Paul Chapman has set down a challenge for Victorian bushwalkers.
The 51 year old hiker started out last Friday morning from Mount Buninyong in Ballarat to walk the 210 km Goldfields Track to Bendigo. Wednesday morning, after just five and a half days on the trail, he arrived at Bendigo Railway Station.
The Goldfields Tack is part of the Great Dividing Trail Network. The hub of the network is at Lake Daylesford and tracks go from there to Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh and Bendigo.
Paul averaged about 40 km per day. “I like to get up early and get a couple of hours in before I stop for breakfast,” he said. “One morning the full moon fooled me into thinking it was dawn so I was on the trail by about 4:30.”
Bill Casey, committee member of the Great Dividing Trail Association (GDTA), was there to welcome Paul and walk the last few hundred metres with him. “I’ve been involved in the GDTA for 25 years,” he said, “and I’ve never heard of anyone walking the whole track in anything near that time.”
Paul is no stranger to long distance trails. “I did the (426km) Hume and Hovell track last year by myself. I’ve done the Great Ocean Walk (110 km), the Great Southwest walk (251 km) and the Coast to Coast in England (295 km) with my sister or friends. I’m trying to get into shape to do the Te Aurora (3000 km) in New Zealand next year.”
Paul carried a very light pack. “The base weight is about 6 kg but with food, it was about 10 kg when I started. I’ve got a very good tent and a reasonable sleeping bag.” Asked what he left behind, he said, “Different people have different ideas about what you should take and what you should leave behind. It comes down to the hiker. I think it’s true that ‘hikers pack for what they fear the most’.”
Paul is a fencing contractor from Terang. “I work outdoors every day. If it’s hot, I get sunburned. If it rains, I get wet. It doesn’t bother me.”
“The weather was good. I didn’t even use my puffer jacket, my rain coat or my long pants. I could have left them behind.”
Paul walked without the aid of a GPS. “I like to think about what I’m doing rather than follow a cursor on a device,” he said. “The track is very well marked and it goes through some great country. Markers were damaged or missing in a couple of places but I was able to find my way.” Bill Casey, who coordinates maintenance of the Great Dividing Trail took careful notes and will organise working bees to repair the markers this week.
Paul treated himself to breakfast at the Daylesford Bakery on Sunday morning. “I was talking to my sister on the phone and a huge male kangaroo hopped right down the main street! I was too surprised to take a photo!”
Paul particularly enjoyed the section north of Daylesford. “The mining ruins, the deep, unprotected mine shafts, the creek gullies damaged by sluicing, the Garfield Wheel… It’s all quite extraordinary and unlike anything I’ve seen on any other walk I’ve done.”
For information on the Great Dividing Trail Network, visit gdt.org.au