Day 4 - Penguin Cradle Trail
Raining again. I was starting to notice a theme here. Gerard started the day with me and we ran the first 4km together as he told me all about Penguin`s history. I then ran up to the start of the Penguin Cradle Trail ( PCT ) R met me at the start and we loaded up my pack with all the mandatory stuff – EPIRB, Sat Phone, Space blanket etc. It was finally time to hit the trails, and leave civilisation for a few days.
I headed into the trail full of beans. Woo Hoo finally a trail. The first few kilometres were great. Fresh rock had been put down and the trail was easy to stay on. It then wound its way through a maze of hills and forest. It was raining consistently now and every time you went through a tree fern it would splash all the water from its fronds onto your face.
The trail then made its way down to the Leven River. It was great it followed the rivers edged and for a while was a nice trail. A well-worn trail even. Hmmmm what is this itchy thing on my legs???? Oh right LEECHES!! Up until this point I had not had to worry about them. Well now I had found them in their droves.
I would run for a few km`s then pull them off, run a few more and repeat. This went on for a while until I couldn’t be bothered so I just left them. I was excited to be on trail. It was ducking and weaving its way along the river. Up, down, around over hills, down steep embankments all the fun stuff plenty of technical roots and mud.
I knew I would not see R for around 20km so I had everything I needed in my pack and just had to concentrate on not getting lost. After around 9km of good track it quickly went to shit.
All of a sudden it was bush bashing over my head through tree ferns and bracken, looking for the path of least resistance, guessing that I was on some form of track. I continued on for km after km bashing away getting the water spray in my face every 2 seconds, climbing on, under and over all the obstacles as I went. Every now and then I would see a trail marker to my surprise. Thankfully this meant I was somehow on the trail.
In my mind I was wondering how they call this a trail??? There were barely any markings, no real track and the scrub was over my head….. So I pushed on getting excited and relieved every time I spotted a marker.
After a number of hours I came to a spot halfway along the track and it had been logged. I knew I was getting closer to R as my watch told me. I was about 1km from R when I came to a very steep hill that had been cleared and was just clay. As I descended this muddy slippery section I slipped and hyper-extended my left knee/ adductor.
Oh shit .. That hurt. My knee almost immediately blew up, there was a bruise and I couldn’t bend it. Uh Oh only 200km in to my run and I had injured myself. Oh man was I pissed off. I hobbled along the next km where I met R, immediately she could tell something was up.
I stopped at the car with the boot up out of the rain for the first time all day. I picked off the leeches where I found 2 in places you would hope to never see leeches and explained what I had done to my knee. There was no point in stopping to assess it as it was not stopping me from running it just hurt a lot to bend.
We got to the junction where the trail disappeared for the next 17km and I had a sit down. My knee was killing me and it was huge, I had no knee cap it had swollen up that much. I was a bit down on the day & concerned about my knee. It had been non-stop raining since I started and I still had 17km to go.
So I put some music on ate some food, some sugar & reset my mind. Telling myself it was only 17km. I can do this it’s easy. I do 17km without even thinking about it. So I took off feeling great ready to tackle this 17 then I will think about my knee..
I took off feeling good; I could see the trail again. Right no problem I can do it. This is where the trail absolutely fell apart. There was NO trail, it was up down through roots over roots down to the river along an almost cliff edge. This part is called the Leven Canyon and is known as an extremely challenging piece of the Penguin Cradle Trail and I was doing it with a bad leg.
I still had my music on & was starting to tire. It had taken me almost 3 hours to cover 10kms now that’s not good. I had dropped right down to the river again & was struggling to find the trail. It was starting to get a little dark in the canyon & I really did not want to be in there in the dark. I spotted a marker and remember being told that I have to follow the water’s edge.
I was concentrating on where I was going & just like that I slipped in… Arrrrrrghhhhhhh the river was flowing fast & I had fallen in up to my chest, I quickly got up and out of the water very angry with myself for letting this happen. Oh man I’m wet my pack was wet everything in it was wet… It was getting dark how could I let this happen.. I was so angry with myself.
Right keep going, keep pushing you have to get out of here before it gets dark & cold. I turned off my music & pushed on. The next thing there is a 400mtr climb straight up urgh my knee was stuffed, I was tired & now I have a bloody big hill climb. I was just wishing this would be over.
I was in a really bad place mentally & not much better physically. I just wanted to sit down & be done with it, but you can`t do that you have 6km to go. Right let’s move, forget the knee, forget being wet, forget the countless leeches just move as fast as you can. I ran, walked & near crawled at a few points but I did not stop. Finally I came to a sign post which only means 1 thing…. You are very close to civilisation.
I hoped & prayed that it would end but it dragged on another 2km. Finally I could see a paddock. Yes it`s over finally but then I lost the trail in some very thick blackberry. Oh man 500mtr to go & I hit blackberry arghhhhhhhh. I got through that & hit the road woooo hooooo but where is Richelle?????
So I got out the map & the sat phone. Turned on the phone & studied the map. Tough to tell which bridge R was going to be at or what bridge I was actually at. After 15 min standing there with the phone & getting no signal I decided there was only 1 way I would find her so I started walking. I walked 1 way for around 700mtr studied the map some more. It looked like I should be going the other way so I turned & went back. I walked around the corner I was at before & there she was… Man I almost cried it was 7pm & I had been going for 11 hours. Check out the video of me finally finding Richelle...such a relief!
I showered whilst R got my recovery ready. I then sat on the bed with a non-existent knee & pondered whilst repeatedly telling R how bad the day was & how glad I was to see her. Right video blog done food done ice done now time for sleep.
All I could think was “how will I do tomorrow?? “
Check out Shane's video blog (including his knee!) from the end of Day 4.
I got up in the morning after a very uncomfortable sleep & immediately checked out my range of movement in my knee. Yep can`t bend it. All I said to R was I can`t do another day like yesterday but I can at least start & see how we go. It was great I hopped down the stairs & my cousin Dan was there. They had flown across from Melbourne to run with me for the next 2 days.
They looked at my knee & wondered how I was going to run but I told them as long as it doesn’t fall off I should be ok. We drove back to where I had finished the previous night & I hobbled into a slow trot. It was great to have Dan with me someone to talk to someone to help navigate the next section of the the PCT.
We met the girls 3km down the road where the trail headed off into the mountains packed our day packs took all the mandatory gear had 1 last good look at my knee & we were off. We ran the first 3km before hitting the start of a big climb up Black Bluff. It was a 6km 1000mtr climb. Right today is a short day 40 odd km time to get into it.
We got to the high plains & there was a little cloud around but nothing too bad. I had been worried about getting up here and having a white out. As the trail was very difficult to find a white out would make it impossible & we would probably have to retreat back down the mountain. Dan & I trotted along for a while & enjoyed the amazing vistas with the occasional mud patch. We spotted old marker pegs in the ground & thought it was great.
We then discovered Scoparia. -Richea scoparia (Scoparia) is a widespread and abundant shrub in almost all alpine areas. Its very hard, sharp leaves and inclination to form dense thickets give it a bleak reputation among bush walkers.
Bleak is one word for it. This stuff was horrendous. Wow it tore strips off you. I was so relieved to be wearing my Moxie gaiters, they were amazing for protection, but with no restriction in my movements. We also came across patches that lasted for 200mtr & you would just have to suck it up and power through. Poor Dan on the other hand had none.
We got about 18km in and spotted Cradle mountain. Wow I finally felt like I was getting somewhere. Poor Dan had started to suffer a little as he had not run this far in a long time let alone with 1300mtr ascent. We spotted a white lipped snake sunning itself & shortly after that we had to step over one because it was too busy sunning & would not move.
I spotted a group of people in the distance & new it was R & co. I sped up & left poor Dan behind over the next km. I was excited. I ran up & there to my surprise was my dad, sister, step mum & future brother in-law as well as our good friend Roz & Vaughan who had flown across to ride his bike with me for a couple of days where he could.
We bashed our way through the Scoparia that was sometimes over my head. Roz had also forgotten her gators so she was suffering a little more. We quickly knocked over the first 10km & came to a river. We had a quick look at the map & the diagram showed the trail going across the river. We crossed the river and bashed our way through some really thick Scoparia but could not find any sign of the trail.
We scouted around for 5 min before getting the guide book out & actually reading the description. Ha funny that it said go down river 200mtr before crossing on a steel bridge. This gave us a good chuckle. So we crossed back & sure enough 200mtr down there was a bridge. We crossed the lovely steel bridge even stopped to pick of the HUGE leeches that had been hanging on for a while.
We ran along now ducking into some beautiful beech forest. Beech forest is great it`s like going into prehistoric time. The moss & different colours of the trees is beautiful. Although sometimes it is hard to find the track as it all looks the same. We were jogging along chatting away when all of a sudden we rounded a corner & there was Nicole from Smithton.
Nicole had decided to come up to Cradle & see if she could find me. This was great more company. We came out of the forest & onto the high button grass plain. Making our way hopping from one grass lump to the next. I had started to slow by this point. I had done around 30km & my knee was really starting to hurt. We were within 2km of the road woo running along nicely hitting the mud patches here & there, then BANG…. I stepped in a mud hole almost waist deep, it stopped me dead in my tracks ouch. I dragged myself out whilst the girls were laughing, it was pretty funny. A quick check of the body everything seemed fine so off we went.
We hit the boardwalk & there was R. Yaaaaay my day was almost done. We got to the waiting car around the corner I sat down & had some food. I had done 36km so far with around 1600mtr ascent. I wanted to finish my run at the start of the Overland track so that the next day would be 80km not 86.
Today was longer than I had hoped it had taken me 8hr 45min to run the 42.2km. Roz & I went to the river & washed off all the blood (from the leeches and the scoporia) & mud. The swelling of my knee had started to come down… Perhaps it was the mud bath it had ???
I packed my 35ltr bag ready with sleeping bag & mat ready for the Overland track 80km the following day & went to bed. As soon as I laid down I could tell something was not right, my legs felt like they were on fire & I felt terrible. I started to sweat horribly. R put a towel on the bed & when that was soaked through she put another on top....uh oh, this was not looking good for my next day's attempt to cross the Overland Track in 1 day......
Check out Shane's video blog from Day 5.