A week after finishing the South Coast Track, I walked the remaining stretch back to Hobart and I had done it: I walked around Tasmania, covering 1,604 kilometres in 58 days and quite a few rest days on top of that. I walked back to Pilgrim Coffee, where I had begun my hike originally, and it’s where I finished, although by the time I got there, it was already closed. To go full circle, I went back the following day for a coffee to let it all sink in.
Departure date: 22 October 2016
Arrival date: 4 January 2017
Total walking days: 58
Total km walked: 1,604
Max km in one day: 57
Average km per day: 28
Longest period without shower: 14 days
Nr of tent attacks by wildlife: 1, possibly 2
Cutest animal seen: Echidna
Cutest animal seen dead only: Wombat
Scariest animal seen: Cows (yes, cows)
What I won’t miss: Mud; The smell of roadkill
What I will remember: Mud; Unexpected kindness of people; White sand beaches
I used to go camping with my parents as a child, and for years, I thought I would never camp again. But suddenly and unexpectedly, that had changed and I lived in a tent for close to three months. I had let nature prevail and decide my faith. I had smelled the incessant scent of roadkill in the burning sun, and watched wallabies hop outside my tent at night. I enjoyed the subtle loneliness of being on the edge of society. Someone on the outside, who looks in, but never joins in. Despite my tent having been attacked by a possum, and feeling scared numerous times, I had been safe all the way through, on motorways and trails and gravel roads in the middle of nowhere with no phone service or whatsoever. I camped in national parks and campsites and on the side of the road. I made it and I had enjoyed it, despite hating every second of it at the same time.
I was tortured by the physical pain of my feet and shaped my days around it. Every day I would wake and they would be stiff, and I would take some time to hobble around and warm up and get the movement back in my ankles again. I hunched under the weight of my pack, which wasn’t even that bad, but considering my small frame and the distance I was walking, it was. Eleven kilos without food or water was too much for a base weight, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I had sent all the things home that I could part with and I was too inexperienced to part with anything else.
The first ten kilometres of each day passed in a free and mostly uplifted spirit. Then it would change. Up to 20 kilometres, the struggle was sudden and ever so real, and quickly unbearably so. I would make it to 30 even though I didn’t know what to do with myself, and getting to 40 was nothing short of torture. I always hoped those long days didn’t need to happen, but they happened more often than I could cope with. Walking around London without a pack and hurrying through the crowd was an entirely different thing, I quickly realised. The fast city walking was something incomparable, wholly unrelated to the trail, carrying all your belongings on your back.
Towards the end of my trip in Tasmania, my left foot began to hurt beyond the usual pain from walking every day with a pack on my back. I left for Tokyo and walked the Tokaido route with the same pain, and it wasn’t until a month later that I realised I had strained a ligament, and was hiking with plantar fasiitis, something that can take months or years to heal.
But it doesn’t matter, because my feet are going to hurt regardless, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to hike 60 kilometers a day like some people do, but I’m going to walk anyways. Walk and wake up at the crack of dawn and be part if every inch of the landscape that surrounds and embraces me and feel every second of pain that comes with it.
I dont consider hiking a holiday, and I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as something ‘fun’. If I was after those things, I would book a hotel for three weeks somewhere near a beach in a sunny place. It’s a challenge and an attempt to simplify and slow down in a time where opulence and consumentism and neverending expectations are unescapable. It’s to see whether I would survive natural selection if this was still at play. It’s to see if I could thrive.
To simplify the act of living and just: walk.