Random Rambles
Comments 2

Half-Arsed & Fully Loaded

My trip to Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk in a few weeks is in the works: plane tickets bought, campsites reserved, a week’s leave from work okayed. It’s going to be cold, and windy, and possibly wet — well, my masochistic streak is well documented. But at least I should have most of those 104km of rugged coastline to myself.

The GOW isn’t mountainous, but it’s 65 miles in about 4 days, lots of beach-walking (and high tide-dodging), and several short-but-steep climbs and descents to and from headlands when said tides are too high to safely dodge.

So I figure it’s time to start getting in some sort of shape. For me that means following a modified version of Chris Townsend‘s dictum that “The best way to train for carrying heavy loads over rough terrain is to carry heavy loads over rough terrain”. Modified because the terrain in Sandgate is about as rough as central Kansas, and I am no Chris Townsend…

MAY 23, 2011

Shorncliffe Pier, sunrise

It’s time, Goat. If you say so. I sigh and pout and haul out the Virga, spend an hour cramming it with gear. I stuff, de-stuff and re-stuff the poor beast till it’s as taut as a carpet snake after a wallaby lunch. Four litres of water for added realism and pain.

10 minutes amid the comforting little creaks, the automatic tweaks of strap and buckle and my mind is falling into step, flicking through collected images and sensations of outdoor pleasure: lighting the stove, setting up the tarp, pulling on the Monkey Man jacket, sipping from the titanium pot, the smell of morning coffee…

Coffee. Soon, soon. I snap out of my Backpacker-ad reverie and reach the bottom of one of our few hills, Shorncliffe. You make do with what you’ve got, and what I’ve got is right there, on the right. My nemesis, the Steps of Doom:

I’ve spent some awful times here over the years, running up and down with a fully loaded pack. I’ve seldom got beyond 20 laps before boredom sets in. And maybe a little tiredness in the, er, whole-body region.

At least the views are nice:

Evil in step form

I promise myself “20 or 30” return journeys, bottom to top — just to start. A session of these every day will do the trick. It feels good to start, and my husky figure is turning local heads. The joy on my face is obvious:

A few laps and the predictable inner debate is underway. I’d rather be anywhere else, except maybe at work. Then I notice the toadstools growing at the bottom of the steps, swaying in the morning breeze. Oh, wait, that’s me doing the swaying.

I always pack a camera when I “work out”, and squatting down for repeated shots with a pack on is great for the…um…squatting muscles:

All motivation dissipating in the coastal breeze, I quit the step scene for the cycling/walking path, make it about half a kilometre when some primordial instinct veers me left, up onto the main drag, to a certain caffeine emporium of my acquaintance. Thus revived, I return to the waterfront. Tide out, though creeping back in. All that wet sand: great preparation for the GOW. Out I go.

I make good speed for about 10 minutes, till I find myself among armies of retreating soldier crabs. Soon I’m squatting again with camera out. As all hikers know, those squatting muscles get a lot of use out there in the wilds.

I grew up chasing soldier crabsanother icon of a coastal-Queensland childhood, inflicting, I shamefully admit, terrible casualties with fellow delinquents. These days I’ve exchanged stick for camera. I come in peace.

Rare among crustaceans, soldier crabs move forwards rather than sideways:

The “workout”, now degenerating into a seaside ramble, continues…

..and the Steps of Doom come into view as I start the home stretch…

…the gruelling exercise regime disrupted again by more local fauna, a white-faced heron, common to much of coastal Australasia. I’ve seen their relatives striking similar poses in Japan and Switzerland. I admire their commitment, I envy their sense of purpose:

Back on dry land, exhausted, drenched in sweat, I recover with a good book and a comfortable backrest courtesy of the Virga. Climbing the steps a final time, overriding the masochistic urge to resume my routine of PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs), I cut across the deserted oval, briefly distracted a final time by a feather of the much-maligned Australian white ibis

..and the dewy web of an unknown grass spider:

Worn out, I arrive home to a hard-earned sandwich and the comforting embrace of my couch. If I can survive a few weeks of this kind of punishment, the GOW should be a walk in the park.

One-on-one Half-Arsed Training sessions available by appointment only.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Granite says

    For a second I thought you meant Victoria, British Columbia and I was about to be really pissed that you were in the Pacific Northwest and hadn’t let me and Terrapin know. Good to see that you’re back into the hiking addiction. It will certainly be the death of us all.

    • Yeah, and I can’ t believe I’m about to throw myself back into the cold for no good reason… You know I’ll give y’all plenty of warning when I’m crazy enough to venture back to the Pacific NW!

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