Setting off, squeaky clean, freshly shaven and a tidy haircut.
Getting from Healesville to Cooktown was certainly a lot faster than the return trip will be. A bit over an hour to the airport, a four-hour direct flight to Cairns and then a 45-minute flight to Cooktown vs 300 or so days according to my plan.
After touching down in Cooktown the first order of business was to pick up some butane/propane canisters from the camping store, and then find somewhere to stay for a couple of nights. With those things achieved, I strolled along Cooktown's main street to find the BNT starting point.
Whilst I was at it, I thought I'd soak up some of the Cooktown charm.
I was keen on seeing a bit more of Cooktown before setting off on the BNT, so the next morning I hiked the Scenic Rim Trail. A brisk 10 kms or so to blow the dust off my hiking feet and take in some amazing views.
I set out on my first day on the Trail at 5:15am. Sunrise was 6:30am, so I left town under the cloak of darkness. It was relatively cool, with a nice southerly breeze which made for a pleasant start. I was lucky enough that it stayed this way for most of the day - except that " nice southerly breeze" turned into a bastard head-wind, with my pack acting as a sail.
It was on one of my hourly rest stops that a slither of reception allowed a text from my wife to come through. It said "Enjoy your first day!! Remember, it's just a walk in the park."
I'd just passed this sign and took a photo to include it in a witty reply text to Beth, "Annan River National Park in fact", but no reception. I walked on but the opportunity for my witty repartee was missed.
Day one was a big 32.7 kms walking through a number of National Parks and taking in some great scenery.
I arrived at my designated camp spot around 2:30 pm and must say I was pretty stiff and sore! The Lions Den Hotel was certainly a welcome sight and good to get out of the drizzle that had set in for the last 40 minutes. I arranged to stay in a "donga" and ordered an iced water with a beer chaser - lovely!
A donga? Well, it's a little portable set up with about 5 rooms, and pretty basic - not what first popped into my head when I asked what accommodation was available.
Day two was a 15-km hike through the rainforest to a beautiful creek junction to camp, about 5 km from the tiny town of Rossville. A cute enough town, with no shops to speak of. The most memorable things for me was the massively long entrance, from the welcome sign to the "town" - about 3kms, and being attacked by four pit bull terriers. I'm glad for my trekking poles otherwise I think the dogs would have been well fed that night.
I arrived at camp early allowing me to set up and relax. I chilled out reading a book, had 2-minute noodles for dinner and massaged achy muscles with magic magnesium rub. I didn't sleep that well because of howling wind and rain, and I was worried about a croc sneaking up on me in the middle of the night. I'm sure I'll get used to it.
Day three was a late start as it was still raining. I was waiting for it to stop to pack up but when it didn't I had to bite the bullet. Arrrrghh wet gear - that'll make the pack that bit heavier.
The plan for today was a 16 km hike to Ayton. I was a bit stiff and sore to start off but soon got into a good rhythm. It was a little after lunch when I arrived at the Ayton sports oval. Great camp spot with toilets, shower and shelter.
I hung my wet gear out to dry - however, with humidity around 90% that didn't happen. Maybe next camp spot with a little bit of sun I might have more luck.
I slept so much better last night - I didn't need to worry about the rain, crocs and I wasn't as sore. I must be getting a little fitter - that'll help for the days and months ahead.
Day four (today), I decided to vary from my plan and take things easier with only a short 10(ish)-km jaunt, just shy of the Crebb Track in Bloomfield to a little creek.
I am so loving my adventure so far, as tiring and as sore as I get, I know I'm getting fitter and it is strangely exhilarating just pounding the dirt and taking in some amazing scenery. Everyone I bump into has been super friendly. I better hit the road again and get to my next camp spot, but couldn't pass the opportunity to enjoy the rarity of reception.
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.