With an hour long drive out to Yellowin Forest Rd from our accommodation in Tumut via Batlow, it gave the three of us time to have a laugh and joke about just about everything that had happened over the last couple of days. Most of the drive was spent trying to breathe as we almost died laughing each morning, with the continuous sledging of each other. Great times!
We really started to settle into a good routine. All of us enjoyed running early in the morning under the immense canopy of stars of the clear nights and the huge moon, which was now completely full. It’s a great time of day to be running. With the crew of Martin and Matt still asleep for the next few hours and a long first section planned, we looked forward to getting some kilometres knocked off before the sun came up.
Darrel was travelling well. The porridge was still being eaten in great quantities, although he had now added blue Powerade to it to cool it down and to rinse the bowl. Uncle Toby’s will be thrilled to release a new “endurance sports porridge” in the New Year. Keep an eye out for a bald headed action man in your next packet of Oats.
We also had to deal with the cold weather which was zero at 3am and fell further as the night progressed before the sun came up around 6:30am. I told the guys of a new invention I had thought of. If I could harness the water dripping out of my nose and eyes and store it in my drink bottles then I could reduce the weight of my backpack by not having to carry as much water. The things you think of when you’re running.
The early morning running was along fire trails. The long grass next to us was heavily frosted and we could see Gurkeroo Ridge in the distance as we entered the Bago State Forest. Again matching Hume and Hovell footstep for footstep over the first part of today’s section was a real highlight for us. They were marching onto their 19th day, for us our third. And we were amazed at how good their progress was, they certainly weren’t mucking around.
We reached Ben Smith campsite, joking that even 185 years ago it would have been a common name for the poor bugger. We stretched on the picnic tables after running well down the single track with dense moss, jet black soil and again numerous wombat holes. There was also evidence of wild dogs and boars in the area. We didn’t stop long as we had to stay warm, and we headed off across the frosty open paddocks and along Jounama Pondage with the Giant Talbingo Dam now coming into view.
As we traversed these white paddocks moving from marker to marker, we would occasionally shine our head torches into the nearby trees only to see 18 sets of orange eyes looking straight back at us. The black poll cattle were very interested in us and were quite playful. It was, in some ways comforting to have them there, and even more comforting knowing they are herbivores, and fond of Oats.
It was now time to be reintroduced to the Kosciuszko National Park and more importantly, that of our next obstacle The Big Talbingo Mountain. Leaving the open paddocks we crossed a stile and were instantly engulfed in a huge soaring forest with immense snow gums. The track here was good as it was previously a bridle track for locals to come for a picnic with their horse and cart in the early 1900’s. We were at 300m elevation and needed to top out at over 1,100m before our crew point, and we knew the last 3.5km had over 300m of rise as the immense Buddong Falls came into view.
In the pre-dawn murkiness my eyes started to glaze over, I was kicking rocks and couldn’t focus my eyes at all. I called out to the guys that I needed to start talking to stay awake. I also had a caffeine tablet and borrowed Darrel’s iPod. Over the next hour things improved remarkably, my previous pace which was around 12:30 per kilometre had now dropped to 6:30 per kilometre, with the speed now doubled I was running up the steepest switchbacks of the climb and felt terrific. I have since learned that even if you’re feeling that good it’s best not to push it and that even measures of effort are a lot more enjoyable than the peaks and troughs that I would struggle with on this day. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down.
As Hume and Hovell wrote in their daily journal “after getting within a distance of about one furlong (200m) of the top, we found it necessary to unload the Beasts and to take them to the Top empty, and for the Men to bring up their loads, it being too steep for the Cattle to get up without being in danger every minute of their rolling down the side. Had this been the case they must have been dashed to pieces, it being at least 1 and ½ mile to the bottom”.
As the sun came up Terry was feeling good and Darrel was as solid as ever. As we crossed Lower Buddong Falls on a steel bridge at Moffets Crossing (that had to be dropped in by helicopter for the track), we signed the log book and were encouraged with a good luck message from Warwick Hull the track co-ordinator who we would be running with the following day.
We now headed back into the Bago State Forest where we would be for the next couple of days. We took dawn photos by the impressive waterfalls, and each of us hope to come back here to really enjoy the stunning scenery in the future.
Running along the top in the early morning sunrise we now focused on making it to the planned crew stop on time. We could see brumbies droppings and could smell the wild horses in the freezing air around each corner, but on this trip, unlike the reconnaissance trips earlier in the year the brumbies would not show themselves. They were very close though and I kept betting Darrel that we would see one in the next couple of hundred metres, only to then tell him that I told him we’d see them in the NEXT couple of hundred metres.
Past Buddong Hut and along some the 4wd tracks the puddles were frozen solid and couldn’t even be broken with rocks. We entered some great running terrain along single tracks with open snow gums all around us which wound its way left and right. We even ran straight through the horse droppings that were frozen solid.
As we passed White Horse creek and neared the highest point of the track we came across a solo hiker who was on his way to Yass. We had now covered 225km and let him know we had come from Yass on Saturday. His response was a disappointingly casual “oh yeah” and then he just headed off again. We hope that 5 minutes down the track he worked through where he was and that he was likely 10 days away from Yass. Tough crowd.
At 9:50am we reached Bullongra Rd, Granite Mountain was just to our East at 1,439m and Paddy’s River Dam campsite was just in front of us.
The crew car had yet to arrive, so Darrel and Terry re applied bodyglide to their feet as they sat on frozen rocks amongst the thick frost on the grass. Soon after, and with only a little bit of a “what-if” scenario being played out we heard the terrific sounds of the crew car coming along the road. They explained they would have been there sooner, but they stopped to take a photo of the frosty grass, the same frosty grass we were sitting in waiting for them. The good news is we were early and they were on time so we weren’t worried.
Matt joined us to run the 32.2km section to Henry Angel Track head. I changed shoes and also reapplied body glide to prevent any blisters. My feet had swollen overnight and with two pairs of socks on to keep my feet warm I was keen to get into a new pair of shoes which were also a size larger.
On our way again, the sun was shining and with heavy backpacks containing new food and water, we set about knocking off even more kilometres, celebrating the fact that we’d made it halfway along the track.
Paddy’s River Dam is impressive in size and with the morning frost burning from it, the steam rising from its icy surface was a sight to behold. Matt threw a rock into the dam which bounced off the ice and skidded, and in each of the fallen tree trunks we passed there was snow from the previous falls in the area. Even though it was sunny it was still very cold.
The next section was relatively flat, and we followed some great single track with soft bark underfoot. We actually ran along an old watercourse used by gold miners in the 1930’s. They would excavate the soil and run it through the water to expose the gold. It was great running and we were making pretty good progress.
As we dropped in elevation the forest changed from wet sclerophyll with magnificent stands of alpine ash, mountain gum and the beautiful tree fern filled gullies to a more dense wet forest. I would describe it as a frozen alpine rain forest. There were water courses to be crossed regularly too. One of these water courses managed to confuse Terry as he claimed that the water was running uphill.
Even at midday the ground was icy as we ducked and weaved our way along the never ending water courses and dense forest. It was making our progress quite slow and we still had a very long and tough final 26km section planned for the evening. The fatigue of the last 2 and a half days, and 240 odd kilometres were beginning to catch up with us. Darrel and Terry were showing signs of dehydration, they were developing mouth ulcers and their hands and eyes were very puffy.
I on the other hand was sticking to my gel and cliff bar diet and was told by Darrel that I wasn’t getting enough calories. I was very low on energy here, and thought about switching back to real food in order to increase my energy levels.
Before emerging from the forest we were greeted with a sign, obviously written by the most literate person in the near vicinity. It read “NO HUNDING D1CKHEADS”. We took it as a welcome sign as we could see in the distance where our next crew stop was. Martin had run out from the car and joined us on our slow trudge along Burra creek with evidence of the extensive gold and tin mining that had been carried out in the area. We struggled to keep our pace over 5km/hr here, even though it was good running and we were descending.
We were slowly being ground down. The distance travelled had clearly caught up with us physically, and the distance remaining was weighing us down mentally. Something had to change here or it would be game over.
It was around 3pm when we still had a couple of kilometres to the Henry Angel Track head where we were to resupply for the final 26km of the day. I had worked out that at our current pace it would mean a finish of 9pm at best. Matt and Martin were to return to Sydney, and we had a new crew of Rebecca, Kim and Clare who would be waiting for us.
Adding 26km to the day’s distance of 69km would be great and we would have knocked off 279km in three days, with ONLY 100 miles to go.
I thought about how trashed we would be if we continued on into the evening. How tired Matt and Martin would be on their drive back to Sydney and how our new crew would struggle to know what to do the next day if we were to come crashing into the cabin at 10pm barely coherent.
Darrel was not keen to stop, he was also hoping as we came down through Burra Creek that I didn’t want to stop. Terry was ok with either decision but was silently hoping I wanted to stop. The three of us dropped back from Matt and Martin who had generously expressed that they were ok with whatever decision we made.
This was the biggest decision the three of us had been forced to make in all the thousands of kilometres we had shared. Normally the decisions are easy to make, this wasn’t. In the end we agreed to call it a day, head back to the accommodation, get an early night and regroup with a massive day the next day. Our overall goal was to complete the track in 6 days and to have fun. Pushing on into the night to try and break 5 days at the risk of not enjoying it and even worse potentially blowing up and not being able to finish was in the end, a very easy decision.
The next few kilometres to the Henry Angel Track head were decidedly easy now without the daunting task of another 26km at 4pm to tackle. We resigned ourselves to the fact that it would now be at least a 5 or 6 day run, this certainly brought back to us what running with mates is all about, 3 guys one goal and we were happy with our decision.
Back at Tumbarumba, which was close by, we met the new crew and waved goodbye to Matt and Martin, thanking them for their enormous efforts over the last few days and on the reconnaissance trips. We were quite sad to see them go and we certainly missed them.
I had two pieces of cold pizza from the previous night in the car and when I got back to the accommodation quickly organised the next days gear and headed to bed. I needed sleep desperately or my trip was over.
Darrel and Terry went into town for hamburgers with the new crew and to go over the next days plan. The accommodation was good and I did sleep, although I would wake up 4 different times covered in icy cold sweat from head to toe and be dripping wet. It was still a relatively good sleep and I woke up totally focused and ready to get cracking and make up for yesterday’s relatively short day.
We woke at 1am and with a departure time of 1:40 I was on schedule. Darrel and Terry came into the cabin and helped take my boxes out to the trailer. They both said next time they would chip in and get me a servant so they wouldn’t have to keep carrying my boxes. They were early though, which means that Darrel probably only had 1 pound of Oats, and I still had plenty of time to take my boxes out. If I have to sit around each crew stop watching them have a sausage roll and apple pie eating competition then they can carry a few boxes.
Our earliest start yet. 1:59am and we were all in a great mood and keen to get going. The best running is always done before sunrise, and today was no exception. Despite it being the coldest yet (minus 2 degrees), we moved well and stayed warm as we continued along Burra Creek away from the exact spot where Hume and Hovell had camped on their trip.
We signed the logbook and noticed that no other entries had been made between our trip in April and our current July through run. We also noticed that what had taken Darrel and Keith 3 hours in April had only taken us one hour today. We managed to avoid getting lost for 10km this time. Thanks Keith.
The climb up Mount Garland kept us warm and we moved very well here. There were no effects of the previous 3 days efforts, and this was very encouraging with such a big day ahead of us and in stark comparison to the poor state we were in only 10 hours earlier.
The fog settled in thickly and shrouded our headlight beams as we traversed the Bogandyera Nature Reserve and into private property. The orange eyes that had been following us for 4 days were still ever present, silently stalking and seeking out a way to take down the Great Oat Master once and for all.
As we crossed carefully at a slippery cattle grid onto a dirt road leading towards Mannus Lake we set off the owners dogs. He must have had 4 or 5 dogs, and despite being informed of our end to end run along the Hume and Hovell track, I don’t think he was expecting us to be coming through in a massive fog at 4:30am and set all his dogs off. The owner was out running around madly in his undies with a flashlight while we ran through saying “hello” initially and then “sorry” with no response. Our hydration pack bladders were frozen, so this guy was clearly underdressed for his morning exercise. Looking back we were certainly very lucky not to be shot at.
Nearing 6am we approached the crew and were thankful they had made hot chocolate for us. Darrel needed my skiing gloves over his running gloves as his hands were still cold. As we tried to fill up our water bottles, we were greeted with both our water jerry cans being frozen and no water able to come out of the taps.
The next leg was only a couple of hours and we continued on around Mannus Lake and the fog towards Mundaroo State Forest where we looked forward to running during the day with Warwick Hull and Peter Fitzpatrick.
Warwick Hull is the track co-ordinator and has been involved with it for the last 40 years. A 32 minute 10km runner in his day, and Peter a 2:34 marathoner they were in for a slow but thoroughly enjoyable day. In fact Warwick Hull was primarily responsible for determining the explorer’s route both through field investigation and documentary evidence. He was also there, shovel and pick in hand day in and day out overseeing the construction of the track in the lead up to its opening in 1988. We were very privileged to run with Warwick and it was captivating hearing him talk about the history of the track. We can’t wait to have a beer with him and his mates to chat more.
Despite Terry and Darrel putting away five sausage rolls between them at the previous check point, we made good pace along the flowing single track through the Munderoo State Forest. Terry was still hungry and grabbed an apple pie for the road. We took a quick stretch break at Horse Creek before we carried on. We pointed out that Darrel had been carrying on for 3 days at this point.
Phenomenal views of both the NSW and Victorian Alps were seen in the distance along this section, and we were excited to be running so well after nearly 300km on our feet.
An impromptu checkpoint as our paths crossed with the crew cars near Coppabella Creek, I took the opportunity to close my eyes for a couple of minutes and to get off my feet which did wonders over the next section.
We enjoyed the next section, which was all on private property but it was level and the running was good as we followed Lankeys creek for kilometre after kilometre, just as Hume and Hovell had done on the 9th and 10th of November 1824.
With the sun still high in the sky we met the crew yet again, and I had another five minute sleep while Darrel and Terry had lunch and rested. Warwick and Peter were having a good time running with us along here. Both members of the Wagga Wagga running club, I really hope that the club can organise a 100km and 100 mile race along the Hume and Hovell track in the same way that the Terrigal Trotters have successfully done on the Great North Walk.
We ran past our accommodation for the night, a couple of decommissioned trains which had been fitted out with beds. Unlike yesterday there was no discussion about stopping, we were really running well today and were keen to get moving again into the afternoon.
At 3pm, and after 6 hours and almost a marathon together we waved goodbye to Warwick and Peter and their support crew Greg. We still had 15.5km to go to our intended stopping point at Tin Mines Campsite in the Woomargama National Park, so we put our iPods in and set about chipping away at it.
The crew car drove along behind us here as we needed to be driven back to Lankey’s trains. It was good to have the crew with us rather than always just meeting up with us running in and out. Kim put her shoes on and joined us for a few kilometres.
We felt good along the Tin Mines fire trail with each of us giving 8 out of 10 on how we were feeling. This is what it’s all about. We ran to make up for yesterday, we ran to try and make sure that day 5 was less than 100km to Albury, and we ran because it felt effortless and the scenery was great.
Darrel and I raced along a downhill doing 4 minute km pace with 340km in our legs. I explained that we shouldn’t take too many cookies out of the jar, that we would need our energy for tomorrow. This is a great expression borrowed from Sean Greenhill who had sent us text messages of support before heading off on the run. Very soon after this, Darrel was down to crumbs and we learnt yet again that when you’re feeling good, it’s best not to push too hard. Even efforts are required. Darrel’s knee was a little bit swollen making downhills tricky and his ankles were puffy but other than that we were in good condition.
After finishing at Tin Mines campsite we were ecstatic. We’d covered 84km for the day, 338km all up and more importantly the sign told us only 92km to go to the Hovell tree in Albury. Again we were on track to knock this off in less than 5 days. Something that looked totally impossible only 24 hours ago when we battled and struggled for each and every metre.
With an hour long drive back to the trains, and a home cooked meal of roast beef and vegies everything was going well.
Sleep was difficult to get as it was colder inside the train carriages than it was outside, and my hip flexors and legs didn’t like lying flat. I couldn’t wait for the alarms to go off again just after 1am so we could get moving under another clear starry sky.
According to the sign we only had 92km to go to finish, and we made great progress towards the finish line as we traversed the Woomargama National Park. Cresting a hill we could see the lights of Woomargama and Holbrook on the Hume Highway far off in the distance. It was a perfect early morning yet again and we ran superbly. I was feeling 9 out of 10, Terry 7 and Darrel about 6.5. Even better was that the temperatures had warmed up to 2 degrees and it felt nice.
We stopped at Samuel Bollard campsite for a stretch just before the sun came up and Darrel managed to wet his skins whilst using the facilities. Terry and I nearly wet ourselves laughing at Darrel’s poor aim.
We came up to Tunnel Rd which marked the point on the track where none of us had been before. At this exact point we went off track in the wrong direction adding about 8 kilometres and an hour and a half to our time on feet. None of us were thrilled with adding extra distance, I was more disappointed with the fact that we were running extremely well and it was all for nothing as we still had to backtrack and rejoin the track. Darrel was annoyed at adding extra distance to an already long day. Terry focused on blanking out the negative thoughts as otherwise he would start to feel down. All of us put our heads down, dealt with it and moved on with the job at hand, putting it behind us and swearing not to add any more extra distance for the day.
Back on the track and on terrific running terrain we were back into it. With Darrel’s constant reminder that “the track wasn’t going to run itself” we knocked off more and more kilometres. We passed the final log book just after Spring Creek, and left a nice message for Warwick thanking him for the extra kilometres even though the track is marked superbly and it was entirely our fault for getting lost.
We were now close to meeting up with the crew at the planned spot. Unfortunately yet another detour occurred. Thinking that the pink tape we were following was put in place for us we pushed on only to find out it was for graders to clear a new track for the property owners. Yet another backtrack and more time wasted. Combine this with a crew that would now be worried along with those watching the GPS tracking link on the screens back home, we gave everyone a good scare.
The second time we got lost saw Terry at his lowest point of the trip, he just wanted to get it done and we kept adding extra distance. We also were conscious of finishing before 2am on Thursday to ensure we were under our new 5 day time limit.
Our tired minds struggled to make sense of the maps. We were no doubt equally physically exhausted at this point but we could control that. The mental haze that clouds each thought and makes obvious decisions a stretch is very hard to combat and it was causing us to lose time.
Eventually we made it to the crew stop, 3 hours late and all of us totally out of water and food. We were pleased to see them and took our time to rehydrate and refuel. Apple pies, along with cheese and bacon rolls for Darrel and Terry and gels and cliff bars for me were the order of the day. As we had run out of water on the last leg we also took time to rehydrate before moving on along Wymah Rd to our next scheduled crew point.
Along here we passed a Country Energy employee working on an electricity pole. We were eager to chat and all of us were amazed at how weird it was to have even a small interaction with someone outside of either the runners or the crew. We made good progress along the bitumen, Darrel swore he would never do C2K.
We passed a truck being loaded with cattle, those not cooperating were given a little jolt and told in the best swear language I’ve ever heard to “please behave”. I told Darrel I would like to get one of the electric prods for him.
Meeting up with the crew after 7km, which we knocked off in an hour, Terry stopped to pop a blister on the underside of his toe. Not bad 388km and this was the first blister in the group.
We ran past the Great Aussie Resort which was to be our accommodation for the night. Our wonderful crew gleefully told us that the cabins were really nice and the showers were hot and the beds were made. Having not showered for 5 days and with only an average of 15 hours sleep per person in the last 5 nights we thrilled to hear this.
Darrel was doing his best impression of a road runner along the bitumen sections. He had his headphones in so loudly that at one stage with Terry and me yelling at the top of our lungs, he was still running along and veering into the path of a car approaching from behind.
We crossed ten chain stock reserve over the next 8km, with no markers we just navigated by compass and we were fine.
At the next crew point a reporter and photographer from The Border Mail in Albury interviewed us and took photos for an article that appeared in the paper the following day. The photographer wanted me to pour water on my head. I wasn’t keen as it was cold, but it did make a great photo and the article was 100% factual.
Along the service road of the aptly named Hume Highway, the semi trailers blasted their air horns and we still made reasonable progress, but started to slow with about 30 kilometres to go. Aiming to run eight road markers and walk two this quickly changed to run 6, run 4 but we were still running.
It was the easy access to crew that caused us to slow so we sent them on ahead and said we would run to them every hour. We made a lot better progress along here towards Tabletop Park.
We used our iPods to try and knock the last kilometres off. At one of the road junctions Darrel took off in a hurry while Terry and I changed the batteries in our headlamp and I asked “Where are you going Muppet man?” before he turned around. The name has since stuck.
Finally we came off the road and onto the trail. Cruising along the river past the Ettamogah Pub we still had 17km to go. The last parts of the run are through parks and trails and through built up residential areas where a sign had been turned around the wrong way bringing us out into a quiet residential street. I went one way to find a directional marker and also to raid a nearby letterbox to find which street we were in. All the while yelling out to Darrel and Terry so we stayed in touch. The yelling had brought one resident outside, and he quickly pointed us back up the path and we took the other turn.
Darrel was starting to feel low, but KFC and Pizza at the last crew point soon changed this. We set off on the last 9km knowing there was still a significant climb in order to reach the Hovell tree in Albury.
The last kilometres were wonderful. We slowed down to chat and laugh and reflect. Each of us wanted to finish, but we didn’t want the journey to end. We knew we had broken 5 days after initially setting an ambitious 6 day target. We were amazed at how well we had all endured the 440km trail and the extreme cold we ran through for days on end.
Always pushing on, continually counting down the kilometres to the next checkpoint, the next turnoff, seeking out what was ahead of us. For now we were happy knowing that in 3km we would touch the tree Hume and Hovell had carved their names into but we were no longer in a rush, we were totally content just to walk down the dark suburban streets with our headlamps on and our thoughts reflecting on the past 5 days. We were in a great place with great mates.
Crossing through the dew on the grass in the park in Albury and seeking out the tree was a great relief and the crew had found it to make our jobs easier in the dark.
We touched the tree after 4 days 21 hours and 30 minutes after setting off from Yass. Content and proud of our efforts.
We kept focus on the four F’s the whole way along, Feet, Food, Friendship and Fitness. 4 out of 4 complete.
The crew were absolutely critical to our success and we thank all of them immensely.
Having finished the run the one thing that all of us will take away from it is the speed of the early explorers. They would average over 15km per day with untold amounts of backtracking and rest days. Just incredible.
In celebrating our success and record setting run we are reminded of this quote from Isaac Newton:
“If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Andrew Vize, Darrel Robins and Terry Coleman
The following was consumed during the running of the Hume and Hovell:
Andrew Vize – 40 litres of water, 80 salt tablets, 40 cliff bars, at least 70 gels and 14 packets of cliff shot blocks. 1 caffeine tablet, 1 panadol and 2 voltaren.
Darrel Robins – 35 litres of water, 6 litres of Gatorade, 60 salt tablets, 10 cliff bars, 10 Gu Chomps, 30 gels, 12 Voltaren and 8 Panadol. Chicken sandwiches, sausage rolls, apple & cream cakes, Coke, ginger beer, 6 packets of chips, 3 bags of snakes and 24 flapjacks.
Terry Coleman – 35 litres of water, 12 bottles Gatorade, 40 salt tabs, 20 cliff bars, 20 caffeine gu’s, 1 apple pie, 3 sausage rolls, 8 peanut butter-honey-avocado and banana sandwiches, 12 banana’s, 10 protein shakes, 15 packs sesame snacks, several bags mixed lollies, 10 bags mixed nuts, 5 bottles Coke, 1 tube Voltaren gel and 15 Panadol.