So, after a year trekking the Bicentennial National Trail, I was a little disappointed with myself. Despite all that time spent camping outside, I still couldn’t tie a mean Fiador knot, or read the clouds properly. I just knew that the fluffy, low ones on a humid day were usually the most worrisome.
Nor did I learn to weave flax cordage (but we tried stringybark!), or to repair a bridle with possum sinew, nor catch a trout with my bare hands. Damn. But luckily enough, my time on the Bicentennial National Trail wasn’t totally in vain. Here are 35 things I learned on the BNT- some blindingly obvious, some useful, and some just plain weird.
Lessons Learned on the Bicentennial National Trail
2. Uphills are often easier than down.
3. Rest days fix everything. Especially when they involve access to hay and ice cream.
4. There are no secrets on the BNT- from how you started your campfire, to what you fed your donkeys. Think very carefully about how you want your washing line to be remembered.
5. The three most important purchases on the BNT are a comfy pack saddle, warm sleeping bag, and ambulance cover.
6. When reading BNT guidebooks, ‘Lookout’, ‘spur’, ‘sharp incline’ are words that will begin to strike fear into the very core of your quads.
7. If your horse neighs in the middle of the night, don’t roll over and go back to sleep. Either the donkeys have wandered, brumbies are around, or someone’s nearby- all of which can spell trouble.
8. Wool over synthetics. All the way.
10. You’ve never seen so many white utes and Brahman cattle in one given year, and probably never will ever again.
11. Hot showers can be a spiritual experience when frequently forgone.
12. For a nice false sense of security and homeliness, light a campfire. Its amazing how a bit of warmth, fuel and light can lift your mood.
13. Weekend-warrior four-wheel drivers aren’t all bad. A great many of them have vast supplies of beer, humour, and chainsaws for conveniently clearing the trails.
14. Trail bikers are nice too. And so are truck drivers.
15. But watch out for Audis.
16. Everything tastes better outside. Water, cheese sandwiches, gratitude.
17. Sunlight soap does everything (even the dishes!)
18. You can never have too much baling twine.
19. You can never have too many band-aids.
20. You can definitely have too many Carmen’s muesli bars.
21. You can’t do it 100% alone. It’s okay to accept help sometimes.
23. But having pack animals don’t make for a faster or easier journey. As Belinda Richie said in her NG Explorer of the Year Speech, the amount of time to complete the trail is inversely proportionate to the number of legs.
24. Tomato paste makes everything taste better. Except for Carmen’s muesli bars.
25. Mountains are cold. Gullies and gorges (ie Capertee, Kunderang) don’t seem to get much of a breeze and can be stinking hot.
26. Its COLD near water. Camp uphill away from the creek/ water source, or suffer with scraping the frost off your tent in the morning.
27. Go against your instincts and cross rivers on the choppy, fast flowing, shallower bits. Still waters often run deep.
28. Rivers that look dry from the road/ trail can sometimes have a pool of water around the bend. Failing that, try digging a little.
29. Realize that you are going to fall madly in love with your animals, and will worry about them incessantly.
30. On that note, plan to buy acreage and grow old with your pack animals, as there is no way you’ll ever be able to part after the BNT.
31. Avoid trekking on weekdays in plantation/ logging areas.
32. Avoid trekking on weekends in 4WD meccas.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:
33. Take it one day/ hour at a time.
34. Expect the unexpected.
35. Have faith!