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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Fire-Breather of Midas

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 12 May 2018 | Views [287]

Many geocaches I've done where it's a short walk or bike ride, or a simple or challenging puzzle to solve, but never have I done one involving a multi-day trip. The legendary Midas...everything he touched, including his daughter, is said to have turned into gold. A few days ago I decided to embark on a quest to find a fire breather said to have been touched by the hand of Midas. As with finding gold, it's never easy, and nor would this journey be. 

For some reason I'm hell bent on finding all of the geocaches within a certain area of Melbourne, and the Fire-Breather of Midas is one of the last remaining ones in this particular area. With a printed worksheet, I got the info at waypoint (WP) 1 a while ago, and WP2 (out of 12) is a fair way out in the Gippsland area.

Day 1

With all of my gear I got a chicken schnitzel with beer-battered chips topped with kettle-cooked gravy at Schnitz: one of my favourite places for lunch. From there I was on the train toward Pakenham. Unfortunately I got a rather late start and it was cold; I should have spent a few extra dollars to take the V/Line train to Traralgon. With some spare batteries for my headlamp it took me two lifts to get to Traralgon, which seems to be a bit of a dodgy place at night so I really didn't want to hang around. Eventually on the first night I'd pitch my tent on the side of the oval at Gormandale: a small town that looks a bit like it'd be in Otago, NZ rather than in Victoria. 

Day 2

Gone for the time being are 80 cent and $1 coffees at Coles Express and 7-Eleven, respectively. A coffee at Gormandale General Store would set me back $4.50. Whilst I hoped there'd be a couple of tables inside so I could sit with a coffee and charge my phone, the owner replied "we're a general store, not a cafe."

Having my phone charged is crucial to this journey. Freedom camping in Australia is much more accepted than in NZ and when I told the owner about how I slept on the side of the oval he said that was common for travellers to do that, but it was good that I didn't camp on the oval itself because it's the landing strip for the air ambulance. Traffic was extremely light out of Gormandale and I didn't reach WP2 until 4:30 PM! I felt that if all of the waypoints were going to be this difficult I'd have to abandon the quest, otherwise it'd take me like 10 days to finish them all. A perfect photo of a wallaby I'd shoot very near to WP2

To obtain the coordinates for the next waypoint, I had to get some info at the current waypoint. WP3 seemed more easily accessible and even though I was running out of daylight, I opted to get there, get the info and call it a night. Two lifts would get me to Bairnsdale and then I'd end up at a pub in Nicholson where I got a feed and then was given a bottle of Shiraz after some travel stories. It was late, and I was warned I'd have little chance of reaching my final port of call for the day. I got a lift and got the info I needed for the next waypoint, and then searched round fruitlessly for a backpacker hostel. This town is most definitely a grey nomad town: retirees in the US travel to escape the cold, wheres in Australia they move to escape the heat. Not a single backpacker hostel exists, but the owner of a holiday park allowed me to pitch my tent free of charge and gave me the key to the ablution block so I could have a shower and then lock my gear whilst I slept. It was really cold tonight; people tend to not associate Australia with cold, but strong cold fronts come from the Antarctic and can produce some fierce weather. 

Day 3

After a good sleep, I was ready to tackle WP4. I'm already on my third day and I was only up to three waypoints so I'm making poor progress. It was beautiful and sunny this morning but I was warned that bad weather is on its way. After a pie and a Red Bull from the servo, I was out there with my thumb out. Two hours it would take me to get a lift and I was expecting to have to walk to WP4 from the main road. Fortunately, the guy who picked me up knew exactly where I was talking about and knew a back way in, therefore saving me two hours of walking. Afterward, he invited me into his home for a coffee and said I could pitch my tent on his property for the evening if I got stuck. Whilst there I had time to relax for a few minutes and heat up some chicken satay. The rain app on my phone showed that bad weather was on its way and WP5 is a full 280 km away from WP4. Again I was warned I'd be very lucky if I got a lift that far this evening but I didn't doubt for a second that I'd get a lift.

One lift would get me to Orbost and then I was picked up by a guy driving all the way to Bega, which is past WP5! It was cold and dark by then, and the fifth waypoint would be gorgeous during the day. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to wait for me as he had to get home to his wife. Everything is closed in this town by 7 PM and there were no backpacker hostels. After two days sleeping on the side of the road, I was ready for a proper bed. I had to walk in the dark back out to the main road, and two more lifts would get me to Bega. I was really hungry and with nowhere else open, I ate at Macca's for the first time this year! WP6 is 177 km north of WP5 and then I just walked as far as I could, hoping I could score another good, solid lift. However, it was past midnight, traffic was nonexistent, and I couldn't walk any further. I pitched my tent again. This seems to be the one area of Australia with no backpacker hostels. There are scores of holiday parks but no hostels. Content with my progress after today, I enjoyed the view of a million stars and cracked open the Shiraz I was given yesterday. What more do I need? 

Day 4

After all the warnings about bad weather, I woke up early to plentiful sunshine. After three days I've only done five waypoints so I was ready for some progress. For the first time I got some good, solid lifts early. A beautiful lady named Dalice would pick me up. When I asked if it was like Dallas, TX she said "it's like Alice with a D in front." She dropped me in my favourite town on this journey thus far: Cobargo. Here is a cafe of which part is a disused train carriage. 

A nice, young couple named Riley and Kaitlyn would pick me up and take me to beachfront town more than 100 km north, where I got info for WP7. On the fourth day I'm halfway through my journey. My next port of call would be a gorgeous valley. When I called Jo and told her I was on my way there, she was like "oh, that place is wonderful. You'll like it there." Sure enough, my next lift would be by a couple driving all the way to Townsville. If I was hitchhiking to Aunty Jo's, it'd be my perfect lift. Since it was approaching peak hour in Sydney, I successfully talked them into taking a detour to either drop me or stop briefly at WP7. I suspected WP8 would be along that corridor, perhaps in Goulbourn or Mittagong, it turned out it was back the other way in a beachside town so I had to have them leave me there. One more lift by a guy suspecting I was going to Nowra, would put me in the town of WP8. In that case he was taking a shortcut. Tired and with a sore back, I was up to eight waypoints and had the info for the ninth. I called Alison and told her there was a strong chance I'd be there tonight if I made good progress. After three nights on the side of the road I was ready for a bed and a good feed. A fabulous wood-fired pizza tonight cost less than Macca's last night. Two more lifts would get me to Wollongong and from there I decided to take trains since I was on the Sydney train network. After being without a shower for two days I was having a "birdbath" in the bathroom and these three boys with scooters kept banging on the door. They were extremely rude and disrespectful, and I nearly ripped one of their scooters out of their hand and heaved it on the railway track. The station manager informed me these boys are nothing but trouble and have a history of heckling passengers. From there I took the train to WP9 and got the info for WP10, and I decided I'd do it tomorrow even though it's a rather short distance away. With 30 or so kg of gear, everything is more difficult. Back at Alison's place, it was nice to put my stuff down, have a shower, and then give her a hug. Today was my best progress as I checked off four waypoints, and I'm now up to nine with only three to go! 

Day 5

With my gear off my back and refreshed after a good, solid sleep, I jumped on the train early and headed back toward WP10. Some of the train stops are old-fashioned. 

WP10 is the most gorgeous I've seen by far! 

WP11 is in a very familiar place to me, and if I had known where it was beforehand I likely would have made the effort to reach WP10 yesterday but I would have missed a gorgeous view and a fantastic photo opportunity. WP5 and WP9 would be two of the most beautiful waypoints but I arrived at both in the dark. WP12 would lead me to one of my favourite landmarks and was walkable even with a couple of wrong turns. It was dark but not too late so I theoretically could have figured everything out and made a B-line for the final, though I decided from the get-go that I wanted to retrieve Midas' favourite pet during the day. Back at Alison's flat, I was busy at my computer with two errors. The cache owner helped me and I really only had one mistake. Excited, I was ready to place my hands on the Fire-Breather of Midas.

Day 6

Today is the big day. I had a coffee with Alison and then got on the train to have a date with the Fire-Breather. From the train station it was about a 30 minute walk, and then I arrived at a spot that appears to be a lover's lane, so I knew it had to be hidden well. After no luck, the cache owner had me call him, and with his help, I found it. The Fire-Breather of Midas! What a great feeling after six days! 

Altogether I hitchhiked more than 900 km, camped for three days on the side of the road, met some very interesting people, and got to see a beautiful area of the country. Forever and ever, I can say that I've had an audience with the Legendary Fire-Breather of Midas. 

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