Matt Hassam

Backpackermatt

Matt Hassam

Having spent my whole life in Brisbane without so much as a week off work - much less an actual holiday - in six-and-a-half years, I suddenly decided (on my 27th birthday) that I'd had enough and needed to get a life. So I quit both of my jobs, moved out of my apartment, packed anything I could fit into my car, and three weeks later I hit the road. Over a thousand kilometres later I ended up in a tiny little town that I had heard about from a friend, with only one street, a few pubs, a few backpacker hostels and a beach. That day was the 1st of June, 2006... I haven't stopped travelling since.




Rising in the vast Arnhem Land Escarpment, the Katherine River (known to the Jawoyn people as Barraya, meaning 'Blossoming Kookaburra') flows through a fault in the sandstone escarpment, forming a vast gorge system framed by spectacular cliffs. In the Wet Season the river rises up to ten metres, flowing unimpeded through the entire gorge system at a speed of up to 40km/h. In the Dry Season however, the river falls significantly and a series of exposed rock bars divide the gorge into different sections separated by small sets of shallow rapids, with the various navigable stretches of river being referred to as the First Gorge, Second Gorge and so on, continuing upstream as far as the Thirteenth Gorge some 16km away. And though freshwater crocodiles are right at home in this sort of ecosystem (there are ... read more
Hole in the Wall
Cleft in the Cliffs
The Rocky Road Ahead


The Jawoyn people, who historically inhabit the Stone Country around Katherine in the Northern Territory, believe that a rainbow serpent named Borong carved a great gorge through the heart of their land. Then from the west came a dragon-like creature named Nabilil, who travelled through the gorge before camping high up on the plateau above. While Nabilil was sleeping, Walarrk the Cave Bat speared him, and in the process his dilly bag full of water was pierced, spilling out over the land and filling the gorge. At the entrance to the gorge Nabilil had heard the call of the cicada ("nit nit nit-nit") and named the place Nitmiluk, meaning 'Cicada Country'. My parents had brought me to Nitmiluk NP and taken me on a boat trip through the lower sections of Katherine Gorge when I was ... read more
Scenic Cruise
Soaring Palms and Striking Cliffs
Paddler's Paradise


Ask any serious Australian bushwalker which hikes are on their 'bucket list' and there's a pretty good chance the Thorsborne Trail will get a mention. Stretching down the eastern edge of Hinchinbrook Island (known as 'Pouandai' by the local Biyaygiri indigenous people) in Tropical North Queensland, the trail has a legendary reputation among those in the know for it's rugged beauty and splendid isolation. The biggest problem with the trail is that it's almost impossible to get permits, as Queensland's Parks & Wildlife Service only allow up to forty people to stay overnight on the island at any time. The obvious flipside to this is that for those lucky enough to secure permits, they can be assured a true wilderness experience free from the crowds that flock to other destinations on this stretch of coast (ie ... read more
The Journey Begins...
Mangroves and Mountains
Time to strike out on foot...

Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Cairns July 11th 2021

After spending an uneventful weekend in Townsville following my Whitsundays sailing trip - during which most of my time was spent catching up on all the action I had missed from the Euro 2020 football championships - I took a coach five hours north to the (pre-covid) backpacker mecca of Cairns, where two of the best years of my life were spent in days gone by. My timing couldn't have been better, as the very next day Townsville was sent into lockdown; while Cairns was being inundated by families taking advantage of Australian school holidays. Unfortunately my arrival also coincided with some unseasonal wet weather (dry season, my arse) so my first few days in town were spent in a sort of suspended animation, wishing I could get out and explore the surrounding area but instead ... read more
Highest Mountain in Queensland
Avoiding the Highway
Beautiful View

Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Whitsundays June 25th 2021

Seventeen hours on a coach is no one's idea of a good time, but if anything could be worth such an extended period of purgatory it would surely be the chance to indulge in a few days of leisurely sailing through a tropical archipelago. And having spent the previous two weeks giving both my upper body (on my Noosa River kayak trip) and then my lower body (on the Cooloola Great Walk) a workout, I figured it was about time I gave my tan a good workout too. So after taking the overnight coach about a thousand kilometres north from Noosa I ended up back in the tiny coastal town of Airlie Beach, where I had spent my first year as a backpacker way back in 2006. And just like I had during those heady days ... read more
Sun on the Water, Wind in our Sails
Floating on a Sunlit Sea
Scenic Surroundings

Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Rainbow Beach June 19th 2021

Having returned to Noosa after my four-day kayak trip up the Noosa River, I then took a coach a couple of hours north to the tiny town of Rainbow Beach, from where I planned to walk back to Noosa by following the 88km Cooloola Great Walk. So after passing a relaxing day doing not much at all in Rainbow Beach on the Sunday, I hoisted my backpack and headed off on Monday (14th June) to re-enter the Cooloola Recreation Area section of Great Sandy NP. After walking through the bush for less than ten minutes the track emerged at the wide, golden expanse of the Carlo Sandblow, where for thousands of years sand-laden winds have been carving a swathe through the coastal forest, creating a saddle-shaped mini-desert about five hundred metres wide and over a kilometre ... read more
Sand and Sea
Trail-side Pit Stop
A Little Oasis

Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Noosa June 13th 2021

After a relaxing stopover at my parents' house in Brisbane, my northward migration continued with the short trip up to Noosa on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. But as picturesque as the scenery around Noosa may be - with a headland covered in coastal forest and lined with beautiful beaches - my main reason for visiting was to get up into the Cooloola Recreation Area section of the nearby Great Sandy NP, where the Noosa River snakes it's way towards the sea via a pair of shallow, brackish lakes (Cootharaba and Cooroibah). And to help facilitate my exploration of this unique and virtually undisturbed ecosystem (the Noosa River being the only major river in Australia whose upper catchment is entirely protected within a national park) I had booked a kayak for four days, so that I could ... read more
Lakeside Setting
Winding Waterway
Around the Bend

Oceania » Australia » New South Wales » Tumut April 24th 2021

With a cold front blowing in from Antarctica having scuppered my plans for one final week-long trek in the mountains of Victoria, I had been forced to acknowledge that autumn had well and truly arrived in this part of Australia and it was time to start heading north. "No worries", I thought to myself, "there are plenty of adventures to keep me going over the border in New South Wales". That was until I finally got around to checking the NSW National Parks website, at which point the full extent of the state's recent spate of natural disasters became all too apparent. Blue Mountains? Most trails still closed from the bushfires of the summer BEFORE last. Yuraygir NP? Sections of the coastal trail and numerous campgrounds closed from a combination of fire and flood damage. Myall ... read more
Standing Tall
Meeting the Locals
Almost time to bust the head torch out...

Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Portland April 2nd 2021

Third Quarter - Discovery Bay & Mount Richmond With another rest day in Nelson under my belt - and another week's worth of supplies at my disposal, courtesy of a food parcel I had sent ahead from Melbourne a few weeks earlier - I was ready to tackle the remaining 111km of the Great South West Walk, which would mean following the coast for six straight days (unless I chose to take the inland detour over Mount Richmond, which would add a further 12km). So after stuffing my face full of hot food from the Nelson Kiosk one last time, I followed the River Road out of town to be confronted by the awesome sight of Discovery Bay's Ocean Beach stretching off into the distance on either side - my first glimpse of the Southern Ocean ... read more
Boundless Beach
Lone Seal
Kicking Back

Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Portland March 26th 2021

After knocking off the first half of the Great South West Walk over the previous week, my 'half-time break' stared with a much needed rest day in Nelson, before I packed up early and got a lift back to Moleside Landing with Chris - the owner/operator of the local canoe rental company - for my three-day kayak trip down the same 50km stretch of the Glenelg River that I had spent the previous three days following on foot. Thankfully the incessant rain of the previous day had subsided, though another problem had presented itself: school groups. I had thought there was something odd going on when the same campsites that had been virtually deserted on my walk were fully booked for the coming days according to Parks Victoria's online booking system, and as soon as I ... read more
On the starting blocks
Wings Over Water
Serenity




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