At no point have I thought anything about the BNT would be easy, and whilst I knew the planning and preparation stage would be challenging, I've certainly had my eyes opened with reality slap number two.
Looking back, it is staggering how much money I've spent kitting myself out. Initially I was thinking I'd have a bit of a head start, because I already had most of the gear I'd be needing. Off I went to the shed on a mission, after much rummaging around, ta da - I pulled out my little dome tent, my super comfy self-inflating sleeping mat, my 4 season sleeping bag, cooking gear etc etc. I spread it all out and thought "How the hell is all that going to fit in a pack?". I then weighed it and realised even if I could find a pack big enough, by the time I added food and water, my pack weight would be well over 30kgs.
I hit the keyboard and discovered the term 'Ultralight backpacking' and, being the impulsive, impatient fucker that I am, I wrote out a shopping list and headed straight out to Kathmandu. The salesman loved me - I walked out of the shop a grand down. After getting home and doing more research, a new list of needed items started forming - water filters and purifiers, power banks and solar systems, GPS units, emergency beacons etc.. Off I went, this time to Anaconda to bolster the Australian economy.
At this stage I had about two thirds of the gear I though I'd be needing so it was time to test it all out.
I packed up my new 75-litre backpack, with it weighing in at 15kgs, and picked a route from Google Earth, one that we'd been to many times in the 4WD - Murrundindi Scenic Reserve here I come. Bright and early Saturday morning my wife Beth kindly dropped me off.
I think I noticed a bit of a twinge in my ankle around noon and the thought of pulling up for a rest and a spot of lunch crossed my mind, however I foolishly dismissed the idea thinking a better lunch spot would be just around the corner. I pressed on until around 1:30pm and by that stage it was quite warm and not only was my ankle yelling at me to stop, my left hip was screaming at me in protest, too, so lunchtime it was. I figured it was roughly 10kms to my chosen campsite and I set off again after lunch. As I was getting closer to my destination I was in real pain and certainly moving a lot slower. I thought I was reasonably familiar with the area, but walking instead of driving, plays tricks on your mind, particularly when you are fatigued. I'd look down the road and have it in my head that camp was just around that corner only to get there and see another long straight. This happened a number of times before I got to camp. The first few times I had a little laugh to myself, but it soon wore thin and was replaced with a few angry and then despondent expletives. I was really shuffling along when camp did emerge at the end of one of those long straights.
Being super confident when I first set out, I'd originally arranged for Beth to pick me up the next afternoon from where she dropped me off. There was barely any reception at camp but I managed to get a text off requesting to be collected first thing in the morning from the camp instead as I could barely walk. I must say I was very relieved when the calvary arrived early the next morning.
I called this my calibration run, and whilst I wound up with an inflamed bursa in my ankle and hip, and could barely move, I did get a chance to gauge my fitness, try a out my gear and get a feel for what each day on the BNT may be like. Here's my thinking after this calibration run:
View from Mt Terrible
As at writing this post there are 22 days remaining before I hit the trail in Cooktown. In that time I need to lock in the arrangements for 14 resupply points, make contact with a few more section coordinators, emailing the rest my current plan with a promise I'll call them when I'm a little closer, and make contact with the relevant land owners in the first two guidebooks. I also hope to finish PDF'ing the remaining 5 Guidebooks and plotting the remaining 9 guidebooks in Google Earth and uploading the files to my GPS and iPhone.
Am I prepared enough? I think so. I have absolutely no doubt however, things will change, and I'll need to adjust when I'm on the trail.
Ready or not here I come.
At 47 years young, Chris Anthony, who is married with 3 wonderful kids, tried his hand at being an adventurer for the 12 months tackling the BNT.