Gather the kids around, put a cuppa on and work your way deep down into your favourite comfy chair, because this week’s station news from Macca is EPIC! It’s a high energy tale of a leg pumping, muscle straining and sweat dripping six day trek down to the southernmost tip of Macquarie Island.
We start the story off on station where the four youngest expeditioners of the 69th ANARE readied their survival kit and rations in prep for the gruelling 70km round trip that lay ahead.
'Spot tracker on’ – 'check' – ‘radio with spare batteries' – ‘check' – ‘gaiters and walking sticks at the ready! Right let’s go'… and like that our team of four (George, Kim, Marcus and Benny) waved goodbye to the oldies and powered on up the treacherous and near vertical slopes of the giant green sponge.
It’s not all beer and skittles on the muddy, icy tracks of Macca, and the enthusiastic four soon reached their first major hurdle… Doctor’s Track… first up was Kim. Powering up slopes like the great mountain goats of Serendia, the team gathered at the top to savour the fresh, crisp air that blankets the start of the Overland Track.
'All good every one?' trip leader Marcus asked.
'Yep’ replied George and Kim. Benny quietly nodded. The first hurdle had put a dent in Ben’s amour but he wasn’t about to let his mates down. They needed him and his fantastic trade skills to repair the Hurd Point remote area power system. The wind generator was down and science was at risk! Their route would turn out to be high paced over steep, mountainous and sometimes snow covered terrain to the first night’s accommodation… Green Gorge Hut.
It was mid-afternoon by the time the weary travellers navigated the final bearing through the hut’s doors and their minds instantly turned to food.
'I’ll whip up some bread,' said Ben.
The other team members were unaware of Ben’s culinary skills and he promptly produced a perfectly risen seeded loaf. Nightfall quickly set and the four intrepid expeditioners filled the wooden cabin with sounds of laughter and flatulence.
Our team awoke the next morning to a cool overcast day filled with 40 knot winds. Trip leader Marcus quickly re-routed the destination and informed the other three that the Hurd Point hut would not be achievable and we would be making our way down to Waterfall Bay Hut. The freshly rested explorers trudged through the swampy bogs and down to the orange coloured ‘googie’ that is Waterfall Bay. A night of pizza, 500 and coma-like sleep followed.
The third day of travel produced a beautiful windless and sunny day. Large flocks of giant petrels surrounded the team in their little orange fibreglass egg, their Pterodactyl-like calls echoing off the Mount Martin range. Ben’s thoughts turned to how quickly these massive birds would devour a downed member of his party. He would be the first to go. Lactic acid build up in his thighs and signs of chafe had damaged his stamina.
'Ready to get into it?' screamed an excited George.
'You bet mate,' replied a deflated Ben. Kim would be leaving the team to conduct some bird studies so the team would be reduced to three. Ben’s odds with the giant petrels weren’t improving, but soon concentration was securely focused on scaling the 350 metre vertical climb that is the Mount Martin jump up. Fingernails buried deep within the tussock for grip, George expertly ascended the jump up, only stopping to yell words of encouragement into Benny’s sweat laden face
'You got this mate!' George yelled. Looking up at George, Ben’s stomach rumbled and instantly he knew the reason. Soy milk. Ben, not normally a soy drinker, had decided that Waterfall Bay Hut would be a good place to try new foods and why not start with a generous splash of soy milk on his morning weetbix? Lactic acid, early chafe onset and a protesting bowel is not ideal he thought. On he pressed though. Up, up and up. The team would trek the Overland Track with a bypass to Lusitania Bay king penguin rookery, then crossing the exposed windy ridge and finally down to the end prize, Hurd Point.
'PPHHRROOWARRR! BENNY!' yelled Marcus, holding his nose. But the stench wasn’t Ben’s used soy, it was the compacted guano of 50,000 king penguins! Little brown fluff balls socially waddled around everywhere leaving the team members in awe of Mother Nature and with a lifetime of memories. But lolly-gagging around with birds wasn’t their task and before too long it was time to move off, up the south Lusitania track to rejoin the Macquarie super highway known as the Overland Track.
The team now tootled along easily telling jokes and stories of home, and before too long the final six kilometres was completed and Hurd Point hut was in view.
'Geez it’s a long way down!' said Ben.
'If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space is my motto!' replied Marcus.
Looking down, the grass covered cliff must have been 350 metres high with a one in two gradient, but at the bottom lay the warmth of the hut, and food. George held his breath and began the descent. Sturdy, strong and secure on the greasy slope, all four members had arrived at the hut safely and triumphant! Ben promptly conducted much needed repairs, Marcus and Kim conducted much needed albatross science and George made a fantastic shepherd’s pie. The entire team rested contently and wondered what the 3 day return trip would bring…
…but that’s another story…