The Du Cane Range, Tasmania, July 2016

More photos here.

Video here.

How does an extrovert manage to spend 5 whole days only seeing one other person? Fortunately for me the other person was my much loved brother Clint, but the couple who showed up to Pine Valley Hut on the fifth evening of our 7 days in the Tasmanian wilderness certainly were greeted with my fullest attention, a warm coal fire and lots of stories!

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Five days previously Clint and I had arrived in Hobart at 9.30am on Saturday morning after an all night flight from Perth, a friend collected us from the airport handing over what was to become our “favourite pieces of equipment” – 2 pairs of NEOS Overboots on loan from a mate in Victoria. Our Transport man, Connell, also supplied us with stove fuel and a three hour drive to Lake St Claire Visitors Centre where we just managed to jump on an exiting ferry. It was a bit embarrassing, we looked like amateurs with snow shoes and water bottles falling out all over the place! Just past the jetty drop off point was Narcissus Hut, here took stock of our senses, repacked our bags and donned our water proofs for the 3 hour walk in the heavy rain to our staging post for the adventures of the coming week – Pine Valley Hut.

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A decision was made to head straight up the trail not far from the falls behind our hut on Sunday morning. This trail led us to the The Acropolis (1439m). Once upon the main ridge line the snow was instantly deep enough to require the use of our snow shoes. Even then, as we climbed towards the main massif the snow deepened and the trail markers were lost to snow depth. Cloud was low and visibility down to just a few hundred metres. It was fabulous fun, with steep slopes and what felt like some precarious moments but with no clear trail, our GPS’s were trying to send us up all sorts of dangerous looking chutes!  We were soon out of time and needing to head back to our awaiting coal fired hut…I was sure I could smell the smoke from that fire on more than one occasion as we neared the hut…but we remained alone for many days.

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Day three saw us back up the valley near the intersection of the Acropolis Track and the Cepheus River, the trail we were on the day previous . We were convinced that somewhere near this location was another track, a little used track heading north along the Pine Valley floor to the site of the Geryon Climbers Camp. A ribbon was sighted on a tree not far off the main track…then another…and another and another! A couple of hours later we arrived at the ‘pointy end’ of Pine Valley (formerly known as Moss Valley). Here under the shadow of the giant rock face of Geryon and the impressive Acropolis we felt like we had found some fabled hidden city. Truth be told it was just a clearing and a small hand carved sign telling us we had made it. There were tracks heading out both sides of the camp no doubt up to climbing spots. The journey up the valley showed us two or three more waterfalls that were unmarked on our maps. They were much more impressive than the marked Cepheus falls behind our hut. We ‘trail ran’ back to the trail intersection following the ribbons as best we could…considering the blurring speed we were running at 🙂 We actually made such good time on the return journey we completely over shot the trail intersection without recognising it! Five minutes of discussion and we recognised where we were and headed back along the trail to our Pine Valley Hut to, again, practice our ever growing skills at lighting coal fires with damp wood.

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Tuesday, Day Four. We left a little bit of weight in food and un-wanted gear behind but loaded everything else into our packs and headed up the opposite side of the valley wall to The Labyrinth, The Parthenon, Pool of Memories and a host of other delights. A very steep scramble up a fast flowing stream into a saddle adjacent to the long Parthenon (1229m). We donned the snow shoes and traversed along the west side of this mountain until we came to a drop into a valley filled with small mountain lakes. The weather, again was clear and very pleasant to walk in, with views across the Pine Valley to Acropolis and Geryon. After some ‘puddle hopping’ we came to where the trail around our first big lake (Cyane) disappeared under water. It appeared that the ice from the lake’s surface was stopping a full flow out and down the mountain, thus it was flooding the lakeside trail. We were conscious not to smash through more bushes higher up, this high lakes area is a sensitive area in terms of its bio-diversity. (We were even holding in our ‘number twos’ to avoid having to carry them out!!) From our dead end we looked back over the lake and noted a couple of good flat potential campsites, we cut back around and flattened out some snow and had one of the nicest campsites I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping at!

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After some heavy rain, strong wind and a little snow we awoke to a thick blanket of morning cloud, yet a still day and not too cold. The rain had washed a bit of the snow cover away revealing rocks and bushes we hadn’t know existed the day before. The temperature was mild at around 2 – 4 degrees. We decided to leave the tent set and the solar panel plugged into the battery in the hope that the forecast for sunny weather would prove right. The sun did poke through occasionally, enough to put some charge in, but not enough to get through the walls of the 4 season tent (Macpac). While that was all happening back at Lake Cyane we continued on around Lakes Ophion, Elysia and finally on to the Pool of Memories, our ultimate destination. In fact we mistook the pool for another lake as I had marked the Pool of Memories incorrectly on my GPS (Suunto Traverse). We in fact began climbing the nearby ridge toward the higher Lake Selene before we realised our mistake and happily returned to our snack spot at Pool of Memories for a break before moving back to drop our tent and move on back down to the Pine Valley. The patches of blue sky did not fail to impress us as the parting clouds revealed to us magical views of Acropolis and Geryon across the valley. On the return journey Clint tested the thickness of one of the frozen lakes…not wise, but extremely hilarious as he dived for the safety of solid land under his cracking base! I always find down hill journey’s much tougher than uphill ones so by the time we returned to Pine Valley Hut I was jelly legged and ready for a rest…was that the smell of a coal fire we could smell as we neared the hut? No such luck, we were still alone in the valley, at least for another couple of hours. That evening we were joined by a great young couple of Brisbanites currently residing in Newtown, Sydney. Andi instantly became my best friend as we discovered common ground as ‘gear junkies’. Clint and Andi’s partner Aaron sat in stunned silence as we chatted about the qualities of every known brand of outdoor gear known to man.

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Day six required no rush, so after waking to farewell Andi and Aaron (with our snow shoes) as they headed up to Acropolis, we slept another hour, packed up and headed back to Narcissus Hut to await their later arrival. A pleasant three hour wander and a nice afternoon sitting at the edge of Lake St Claire saw us, again, greeting our new mates as they returned from a bigger day than we had experienced. We shared stories of our days, and more gear talk for Andi and I, then of course some sunset viewing from the helipad and Platypus spotting at the jetty…the last pursuit failed, but the first produced success – a stunning afternoon with the last of the sun’s rays kissing all the snow capped mountains around us – Mt Olympus (1472m) being the biggest/closest.

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Friday. We were joined by an organised trekking group on the ferry, which was a big money saver. Winter sees the ferry used less and the lakeside walk covered in fallen trees, so with six or less people on board the boat you share a $240 fee. With thirteen of us we each paid the standard $40 crossing fee. The waves on Lake St Claire that day were, according to the ferry man, “the biggest I’ve ever seen, the wind is gail force, up around 80-90 knots!!” I don’t know about his accuracy, but it WAS wild out there! After 7 hours at the Derwent Bridge Hotel around a beautiful open fire and a 3 hour drive to Hobart,  we waved goodbye to Andi and Aaron, we were ready for a warm shower and comfortable bed in our very nice Montacute Bunkhouse in Battery Point. With heads on pillows it wasn’t long before we were dreaming of the morning markets at Salamanca Place, our flights home and our next adventure…

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More photos here.

Video here.

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Hyper – Achievers

I was reflecting the other day on why it is that some people seem to be motivated to change the world and other struggle to change their undies.

The two types of people were juxtaposed this past month in a couple of events I have been involved in. A camp for kids who are at risk from falling through the education system as well as falling into the prison system, then a couple of meetings with a young guy who used to be in my youth group who has recently set up Spark* a fantastic leadership development not-for-profit organization to train leaders in the developing world, starting with PNG.

The camp I ran was for Alta-1, a great education program to help kids hold their education until they can either graduate to further study or into the work force. Many of these kids have done time in juvenile detention or/and have been kicked from school to school due to behavioural issues or simply learning ability. Some of these kids lack so many of the things people need to ‘make it.’ And by make it, I mean…the basics, healthy relationships, a job…any job, a place to live, a budget to enable them to eat and sleep somewhere, stay out of trouble and the like. Many, not all, but many, seem to lack serious EQ. Awareness skills. I sat there listening to some of the conversations wondering how they would do much with their lives. It sounds judgemental – I know – but that was what I was thinking. I even went to questioning the parenting. I had opportunity to spend the second week of the camp camping alongside one of the parents of the kids who came in week one. This Dad, I pre-judged the first time I met him. I judged him based upon the behaviour of his son on a previous camp I had run. But having 4 nights together around a campfire I was able to put aside my prejudices and get to know him a little better. I have heard myself saying, “it’s always the parents”, when it comes to kids and their behaviours. Well maybe parenting is a major part in teenage rage and misbehaviour, but I tell you this – This guy was a really nice guy with some very strong views on parenting and discipline. Not too heavy, not too light, he seemed to me – just right. Why then would his kid plant a brick through the front window of their house and the family car, then proceed to kick in all the doors in the house? Drugs? Maybe. But why drugs? Peer pressure? Maybe. But where did he learn how to choose his peers and be wise in these choices? Man!! Sometimes I wonder if there is a heap of luck in parenting. You just get what you get. Well actually, I don’t think that at all. I do believe parenting plays a major role in moving teens through ‘those years’. Easy for me to say this…my oldest has only just entered ‘those years’. But decisions we make as parents, ways in which we parent, consistent positive patterns of parenting all compound – surely – to create a safe(r) passage through adolecence…I hope!  One example of this was when I was speaking to this father around the campfire and he said he only let his  14 y/o stay out all night twice a week. I shared that my daughter was only just allowed to go to the shops with friends for an hour on a Thursday night and even then only a few times a term! But it’s too late for my friend I think. The freedom has been given, now it would be more than hard to take it back. His son has parked his brain somewhere and is running with a pretty rough crowd.

The other conversation that I had this past month was with a young guy I had in my youth group when I was a Pastor at Whitford – Aaron Tait. This guy comes from a classic “anything is possible” type family. His Dad makes pretty much everything he touches turn to gold. He talks like something between your nicest next door neighbour and an Amway seller, he is a good guy.

Aaron is an inspiring leader and social entrepreneur. Deployed to Iraq on a United Nations mission as an 18-year-old, the leader of a secondary school for vulnerable children in a Tanzanian slum at 23, and more recently the developer of a HIV orphanage and micro-finance project in rural Kenya, his leadership of his new venture – Spark* is built on a first hand understanding of the frontline realities of humanitarian work. Aaron matches this experience with a Masters of Strategy and Policy, and a Masters of Development with Distinction from the University of Cambridge, as well as a couple of degrees he completed whist still in the Navy. To sit and hear him and his wife Kaitlin share their story this past Wednesday night at our church was simple inspiring. But as much as it was inspiring, I had to ask in relation to this post, “was this the ‘doing’ of his parents? Was it just a lucky series of events?” (he just got a good commander in the Navy who encouraged further study, he didn’t get shot, he met a great wife, he was moved by compassion on a trip to Africa to start a school etc) – I suggest not! Was it something he was born with, just a positive, ‘can do’ personality…the same as his Dad’s! So what do you think? Environment or genetic? Both?

How does one kid leave home at 17, knowingly or unknowingly to change the world, and another (I know he is only 14 and could yet become a world changer!) ends up doing time in Rangeview Detention Centre and continues to tag everything he can touch and is generally looking like heading into an ugly life of interactions with the wrong side of the law?

Dads – Fathers Day this weekend – may you be challenged not only by the question – “What do you want as a gift” (for me – a new drill!) but also by the question, “How will you raise, challenge, nurture and love the gift you have been given in the child(ren) you have”?

I am not saying every child has to end up like my friend Aaron and create brilliant organisations like Spark* and change the world…but, heck, the world could use a few more like him!

4 Months and Counting

Our family are doing the famous Overlland Trek, a 7 day walk in the central highlands of Tasmania, The Cradle Mountain – Lake St Claire National PArk.

Here are some nice snap shots I saw on the web over the weekend web surfing, these are taken on the track we will be walking-

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Overland Track Family Adventure Confirmed

__ The Overland Track __Well, I have been hanging out for the 1st of July for a few weeks. Today bookings open for the Overland Track hike in Tasmania. It is a popular track with people from all over the world so they have a limited number of spots available each season for walkers to protect the environment/track/huts/tent sites etc. Bookings opened today, by the time I got online at lunch time already the 28th Dec was booked out, the next day had 15 spots left so we grabbed 5 of them for Christine myself and the 3 girls.

It is a 6 – 7 day walk depending on how many side tracks you take. It has some nice huts along the way, but you have to carry a tent by law in case the hut is full. They let a limited number of people onto the walk each day and you can only walk north – south. It sounds all regimented and I guess it is, but I think it is better than being crowded out on a walk that feels like St Georges Tce…Pitt Street? (depending on what your main street is!) There are many spots to camp and the camaraderie at night with other walkers is all part of the experience. It’s certainly is not a walk you do to be away from people, but away from everything else – it is! The country is amazing. I did this walk under cloud and rain in about ’87, then again in good weather in ’93 on my honeymoon. Christine and I can’t wait to share the experience with our kids!

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The Next Adventure

Thinking that another trip to Tasmania might need to happen. It has been 2 years this Jan, so I just need to work out how to get there (will we drive, fly?), what to do there when to go (next Jan?) and who will come. Christine and I would love to walk together in Tassie (again) and the kids are at a great age to do do a good walk (Overland?). But I would also like to do a hard core walk in the South West National Park like Mount Anne. So maybe we could work it all into the dream!

Mt ANNE CIRCUIT – SOUTH WEST NATIONAL PARK
Mount Anne from the shelf camp
DURATION: 4 Days
TOUR GRADE: T2 – Narrower but distinct tracks, which can be muddy in some places, in pristine natural environments. Facilities are minimal and you will encounter few other walkers. These moderate tours require a reasonable level of fitness.

Mt Anne (1425m) is the highest mountain in Tasmania’s southwest. It is perhaps one of the most spectacular highlights you will see on this circuit. The tour also features breath-taking examples of Tasmania’s recent glaciations such as dramatic ice-carved cirques, knife-edge ridges and dolerite remnants of former landforms. Wander through mossy alpine forests, ancient pandani groves and discover bright green cushion plants. This tour takes you deep into the heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area, and allows you to explore one of the world’s last temperate wildernesses.

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POTENTIAL ITINERARY & TOUR DESCRIPTION

Day 1:
Main rd to the Eliza Plateau

Leave road and drive through a magnificent temperate rainforest at the start of the South West National Park to our start point at Condominium Creek. Climb the spur from the button grass plain through mountain forest past High Camp Hut and take in the spectacular views of Lakes Pedder and Gordon. Negotiate an incredible boulder field to the Mt Eliza’s alpine plateau and arrive at our campsite among the cushion plants.

Day 2:
Eliza Plateau to the Pandani Shelf Camp

Cross the Eliza Plateau, negotiate another giant boulder field and descend to the Pandani Shelf Camp to set up camp beneath the towering stockade of the dolerite columns of the Eliza Plateau. Option to climb Mt Anne or explore the pandani groves and pristine tarns.

Day 3:
Shelf Camp to Judds Charm

Flank the Eliza Plateau along the knife-edge dolerite ridge to the Notch, with views of the incredible remnant of Lot’s Wife. A steep descent to the Lonely Tarns by Lightning Ridge and through a lush ancient pandani forest to our camp at Judds Charm.

Day 4:
Judds Charm to Red Tape Creek and Main rd

Ascend the flanks of Mt Sarah Jane, explore the plateau, then descend through a dense melaleuca grove to the button grass plains of the Anne River .Arrive at the finish point at Red Tape Creek for our return drive to main rd.

Find the rest of my family somewhere in Tasmania…hopefully wait for me to come off the mountain!