Cooloola Great Walk

The Cooloola Great Walk - 30th of March 2018

The weather at the moment! About as unpredictable as my lasagne! 

The weather was supposed to be poor at best but it ended up being almost perfect hiking weather! That almost never happens but it was certainly welcome.

Starting our near 100km hike from the stunning Carlos Sandblow at Rainbow Beach, the northernmost point of the hike and a region that certainly holds a place in my heart as it reminds me so much of my cruisy little home town before it became a hustling bustling little suburb. From the outset, we had surrendered to the fact that there was probably going to be at least one day of almost constant rain.

Day 1

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Dropped off at the Carlo carpark, we busted out a couple of warm-up stretches...because we're not as young as we used to be, then we were off.  I enjoy walking from North to South, it always feels like I'm walking downhill.  Within a very short distance we reach the magnificent Carlos Sandblow, it would be easy to think, "it's going to be tough to get many better photo opportunities than this".  You'd be wrong :).  There's sooo much more to come.

This well trodden 15.2km section of the hike sets you up well for the rest of the hike as it gives a very good taste of the conditions for the next 4 days.  It's also a short day compared to some of them, so it gives you a chance to tend to any niggles that you may have.

Of course, if you're an athlete you can go the long way via Double Island point and make it a 30km day...it's an absolutely beautiful hike but it's massive and the undulations are unrelenting.  It's not easy and I wouldn't recommend it to a fully laden hiker.

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As you drop down in elevation on the last quarter of the day you will reach Poona Lake, a very nice place to stop and have a break near the water.  When the air is still, the reflections off the water are stunning.  A photographers dream with the contrast of the tannin stained water against the white sand.

After Poona Lake, you drop down gradually about 90 meters of elevation...then it's up...and up...and up...at an angle that feels similar in inclination to the trajectory of a NASA launch. My knee didn't appreciate it so it was a very slow part of the day for me.  Note to self, don't come out of the gate so hard, stretch better...you're not as young as you used to be.

Kauri Walkers Camp is hidden away in an area that feels like it's a million miles from anywhere, deep in the rainforest.  It seemed apt that at the point of our arrival, the heavens opened up and tents were erected in the rain, in the rainforest.

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The rain did break from time to time and allowed us and our neighbouring campsite inhabitants to emerge for sustenance.  This campground proved to be the busiest of all four campgrounds because of its proximity to Rainbow and Teewah Beaches.  The breaks in the weather proved to be a great opportunity to catch up with our neighbours and shoot the breeze. It's such a small world when in the company of fellow adventurers, the next campsite over were a contingent of Venturer Scouts from Greenbank Scout Group.  Steph was on her way to getting her Queens Scout Award, the highest youth award in Scouts.  Having been involved in Scouts myself as a leader I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who attains this award.  The next camps were made up of a group of friends being led by someone who I had crossed paths with previously but had never had the privilege to meet, Sami from the Rewilding project.  I had a great long chat with her and a few of her companions about what they do and why.  I'm sure they are destined for great things and I hope I can bear witness to their success.

But with darkness, mozzies and weather closing in, it was time to say goodnight to our fellow campers, dinner and bed.

Day 2

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Two words 'brutal' and 'boring' lol.  This is a day that isn't so much about what's going on outside as it is about what's going on inside.  Don't get me wrong, it's still amazing to be in this beautiful bush in this beautiful part of the country but as my knee hadn't fully recovered from my over-enthusiasm to get started the day before, almost a fully laden pack and one of the longer days, there was a bit of mental play going on in order to stay in a positive frame of mind. 

As there weren't any significant points of interest on this particular day to break up the walk, it was definitely my least favourite and I was glad to see the end of it when we got to Litoria walkers camp :)

Day 3

14.8km with only minor changes in elevation, brilliant!  Just what I needed in order to get the spirits back up again.  Of course, the concoction of seven secret herbs and spices that my traveling companion was constantly slipping into my water certainly helped my recovery as well.  Lots of vitamins and minerals and other stuff that helps with recovery.  All I know is that it worked.

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This was a day of rapidly changing landscapes, going from rainforest beside the beach to swamp beside the Noosa River.  I love experiencing these changes over such a relatively short distance, it makes you really appreciate how nature responds to slight environmental changes.

Arriving at Dutgee walkers camp on the Noosa River for lunch was a fantastic way to mark the middle of the hike.  I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the middle day of the hike than setting camp early, going for a swim in the dark tannin stained water of the Noosa River (dodging the bull sharks) and being able to have a bit of a nap in the shade of the common area before getting up, tending to washing the clothes and prepping dinner.

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It was great to hear the Venturers who arrived an hour or two after us, were still in good spirits, laughing and carrying on.  I must say I was very impressed with this crew.  They appeared to know what needed to be done and they got on with it.  They supported each other on the hike and although they did break into groups every now and then on the trail, they always regrouped every 15 minutes or so to make sure everyone was okay.  They also put up their tents with incredible speed.  I remember looking over at their camp on the first night and I think they were set up in less than 5 minutes.  This was the last night we would spend in their company, they would be hiking out to be picked up from the beach tomorrow.

Day 4

What an incredible day!  Fuelled by a great day of rest and the knowledge of what the day in front of us held, it would have been difficult not to be pumped for this one.

We started the day with the normal coffee and cereal...then just enough rain to mean that the tents were packed wet...not great for pack weight but hey, that's hiking and the rain cleared nicely once we were all packed and ready to go.

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The Venturers were visibly aware that this was the last time that they had to pack up, the last time that they had to hike and only a short journey lay ahead of them for the day...because I have seen clay move faster than them lol.  I think I was jealous of their carefree day because we had another 20km of hiking ahead that was full of ascents and descents.  Any distance above 17km in a day is less enjoyable than the previous 17, it seems to be my magic number :)

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A very nice and easy start to the day with a flat walk along the banks of the Noosa River.  A stark change in landscape to what we had been previously walking in.  The contorted shapes of the trees native to the low lying flats of the Noosa River are beautiful in a macabre kind of way...

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Up into the hills again, with a climb of about 190 meters and then BAM, the Cooloola Sand Patch...wow...this did not disappoint and I must say that the name does not do it justice.  I remember when I was a kid I had a sandpit.  I'm not sure but I think I drew a parallel between my 'sandpit' and the 'sandpatch'.  Upon casting my eyes over this mini desert, complete with its own oasis, I realised just how wrong that parallel was.  You have to see it to appreciate it.

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After crossing this desert, we were back into the bush.  It was a long walk in the heat and humidity and through what sometimes seemed like airless valleys between massive sand dunes, but the constant presentation of viewpoints in differing directions with incredible breezes, was energising and did help with getting to the final camp of the trip, Brahminy walkers camp.

A great spot with an awesome view of the sunset from the common area.  A perfect way to end the day that was already filled with visual treats.

Day 5 -  the last day

It certainly hadn't felt like we had been hiking for 4 days.  It absolutely didn't feel like this was the last day.  I certainly don't think we wanted to think about returning to work the day after.  Yet here we were.  Almost all downhill from here.

Only 17.3km to go and we were at the Noosa North Shore tavern for lunch. So we got cracking.

Despite the elevation not being anywhere near as high as it had been on any of the previous days, the views are a great way to re-introduce you back into the modern world that you are about to re-enter.

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I managed to talk my traveling companion into a sneaky ice cream from the kiosk at the Noosa North Shore Beach campground where I felt a few of the patrons were looking at us with a mixture of intrigue and concern as we just appeared from out of nowhere into this isolated little camp spot and we obviously looked as though we had been tackling the wilderness for 5 days.  I was ready for one of them to walk up to me and inquire 'Doctor Livingston I presume?'

No dilly dallying though so I downed my ice-cream and we were off again!  A short stroll along the beach which was yet another brilliant change in scenery! and then back into the water-laden swamp for a couple of kilometers.

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And then finally, the end, the pub, the chips and the rum and coke.

That was yesterday.  I worked today.  And I'm ready to do it again!

Hopefully next time we will have some awesome people to accompany us on our trip! :)

Cooloola Great Walk 30th March 2018 - Preparation

Introduction

Cooloola Sandblow

Cooloola Sandblow

Welcome to the first Outdoor Adventure Australia blog!  These blogs are intended to be fun and informative and hopefully enjoyable to read.  Time will tell :)

This particular blog will focus on a hike occurring on 30th of March 2018.  This is a hike that Outdoor Adventure Australia offers clients as a paid facilitated hike but is gaining popularity as an unguided hike.

I won't give you all the details of the hike as this is located on our website here and on the National Parks website for all and sundry to read.  I'll just be providing comments, observations, hints and tips for people who are looking for more of an experiential read :)

So let's get cracking!

Preparation

In general

Hike prep has always been extremely important for me.  This probably started when I was walking through the bush alone as a very young fella (as far back as I can remember) and was further solidified when taking my Scout groups on hiking trips.  Nothing like having the lives of young people in your hands to bring out your 'A game'.

I've heard many comments over my time from people who 'pack the night before' with very little prep.  I certainly understand this and I know that for most of the time, this works fine...until it doesn't.

Over the years of hiking I've come across many challenging situations that have been presented by my physical environment, the climate, health, wildlife and more.  I like to be prepared for what's foreseeable and deal with the exceptions when they occur and adjust my future plans accordingly. The way you hike should be dynamic and therefore flex according to all of the reasonably foreseeable variables of each individual hike (within reason).

We're blessed these days with the availability of relatively cheap and lightweight Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) for the times when things go very bad very quickly.  If you're on a hike by yourself or in a remote location with little access/foot traffic, one of these is a must. 

This hike

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naismith%27s_rule

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naismith%27s_rule

Luckily because a hike like this is not an unusual occurrence in my life, I have a set of standardised documents and systems that help me with hike prep.  I'm also lucky enough to have Pru Hansen from Restless Explorers to help out with getting dietary requirements on point...which has always been one of my weaker points :)

Also, because this hike is a designated 'Great! Walk', a fair amount of information is already available on the track and there's no need to dive too deeply into topographic maps and applying 'Naismith's rule' in order to figure out how long it will take you to get from A to B to C and so on...although I still did it anyway lol

Where

This hike is by far one of my favorite medium length lightweight hikes.  And it's local!  Anyone who has the opportunity to do this hike and is capable of undertaking such a hike, should definitely do it!

When

Whenever we can fit it in.  Although this track does not respond well to wet weather with some very low lying and flood prone areas...so with the last month of bad weather that we've had...it's going to be interesting...I'm anticipating wet feet, mozzies and possibly leeches lol

What to take

I'm not going to provide a detailed list of everything that I take because as I mentioned, it does generally change from hike to hike because we are 'dynamic hikers' remember? :)  However, I will give you a bit of an outline on things that are a little more specific to this hike at this particular time.

In general I split my gear into about four (4) groups;

  1. Hiking
  2. Camping
  3. Eating
  4. Emergency

Hiking

This group consists of everything that you will need in order to walk from one point in the morning to another point in the afternoon.  Generally it's things like good hiking boots, light protective clothing, a good quality hiking pack, hat, water bladder, adjustable hiking poles, map etc

For this particular hike, it's predominantly sand or soft ground so I've fitted the medium width cups to the bottom of the poles to stop them disappearing into the ground.

Waterproof hiking boots would be advantageous...mine are just about due for replacement and are not waterproof...I will regret not replacing them sooner, I have no doubt lol

Camping

We will be in National Park so it will be camp stoves only as there are no fires.  The smaller and the lighter, the better.  I bought my personal cooker from Kathmandu about 10 years ago for about $90.  This is very expensive but it's an incredible piece of gear that has never failed me.

Lightweight tent is obviously a must.  Three season tent would be more than enough.  Other types of shelters would also be fine however I like the luxury of a tent and I enjoy getting away from the bugs.

We will cover other things such as toiletries another day because that's a whole blog to itself lol

Eating

We will also cover this another day because it's a massive topic however thanks to Pru's input and my administrative skills, we have achieved maximum calories and health for weight ratio.  I'm exceedingly pleased with the result of our hours of number crunching.

Always pack enough water tabs for an extra day of hiking.  They are light and it's better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

Emergency

Again, this won't be exhaustive as we can cover this another time however with this track, we know it is not used a lot and it does get a little overgrown in places so a PLB is an absolute must just in case of snake bite or other emergencies.

I also like to bring things like a few zip ties and a good length of para cord just in case we get things like shoe blowouts or bad weather that needs us to further secure camping gear.

Obviously a fully stocked first aid kit is essential.

In conclusion

With still another four days to go until the hike, everything except for clothes and a couple of bits and pieces are packed and we are keeping a keen eye on the weather forecasts because the last time that I looked, it was possible that four cyclones were going to be floating around Australia while we are hiking...I love Australia!

Keep an eye out for future blogs! I'll keep you posted about all of our endeavors :)