Welcome to Diane Campbell who recently shared an article with us about her guided walks exploits. Diane is semi-retired and has been cheerfully getting lost by herself or walking on tracks with friends for more years than she will admit to. Currently living near the Eastern end of the Yurebilla Trail and not too far from the Heysen, she has bushwalked in every state and won’t admit to a favourite
In Australia I will nearly always be alone or – preferably with a friend or bushwalking group – on day walks. If I visit an area which is new to me and has a lot of great short walks – such as first visits to the Flinders Ranges, or the Blue Mountains – then I will plan and enjoy lots of day trips.
If I wish to do a through-walk and a Supported walk is available, then I will choose that. The main reason is that walks which must include an overnight stay often include tracks of variable grades, and I don’t want to carry a pack with tent and sleeping bag and water for 2 days or more. Its not just the extra work, its a safety and comfort issue. Some people are natural athletes with excellent balance, and some of us are not and struggle to keep up. This occurred to me at least 50 years ago when a kindergarten teacher in high heels was trying to show me how to hop. (And why would anyone wish to do that?) If I’m on stepping stones then a pack with much more than my lunch in it will pretty well ensure I go into the drink. Or the mud.
One can’t visit the Grampians or the Six-Foot track without tripping over a school group or troop of Duke of Edinburgh Award contenders – and in any largish group, a sizeable number look unhappy, or tired, or appear to be gritting their teeth.
I walk for pleasure. I like to wake up warm and dry with clean dry clothing to wear.
Then again, if one is equipped mainly for day walks, it may be more economical to do the very occasional through-walk with a firm which provides all the equipment than to spend Real Money buying the lightest and best tents, sleeping bags, perhaps buying or hiring an EPERB or satellite phone. The guides will usually be carrying satellite phone, first aid kits, emergency shelter, all of which represents extra safety as well as weight that I need not carry. Transfers will be arranged. This saves some expense, and because the transfers are optimal one may even be spared the cost of an additional night in a hotel. Some companies have permanent shelters with stored dry foods (Cradlehuts in Tasmania) and others use four-wheel drive vehicles to meet walkers at the campsite where they have set up camp and dinner (eg lifesanadventure). Each time I have done a supported walk the food has been unbelievably good, generally better than one would expect to find in the average pub or restaurant – and I don’t have to carry it or cook it! Most Guided walks seem to represent real value for money even if you compared them with just staying in town and eating out!
It is six years since I did the Overland Track with Cradle Huts . Absolutely magical walk. Great guides; they provide 2 for a maximum group size of 10. One stays late at the “hut,” cleaning up and setting bread for the next lot, and one lopes ahead early after lunch, so that when one arrives the place is warm and afternoon tea with fresh muffins or scones is waiting. The “huts” are really lodges, with comfortable bunks in twin rooms, hot showers and drying rooms.
The Great Ocean Walk last year was done with Bothfeet which was perhaps the most hedonistic. Great Ocean Walk is unusual because of the number of access points; it is possible to do the entire thing without staying actually on the track, and there are a lot of options for “support” including from backpackers and camping grounds offering shuttles up to five star accommodation. It was summer, so packs and clothing were light, and BothFeet was based at the lodge and we were bussed to the walk each day. Wonderful food such as oriental salads for lunch kept cool with frozen drinks – and we were frankly pampered, with the collecting bus providing ice and iced towels on hot days. There was a demand from the walkers that the chef write a recipe book at the end….
I did the six foot track (Katoomba to Jenolan) last month with Life’s an adventure and really enjoyed it; it is a great example of a walk which requires one stay on or near the track so one must choose between carrying a tent and a supported walk. Again, well organised, great cooking, comfortable pace – I have booked to go to Bay of Fires with them in a couple of weeks! The first night was an “ecolodge” which was backpacker sized and worth mentioning because they will arrange shuttles and accommodation for independent walkers. (Pickup at Katoomba, be driven to Jenolan to stay overnight at Caves House and leave early the next morning, stay overnight at the Six Foot Lodge and get to Katoomba the next day.)
Maria Island is another spot to consider a supported walk. Visitors must be entirely self-sufficient, including water, for the duration of their visit – one of the guides had a mountain bike with a trailer for that reason. We went with Adventure Seekers . I enjoyed it very much, but they insisted we use their backpacks (my 32 Litre would have been adequate & a lot more comfortable) to carry a sleeping bag and mat as well as personal kit, and even with my considerable endogenous padding I had blisters from the waist band which made walking less enjoyable. I gather that there are safari tents used by another group and that might be the way to go.
If I have a real plug its for the various National Parks services. Cradle-huts has been “grandfathered” in – permission to keep permanent buildings in the national park which won’t be given to anyone else. They are discreet and environmentally friendly, and I think that perhaps there is room for more of these sorts of buildings in our national parks to make them accessible to the average walker and decrease the number of people crapping in the woods. Even simpler and more reasonable – lockers.
There are companies escorting punters to the Overland Track and Walls of Jerusalem, but one must still carry a tent and food. Lockers for tents and water would be inexpensive, minimal environmental impact, and improve the safety and comfort of walkers.
I would support a levy on through-walkers for more enviroloos to be built. Some greenies and some guides seem to think its cool to advise “ducking behind a bush” with the result that its rarely safe to drink creekwater and some parts of popular tracks are frankly soiled… I did the Gordon-Franklin raft trip with a group decades ago, and it simply isn’t possible to go the requisite 100 metres from any creek in parts of it, that’s why the only way down is by a raft!
Many thanks to Diane for sharing her adventures. We really enjoyed reading about her adventures into the “bush”
Have you participated in a guided walk?
What were your impressions? Good? Bad? Worth doing?
Leave a reply below so others can learn from you, just like we did with Diane’s article.