupply trail towns of Tumut and Tumbarumba were highlights with friendly helpful locals and good services.  So there!

Map picture sourced from www.davebyrnes.com.au



I took 15 days walking the HHWT from Yass to Albury in South Eastern New South Wales,

Friday 12 October- Friday 26 October 2018.


The HHWT loosely follows the direction and some of the landmarks of the legendary 1824 expedition that occurred nearly 200 hundred years ago by a bunch of hardcore colonial explorers lead by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell.
Their discoveries and encounters with local Aboriginal peoples opened up the area to settlement and industry.

These days the landscape is mostly very different from the rich, verdant forests the early Europeans passed through but it's still a buzz mooching along a similar route over 430 km and catching random reminders of that expedition and the era of uncertain frontiers.


Maps & Info:


  • I used the official map pack available here 



  • I purchased John & Lyn Daly's 'Take A Walk in Southern NSW' guidebook which features an indepth description of the trail found on their website

          I photocopied the relevant pages and binned them over the course of the hike as I
          advanced.



          It's worth checking their facebook page for current trail condition reports and
          recent detours.


  • I found the trail journal entries by Dave Byrnes from his 2013 HHWT really useful.

          https://www.davebyrnes.com.au/Hume&Hovell/H&H.html





Safari Track Rating:

Mostly easy.  All over the show surface wise but mostly undulating fire trails, lush open farmland and country roads with many good stretches of fun single track and the necessary sections of asphalt road to connect this path together.

There are some sweaty steep climbs and boring clear cut pine plantations that kick one's morale in the nuts.
But for the most part the signage was great and the variety of landscape and terrain keeps things interesting.

There is definitely a fair bit effort going into maintaining the trail and by far the best kept section was the stretch between Buddong Falls and Henry Angel where the Hume & Hovell 100 mile Ultramarathon is held annually.  My original intent was to go over and run the event but then I decided for the effort required to travel there I should hike the whole kaboodle.

Shame about the chronic infestation of blackberry constantly sighted in the valleys and creeks but that's the way it is right.



Logistics & Supplies:

I flew from Tasmania to Sydney and took the early train to Yass Junction (around 3.5 hrs) where I was dropped off in Yass town 4 kilometres away by 2 lovely ladies.

I located the Yass Camping Store and procured a gas canister for my cooker. Website.

I decided against starting the hike at the traditional Eastern terminus; Cooma Cottage about 5km away.  The notion of 10 km return road bash on busy highway for the sake of tagging a sign didn't rev my engine so I started in Yass.
However many end to end hikers do start at Cooma Cottage where explorer Hamilton Hume lived from 1840 onwards.  Your call, be a purist or start where you want.

I carried 5 days food on the plane from Launceston to get me to Tumut,
I purchased 4 days food in Tumut to get me to Tumbarumba
and I purchased 6 days food in Tumbarumba to get me to Albury.

Tumut is a large country town with a number of hotels and major supermarkets and the Riverglade Caravan Park where I pitched my tent. Website. $20 a night, great facilities.

I grabbed another gas canister at Toms Outdoors and chatted with Chris one of the owners, cool shop, cool people.  I also buy a bit of stuff online from their website here.


I accessed Tumut by calling the Tumut Taxi Service 02 6947 1666 from the Snowy Mountains Highway. It's 10km North of where the HHWT pops out and costs around $30.
Alternately you could stick your thumb out or walk.

A kind local who shall remain nameless shuttled me out of town the next morning back to the trailhead.  Thanks mate!



I stayed at the Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park Website in a Jangugal Cabin for $93.  It was a good stay and the laundry facilities were welcome.

Supplies can be sourced from the large IGA supermarket on the main street.

I had lunch at one of the pubs- $10 for fish & chips, $6 for a pint of tasty IPA.
Old school prices circa 2008. 😏

I accessed Tumbarumba (or 'Tumby' as the locals call it) by calling Ria at the caravan park for a pickup.  I initially tried hitching but gave up due to lack of traffic.
Town was calling...
Ria's husband Peter facilitated my return to the Henry Angel Trackhead the next morning, I paid them $20 for 2 rides.

The Great Aussie Holiday Park is a well set up place with grassy tent sites.  I paid $25 for a campsite and bought some lamb rissoles from the basic shop. Website.
Make sure you fill up your water bottle before heading off, I forgot and hiked 23 very warm kilometres to the Ettamogah Pub.

I sent a package to the Great Aussie containing non hiking clothing and snacks and a book which they kindly held for me.

The Ettamogah Pub is a fantastic place to smash some beers, get a good feed and charge up the phone.  Kitsch and touristy but very useful.  Only a couple of kilometres from the Table Top Reserve.
Website.


Across the dam:

The HHWT leaves dry land for a 6km section between Burrinjuck Waters Holiday Park and Cathedral Rock.  The Holiday Park operates a boat transfer and Wendy & Dean are friendly, helpful folks.
The boat ride cost me $30 and I was scooted across immediately even though I rocked up a day early and was booked to travel the following day.

Website here.


Daily distances:

Friday 12 October
Yass to Captain Campsite 28 km

Saturday 13 October
Captain Campsite to the ridgeline above Wee Jasper (campsite) 31 km

Sunday 14 October
Ridge line campsite to Micalong Swamp campsite 36.5 km

Monday 15 October
Micalong Swamp campsite to Tumut (Riverglade Caravan Park campsite) 42 km

Tuesday 16 October
Tumut (Highway 18) to The Flats campsite 30 km

Wednesday 17 October
The Flats campsite to Buddong Creek Picnic Area 35 km

Thursday 18 October
Buddong Creek campsite to Junction campsite 38 km

Friday 19 October
Junction campsite to Henry Angel campsite (pick up and cabin in Tumbarumba Creek Caravan Park)
6.5 km

Saturday 20 October
Henry Angel Trackhead to Mannus campsite 22 km

Sunday 21 October
Mannus campsite to Horse Creek campsite 20 km

Monday 22 October
Horse Creek campsite to Woomargama National Park campsite 28 km

Tuesday 23 October
Woomargama campsite to Samuel Bollard campsite 34 km

Wednesday 24 October
Samuel Bollard campsite to Great Aussie Resort campsite 25 km

Thursday 25 October
Great Aussie Resort campsite to Table Top Reserve campsite 25 km

Friday 26 October
Table Top campsite to Albury (Best Western Hotel) 26.5 km

Total: 427.5 km


*I estimated my daily mileage from the distances given on the maps.  I'm not too fussed as what I actually did, these figures just give you an idea of my impromptu itinerary.






What I wore & carried:

The weather was mid 20's at this time of year so I rolled along in shorts and shirt mostly.
I wore Bedrock sandals on the flat easy firetrails and Topo MT2 trail runners on the bumpy parts.

I used a 3 season quilt and merino leggings and long sleeve top during the night when things got cold but mostly it was fairly warm.

My 60 litre Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack was more than ample.




Best parts:


  • Finding no ticks on me the entire time. 
  • Buddong Falls.  Quite sensational.
  • The crazy diversity of landscapes the trail meanders through.
  • Going for 4 days at a stretch without seeing and speaking to another human being.
  • Sitting out a heavy thunderstorm on The Flats alongside Blowering Lake. Electric skies and that slightly rattled but invigorated feeling.





The Campsites:

Every 10 to 20 kilometres are purpose built covered picnic shelters with tables, sometimes a water tank (if not then there is a creek or lake nearby) and a flat area to camp.

There is always a nearby road, in fact some are right on sealed roads.  One I stayed at, Mannus; was a tad rundown and painfully close to the road.   However I slept 13 hours straight through and didn't hear a peep.

No one ever disturbed me and I only encountered kangaroos, brumbies and fantastic birdlife.








Things I would do differently:

Water filter-

I took a shitty little Sawyer Mini.
Woefully inadequate, I should have packed a Sawyer Squeeze instead.
The bag ripped first, so I hooked it up to a large Platypus then the filter got very clogged and I hadn't chucked in the back wash syringe when I packed up my kit in Launceston because...well it's bulky and I rarely use it.
And  I'm a nuff nuff sometimes and I neglect to bring things I probably should but hey, who's perfect?!

Good trick: I purchased an overpriced bottle of 'sports water', whatever the heck that is, and utilised the sipper top to backwash the Sawyer Mini when needed with clean filtered water.
This was painstaking as getting clean, filtered water initially from a blocked filter in order to then clean it, required patience and this back-flush method doesn't do a great job, just an adequate one.

The sipper cap on this brand of sports water slips snug over the top of the outlet pipe of the Sawyer Mini and allows water to be flashed back into the filter and push out the junk.
When the squeeze bag hopped the twig I screwed the Mini onto my water bottle and drank straight out of the piping outlet.  I prefer to faff around and do things the hard way and stop and squeeze filtered water into the bottle and glug it down as required like a man rather than a child sipping from a straw but I purposely brought along a BPA free bottle with the cap screw thread that I knew would partner with the Mini in case the standard squeeze bag crapped out.

Toilet paper-

Hard to believe but I forgot to bring toilet paper.  I had a few wet wipes but luckily I don't mind the 'back country bidet' method and (fortuitously) all of the campsite outhouses had tissue roll in them.

Pen-

Yup, a simple pen that worked would have made signing the sporadic trail registers a tad easier.  Instead I had fun & games attempting to write with the flogged out pencil stubs and duck taped broken biro's tucked inside the rolled up register forms. I grabbed a decent one in Tumut but probably should have bought a packet and left them in the plastic screw cylinders where the registers were located as well.  Anyway.
Done after 2 weeks of solitude and ready for a shower at the Hovell Tree in Albury.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Soderasens National Park to Maglebjar 37km Section Hike. Sweden.



The Skaneleden Trail in far Southern Sweden is a collection of long distance tracks squiggling their way across all parts of Skane County.  They are categorised into various regions by the sub section designations SL1 to SL5. Sounds confusing but it's not really.

I hiked a tiny chunk between pretty Soderasens National Park near Asltorp on the SL3 which is the dotted line that tears across the guts of the region..
The hard-to-see yellow dots are my kick off and get off points on the trail.


Map sourced from www.mynewsdesk.com
I took 3 days, 2 nights hiking this portion of trail from Tuesday 11 September to Thursday 13 September.



Safari Track Rating :A few bumps but mostly easy level walking along well marked single track and quiet country roads.  There are a couple of shelters and places to source water (sometimes) as well as the ICA supermarket at Rostanga near Soderasens.

I used the official Skaneleden SL3 map which cost $150 Swedish Krona (around $23 AUD) and planning resources on the official Skaneleden website here which has a good English translation.


I initially accessed the Skaneleden from Copenhagen over the border in Denmark where I had been having a kick ass week driving around Jutland, running crazy distances, drinking beer and talking about Vikings with my mate Hans and his mates and wife Zita. I had a blast and Denmark is now one of favourite European destinations, very cool people and an easy place to have fun. 😀

I rolled into Malmo and jumped on a different train bound North for Stehag, a rural locality in Southern Sweden.  A bus with the designation 518 was waiting nearby as I alighted and 25 minutes later I was pushing through light rain outside the park office at Soderasens National Park.
The bus stops at the Western gate, piece of piss, easy as.

Recommend utilising the Skanetrafiken app which covers all trains and buses in the Skane region.  You can plan your journey, pay online and scan yourself on whilst boarding.


I grabbed a map from the park information centre and headed off Eastwards.  Soderasens is a small area of protected land (you can walk most of the trails in a day) featuring dramatic valleys and ravines, providing a contrast to the normally flat landscape of the Skane region.

Beech and oak trees predominate and frequent orange markers lead the way.  Skittish deer scattered at my appearance and lush fungi begged for attention.



I bailed out of the rain for a bite and a break in a dilapidated old farm building that is now a free hiker cabin.  Teenage graffiti in English was splashed all over the walls and I made use of the water supply and dry space for a while.



The path exits the park at Rostanga where there are a few facilities like a shop and accommodation options.  I banged up a deserted road to a nature reserve and stopped for the night at Jallabjar shelter.


Luckily the weather was playing games and drizzling soft rain; the water pump refused to draw any liquid from the ground.  I located a few puddles and filtered away.
A few days later I talked with a couple of local Swedish hikers and they informed me that the previous Summer was super dry and it is common to struggle to find water along parts of the Skaneleden.  Yah for the rain?!!


Next day was a mixture of lonely country roads and bewitching Oak & Ash clad forest.  Numerous reminders of peoples of the past were encountered via ancient stone walls and interpretative signage along the way.

I scooped up water from an old church at Hallarod and bounced along a winding track to the lake at Frostavallen.





Ignoring the roaring animal cries from the nearby zoo, I slept deep, deep sleep in my tent near the Maglebjar shelter.  There were houses nearby and the area is popular for Swedish tourists but as usual I was not disturbed.




The next morning I failed to locate any more water and so reluctantly decided to cut myself loose and vacate the trail at Hoor, a large town with rail connections to Malmo & Copenhagen, a few kilometres away.  I figured my planned week long hike to Brosarp would be slightly agitating if water continued to be as elusive as it had been the last 2 days.

The promise of hot food and wandering along early in the day under a cloudless sunrise spurred me on down the purpose built bike path to Hoor.  The crowds of commuters looked glum as they waited for trains to cart them off to employment in far off cities.

Times like this had me realising how very fortunate I was to have the health and motivation to take on these adventures.  Good vibes!



Mileage:

  • Soderasens to Jallabjar  11km
  • Jallabjar to Maglebjar    26km + road walk to Hoor 4km


Monday, 24 September 2018

Kullaleden Trail, Skane Region, Sweden.



The Kullaleden Trail is an easy, well trod coastal section of the larger Skaneleden Trail network that squiggles all over the show for more than 1000km in Southern Sweden.  It passes through rural residential areas, pockets of temperate forest and sandy Scandinavian beaches on the Kullaberg Peninsula. 
Plenty of great views and facilities too, if needed.
The distance is about 70km + the 10km I did from Angelholm to the trail terminus at Utvalinge.

The Skaneleden was not designed as a one off thru-hike, rather a collection of long trails numbered SL1 to SL5 that wind and meander around the former Danish territory of Skane, where prolific public transport options facilitate the opportunities to jump on and off the path at will.
You can wander along part of the trail for an hour or 2 months.  Your call.

The Kullaleden is very well marked with orange blazes and signage and I never lost my way.  That speaks volumes... 😉 There are rustic 3 sided shelters plopped along the route every now and then and sometimes dubious water supplies to keep the easy pace interesting. 

Overall map of the Skaneleden Trail.  Map sourced from www.mynewsdesk.com

I took 3 cruisey days hiking the trail from Thursday 13 September to Saturday 15 September.

This map of the Kullaleden was posted about prolifically throughout the walk.  
Safari Track Rating: Mostly flat, easy to follow and a mixture of single track, forestry and residential roads.

I used the official Skaneleden SL5 map which cost $150 Swedish Krona (around $23 AUD) and planning resources on the official Skaneleden website here which has a good English translation.

The Kullaleden website here has all the basics in English. 

I also made contact with an Aussie bloke, Brian who is living in Copenhagen and has a handy blog about hiking in Scandinavia, in particular the Skaneleden; www.brianoutdoor.wordpress.com


I bounced off the SL3 section of trail in the town of Hoor and rode the train to Angelholm on the coast, purchased a snazzy waterproof map at the Visitor Centre and fumbled my way on non official tracks to the start of the SL5 section at Utvalinge.  There was a slightly confusing 10km of 'I'm-pretty-sure-I'm-lost-but-if-I-keep-the sun-on-my-left-as-it-is-in-the-South-which-means-I'm-heading-West' and wandering through pine forests and rough tracks and then I got there. Eventually. I could have caught a cab but that would be lazy wouldn't it. 😉


I really feel at home in Scandanavia.  I like the landscapes, the great transport options and the opportunities to get out and wander around the countryside without restriction.
Coming off a long Ultramarathon in Western Denmark a few days beforehand and the unexpected cancellation of my flights to Greenland to hike the Arctic Circle Trail, had left me a tad weary and keen to seek an uncomplicated journey.
Hello Sweden again!


From Utvalinge onwards I chased the conspicuous orange markers and ducked in and out of pretty fishing villages and well heeled neighbourhoods.  Sheep tried to befriend me and cows smiled contentedly.  I pushed on West and crashed into Skaret campsite for the night.






Two older Swedish women were already chowing down on dinner and had their large green Hilleberg tent pitched out near the shelter.  I have a smaller version of that tent, it's bloody awesome in the mountains and snow in a ripping storm. We yakked away and swapped boring hiking stories. 😏

Skaret is a very cool spot.  Trees and grass and peaceful Swedish countryside.

A Danish climbing club maintains the site and has built a lean to and fire ring and seating just for Kullaleden hikers adjacent to their own.  Thanks folks!

I ate, brushed the fangs and crashed out for 10 hours.




Next morning I banged on up bumpy singletrack to the tip of the Kullaberg Penninsula where there is a visitor centre and a fantastic view of the Kattegatt Sea between Sweden and Denmark.

I purchased a coffee and jumped on the free Wifi and messaged my girlfriend Ree, checked the dogs were still alive and wandered around the lighthouse station.




Rain blew in early afternoon and I was back on bike paths and a mixture of coastal tracks and quiet streets leading past holiday shacks and retirees homes.

I toyed with the idea of grabbing a roof over my head for the night in Hoganas but decided to push on near the bustling caravan park in Lerberget and pulled the tent up in some bushes where no one could see me. I located a gas station nearby, scored a bag full of brews (they are only 3.5% alcohol in Sweden unless you go to the State owned monopoly Systembolaget) and kept out of the rain that Friday evening.



Next morning was a bizarre mixture of wiping sunscreen on my snout and sweating and then running for cover from hailstones and driving rain as the sun and clouds played chasey across the skies.

The cranes and city buildings of Helsingborg grew taller and more defined on the Southern horizon as I drew closer.

The shelter at Domsten is in a fairly public spot but when I rolled in for a break and ditched my pack I discovered a young Danish guy still lying down in the middle of a late morning sleep in.
He was excited and pumped to be on his first solo multi day walk and informed me he was 'going into the wild!' (not likely on this trail but I loved his youthful enthusiasm and sense of wonder, he reminded me of me 20 years ago, I hope he enjoyed his hike)... a Jack Kerouac novel lay on his sleeping bag and he chattered away and explained his hopes and plans for the coming week.



The trail eventually turned into a wide bike path and the out skirts of historic Helsingborg was reached.  Which meant fresh vegetables, cold beer, and a shower.  
Not to forget crowds of tourists and getting lost in city streets.  I hadn't showered in a week so the stinky funk smell helped push me on to my cheap hotel room and a Thai food buffet.


Departing Helsingborg on the 20 minute ferry ride to Helsingor on the Danish coast.
Other faff;

*There are quite a few spots to jump on or off the trail and access a nearby bus top. 
Recommend grabbing the Skanetrafiken app and booking and paying the fare for where you want to travel electronically, then use your phone to scan in when alighting. 
Cash is not always accepted in Sweden.

*The public toilet facilities along the walk were always, mostly, very modern appliances with sensor washing systems and electric locking.  Clean & stocked & signposted.


*Mileage:

Day 1- Angelholm to Skaret  30km

Day 2- Skaret to near Lerberget 35.5km

Day 3- Lerberget to Helsingborg 14km