For all those potential hikers looking to join the Duke of Edinburgh hike with Ray Connor, I'd thought it'll be good to share my post trip report from my past adventure touring Walhalla so you have an idea of what it may be like. Although next time I hear it'll be more exciting than the last and I'll help lead it ;)
7th April 2010 by Tran, Vu Long
Moving along the Thomson river down from the Thomson Dam to Walhalla
My journey began with a slight detour, after missing a turn, my sister and I found ourselves at the entrance to the Thomson Dam before finally realising where we were and then and making our way to the Mt Erica car park. Here we meet and greeted what seemed to be very eager and energetic bunch of walkers. One by one they came, and so did the iconic van, and with it, was Ray Connor.
Now Ray wasn’t one to join us on every little bit of our journey, for he was simply a guide for the most part and a helper if things went astray. He told us where we needed to go, detailing the various turns, landmarks and signposts which seemed quite overwhelming to hear. I tried to take down what I could into my memory, thinking that maybe I should have taken notes, or at least someone from our group would. Sadly, no one did. Fortunately, we a few of us had our maps, and with our backpacks set (and in my case, my food bag with me as well), we embarked on our journey from Mt Erica to Walhalla.
It was certainty an interesting beginning, and at first, the paths we set out on seemed simple and straightforward, we followed the same road that we had just driven through. It wasn’t until we were to make a turn into the forest on our own that things seemed a bit concerning.
It seemed to have turned out to be for the best, even as we ventured through the paths and finding ways to navigate through the branches and leaves and unknowingly walking through cobwebs and fighting off falling leeches. For it made us come closer as a team and ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
Steep and rough paths awaited us as we zig zagged and leaped over fallen trees, before reaching a crossroad. We opted to head right before realising that we may have actually set off on the wrong path. Light weight scouts were sent, unburdened by backpacks. After realising and confirming that we had headed to the Southern (‘South’) direction with our compasses we found our way back into the open and to our campsite for the day. We set up our tents nicely and stayed inside away from the mosquitoes which waited restlessly, buzzing us to let them in...
Fresh water straight from the Thomson river were the highlights of this day. Our mission for the day was to seek out Coopers Creek hotel, find the opening hours and then embark on our journey to Walhalla, for we were at Thomson station.
Reflecting on the struggles and burden that our backpacks held for us, we established a scout team to achieve our mission, for we were to return to Thomson station after discovering the answer to the enquiry. It was no doubt our best decision, for the scout team took some time to reach this goal after a slight detour - and without the packs were able to reach the target in a reasonable time.
We met up with the Silver crew on the way back to Thomson station, and together we set off on the steep journey towards Walhalla as Ray stood and watched us head up...
When we finally reached the next campsite, Ray had reserved a nice little space atop the camping grounds for us to stay. The campsite itself was quite basic, only having toilets but fresh easy access water. Drop toilets were no more, flush toilets were the new and the second day ended quite peacefully.
Today is the day we met up with our Bronze crew, and after exploring the town a little we made our journey up towards the cricket grounds, opting to take the longer path first, leaving the shorter path down the stairs to the end.
This was a great decision, however it was not without further obstacles, with Bronzes the only walkers to have their full packs (Gold and Silvers had day packs), we moved slower but with fellow walkers supporting others for the most part. We also neglected to ensure that sufficient water was the norm for the crews and though we managed through this, as well as the slight detours we took; it would certainly be something that would be checked next time.
Through navigating and co-navigating, leading, supporting and guiding at various points of the journey, I believe that we were able to witness some of the strength, teamwork, and will of our fellow walkers, as we pushed through together and made our way to our destination in the end.
That night we celebrated with Ray’s special bonfire and cooked marshmallows until rain came to huddle us into our tents. My sister and I’s tent wasn’t without flaws, and before long, water was seeping through from below and we had to seek refuge in a fellow campers generous tent, vacated for our usage. A big thank you to William and Jack for that!
This day was a simpler and more relaxed day, we learned about the history of Walhalla and were exploring and talking to the townfolk. Through it all, I believe we’d each learned how a country town like Walhalla is kept alive during the busy times and what was to be of the town when the tourists were back from their holidays.
It was a tiresome, steep and very hands on experience of what it is like to live in what would seem like very basic way of living. The ways we lived were quite modern and more fortunate when compared to some of the ways people are living within the communities around the world. There is so much that we take for granted in the lives that we have become accustomed to, clean water, fresh food, shelter, the things that Maslow deems are central to the basic needs of humans. Too often, we are quite privileged and have many of those needs already fulfilled.
This experience has allowed me to experience the simpler life, and though I can’t say I am used to and would want to change to if I had the choice, it is certainty a life that is a lot simpler and I believe can bring people together. As a group, we worked together as a team to achieve our goals which was to reach our destination supporting each other and without leaving anyone behind - I believe we achieved that. In the more basic communities, their goal is to survive and they achieve this through the same means, i.e. as a team and community, supporting each other...
Other information/Notes (for next time!):
- Map – a Vicmaps map was carried, but a more local version may be available from local towns, or bushwalking maps with trails.
- Equipment/ clothing– Basics, heaps of food. I will be looking to carry a specifically designed backpack for backpack camping, and considering a purchase of a smaller affordable sleeping bag.
- Food– Heaps of hot cross buns, snacks, and tuna. I will be looking to carry more lighter foods, and potentially a portable stove.
Tips from Ray:
Food and Water: Keep to dry type foods if you can. By all means, have food that require the addition of water, but try and save yourself the weight of carrying water other than for drinking. Water is not readily available till very end of first day nor on the third day's walk (though is available before; after walk on 3rd day). Second and fourth day's should not prove too much of a hassle. I'd take at least a 1 litre plastic/metal water bottle (some take more ... but no less). Keep your food simple: which means, unfortunately, it will most probably be pretty bland and boring. Perhaps snack bars, mountain bread (like the Lebanese bread that can roll up), freeze-dried vegies, wafers and crackers, noodles, soups, pasta, perhaps even the ready-made (sealed) camp meals.
Tents: If you have a choice, have a tent as lightweight as possible. You are not in a 5 star resort. Your tent is purely functional - a place to be protected from the elements and wildlife at night enabling you to get some well deserved sleep. If you have more than one person coming along, you might like to consider sharing a tent with your friend/ sibling - saves carrying a tent each. Just as you might share any cooking gear.