Weekend Assignment #172: Travel Under Own Power

John has done it again… forced me to write about something… well forced is a harsh word to use… but he did I tells you… can you look into these caring eyes and Not do what he asks? can you? I think not!

Weekend Assignment #172: Talk about a time in which you moved or traveled a significant distance under your own power. That means walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, and so on — in some significant way your muscles were involved. As for the distances involved, think miles; we’re talking some real effort. It doesn’t have to be a marathon or a triathlon (although those would count), just a time when you got to the end of what you were doing feeling tired but possibly triumphant as well.

OK my story starts when I was first at University (long story but the cut it short I went twice and got one degree – somehow I feel cheated!) I had it in my young mind that I wanted to be an environmental scientist when I grew up. So I was doing a Applied Science degree majoring in Environmental Science. In my second year I was asked by a post grad student to help with some survey work in the East Gippsland of Victoria. Basically we where working in the major Logging distinct of Cairn River, surveying frogs, gathering numbers and checking which species where around and if any where endangered. It was fun work and we got along really well. Simon the post grad student was about 5 years older then me and helped me out with some troubles I had at the time, girl friend (turned fiance), life, money and all that crap. It was nice to be able to escape into the bush and do some really cool exploring type stuff, drive around in a 4-wheel drive and really Go Bush!! (not in the political sense so calm down Jeff!!)

A 4-wheel drive I hear you say… I thought this was about going under your own power?? Well yes it is, and that part of the story goes a little something like this.

For most of our trips out and about we used a Toyota Land Cruiser, a big long wheel base vehicle, roof racking, wench at front and back, a real machine with an extra tank attached for long hauls. We drove that thing everywhere – I remember a time when we came across this HUGE tree that had fallen across the track, its circumference was taller then the truck, so there was no way our little chain saw was going to cut through that baby. So, we made a path around the tree and even though truck was at a slight angle (so much of an angle I got out and walked) we made it around OK. We really trusted and like that truck, so when we went to the Universities Vehicle Centre to head out again, we were sad to learn that somewhere else had booked out our baby and we where left with a Toyota Hilux. The Hilux was an impressive truck, high wheel base and some Monster tyres, the tray had a hard top canopy on it and all looked really good, so off we went.

The Vehicle Centre always filled the trucks up for us before we left and we always did a quick fill up at the last service station before hitting the real bush. When I filled the tank I noticed that the fuel gauge hadn’t moved, we had travelled 3 hours from Canberra so we both expected to see some drop in fuel. This worried us greatly, how could we tell how much fuel we has left if the gauge didn’t work? A little concerned we drove to our main base camp, unpacked, set up and had a quite drink to discuss our plans for the week in the bush.

Getting our maps out we worked out we would be travelling nearly 600 kms in the week – would the tank last for that amount to distance, with some 4-wheel driving and up and down hills and still get us back to the service station? Re planning our priorities we worked out a system whereby we would drive to a point and walk the rest of the way, conduct our surveys and walk back to the truck or camp over night.

Now as part of our surveying we had to walk a long way as it was. We first would walk from the track down to the creek or stream, walk up the stream, measuring out every 50 metres for at least a kilometre, whilst also conducting a day light search for frogs, spawn, tadpoles and frog habitat. Then at the end of the survey section, we would set up a small afternoon camp, maybe have a swim in the water (down stream) and cook up some dinner and wait for dusk. Then we would walk back along the section with head lamp and hand torch, looking for those little amphibian critters. Catch, id, measure and release those we saw. Detect and count those we heard and avoid the swimming Red Belly Black Snakes (once i encountered one that was at least 5 feet long, we came to an agreement whereby I went right he went left – I think he ended up eating the frog I heading towards – such is life in the WILD. I have more stories to tell of the nasties we found over the summer, leeches, Copperheads and others).

So here we are, already walking quite a bit, with the extra mileage clocking up as we park many kms from where the creek/streams start, doing over night hikes down rough tracks. All in order to save fuel because we thought we where really close to running out. So after that week so hiking almost everywhere, putting off some streams and area because it took us so much longer to get to them. We finally decided to head back to the service station, fill up and go home. Tired and very weary looking we must have been a site for the operator behind the counter. That was the single best tasting cold beverage I have ever had – and it was only Coke (beers came after we got back to campus – before we showered even… hehehe nothing beats the sink of a week in the bush like the beer soaked carpet of a campus bar!). After we filled up I was responsible for filling in the trucks log book, I grabbed the receipt off Simon and entered all the details, kms travelled, litres of fuel and the cost… I noticed that we had travelled less kms in the bush then we had driving down from Canberra… man we must have walked a lot in this week. I made this comment to Simon who said that next week when we came down again we where going to take it easy and just do some call boxes (a recording device that samples frog calls over a period of a few weeks, a few seconds recording at a time, these are then listened to and records kept as the what frogs called and how often etc), much to my relief.

Simon had a chat to the vehicle maintenance guy, saying that the fuel gauge was not reading right. The guy laughed and said “long range tank”‘. Both Simon and I where puzzled by this response and said in unison “What?”.

“The Hilux has a long range tank, the gauge doesn’t register until you use up all the fuel in the long range part… hey you guys didn’t even get to half a tank..” to which he then had to stop ridiculing us ’cause he was laughing so hard.

Needless to say that beer went down well and the few after it… we never took the Hilux again.

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