A solo traverse of the Australian Alps Walking Track
First published in Australian Geographic
Before I left for my 700 kilometre mountain trek, a dubious friend asked if I was taking a Walkman. “There’s music out there,” I replied, hoping I would have the patience to hear it. I didn’t even take a book. I wanted to see what would happen if I opened my senses to nature, alone for weeks with no excess baggage. What would I learn if I didn’t read, didn’t consume products, if I just walked and looked and listened?
Although I cried at the Jordan River, alone in my little tent as a thunderstorm poured on the blackberry-choked gully, and a yet-to-be-discovered leech sucked on the inner crease of my eyelid, I never doubted I would finish the walk. After all, 700 kilometres solo through the alpine wilderness was nothing more than one foot in front of the other. Wasn’t it?
Australia’s mountains are relatively low altitude, but the track climbs up and down the equivalent in vertical metres of four Mount Everests.
From my starting point at the old Gippsland gold town of Walhalla, the Australian Alps Walking Track passes over the highest peaks of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, before arriving in the outskirts of Canberra. Sometimes the track is a well-marked fire trail, flat underfoot. Other times, track is an overstatement – the walker must navigate isolated valleys crossed with misleading brumby trails, or battle dense scrub, scanning for the odd track marker on a tree.