Like most of my adventures, this particular expedition began in Abbotsford with the allocation of gear from the well equipped (Pete) to the poor and uninformed (me). There was also petting of a surprisingly soft rabbit, but that doesn’t really have much relevance in the grand scheme of this story, nor does it help our mountaineering street cred, so I won’t dwell on her luxurious pelt.
After taking turns at weighing ourselves with and without packs and scoffing at the sheer magnitude of our weight bearing capacity, we piled into my little car and headed for the hills. Conditions were slightly cramped after the realisation that the seatbelt in one of the back seats was stuffed, and Rob and Nicole almost had us convinced that they weren’t enjoying the new ‘up close and personal’ seating arrangement. Clearly my choice of music (Tegan & Sara) wasn’t helping to keep the conversation clean, and in fact provoked retrospective taunting for previous hairstyle choices…
First stop was dinner at a nice restaurant in Ballarat, run for generations by the Nando’s family. Nice people. After we achieved portugasm (all meals come with a side of sexual innuendo) and after someone who will not be named pilfered a piece of cutlery (and then promptly lost it under the car seat), and after we took an accidental scenic tour around Ballarat (it’s just this thing we do)… we continued on our merry way to the Grampians.
Eventually we found our way to the Troopers Creek car park. I won’t pretend there wasn’t wrong turns in the process or "unplanned explorations" as Pete prefers to call them, but our spirits couldn’t be dampened with ‘yellow submarine’ bopping away cheerily in the background. We set up camp for a wet and chilly (like, down-jacket-inside-my-sleeping-bag chilly) night and awoke to grumpy drizzly skies in the morning. Pete’s enthusiasm for food was as strong as ever, and I watched in amazement as he cooked up a full hot breakfast complete with percolated coffee. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed as I stared down into my previously appealing muesli and powdered milk.
After I made an exception to my ‘no photos before 12 noon’ rule for a group shot, we were finally on our way.
Early highlights include ogling the rock climbing sites, a rare sighting of a bush sequin, and a massive pool of incredibly thick foam that could swallow twigs without a trace. Mmmm…giant dirty cappuccino.
The further we walked the wetter it got, and the more I realised my hiking shoes were not quite as awesome as initially assumed. In fact, they were shit. Lesson learned: hike+rain=need boots. The trail became a flowing stream, and a few decent river crossings were required. Topics of discussion included the legality of prostitution, the availability of Codral at suburban chemists and what powers does Sailor Moon have anyway?. Featuring prominently in my own inner monologue was, ‘wow, I wish I had thought of saying X when they said Y’.
And so after sampling some of the ‘strenuous walking involved’ we reached Mt. Difficult (or Mt. Gar for those who question it’s difficulty), summited the thing, and saw absolutely nothing but fog. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Thankfully the constant rain had eased by the time we arrived at our campsite, which has yet to be identified but was somewhere near Brigg’s Bluff. Tents were pitched, unpalatable dehydrated pad thai was consumed, cheap port was sipped and then offered back to Pete and much shit was talked before drifting off into broken sleep (due to a combination of bizarre temperature fluctuations inside my sleeping bag/ lack of pillow/ lower back pain like a pre-Diorama Daniel Johns).
After a quick brekkie and packing up the tentage, we had a brief moment of decent views before the cloud set back in and we headed off for another day of trekking glory.
The second day was much drier, although visibility was still poor. Rob’s knee was giving him some trouble and so he begrudgingly agreed to take some Naprogesic (period pain) tablets I had in my first aid kit, for the pain and inflammation. Hilarity ensued.
Rob: “my ovaries feel great… uterus, great…”
Nicole: “how are your fallopian tubes?”
Rob: “angry at Pete for being a man.”
A little more unplanned exploration followed, but to be honest I missed the technical explanation because I was wearing the map on my back and had to face the other way while everyone pondered it. Whether we intended it or not, we ended up back at Mt. Difficult and a second summiting provided identical non-views as the day before. Nonetheless, extravagant poses were necessary and photographic record was taken.
Growing ever more cold and tired, we continued our journey back to the car and a clean set of socks (can I just add in here, that Rob’s ice climbing socks from Norway were by far the most life-changing socks I have ever experienced). As we neared the end of the hike we finally enjoyed some spectacular views of the Grampians from the lookouts, either the cloud had lifted or we had descended far enough to see beneath them. Either way, I was clearly inspired by the sea of green that stretched out before me and Pete politely listened to my musings about life in general, some rambling about the state of Indigenous health and intermittent repetitions of the phrase, ‘I LOVE trees’.
Rob and Nicole made it back to the car first, with Pete and the forest philosopher not too far behind. We cruised back to Melbourne without a hitch, except for a mysterious windscreen defog problem (um, the A/C button wasn’t on), an unsuccessful attempt to dry my socks by hanging them out the window (they just flapped everywhere and picked up moisture in the night air), and an ipod cord that only wanted to play music on the left hand side of the car.
A traditional greasy dinner was enjoyed by all at George’s in Ararat, with new found respect/fear for his deep frying skills after sampling the vege burger. Some driver switching was necessary as we approached Melbourne and I was getting a little lead-footed, and some soundtrack switching resulted in some quality Gold104 hits to finish off the night. Our grand adventure had come to an end, with one last laugh as Rob’s wet undies were flung from the car as we dropped him off at the station.