Tuesday December 20, 0.0km/0.0mi
Hobart Airport to Sydney Airport to Island Bend Campground (NSW)
I caught an early shuttle bus to the airport for my 9:45am flight to Sydney, which was a little turbulent but I napped anyway.
I landed in Sydney at 11:30, and rode the subway a couple stops to pickup my rental car. This one was quite a bit more modern than the 2012 Hyundai that I had in Tasmania, and I took advantage of the Bluetooth for navigation and phone calls.
I drove the 5 hours to Kosciuszko National Park, which included a stop at Lake George for some photos and stretching the legs.
Halfway thru, I stopped by Canberra for an early dinner and to pickup a map from Paddy Pallin (outdoor outfitter here). The other half of the drive was more scenic, and I did the last 15 minutes in the dark. All the Australian animals seem to be nocturnal and love to cross the roads, so it was a slow last 15 minutes.
I setup my tent at the Island Bend Campground, which was a nice secluded primitive spot above the Snowy River. It was very quiet, except for the sounds of hopping animals nearby.
Wednesday December 21, 22.1km/13.7mi
Charlotte Pass Trailhead (0.0/1840m) to Charlotte Pass Trailhead (22.1/1840m) (NSW)
I enjoyed my last night camping in Australia, and I woke to blue sunny skies and more hopping animals.
I think these are either Pademelons or Wallabies.
It was a 25 minute drive to the Charlotte pass trailhead, and along the way I stopped by the Perisher Valley visitor center (and ski resort) to get a parking pass.
The road ends at the Charlotte Pass trailhead, which is very small. Most of the cars were parked along the road, so I had to walk for a couple minutes to get to the official start of the loop I would be hiking.
My plan was to hike a 22km loop counterclockwise, going over the summit of Mt Kosciuszko (2228m/7310ft) along the way. Mt. Kosciuszko is the highest point on the Australian continent, and one of the “7 Summits”. The highpoints on the other six continents are much more difficult.
I could tell this trail was very well traveled, since it was so wide and paved with bricks!
I descended to the Snowy River, about 100m below the trailhead.
The river was wide, but the crossing was actually very easy on many large & well-placed boulders.
As I re-ascended out of the river valley, I started seeing some snow patches. The temperature was 15C/60F, so it was really more like slush.
The little creeks were raging with snowmelt.
The top of the climb up to the ridge, the trail split. It was a short 1km spur down to Blue Lake, which I skipped. I had a very good view of the lake from the junction, and since it was too cold to go swimming I didn’t see the point in doing the side trip.
The rest of the day was traversing along a ridge. There were some short sections of traversing snow, and I actually use my microspikes. They weren’t really necessary but it was much more efficient to hike with them on, since I wasn’t slipping with every step.
I loved the ridgewalk, as it was a completely alpine hike, which I saw very little of in Australia.
Sometimes the trail would become very snowy, and disappear under a large snowdrift.
But mostly I was hiking through the grassy alpine terrain.
One particular section was on a raised metal walkway over 1km long, which seemed very out of place in the wilderness. The sign said it was to protect the environment from being trampled so I guess that makes sense.
I was so tempted to try to go swimming in all the little alpine tarns that I saw along the way.
As I crossed a short snowfield, I was shocked to see what appeared to be a very tiny crevasse. I knew this was not a glacier, and I probed probed the tiny crevasse and discovered it was only 1.5m/5ft deep, ha!
The trail was on a plastic grid material, which prevented it from getting muddy and eroded.
After hiking 12.5km, I arrived to the summit just before noon, and read the history of Mt Kosciuszko.
There were at least a dozen people on the summit at any given time, so any sense of solitude was lost.
I found some type of summit marker.
But this other summit marker was higher and looked more official.
I took my turn standing on the stone summit monument and asked another hiker to take my photo. She wasn’t very good with the camera but I kinda liked the strange angle of the photo.
I relaxed on the summit for almost an hour before finally departing. This section of trail was on an old road, and the 10km only took me 2 hours to get back to the car.
Along the way I came upon an old hut, called Seamans Hut. There were three rooms inside, with some benches and tables. It looked like a pretty nice spot to wait out a storm.
There were distance markers counting down the kilometers to the trailhead. 1km to go! The carpark (CP) was close.
When I returned to the trailhead, I explored the short Snow Gum (type of tree) trail. It was an easy 500m walk on a boardwalk and there were tons of these cool looking trees.
It was 4pm and I got in the car and drove straight to Canberra to get dinner. The Capital Brewing company (Canberra is the national capital of Australia) was a nice spot to grab a drink and a fish and chips.
I drove another hour and half to a free camping area called Daly’s Clearing. I have been using the Campermate app to find campsites all over Australia, it’s pretty great! It was almost dark so I set up my tent right next to the car. As I was taking off my shoes I noticed how they were about to fall apart. Good thing today was my very last day of hiking in Australia!
Tomorrow I will do some touristy things around downtown Sydney, and I have a hotel booked for tomorrow night.
Thursday December 22, 0.0km/0.0mi
Daly’s Clearing Camping Area to Sydney CBD (NSW)
I drove an hour and a half back to Sydney, and went directly to Bondi Beach. Even at 8:30am, there were plenty of people walking around.
The beach is famous for its surfing.
It’s a beautiful white sand beach, and only 20 minutes from downtown!
After a couple hours at the beach, I drove back to the airport and dropped off the rental car. I used the subway to get downtown, which was a very nice modern train system.
It was before noon and too early to check into my hotel, but they allowed me to drop off my backpack in their luggage room. The hotel was right next to this beautiful little urban park.
I walked 10 minutes over to the SeaLife Aquarium, and spent a couple hours exploring all the exhibits and cool marine animals.
The Dugong was very special, I think he’s the only one in a zoo anywhere in the world.
My next stop was the Sydney Tower Eye. It looks like Seattle’s space needle, except it’s almost twice as tall.
There was a long-ish elevator ride to the top of the tower, which is 268m high.
After getting my fix for heights, I rode the elevator back down and hurried over to the Sydney opera house where I had reserved tickets for a 4:30pm tour.
I had trouble finding the entrance since most of the doors were locked. Eventually I figured out how to get under the stairs and met the tour guide on the ground floor.
He was a very thorough guide, and we heard explanations for many of the artworks and architectural features throughout the building.
This sounds strange, but the tiles that make up the outside of the shells of the Opera House were surprisingly….soft.
We were able to get a tour of one of the four theatres, since it was empty. (If a theater is currently hosting a production, it’s closed to tours to protect the IP of the production company).
The tour ended at 5:30, and I hungry for dinner, so I walked through the CBD and browsed restaurant menus as I passed by.
I was almost back to my hotel when the menu for “Next Door restaurant” caught my eye. It was a tiny place that seated maybe 25 people, and it served gourmet pizzas and quirky cocktails, with special prices for happy hour! Sold.
After dinner, I made my way to the Occidental Hotel and checked in. I spent an hour getting ready and packing for my flight back to the USA tomorrow morning.
It’s so strange that my Australia trip is now really coming to an end. I’m excited to be home for the holidays and to go back to work in January, but I know I will miss all this once I leave. And I’m definitely coming back to Tasmania someday to finish the hikes I could not complete due to bad weather. See you later, Australia!