Coffee, kayaks, and Nut Bars

I’ve slacked off a bit in the blog department.  In spite of have some amazing coffee adventures lately, I haven’t written or documented any of them like I’d hoped.  A highlight about a month ago was taking a mate, Oliver, kayaking, fishing, and brewing at Tamboon Inlet, Croajingolong National Park.   

We caught a great amount of good sized Tailor.  Kayaked about 28km.  Got way too much sun.  We only had a campsite booked for the first night, so planned on kayaking down to the coast and sleeping on the beach for the second.  Plans were waylaid once we saw the large sand dune near the beach and decided to sleep up there for the night.  Both nights gave me a chance to test out the new Hennessy hiking hammock.  First night in the camp it was amazing with the bug net keeping the plague of mosquitoes out.  Second night on the dune was interesting as I used it more as a swag; laid on the ground but tethered to the kayak oars buried in the sand to raise the bug net off me.  It worked very well, but  I should have taking a bed roll.  I expected the sand to be soft like my last dune trek, but it was packed hard which made for an uncomfortable night.

I only had a small amount of an amazing Costa Rican coffee from Padre left (generously sent out to me by Wade Ruiters).  Worried I’d run out, we stopped at the only specialty coffee cafe I know along the whole 450km journey and picked up a bag of Five Senses to see us out.  We solely brewed on the Aeropress which is great for camping with it’s indestructible build and compact size.  Oliver is also a big fan of specialty coffee so it added nicely to the weekend.  Plenty of great coffee brewed and adventure had, but no dedicated blog unfortunately.

I have been focusing on my shorter format portfolio projects as I tend to have trouble keeping the word count down on my blogs.  I hate long blogs.  I lose interest too quickly if it’s not something that really grabs me.

So with this in mind….here’s a long blog post about another one of Oliver and my expeditions.  Sorry, but there’s no way to tell this story quickly.

 


 

I LOVE topographical maps.  Even of places I have no hope of ever going.  I love their ability to be able to create a three dimensional vision in your head of what the terrain might look like.  Knowing how to read a map well is like reading a book, where your creativity generates the imagery.

Maps can be deceiving, though.  In remote areas, roads aren’t always where maps say they’ll be.  And the stated track conditions on a map published 10 years ago are subject to change (funny, that).

This is one of those stories where I wish I had more supporting photo’s to back me up that it was as stupid as I make it out to be.  But alas, all I have is serene fly fishing pics and one of a precariously placed Honda Jazz so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Jamieson River at Wrens Flat

Oliver and I had planned to camp on the Howqua River and fly fish our way up past 8 Mile.  Problem was we approached the river from the south banking on the Howqua Hills track from the ridge to the river being suitable for my rugged camping vehicle of choice; a 2006 Honda Jazz.  The track wasn’t marked on the map as being “4X4 ONLY”.

The map was deceiving.  Once we decided the track down was too steep, we detoured up to an old shale pit to scope the terrain and pull the maps out.  The Jamieson River was 18km to the south and appeared to be accessible via Mitchell’s Track.  The track ended at Wrens Flat which was good for fly fishing so we modified our plans accordingly and I entered some waypoints into the GPS to guide us there.  As we were planning, a group of 4×4’s happened to come up Mitchell’s Track from the direction of Wrens Flat.  The drivers, all of them about 20 years old, assured us that the track was fine and that we would have no issues getting through with the Jazz.  Idiots (us, for believing a bunch of cocky 20 year olds).

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Oliver.  Shale Pit.  Looking south towards Wrens Flat.

The first descent down from the shale pit had us questioning the integrity of those guys assessment of our vehicle’s abilities.  It was steep and covered in loose shale.  It was obvious that once we started down it, there was no turning back.  There was no way the Jazz would make it back up this hill.  But we committed, confident in the knowledge that the track wasn’t marked as “4×4 ONLY” on the map…..

We thought the first track was steep.  That was nothing.  The next 10km or so had us heading down sections so steep that Oliver had his hands planted firmly on the dash waiting for us to flip forward.  One section he opted to walk down, and with good cause.  The car pretty much slid down the track.  There was absolutely zero traction.  In my mind, there was no point not going down these hills, as we couldn’t get back up the way we came anyway.  It was logical!

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Jamieson River

We made it to Mitchell’s Flat and through a shallow creek crossing.  The topographical map showed that the worst of the steep sections were over and it was only another 9km to Wrens Flat.  The Jazz had proved to be quite the all-terrain vehicle and we were both impressed with how it handled.  Me more than Oliver.  He was just impressed we were still alive.

The ascent out of Mitchell’s Flat stressed me out more than the steep descents.  It wasn’t overly steep, and as long as we kept momentum up we were fine.  The problem was the ruts.  Some were deep enough to swallow the Jazz.  Literally.  Having to try and straddle the ruts and maintain speed to make it up the hills was peaking out my anxiety and I cracked it part way up one hill, stopping dead in the middle of the track and uttering a few word I probably shouldn’t have, meaning we had to reverse down to get another run up.  I asked Oliver to get out of the car and guide me back, avoiding the ruts.  He got out, took a look at the car, started laughing, came back for his camera and started taking photo’s.  The back wheel of the car was a good way off the ground over a deep rut.  I failed to see the funny side then, but looking back later at the shot of a pathetic Honda Jazz over that hole; I see the humour in it now.

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3WD

The remainder of the track had us narrowly scraping past fallen boulders, getting out to pack branches into bog holes so we could drive over…you know, all the thing you normally do on a drive in a tiny hatchback.  I was well and truly over my jovial “what could possibly go wrong” attitude and was ready to punch someone in the face.

The GPS had us about 1.5km from Wrens Flat and the map showed a gentle decent for the rest of the way.  If my confidence was creeping back, it was to be short-lived.  Around the next bend and there was an enormous gum tree across the track, a good 3 feet in diameter.

Knowing the car wouldn’t make it back the way we came, the only option was to work out how to get past this obstacle.  I was in no mood for talk so grabbed the stupid little bow saw out of the back of the car went straight at the tree.  Oliver followed with his tomahawk and we set at trying to get through this mass of wood.  It must have been a pitifully hilarious sight, as we had absolutely no hope of getting anywhere with these pathetic little tools.  We realised this after about 3 minutes and gave up.

Maps out again.  It was 44km to Jamieson, the nearest town.  There was nothing except river and mountain ranges between us and Jamieson; no farms, no major roads.  The only hope was that someone would be camped at Wrens Flat and they can either drive us to town or have a chainsaw big enough to get through the tree.

Again not interested in deliberating, we just grabbed our day packs, threw in some food and water, locked the car, and headed off in the hope that SOMEONE would be at Wrens.

They weren’t.

It was about 1pm.  We estimated 44km at an average of 4kph; a minimum 11hrs walking to Jamieson by road.  There was a track that followed the river a lot of the way.  It was more direct but there would be no chance of potentially having someone drive past so we opted for road.  It was 12km walking up hill out of the valley to the “main” Licola-Jamieson Road; hardly a high-traffic road.

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An hour in, right about when Oliver finished his bottle of water, we couldn’t help but laugh at the stupidity of what we’d put in our packs for the journey.  For some reason all we grabbed was a single bottle of water and a “Nut Bar” each. What the hell were we thinking???  And Oliver had already polished off his entire water ration!

I can’t remember how far we got.  Maybe 6km?  Certainly no where near the main road.  Salvation came in the form of a 4×4 coming down the track.  It was a bloke with his 3 kids in the car and we flagged him down.  We told him our car was stuck behind a tree and asked if he had a chainsaw.  He said yes in a way that also condescendingly said “why would you come out here without a chainsaw?”.

We squeezed into his car with his kids and headed back down to the river.  He asked where we’d come from; we told him from Howqua.  Then he asked the dreaded “what kind of 4×4 did you bring down?”  Oliver laughed….I coughed “honda jazz” quietly into my hands; his head dropped and he sighed the “you idiots” sigh.

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At Wrens Flat he drove right past Mitchell’s Track and off on some other path.  We told him he’d missed the track and he snapped “No way!  You took a Jazz down Mitchell’s Track???  What the f***, man?!?”

At the car, he whipped out the biggest chainsaw I’ve ever seen and made light work of the tree.  The three of us rolled a good couple tonne of wood out of the way until the gap was big enough for the Jazz.  We thanked him and followed his car back down to Wrens Flat.

Once camp was set up, food was eaten, and coffee drank, the whole series of events was laughable.  Two things can be taken from this that we still stand by to this day:

  • the Jazz is an absolute machine that will go anywhere
  • when staring down the barrel of a 44km walk for survival, all you need is a Nut Bar and 600ml of water

I still have a Nut Bar from this trip pinned to my board as a solid reminder of that fact.

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