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Southern Alpine Walking Trail with Parktrek

February 06, 2013
guest blogger

One of our HI members told us about his great walking tour adventure. Follow her steps and experience unforgettable moments while getting in shape at the same time.

I decided to start my New Year’s resolutions a bit early and take on a 3-day hike  in the alpine region of Victoria ($870 for 3 days, 2 nights – all inclusive). The brochure promised “a walk on the mild side” which appealed to me as it was my first hike in years plus I was keen to get off the tourist trail. So I dutifully wore-in my boots, packed my bags according to the detailed gear list provided and turned up ready for a nice gentle, wholesome adventure.

Day 1 was exactly what I hoped for. We had a nice easy start, meeting our lovely guide Cindy and the other guests. Everyone was open and interesting and the small group meant we quickly felt like friends. We drove to the incredibly charming town of Walhalla and took a 12km walk in the sunshine. There were heaps of beautiful birds and wildflowers, great views down the valley and over the golden clear river and we even saw a couple of snakes basking on rocks. Our accommodation was at a charming, historic hotel and I loved the honesty system for the guest bar. At the Walhallah pub we were plied with more food than you could throw a stick at. We chatted to the locals but were surprised to be kicked out at 8pm closing!

The plan for day 2 was a 17km alpine walk from Mt Erica to Mount Baw Baw. It didn’t quite work out that way and my gentle adventure got far more interesting than I’d bargained for.

What started as a cool drizzle at the beginning of the walk, quickly turned to snow and then to a full scale blizzard with a devilish wind freezing us to the core. Foolishly we welcomed the snow at first because it was drier and incredibly pretty – like the mountain fairy dust. Many photos were taken, lots of laughs and the uphill climb was a joy. But then the snow got heavier and colder and wetter. The ground became icy and we were wet and cold, a bit miserable and we were making slow progress. There were no more photos because it was too cold to handle the cameras. Apart from occasional interpretative signs it was easy to feel very remote from civilisation.

Our guide and the great pair from Mt Baw Baw saw our sorry state and suggested that we should turn back after 5km rather than try to press on to the end of the walk. They were generous enough to make us feel like we’d made the decision but in reality it was a pre-emptive rescue – and so much easier for them if we walked off the mountain in daylight than if they’d had to really rescue us in the dark later on. So we were frog marched with lots of slipping and sliding back down at a cracking pace and frankly were pleased to get to the ski lodge, which despite having modest facilities, had the crucial warm showers and a drying room. Sadly there were no hairdryers and the staff could see we were very chilled so the lady from the information centre went home and got her own one for us to use – talk about going above and beyond! Then we were straight off to the pub across the road to warm up in front of the open fire with a nice bottle of red. Apparently the view is magnificent but we were in white-out conditions with horizontal snow so I can’t say for sure. Again we were fed ridiculous amounts of good food and chatted to more friendly locals. The blizzard was unseasonal enough to be reported on the news for the next couple of days and a reminder to us all that mountain weather is anything but predictable and the company had given us that detailed gear list for a very good reason.

The final day was a comedy of errors. The brown bag breakfast didn’t quite work but nothing was too much trouble for the super lovely Cindy who moved heaven and earth the whole time to ensure we were all happy and comfortable. We agreed to vary the standard itinerary as the conditions on the mountain were zero visibility so we jumped into the truck ready to head back down to an alternative walk. We then became familiar with a new concept – Diesel waxing – as the vehicle was running on normal fuel from Melbourne and it didn’t enjoy the blizzard conditions. But our trusty guide and helpful mountain crew got it running and we were off. After a couple of stops to move little trees off the road, we came to a huge tree right across the road – brought down by the blizzard conditions. There was no way we could move it so we had to backtrack a good hour or so and take the other road off the mountain. Again, the benefits of having a small group and dedicated guide were apparent. Cindy knew all the alternative routes and some great little walks to waterfalls and the wooden bridge and a cute little pub for lunch and never let anything get her flustered. This meant that instead of being stressed about the little glitches we were all in hysterics and had a fabulous time.

General comments – you don’t need to be a gym bunny or experienced hiker but moderate fitness will make your trip more enjoyable. This is a great way to see places and meet real people off the beaten track of tourists. Expect to be pampered in a down to earth way and meet new friends – the type of people who are attracted to this are generally a little more mature, environmentally aware, well travelled and open to new experiences.

Check out http://www.parktrek.com/for details of the other trips offered – and why not pair it with pre and post accommodation at one of the Melbourne YHA’s and if you’re up for another outdoor adventure, check out the stunning hostels at Grampians Eco YHA and Apollo Bay Eco YHA.

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