Saturday 25 August 2012

Open Country and Opened Beers

Shade was something I was looking forward to, it seems that the country has really opened up and the weather is defiantly getting hotter, getting out of the sun has not not really been an option option.

I find myself trying to use the Maui Mothership as shade when I meet Vickie every 5km for a drink stop. It seems that Vickie can spend some more time with me yet, as the trail just keeps heading north on these lonesome roads in the middle of nowhere. Its great to have her as support considering the weather conditions. Running in a straight line seeing the 50km that you have in front of you is testing to say the least.

The Queensland part of the trail as I have mentioned before is flat and pretty open going and with the sun getting a stronger sting in it the further north I get, the more it drains your energy levels.

The ups to being out in the middle of nowhere is that when you finally come across someone, it seems they are as happy to see you as you are them, it seems these areas get to even the locals.

I was heading towards the Bowan River on one of the days renowned for it abundance of crocodiles. It was assuring to have Vickie ahead in the Mothership as to see how deep the crossing of it was going to be.

Vickie had passed the crossing when I got there, as there was a bridge and was parked at the pub the other side.

It is such a strange place to have a pub, I had only passed two stations on the 150km journey in nowhere to get there, and there was no town just this pub. and one house behind.

Its wasn't just the fact that it was in nowhere with no one around, but the fact it was 10 meters from the croc infested river, something you wouldn't want to fall in after having a few, and perhaps the reason there was no one else around.

We met with the lady in the house behind, in fact it was a Homestead for a 600 hectors cattle station only a baby compared to most. The owners were in the guide book and when Vickie had contacted them, they couldn't do enough for us and insisted we parked the Maui at their place.

It wasn't long before they had arranged the neighbours to come over for a BBQ, neighbours that were some 50km away. Seem like no matter how far you live away from the pub in these parts it nothing to make a one or two hour drive to the pub, and then another  three or four hours on the return!!

I knew my own journey the following day was going to be twice a s long as normal going by the hospitality of these people. Its had to say no when people are so friendly and welcoming. its even harder, when, they have already took the lid of the stubby and are shoving it into your hand.

Next thing i know its morning again and I have yet another marathon to get on with with a far bit of climbing as I would be going up and over the range, not something that would be totally enjoyable, while carrying a foggy head. Seems these days that its becoming a bit of a habit, but as I keep saying to Vickie, Its all part of the adventure and the journey north!

Friday 17 August 2012

The 1000k Countdown

I was so tired this morning, I think it must of come from the heat of yesterday. It seems to be getting warm each day at the moment, with today being no exception with the Mothership displaying 35degs in the cabin!

It started out nice and mild as it always does here in the QLD winter, however come 11am the mercury is really starting to rise up and come lunch time its time to be well and truly off the trail. Looks like its only going to get warmer the further north I travel.

I was once again back on the dirt roads that seem to go on forever through the cattle stations. I was hoping to finish up at a station pub today, but it looks like its further than first thought. Its a pub in the middle of nowhere, like alot of pubs in Australia, however all that's at this place is a pub, oh and the cattle station that its on!

Looks like I will be passing it tomorrow as I head towards the range and the Burkin Dam the other side of it classed as the largest dam in QLD. I will be holding reserves myself when I get to that pub tomorrow, if the weather is like it was today. Plus we have the some celebrating to to as I am now officially down into triple digits!

As i left the tiny town of Scottville I was instantly once again back into the hart of cattle country and the rest of the day was spent there. Luckily I had Vickie for support today, making the weather more bearable and my hydration levels fully topped.

There were only two properties that I passed on route and I bumped into one of the owners as he made his way across his 100,000 hectors on his quad bike. He wasn't amazed to see me like most land owners are, in fact he had been expecting me after seeing me on the Channel 7 News the other night, the power of the media. We had a good old yarn for half hour, panicking Vickie who was waiting for me 5km ahead, and wondering why I was taking so long.

It was worth the wait. As I made my way to the Maui Mothrship I knew it was the 1000km to go mark. Vickie was waiting for me with a smile on her face, as I got closer I could see that she had put an official mark on the ground in flour!

I wanted to get on and get another 1km under my belt so I was quickly into those triple figures. Vickie went ahead again, and once again when I arrived she had yet another smile on her face. She had written 999km on her tummy!

It nice to have someone to enjoy these moments with, as for the best part I'm out there by myself, however, it seems that she has been there for all the mile stones and boarder crossings!

The rest of the day has been spent trying to get out of the heat, which proves to be difficult when in the middle of nowhere without trees!

It was nice to finish today, purely just to get out of the sun, but no real ending as we are still in the sticks.

Its a funny feeling, knowing that the BNT is drawing close to an end. In some ways it will be nice to complete the journey, but something inside of me wants it to just keep going, you never know I might just turn around and head back. Not that Vickie's up for it, perhaps I could become a running nomad?!

                                           Writing this blog while being observed by cows.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

A Mixed Bag on the Way to the Home Straight

Flat trails, croc crossings and main highways with coalmine traffic has been the happenings for the last week. It's brought me past a small town called Nebo, a dam called Eungella and a mining town called Collinsville, continuing onwards on my journey north.

Long farm tracks that go for literally miles have been the staple diet for the best part of the BNT and in particular in Queensland.

It makes for some interesting running on my part. As much as I love the single tracks of the National Parks, the steep mountain climbs and technical descents in the wilderness, these dirt roads offer me some relief from the demands those things put on my body and mind.

However, when running literally in a straight line for hours at a time and able to see the up-teen kilometres ahead of you the mind starts playing its own games, the sun beats down and there is no shade to offer relief, you soon start to wish you were back in the thick of it, lost in the wilderness somewhere!
Heading towards the highway on a better dirt road.
But, it's yet another example of character building, another chapter in the BNT journey and some more learning about oneself.

Among the vastness of the cattle stations and the dusty ribbon of road that seems to never end, are the creek and river crossings. So dry, that there is no option of filling your pack bladder mid run, which can become a problem if Vickie and the Maui Mothership are not able to access the trail for support.

But the bigger problem is when you're able to get a refill at the full flowing rivers, why, because from here on in, every single river has its fair share of crocodiles.

Its not that I'm unable to fill my bladder; I have to cross these rivers! I just don't want to be waist deep anymore time than needed getting over to the other side.

How do you approach these crossing is something I'm still figuring out. Apart from the obvious which is having a good look and making as much noise as possible, I have been finding big rocks to throw in the river. Thinking that if there is to be a croc there it would soon move when being smashed on the head with a rock.

Then its the mad dash to the other side. If you have ever tried running through water waist deep you would know that its not that easy, and it fact its just as quick to walk, but that's never going to happen! I must find out some more about the croc crossing thing, I don't want to be hopping the last 1000km.
This one I was told was croc infeasted

The trail took me past the Eungella Dam, yes past, which makes a change after tackling the other one with a jetski ride. It was an odd place, both beautiful and Gray and dull at the same time. The network of roads that are around it are for the best part four wheel drive, and the lack of traffic was nice, but meant if anything went wrong then help would be along way away.

These roads in the middle of cattle land, seem to go on for ever, but then today, it came to an end, and I was on the complete opposite, a highway.

It wasn't like the last highway I was on, as that was a tourist road, this was a mine highway, meaning that every type of vehicle that passed was of the over sized variety, 57 metre road trains were the norm even the road signs said so.

If I though i was a speck in the vast wilderness and the almighty mountains, then they had nothing on this. I had to run in the bushes to stay as clear as possible of the road until I came to bridges.

There was no option of taking the bank down to the rivers, they were either to0 deep to cross or full of crocs as mentioned before.

There were three bridges on this 20km section of highway I needed to run, and all three of them had no hard shoulder or place to escape if a truck came or worse, a road train.

It reminded me of the movie Stand By Me, when the kids are on the railway bridge and a train comes. I made it 75 metres across one bridge before I could see a truck coming towards me and another behind, I set a new 25 metre record getting off that bridge and I didn't even touch the ground.

The run ended in a small town called Scottville and that's where I will be starting again from tomorrow. Tonight we will be in the mining town of Collinsville 10mins down the road, where everything is at miners prices!

Tomorrow will also see me drop below the 1000km mark, which means I'm on the home straight.......well in the scheme of things anyway!

This is where I come too and realise that the river Im in could easirly be croc infeasted, could this get any worst?

We all know that if you take you mind of the trail for just one second that you will go A over T! But never would you think that letting your mind wonder for a while for the first time in 4000km you would have the string of events as above, I would have been happyer with a single trip!

I backed right out of that river prepared to tame the bull and handle the snake, looks like they were smarter than me and had stayed well clear of the river, leaving me thinking that this river most certainly had crosc in.

I dropped some big rocks in, in the hope of scaring any off, but really I was just scarering myself.

Monday 6 August 2012

Day 132............Running out the Cobwebs

It was too hot to be running with a hangover, what had I done to myself? It was going to be a long 40km along the top of the ridge all day without shade, only the views and the fact that I had Vickie in the Mothership for support were going to keep me on the move today. Water was going to be the key, and lots of it!

It only took me 5km to get into it, my headache had been shook off and I was enjoying the undulation and broad views of the ocean in the very far distance.

20km in and I come down the trail to find Vickie with all the Maui tools out at the side of the trail. Flat tyre number three for the trip! Lucky she was spending the day with me, we had the wheel off and replaced in no time. I was back running the trail soon enough.

We then came across a four wheel drive coming the opposite way. It was the lady who owned the next station down, on her way to the city to take her daughter to a Grease musical some 3 hour drive away.

We were then met by another four wheel drive, it was the Lady's mother in law to pick up our tyre to get fixed back at the property. She had kindly called ahead and organised it with her husband who sent his mum to grab it from us. It was very kind of them, and we were lucky as we were in the middle of nowhere on top of this range.

We made it to the Maryland's Station homestead, where I was met by two backpackers as I ran in, this was getting interesting!

They were working on the property teaching the owners children, we would have dinner with them that night and park the Mothership out the front!

It was a long day out in the full sun, no shade for the whole day. It was amazing that we were out in the middle of this vast station only to bump into so many people, which lead to a chain of events in getting our tyre fixed, getting a hot shower, and joining some others for a great meal and a bag of giggles.

This run continues to amaze me, there are so many great people in this country!

Sunday 5 August 2012

Day 132...........60 Plus Year Olds are Trouble

Back on the trail heading towards the range. Today would take me once again through some private stations before climbing and then taking me across the top of the range for the rest of the day.

It was hot early, I knew it was going to be a hot day and pretty open going through cattle country.

I was just about to head out and two dirt bikes pulled up. I wondered what they were up to and headed over, looks like they were following the BNT too, well at least what they could of it, and they raced off up the road leaving both me and Vickie in a cloud of dust.

I made my way up the track enjoying the glorious weather and the views of the range.

An hour later the bikers came racing down again. Looks like there was no road for them to follow at the top end as the trail took off over farm land. They had chatted with the farmer who informed them that no one had been through for a long time it would be overgrown with Lantarner and the whole place would be a swamp after all the rain that Queensland's had received early in the winter.

Obviously a no go area for a dirt bike, but what would it hold for a runner?! I continued on to where the road ended, It was a swamp it was a swamp that was chest height completely over grown with thorny bushes and lantarner, and root and logs under foot. I quickly realised that I would be going like this for another 8km and the way things where going I would end up with an injury, or worst still, a snake bite, it was there territory.

I decided that it would be safer to go back, I called Vickie, luckily having reception, so she could meet me back where she had dropped me off, meaning I could still run the distance.

We drove back into Saint Lawrence where we had camped the night before and would drive out to the far side of the range the following day to start off where I should have finished.

We heard that the local pub was cooking up a BBQ and decided to go down and meet some of this town of 50.

We got chatting with two lovely older couples who were doing the caravan thing around QLD. After hearing the BNT story to date they kindly brought us dinner and donated to SANE, what a very kind bunch of people.

Well at least I thought!
A lot of trouble!

The next morning I awoke with what you call a headache. They wouldn't let me buy a beer all night and ultimately I got a little drunk! It wasn't just the bunch of beers I had at the pub it was the few cans I had back at the caravan with them that polished me off.

People of trouble, for a man who is attempting to run the length of the Great Divide! I was looking forward to the marathon mountain run ahead on this super hot day!

Thursday 2 August 2012

Day 132.................Back on the Road :(

The trail turned in to highway today, the Bruce Highway to be exact, known also as the National Highway, a big name and a hell of a lot of traffic!

It runs from Brisbane to Cairns some 1700km, does that mean once I finish up this run I have ran the National Trail and National Highway?

There are many complications when running highways, much like in the mountains, but where there is highways there is traffic, something I haven't really needed to contend with this last four months and something you never get in the mountains.

With traffic comes road kill and I have spent the day dry reaching every 10 minutes at the stench of dead something. Then there's the sight of what ever poor animal happened to be crossing the road at that time and they come in all types and sizes and varying degrees of squashedness. I was making my way up the road hoping there wasn't going to be the smell of a rotting ultra runner in the near future.

Being hit by a large truck would be one thing, but a road train another, if the truck itself didn't kill you, the half dozen or so trailers behind surely would, and if you were still lucky, or very unlucky more to the point, then the trail of Gray Nomads and there caravans behind would defiantly do the trick!

What were all these people thinking as they made their journey up or down the highway, seeing me tinkering up the road on my own two feet. I could see the amazement on some people faces, going to show just how close they were! I was half expecting the news to rock up or worst the police, but this is the 30km section that the BNT takes along the highway, so I was meant to be there.

After turning off to make my way towards the range I stumble across this fella, who had been hit on a side road. This was two kilometres to the meeting point so Vickie was around to see him too.
Not something I would normally take a picture of, but never get to capture the wild pigs live in the bush. Yes, a pig! that's how big they are around here.

Looking forward to tomorrows climb up the range, it seems a while since Ive had something to really get me swearing!

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Day 131 - I'm a Cowboy

I wonder how many people would become a vegetarian while running the BNT, well you would have to run it first? But, how many cows can a man see?

It seems lots, what I have noticed about the good old Australian bush is that we have a lot of cattle, even through some of our national parks, and they come in all shapes, sizes and breeds.

I had this fear of cows early on in the piece, well I think it was the fear of actually being chased by bulls early on that gave me a nervous feeling every time I entered a field with any type of cattle......are they teats or balls??

These days I'm not bothered by either, even bulls run away when I come tumbling through the bush in my signature Arcteryx orange t-shirt. Today for example I was again in the middle of nowhere, not a road or farm track in sight, I could only follow the cattle pads and aim for the general direction of where I needed to be going, there where alot of gullies and a little tree coverage, not the vast open fields that we are used to seeing cows grazing in.

The humped cattle, white all over or Brahmans as I now know there called, had the biggest fright seeing this sweaty man in orange, bashing through the wilderness with his teeth gritted, going hard up and town the gullies. They would be lucky to see people in general let alone this one!

I propose that we ditch the horses, quad bikes and helicopters that the farmers use to muster up their cattle come market day, and get a bunch of trail runners in to do the job, bigger impact, but doing what we love to do which is running through the wilderness!

Its been a little like that over the last week, lots of good cattle country and me mustering up the cows on the way through. It says in the guide book that this section for some can be a little boring and monotonous.

I think completely the opposite, the trail is diverse that's what I love about it, and I'm running trails through some of Australia's best country, its a little welcomed break from tackling mountains as the terrain seems to be alot softer and flatter. The views are still amazing I'm either looking at mountains or I'm in them, I have been on the trail for four months and there hasn't been a day where I have found this great trail to be boring, funny how some people think, I often think that it could be worst......I could be sitting in an office!

Little sight of people or even properties this past week, just a vastness all to myself, even the railway line that I followed for most of yesterday, didn't have a train on it, a great time to reflect on the run and panic a little as I think of it coming to a end!

Saturday 28 July 2012

Day ???...............What Day is it??

I thought that being an ultra runner was hard work. I mean running for hours each day, then stretching for more hours, needing that much important sleep only to repeat the process over again. Finding it hard to socialise and spend time with your loved ones and friends...unless their running friends that is!

Then I come up with this great idea of running the national trail that would still have me running for hour each day, while spending time with my love one and sharing the adventure with my friends, leaving me lots of time to do the other things that I have in my life and still have time to stretch and sleep well.

Well how wrong was I?

My time on the trail has been more than amazing so far, and spending that extra time with my partner Vickie great, though challenging at times, spending so much time in one another pockets quit literally in the small space that we call the Maui Mothership, is sometimes not the best of moods, can be a bigger challenge than running to Cooktown its self.

Still not really a problem as such, we are getting to know so much more about one another, after we thought there was no more to learn.

You would think that sharing the journey with friends and family would be easy these days with the likes of Facebook, twitter, Skype and the like? But this makes life more complicated swallowing up bags of time, downloading photos and videos to post about what happen each day but really happened days ago!

I find it so hard to keep up as to where I am at. Days turn into weeks, weeks months and all I know is the distance I have left to reach cooktown and how my body's feeling. Should be simple right?

But, then theres this Blog. You would think it would be as easy as finishing my day, doing all the things necessary to help me bounce back the next day, Social media stuff, blog writing, sleep and repeat, I wish!

I have found out today that our Charity SANE Australia use a media monitor to capture all print media that we do along route with papers etc. What I found out is that we have averaged 40 per month, that's right 40! That's on top of the 22 ABC Radio interviews I have done the Three Channel 7 News and One channel 9 News interviews, plus radio interviews with the Sports day Radio every months, as well as features in Outer Edge Magazine, Men's Fitness Magazine, RM Williams Magazine and the BNT's very own Track Magazine, plus school talks! and I'm wondering why I find it hard to write a Blog? This says it all!

Now I have told you my excuse for not writing something up sooner, let me begin.

So, I finished up last time with a jetski ride over the Paradise dam due the river being high adding KM to my already long day, all done in the pouring rain....that's right nothing new there this is the BNT its never that simple!

That took me to Mount Perry a nice little town in the mountains. The weather had become beautiful and I enjoyed my day running through the foothills away from the new mine site on the edge of town.

The trail passed through many stations on its route to the Boolboonda Tunnel ( I bumped into one of the land owners as I made my way down the spurline to the dirt road below.

Some interesting story's these guys of the land have to tell, and its always a highlight when having the opportunity to have a good old Australia yarn with them.

The tunnel itself was a little freaky, and I was glad that Vickie could meet me there to experience the spookiness with me!

The following day I would be running 60km in to Kalpower, sound like something out of Batman! The day was flat and straight, just a dirt road heading north through some farm country. Vickie had to take the long way around as the road would be to rough.
There was only one thing that happened the whole day, and that was a guy ran down his 500m driveway to ask if I had been down his driveway?? Go figure? I asked him way and his response was that he just wanted to know who was around his property, something to hide a reckon?!!

Kalpower wasn't even a town it had nothing. Vickie had slipped $10 into my pack knowing that her route would take her longer than it would for me to run there! I had to go starving, even the smallest of towns in Australia have a pub, but this place was lucky to have people, It was like a ghost town!

The next day was spent trying to work out the best way to tackle the Kroombit Top National Park it wasn't so much the 60km day I would have to run, but where I would be going. Its the only NP in Australia that I know of that doest have any maps of the trails or roads within it. Making it very hard to map out the direction I needed to go.

There was more complications after Vickie spoke with Parks. They would be shooting feral pigs the day I wanted to pass through and would be finished until 1pm making it a short afternoon to be running 40km mainly uphill in the middle of no where, with no idea on the route.

I arrived at the park gate early and waited until 1pm and started the climb into the park. I bumped into the rangers about 10km in, who informed me that the trail turn off was hard to find and that the distance from where I was now was going to be another 50km until I reached the far end of the park where I would be meeting Vickie.

Not only was I going to struggle to find where I was going, but the terrain was steeper than I had anticipated and my day had now turned in to 80km with 50km to run in 3hrs before it became dark.......not going to happen, but I pushed as hard as I could for the afternoon.

I was still making my way down the spur line when the sunset. I had phone reception for a while as I was up high and communicated with Vickie my whereabouts and how long I was likely to be!

It was pitch black when I crossed the creek at the bottom of the spur and chest deep. Not one star in the sky and no moon to be heard of, bringing me to a walking shuffle. Stupidly I had packed everything but my head torch. I used my mobile phone to shed just a little light on trail...nothing.

It was a long a painful 10km to the pickup point, and poor old Vickie had been worried sick!

Luckily safe and sound another lesson leaned and another story to tell!

Monday 16 July 2012

Day 113……………………………Dam and Dogs.

Of course it was still raining when I got up this morning, it had been raining all through the night as well and I could only imagine what the river was doing at the end of the road. Today was the day I would be practicing my kayaking skills and would be surfing the white wash to get to the other side of the river.
Rod the farmer was up and about already and was in his garage, I suspect getting the gear ready for my paddle over. But Rod had been having second thoughts about me kayaking across as the rain just hadn’t let up since having the idea to paddle across the day before. Vickie had also been up during the night worrying about me making the crossing too. It was after all, not just raging, but full of branches and logs getting washed down from upstream.
I was excited about the new idea of getting to the trail the other side; it wasn’t half as dangerous which makes for a poor video on YouTube, but was going to be way more fun! Rod opened his garage door and there on the trailer was a supercharged jet ski. We would drive 4km up the road to the dam I passed yesterday, he would then take me over and I would have to run an extra 2km back down to the river crossing, a small detour and added mileage, but well worth it I thought.
Still raining we launched off from the boat ramp at one hell of a speed, leaving Vickie in a white wake of water with the still camera in one hand and the video camera in the other, I waved her good bye while clinging on tight as we raced across the dam.
30 seconds later I was jumping off at the other side, thanked Rod and waved him off as he left me in the same wake as Vickie got. It was now time for me to get on with my 55km day, now made 57km with the added detour.
JetSkiing the BNT
The track on the opposite side made its way up to the top of the range a fairly steep climb. It then went up and down for almost 4km before I made it to the junction where I would have come to if I had crossed the river. Now a 59km day I needed to get moving as time was getting on and I had a day running through the network of tracks that made up the Good Night Scrub National Park.
I got onto a nice little single track that made its way up in to the forest, it was still raining heavily and visibility wasn’t great. I saw some movement up ahead, as I got closer I realised it was three dingos. After over 3000km and warnings of wild dogs and dingos all the way along the route, this was a first and I didn’t really know how to tackle them. I’m sure that a “sit”, “Fetch” or “down boy” wouldn’t do the trick, so I picked up a giant stick not so they could chase it because I’m sure that wouldn’t work either. I yelled out and whistled, two of them ran straight away and the other hung around for a while, so I waved the stick and made more noise and he was off then too.
The trail I was on wasn’t even on the map or my Garmin, but I had seen a BNT maker so knew I was heading sort of in the right direction.
The trail then took a steep descent to a T intersection, where I needed to turn left, no marker once again I had to head towards where the Garmin would have popped me out if I hadn’t come down the unknown track. I couldn’t really work out where I was, I seemed to be going around in circles, something wasn’t right with my map, either way I went I was going in the wrong direction. I decided that I would take the most logical way, meaning that if the trail isn’t marked at a junction just go straight ahead. It was a mistake, because 10km later I didn’t see another maker and was heading well away from my waypoint for the end of the day.
I had two choices head the 10km back to where I had been and hope that I could figure out where to go from there, but this meant that I would be adding another 20km to what was a 57km day already and it was getting late in the day and still pouring down. Or, and this is what I went with, run the 30km to the highway the way I was already heading and get picked up by Vickie there. That way I would still run the distance I had set myself for the day just in a slightly off course direction.
I sat in the Maui disappointed that I hadn’t taken the exact route, but looking at the hard map I was only a little way off ending up close to where I should have been. It looks like it was a blessing in disguise I later found out that the trail was now missing as there was a new mine site, meaning that I would have had to make a detour around it anyway. Funny how things turn out?