Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leeches and Stingy Things

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go away for the night with the kids to celebrate my partner Allie's 36th 29th birthday. I'd seen some nice photos of Tarra-Bulga National Park in the Strzelecki Ranges about 2.5 hours drive south-east of Melbourne, so I booked a cabin at the nearby Tarra Valley Caravan Park, and after a lazy Saturday morning, we headed off about 11.

The caravan park was great, with a combination of cabins, powered and non-powered sites, and communal barbecue sheds where you could sit around an open fire and toast marshmallows, if you happen to like marshmallows and other people. It was also only 40 mins drive from Port Albert at Ninety Mile Beach, so really it is the perfect spot for winter or summer holidays.

As soon as we arrived, we drove about 10 mins up the road to the Tarra Valley Rainforest Walk, has some lunch in the shelters at the car park, then spent an hour walking through beautiful rainforest, including the lookout at Cyathea Falls. It was truly an amazing place, and we all agreed that we will definitely be coming back on a regular basis.

Tarra Valley Picnic Area

The next morning I got up at 5am for a run. Although it was a family getaway, there was no way I was going to miss out on a trail run in such a great spot! Rugged up with beanie, gloves and head torch, I headed out of the park, and ran up the road for about 10 mins before branching off on to the Link Track, which was supposed to take me up to the main Diaper Track, then on to Balook.

The track was heavily overgrown and basically headed straight up. My third km took me 18 mins as I battled up the hill, regularly losing the track in the dark and having to retrace my steps. Fortunately, there were track markers with reflective arrows along the way, which were easily picked up by my head torch, so I never got too lost. Also about half way up I started to see course flagging ribbons on the trees, which I assumed were left over from the Duncan's Run ultra held in the area last December. The other little surprise was the stinging plants which left nasty rashes on my legs for a few days, and the leeches which jumped on board for the ride!

Finally, I hooked up with the Diaper track, which was still overgrown in parts, but much wider fire trail, and settled into some easy running up a gradual climb. It was still dark through this section, and there was lots of tree debris on the trail so I had the head torch pointed down most of the time, trying to avoid a face plant. After a while, the fire trail widened into access road, and as the light peeped through, I found myself running through a plantation area. This was a bit boring, but after a another km, I was back in the park for the best part of the run.

The pay-off 

Huge Mountain Ash trees soaring into the mist, giant ferns hanging over the trail, soft and mossy underfoot, it was an awesome way to start the day. I ran on for another couple of kms, almost making it to Balook, but turned back, conscious of the time. The climb up Link had taken a lot longer than expected and I didn't want Allie worrying about me. The return journey back along Diaper Track in the light was lots of fun, leaping over the fallen branches, and hurling myself down the descent. Back on Link though, it was a scramble back down, slipping on mossy rocks, getting stung again, and picking up another batch of leeches. Maybe they were the same leeches just wanting a ride back.

I'm not smiling. I'm grimacing at the leeches ATTACHED TO MY LEGS.

I cruised back down the road to the caravan park, feeling very happy with the morning's work - 16.88 km in a very slow 2:30 - and washing my very muddy Trailrocs in the freezing Tarra River on the way back. Link to the run below:

After brekkie, we checked out, then drove up to the Balook Visitor Centre to do the walks from there, which were even more beautiful than the day before. Checking out the Corrigan Suspension Bridge and back through the Fern Gully walk. It was a great weekend, and I can't recommend it enough. In fact it could well become our regular family holiday spot, as we are planning on buying a camper trailer later this year, and the powered sites make it a cheap option for an extended stay. Duncan's Run will definitely be on the radar now, depending on how I recover from Surf Coast Century.

Corrigan Suspension Bridge