Yes it has been done – against all odds, distance, snakes (more later) and wrong turns, 8 intrepid walkers from DH3 completed the track from Alma Bridge to Spellmans Bridge on 11/2/2007.
After meeting at Killer’s place at 7.30am the crew of Flasher, Maggie, Thrust, Mabel, Poxie, Pb, Trilly (a dog) and Tracka were told that instead of going from Spellmans bridge to Alma bridge on a newly opened track the walk (reputed to be 38km) the walk would now be a shorter 17km round trip from Alma bridge to a point approx. 8.5km away and return. The reason given was that the track was not actually complete at all and that there was a problem with part of the track being blocked due to forestry operations. This of course lightened everyone’s mood as a 17km walk was going to be a lot easier than the 38km previously mentioned. Of course all who were attempting the journey were prepared for the longer distance anyway……….NOT!!!
Killer was going to be a non-starter as he was attending a snake tagging meeting with his son (he did not see any).
A quick trip to Alma bridge from Killer’s and we were underway at 8.30am (strangely on time) with an estimated return time of around 12.30pm on the newer revised course.
The pace was steady and we had our first stop at around 9.30pm after going the wrong way due to lack of markings on several occasions and also coming across a couple of fishing huts on the way. The track was reasonably flat with a couple of small hills thrown in for good measure.
Wilmot river was quite low and there was not much flow (which would prove to be good later).
At around 10.30am we had emerged from quite a low canopy with some magnificent man ferns and quite a cool temperature due to the shade onto a nature reserve paddock with a nice picnic shelter. There was a track crossing back over the river via stepping stones and another climbing the hill and winding back to Wilmot road. After some investigation of the river crossing all climbed the hill and had a rest at the track that then went onto Wilmot road. Mabel made the decision to check further and we all followed a well formed track back down to the river via some substantial ferns, dogwoods and cutting grass. After attempting to follow the track for quite a while (and it was getting quite difficult due to cliff faces) we crossed the river one more time and arrived into another paddock of the nature reserve that we were in earlier.
There had been motorbikes here so we followed the track and came across another well used fishing hut right on the banks of the Wilmot river where a quick rest and refuel was completed. After leaving the hut we came across a well used motorbike track that went up hill for some distance. Much discussion was had here and eventually all went up the hill to the end of a forestry track that apparently winds in from Swamp road near Kindred. A very long and steep hill (a MF hill by any description) where Tracka, Mabel and Maggie investigated further and had a good long view and where the river proceeded whilst all others went back down the hill and found a shelter shed where some locals had overnighted and were about to go back the MF hill on a quad bike with a flat rear tyre and fully loaded with camping equipment and other passengers. It looked like a dodgy prospect but we found out later they all made I back safely.
After a quick lunch break more discussion was had as to whether to turn back and trace back to Alma Bridge (approx 4.5 hours walking) or trust the locals who said that there was another bridge and track about half an hour to 1 hour up the other track. Eventually all agreed and with Mable leading we progressed up the half hour to hour track.
Some big hills and descents followed until with Mabel leading and about to cross a log the first of the snakes was spotted. Mabel had been carrying a stick for quite some time but when it came time to use it he didn’t. He was about to cross the log when the snake (Tiger with nice black shiny skin and estimated to be around 5 feet in old money) stood up and winked at him. Flasher who was following closely pulled him back to stop any further problems and after seeing Tracka the snake turned and scampered away. Mabel handled the situation quite well apart from legs turning to jelly and heart attempting escape from chest. The track lead on and on and by this stage all (or maybe just me) were getting tired and had sore legs, feet or other parts.
With Mabel still in the lead the group trudged on up some more MF hills and down some equally tough descents until the second of the encounters with reptile kind. Mabel had established a reasonable pace and was leading the rest of the group by 20 to 30 metres when Tracka stopped quickly jumped a world record backwards from a standing start into Flasher as another 5 to 6 foot tiger snake stood and checked him out. As a loud ‘Oh Shit’ was heard the snake turned and disappeared towards the river. No legs of jelly this time but a maxed out heart rate certainly occurred. The time was now about 2.30pm and whilst we trundling on there were doubts starting to emerge as to the distance to go until we were able to get out of the river valley and whether we could keep our bodies going as most if not all were quite buggered by now and starting to loose concentration, not good with the type of track we were following. We were encouraged to keep going as we found some tyres that are used for track stabilization and evidence of recent work which meant that we must have been near to a exit point from the trail.
We then came down to a sign that said "Spellmans Bridge via Leo’s bypass" which meant that at least we were still going in the correct direction although we still had no idea how far.
With the river level being low we were able to cover quite some distance by walking up the rocks in the river and eventually coming to a point on the track where the sign said "Please use upper track as there are rock bands on the lower track". After already going up hill too many times and needing to listen to some good rock music we chose the lower track and we pleased to find that some significant work had been completed to allow us to go around the rock bands in the form of ladders and rock bridges. Just when we thought there was about 6km to go "Bridge Ahoy" was called and we spyed Spellmans bridge.
All congratulated each other and after a check of the watches we had completed the journey (though not planned) in 7 hours. Now came the next problem, no mobile phone service, no way to contact anyone to pick us up (remember we were going to do a return walk) we contemplated hitching a ride back to Alma Bridge. Thrust said she knew someone and disappeared to try to make a phone call to get us picked up. After we consumed all of Flasher’s chocolate (400 gms), Poxie’s bread rolls and some lollies we were still waiting for Thust to re-appear. Finally she arrived with Peter Whiffy Dog in his ute after having a nice cold beer (bitch) and we were all given a lift back to Alma Bridge in the Whiffy Dog ute with Mabel and Poxie riding on the flat tray. A quick trip back to the Forth pub followed and several cold beers were consumed whilst listening to the blues being played and then an impromptu bbq was held at Killers.
Thanks Killer and Linda for the hospitality, food, salad, wine, scotch, beer and company.
Overall a good first outing for the HOFT. (Hash Old Farts Trekkers) All over 45years of age (sorry Thrust and PB) except Trilly the dog who is now in the bad books for biting PB after an altercation with Angus (one of Killers dogs).