So here I am, sleeping on a bench in a bathroom grateful for the one pair of undies that stayed dry tonight. I wonder what the other blokes in camp will think when they find me here tomorrow morning. Two bad choices led me here: taking a bivy instead of a tent during the wet season and trying to be a hero when the storm came over. But I am not down on myself. I know from experience that I always remember the nights I’ve slept in toilet blocks clearly for many years.
But I should really start this story from the beginning. For it’s not a sad tale at all.
For days 16 and 17 if my challenge to walk 12km each day during March to raise money for the Australian Red Cross, I decided to go on an overnight hike. With the Cooloola Great Walk closed between Freshwater Lake and Harry’s Hut, and a nomadic friend being in Gympie I decided to walk the Double Island Point loop from Rainbow Beach. By camping at Freshwater Lake the distances would be a challenging 18km and 24km. Freshwater camp has drinking water so that made it a logical camp.
After a 2.5 hour drive I park midway between the Rainbow Beach surf club and Carlo Sandblow. This allows me to get the steep urban walk out if the way today. Something I’ll surely be grateful for tomorrow.
Carlo Sandblow is an iconic Rainbow Beach destination in its own right. I remember playing here on family holidays during my childhood. Back then it was still possible to climb down the cliff face to the beach. But it was always scary and dangerous. Today it is forbidden and with good reason because the cliff has changed and we probably caused some terrible erosion back then.
Crossing Carlo takes me into a fairly lush rainforest for such a sandy place. I will spend my day meandering past brightly coloured mushrooms and twisted vines. The buttress rooted trees and strangler figs so familiar from my years of bushwalking in South East Queensland are plentiful here too.
8km after entering the bush I come to Poona Lake. I was here last year when I ran a trail half marathon but this time I can stop to enjoy white sands of the ti tree stained water. The sand granules are sticky and cling to my sweaty body and clothes. I sit a while in the water. It’s refreshing on this disgustingly hot and humid day.
I hear the three young backpackers for twenty minutes before they arrive. Carrying only swimmers and towels they’re on a different mission to me so I leave them to their fun and continue my walk.
I am hot and bothered by the time Freshwater Lake comes into view. The humidity is stifling and reminds me why I hate March – that sneaky hot rainy month right when you think the long hot summer might be over. The lake is pretty but I don’t stay long. I want to go to camp and have also forgotten to pack bug spray to protect me from the mozzies.
Freshwater camp is quiet and pretty. There are only two other tents here. Both have 4WDs parked out the front so I must be the only walker. We used to come here by 4WD when I was young too. Cooloola is amazing and one of the best and most accessible 4WD areas around.
I lay on my bivy bag squashing horse flies. A butcher bird flies over to catch and eat the flies that I throw away. It also spies a native cockroach and makes short work of that. I eat my own dinner and drink strong sweet tea Javanese style with lots of condensed milk. And that’s where the sensible part of my day ends.
For some reason I get it in my head to walk to the beach. I discover that it’s much cooler there due to a breeze. I also spot a storm coming quickly north. What I do next is so dumb. I am surprised at myself. Instead of hanging at camp amd waiting for the storm to pass, I decide to shift to the beach because it’s cooler and I might not sweat as much in my bivy. The real mistake was relying on a bivy during the storm season and not carrying a tent. That aside, I should not have moved camp because the beach is the worst place to be in a storm. There’s limited protection from lightning and the rain has nothing to temper its ferocity.
Half an hour later everything is wet and I’m running back to camp in my now saturated sleeping clothes. And that’s how this episode of “Andrew sleeps in a toilet block” comes about.
Lessons learned: pack mozzie spray, bivy bags are a three season shelter so use a tent in summer and stay in camp when it storms.
Distance: 18.3km plus 3km to and from beach a couple of times
Cumulative distance for challenge:216.9km
If you would like to support me in my challenge to walk 12km each day during March to raise awareness for people walking to flee war and to raise miney for the Australian Red Cross, please donate through my profile on the Red Cross challenge page: http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills