Five go adventuring

THEY’VE known each other from one walk or another for years now, but this particular walk was the first time they’d been together as one.

With the strong tang of bush still clinging to their boots, they introduce themselves as ‘Dirt Girl’, another as ‘Fleur‘ and a third as ‘Running Bear.’

The mother and daughter are ‘Soar’ and ‘Donkey Girl’.

“We know each other well by now,” says Lyn Stiller, who’s at the centre of this diverse crew. “That’s going to happen when you’re this close together for days on end.”

The powerful bond between the five, a nurse, a retired teacher, one college and one uni student, and a jeweller remains well after their trek has ended. Best not to ask about the origin of the nicknames.

Lyn walked the longest, the entire Tasmanian Trail, some 470 kilometres from Devonport to Dover. It took 27 days.

Her companions for varying sections of the time and the trail are women she’s met on different treks. Lisa walked south as far as Bronte Park, before turning for home and work with her husband at Stephen Dibb Jewellery in Brisbane. She and Lyn met in 1969 when neighbours in Queensland.

Gabe Gartrell, a student and mother of the youngest of the group Amelie Sansom-Gartrell, is about to go off to the Three Capes Walk. This after just recovering from a snake bite in the Douglas-Apsley National Park on the East Coast.

Elayne Martin is a retired schoolteacher. She met Lyn through a mutual love for donkeys and together they’ve walked a good deal of the country straddling the New South Wales border.

What brings them together, in their hearts as well as on this singular path the length of Tasmania, is the joy they find in walking the road less travelled.

“I really like the walking,” says Elayne. “And I like the company. When you’re with someone 24/7, you get to know, and like, people.” Lyn says that for her, it’s about walking through the day, eight hours, and then making dinner as a group before sleeping 12 hours. “It’s completely immersive,” she explains. “You’re either walking, or preparing to walk … and that includes all that sleep!”

“In this kind of group, you’re completely safe,” adds Gabe. “You can stop and take photographs, and importantly, talk about anything, anything at all. There’s no prim and proper, just getting real.

“We’re all pretty stoic, and you need to be,” she continues. “This is not for the inexperienced; you need to be able to push yourself both physically and mentally.”

“And it’s more relaxing than working,” notes Elayne. “Most important, you’re learning what you can live without.”

Their packs, Lyn says, weigh 12 to 16 kilos. “It’s largely about having enough food to cover ‘x’ number of days,” she says.

“But that weight, honestly, is barely two days’ worth,” adds Lyn, a nurse who’s taken a year off to do the treks she’s promised herself.

The Tasmanian Trail is the only long-distance track in Tasmania. Its five sections are open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists, but terrain varies from roadway to virgin bush, private farm land and old stock routes.

It requires crossing two good sized rivers. Much of it traverses the Central Highlands and the length of Derwent Valley, which is where the trekkers and I first met up.

Gabe and Amelie hooked up for the last few days, around the back of kunanyi/Mt Wellington and down to Dover.

As she went through smaller communities on the southward journey, Lyn Stiller says she was struck by how welcoming people were, from top to bottom.

“You don’t need to say anything … Tasmanians just reach out and give you help,” she says.