by James X. Spiggs
V.F.W., D.F.C *
(First published December 1983)
“You bloody ripper,” shouted Norm, “we won.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, “The America’s Cup isn’t on for another two months.”
“The bloody dam’s been stopped, you idiot,” retorted Norm, “let’s go to Gearin’s to celebrate.”
I could hardly refuse as we were just passing that very pub at the moment. Little did I know what was in store for me as I stepped into that dingy rat-hole full of 15 year-olds that masquerades as a pub, on that sunny Friday in July.
About five schooners or half an hour later we were in a fairly jovial mood, Norm had already been offered six jobs on building sites – no questions asked and some clown had broken 15 glasses, when I suddenly came up with an idea.
“Why don’t we celebrate in style with a grand traverse of the South-West”, I suggested. “That sounds great,” said Norm, who ordered another three schooners and sculled them before the barman returned with the change.
Four hours later we were in the Sandy Bay Caravan Park sorting out our gear for the trip.
“Alright, then, that’s 2.796 kg of mac, 6.892 kg of cheese and 1.832 kg of Lamb’s Chew (to make up for the port).” Having settled the rations we decided to go and join the queue for dinner from one of the three or four tourist buses before going to sleep in the picnic shelter.
After a quick hitch to Geevestown the next morning, we borrowed a couple of BMX bikes from some local lads and peddled out to Farmhouse Creek.
“Right Norm, where do you think we should go?”, I asked as we swam across the creek, which was about 200 yards wide at the narrow spot we managed to find.
“Oh, bugger, Jim I thought you were working out the bloody route. Well I haven’t knocked off Fedders for six months, how about that ?”
I couldn’t see any reason not to, after all I’d remembered the bulldog pegs, so off we went. When we got to Judd’s Cavern, two hours later, we decided to do a quick lilo trip into the cave, (the outflow creek was 10m deep and flowing fairly quickly), and spent the rest of the first day there restoring a campsite which had been hacked by some idiots with machetes – obviously from the Launceston Walking Club. The next day was an easy stroll up Federation in thick mist and rain.
After an uneventful climb up the north face we decided to camp on top and enjoy the 360o views (of mist and rain). The next morning we awake to total clag and proceeded down to Pass Creek and up to Prom Lake. After 16 cups of Lamb’s Chew, Norm got a bit talkative and told me about the time he caught 32 crayfish at Kamary Bay, by swimming underwater and stabbing them with a bulldog peg (bloody useful things, bulldog pegs). Well, that was good enough Eor me, so we headed off for the South-West Cape, besides we only had 1.896 kg of mac left and that wouldn’t last the next 11 days.
One night at Lake Oberon, another at Crossing River and another day of mist and rain saw us to Melaleuca. Denny King, surprised to see us again, as last time we had visited him we were headed for Queenstown on a single compass bearing (took 7 days), invited us in for a cup of tea. Norm refused until he made sure that we weren’t going to be served that pooftah’s brew (Earl Grey), however Denny’s taste in tea was as bad as Norm’s. Anyhow, it didn’t really matter after the 34th brew from the same batch of leaves. Norm told Denny about the finer points of aeronautical engineering, which Norm had learnt on a hang-gliding trip from Fedders to Prion Beach. What Norm didn’t say was that his light weight meant that he landed on the wrong side of the New River Lagoon and had to climb up to the Ironbounds and glide down to the beach where we were waiting for him.
Anyhow, we felt a bit seedy the next morning as we made our way towards the Cape. After 5 cups of tea at elevenses, Norm got over his hangover and we camped by the water on South-West Cape that night, Norm did a bit of fishing that night but his bulldog was getting blunt, so he only managed to catch 10 crays. A quick calculation showed that 8 would be enough for the trip back to Melaleuca, so we decided to take two back to Denny, in spite of the obvious consequences this would have. Anyhow, we arrived back at Melaleuca at two o’clock the next afternoon and needless to say got through many cups of tea that night.
Our heads were throbbing when we finally awoke at 3 pm the day after. “Christ,” I said, “we’re going to run out of tea if we don’t get going.” Norm suggested we should head for Mt. Anne that afternoon but I couldn’t work out a sensible route. (I think he was still under the influence of tannins), so we just wandered aimlessly to Prion Beach. After a night of heavy rain, strong winds and sore heads, we awoke to a glorious day – well at least we had recovered even if Hughie was still sending it down.
There was only one way to return to Geeveston so we headed up over PB to Mt. Bisdee, which somehow took two days. I think our bodies were still weak from our massive tea overdose. Still I guess we were lucky Dr. Felix wasn’t on the trip or we would have had our stomachs amputated.
After two slack days, we settled down to the hard business of Vanishing Falls and Bob’s knobs. Having knocked off Knobs 3, 2 and 1 we swam across Farmhouse Creek, which was now only 199 metres wide, and headed towards the Picton Range. The trip finished with a leisurely stroll along the Yo-Yo Track from Blakes Opening to Tahune Park.
We arrived at Tahune Park at three o’clock in the afternoon on the fourteenth day. We celebrated the end of the trip by brewing a cup of tea. Hughie celebrated by sending down some kilojoules for the first time in two weeks.
* V.F.W. – Very Fast Walker
D.F.C. – Distinguished Flying Cross (for services to hang-gliding)