Heat stroke symptoms, a practical class

grey Heat stroke symptoms, a practical class4am Saturday morning I roll rather unsteadily into McDonalds Devonport with my friend Mark who has been showing major heat stroke symptoms for some time now…

“What you want Marky-boy?”

“Quarter pounder with cheese and a sprite”

“In France it’s called a Royal with cheese, metric sys…never mind, How you feeling mate”

“Not great”

“Haha, this kind of fun activity will do that to a bloke!”

“You got that right brother”

About 7 hours prior I watched as Mark vomited all sorts of green liquid onto the ground, he was retching away with big dark shadows under his eyes. Shortly after this event I was forcing my red eyes to stay open and focus on a wildlife encrusted road with all the intensity of a fifth year medical student performing his first prostate exam.

By this stage you are probably making assumptions, thinking I am crazy to be drink driving and that we are starring in one of those “mates don’t let mates drink/drive” advertisements, you would be sorely mistaken… The culprit here is bushwalking. To be more precise, bushwalking and underestimating terrain, possibly also overestimating ability.

Since July this year Mark and I have been planning a bush walk together. Over many months of eager anticipation our plans changed from doing the Overland Track with another friend to tackling Frenchman’s Cap in the remote South West to going along the easy Lees Paddocks Track with a few bottles of wine and posh food before finally settling on simply packing super light (I was carrying 16kgs with all my food, clothes, tent and sleeping gear) and cruising about the Central Highlands, making plans day by day.

The first few days are glorious, we enjoy an easy, if somewhat hot trek up the Arm River Track through myrtle and eucalyptus forest, we lunch at the palatial New Pelion Hut amongst tired Overland trekkers before plodding onward and somewhat aimlessly up the Pelion Gap. Mt Pelion East to our left and Ossa to our right greet us like old dolomite friends. Back in an area that is more home to me than the house where I once lived in Devonport I find myself talking to the hills,

grey Heat stroke symptoms, a practical class“Hi Pelion, Ossa, haw have you guys been I missed you guys” (if you have read any of my previous blogs you will know by now I am somewhat weird, and proud of it!)

The only reply is the cawing of black currawongs quickly leaving the scene of their pack raiding crimes. These black crow-like birds can open zippers with their beaks to steal peanuts in the pockets of packs; packs left behind by people sidestepping up nearby peaks. Whipping out the cooker Mark and I watch the water boil as we silently enjoy the amphitheater of mountains that loom stark grey against a bright, hot blue sky. Mark generously lets my talking-to-mountains moment pass without jest, this hardworking father of two feels the same reverence as I do for mountains. Two French men return from Mt Ossa to discover the contents of their packs strewn around the small platform.

“The birds can get into your pack mate”

“Really…”

One does not seem convinced, the tension is evident as they discuss in French whether to confront us about raiding their abandoned packs or to move on. The moods quickly lightens when they spot signage depicting birds opening packs along with explanations of this clever bird’s behaviour. Mark and I finish our drink, pack up and continue climbing.

“Looks like a good spot mate”

“What a view!”

“This will do eh”

We set up our bivvy bags (gore-tek coffins which just pass for tents on light weight missions) on a ridge amongst Tasmania’s finest mountains, eat in almost gospel like silence then watch the sky turn from shimmering blue, to pink, salmon, grey and black, before we maneuver into our respective beds, zip up and try to sleep.

The morning sun brings a complete lack of motivation so we wash a muesli bar down each with a coffee and stroll downhill to enjoy a day of swimming and lazing in the magnificent pool near historic Old Pelion Hut. Old Pelion hut was built in 1895 to house the mine manager when the Mole Creek and Zeehan Mineral company were exploring the area for copper. There are old mines surrounding the hut, the biggest is about 60 metres long and glistens gold in torch light at its deepest, surely great fun to explore. I think it’s brilliant that the area was not rich enough in deposits to be completely raped for profit and that this hut is one of the few remnants of a gun-ho era left in this park, my church. When the miners left in the 1920’s Old Pelion Hut was used by cattle men. When the cattle men left the snarers moved in, they went snaring in the winter to catch possums when their coats were thicker and worth more money, seems a hard way to earn a living. The hut is exactly as it was in bygone days, one can imagine the crackling of eucalyptus branches in the fireplace warming cold trappers, except that the fireplace was removed in the 1970’s to prevent this important piece of heritage being burnt down. Oh and those wankers who think they need to carve their names into the soft King Billy Pine weatherboards, no one cares if you “were ere” feck off, sorry, anyway…

grey Heat stroke symptoms, a practical classThat night we lean against the hut outside eating dinner and have a conversation which is to completely change to tone of the walk. I put my pasta bowl aside and pull out the map;

“I think we need some off track action mate, what do you reckon?”

“Yeah we have been a bit soft”

“Up Mt Oakley, then along the ridge, then we can either chill at this lake marked just here, or we can go down this creek back to the track”

“Looks fine man, the terrain does not look too hard judging by these contour lines and it is only about eight kays”

“Deal”

“Done”

“Small medicinal whiskey sir?”

“Does the pope shit in the forest!”

We are right about the first bit, the next day we get to the top of Mt Oakley in plenty of time to enjoy a few hours soaking up expansive views (framed by shimmering blue skies) and testing our nerves by standing too close to sheer cliffs. Sadly we are a bit off target with the second bit, the off track section of our walk. I have both compass, map and a GPS which I am learning to use, I know all the mountains surrounding us on a first name basis and am confident in the use of both map and compass, as is Mark. The terrain, however, throws us a curve ball. Prickly, knotty, bastard thigh high scaparia bush is really hard to push through, it is hot and soon we are out of water, the small lakes (or ‘tarns’ in Tasmanian speak) marked are all but dry. Mark is rapidly running out of steam and I am getting grumpy. I kick at the bushes with my leather boots which proves a complete waste of energy. It takes us three hours to cover what we hoped would only take one and arrive at that bloody “lake marked just here” tired, thirsty and ready to get out of the sun. A quick drink and dipping of feet in the cooling water has us deciding to push on down the creek towards the track, a few short kilometers downhill. Again the terrain completely throws us, we should have bought a more ‘zoomed in’ map to get a better idea of the terrain. Familiar mountains abound with which to aline our maps and triangulate our positions, we both agree on our position but seem to not be making very good time at all.

It is getting dark, I am grumpy at our slow progress and decide to leave Mark resting by the creek. Pushing on down to the track alone I leave my red bag top (which doubles as a bum-bag) on a tree then return to get my main bag and Mark. Mark thankfully is still here, he has not panicked at being left alone at dusk beside a black creek in a spooky forest with trees that have reaching fingers right out of some cartoonish Halloween special.

Through teamwork and sheer stubbornness we negotiate the thick foliage surrounding the creek and burst onto the track very relieved to be here. Mark immediately-and thoroughly-throws up and I start worrying about his health. Previously I thought he was just tired and slow but now it is clear that Mark is suffering from a solid dose of heat stroke. Bloody hell…heat stroke, how do you treat that again? I hope he does not start convulsing or fainting in the grey torch light. What would I do then?

He is stumbling a bit, throwing up a lot and apologizing even more.

“God bro, sorry, I had no idea you were so crook”

“Yeah man, I just wanted to get to the track before dark eh, sorry about this, I am soft”

“Bullshit, you are sick man, chill out, sweet tea? Water?”

It is now 10 pm and completely dark. We realize that there is a good chance Mark will feel even worse in the morning so we push on to the car. Concerned, I walk behind my mate who stumbling occasionally like he is drunk, he sips water constantly and soldiers on despite clearly wanting to just sleep and rest. I am impressed by the man’s fortitude against the odds, and on an empty stomach!  We stop a few times for soup and tea. I nearly shout for joy when Mark does a wee, he is starting to get some water into his system! Beauty!

We arrive at the car at 2am, both completely exhausted and ready for civilization. Two hours later McDonalds and a mutual decision that Mark will not drive home an extra hour to Legana sees me showered and tucked into bed at 5am. I quickly fall asleep, but not before Mark pops his head into my room to say;

“Type three fun man, type three…

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