I’m ruggedizing myself for June in Tasmania. Short of ice-baths or cycling to work naked, I can’t recreate the worst that the Overland Track is likely to throw at me, but I can at least begin to test some of my stuff because, at last, single digit overnight temperatures have arrived, with a balmy 8°C (46°F) on Monday morning. The wind-chill factor of biking is great for testing the layering, and mine passed with flying colours. Proof that it pays to buy your winter-gear from countries that actually get cold, unlike Sydney, where trackie-dacks and thongs are the mid-winter norm. Bogans don’t feel the cold. You would need synapses for that.
Speaking of which, I’m also ruggedising my brain in a couple of ways. Firstly, YouTube lets me vicariously experience what DOES happen on the OLT in June. So far, I’ve discovered several breeds of stupid, the most common being the “It’ll be fully fuc*in’ sick, bro” group of blokes who while smashing down beers one evening dare each other into walking the OLT — six months later, looking sheepish in Goretex, they arrive at Launceston only to realise half their group (those bastards!) have pulled a Harry Holt. Having weaned out the smarter ones, this herd of group-thinking drongos shuffle off down the track for what will be the unhappiest week of their adult lives. You’ll spot them, because they are all wearing jeans, and at least one of them will be wearing a beer-belt “for the lols”.
Another group are the “bucket-listers” who want to do at least one adventurous thing before they die. You’ll spot them immediately because they have the best gear, and all of it will be new. Sat phones, the latest GPS, and so many high-end items by Arc’teryx that they must have shares in the company. Don’t they absolutely love giving advice, ‘helpful’ comments that begin with “I see you’re wearing cotton–” and they’re the ones playing the fuc*ing harmonica at night in the huts, and singing Gerry & The Pacemakers (oh the irony) as they trudge gaily through the mud. They’ll laugh and carry on like teenagers on the piss, only they’ll be fully sober, as if this is their last defiant hurrah before the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking. I suspect bucket-listers are why there are dedicated tent platforms outside every hut, because the minute some white-haired asshole start whistling Nancy Sinatra, I’m out of there.
But then there are the solo-stupid walkers, the ones they keep the rescue chopper primed for. Mostly experienced bushwalkers, they’re the ones with the shabby boots, crappy-looking gear, and the quietly overconfident demeanour. Within this group are sub-classes of stupid, including the peak-bagger whose hillaryesque need to climb everything “because its there” almost guarantees an anonymous death on an irrelevant hilltop somewhere. For the peak bagger, Mt Ossa is mandatory, and no amount of sleet and snow will keep them from the summit. Most people summit tall things for the views and photo opportunities that sweeping vistas present, minus the fat sweaty leering glob of human head selfie’d into the way. But not the peak-bagger. All they want is a mental tick, and their name in a log book if there is one as evidence, and then it’s off to the next one. Double-plus living, dude. What these folk don’t understand is that every time they take a thin-air selfie they just add to the examples Encyclopaedia Brittanica can use to illustrate the definition of ‘wanker’.
Another sub-class are the preppers, often ex-military or wannabe-ex-military types who need to ‘pit themselves against nature’ to test their masculinity. I have a little prepper in me, I admit. They/we stand out because they/we carry really, really large knives, and most of their/our gear will be in disruptive-pattern camouflage or tactical-black. They’re the guys who think a space blanket and chest-hair is all they need to keep them warm, and that the tin of MRE’s they stole as an Army Reservist in the 90’s are still good to eat. This is where I part company from the preppers, because MRE’s were inedible they day they went into the tin, let alone the toxic residue that remains twenty years later. These guys think its normal to own a ghillie suit, so with any luck they’ll be wearing it and you won’t even notice they’re there. And no, I don’t own one. ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ won’t let me. And it would scare the living bejesus out of the cats.
But this ruggedizing is not merely practical: I’m also preparing myself mentally for the things that PROBABLY WON’T HAPPEN BUT MIGHT. I’m doing this by playing a computer game/instruction manual for survival in wintry wilderness. I’m playing “The Long Dark” and, substituting wolves and bears for devils and wombats, it accurately depicts the survival challenges I might face if marooned on the OLT. Exposure, dehydration, hypothermia, food poisoning, injury, and animal attack. After playing this game, I’ll find it hard to walk past a stick without wanting to pick it up for later. I’ve survived for 40 days so far, which bodes well for the week I’ll be on the track, and if I had to stitch together winter coat from the pelt of a half-dozen quolls then I feel up to the task. I have an overnighter coming up, a chance to test my winter skills to see if 40 game days translates into one real day. Fingers crossed.