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.



Europe » Slovenia » Upper Carniola » Bled May 8th 2024

If three days spent freezing my arse off in the tourist mecca of Harlow (just north of London, for those who weren't already aware) had proven anything, it was that I had made a terrible mistake in coming to Europe in late-April, instead of my usual early-June arrival time. On a positive note, however, it had also lowered my expectations with regard to the weather so successfully that anything short of an Atlantic hurricane would be seen as an improvement, whilst giving me the chance to physically acclimatise to temperatures that were a full fifteen degrees lower than what I had been used to. The fact that the temperature hadn't risen much above 10° (and this in the middle of spring, no less) had taken me completely by surprise, particularly given that back in Australia where ... read more
Beautiful Waterway
Capital Views
Caught between Green and Grey

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Cumbria » North Pennines October 12th 2023

Crossing England on Hadrian's Cycleway gave me new-found confidence that I'm not a complete amateur when it comes to bicycle touring; destroying the rear derailleur on my week-old bicycle just a day later had the exact opposite effect! So when the train drivers of England decided to go back to work after their second nation-wide strike in five days - and with my no-longer-shiny but still-new bicycle armed with an ancient-looking, second-hand rear derailleur courtesy of the bicycle shop in Consett - I immediately hopped on a pair of westbound Northern Railways trains to head back to the Irish Sea coast, so that if the weather ever improved from 'awful' to 'mildly disappointing' I would be in the perfect position to strike out on another sea-to-sea cycle route (appropriately named the C2C) with the almost-guaranteed prevailing ... read more
Ready for Action
Lost in the Fog
A Touch of Colour

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Cumbria » Carlisle October 4th 2023

Between the years 122 and 128AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian had a stone wall up to four metres high built across the narrowest part of Great Britain (in what today are the English counties of Cumbria and Northumberland) from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, delineating the northernmost extent of the Roman Empire. Nowadays there exists both a walking trail and a bicycle route that follow the surviving sections of Hadrian's Wall, with the cycle route being one of three that cross the country roughly parallel to each other (Hadrian's Cycleway, the Rievers Route and - by far the most popular - the Coast2Coast). Having run out of time in Western Europe due to the 90-day Schengen limitation, but with three weeks left before my flight back to Australia and a desire to tackle some ... read more
Ready for anything... except mechanical failures
Bend in the River
Rugged Coastline

Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Trient September 22nd 2023

Leaving the campground in Val Veni after three nights in my tent, I rejoined the Tour du Mont Blanc where I had left it two days earlier, one hour down the road in the town of Courmayeur. But having dropped down into the bed of the Val d'Aosta (into which both the Val Veni and Italian Val Ferret flow) there was only one direction the trail could go: up. At first the gradient was gentle as the route followed a sealed road up a side-valley, but after leaving the road and heading up onto the forested flanks of Monte de la Saxe the steepness immediately ratcheted up a couple of notches. Yet fresh from a rest day I was equal to the task, managing to climb the 600m from the road-end to Rifugio Bertone in just ... read more
Gaining Height
Scenic Trail
Not so Scenic Trail

Europe » France » Rhône-Alpes » Chamonix September 16th 2023

For the grand finale of my Alpine summer, there could only be one choice: the Tour du Mont Blanc. Stretching for around 170km (depending on which variants are followed) through three countries while circumnavigating the highest mountain in Western Europe, the route is one of the most famous multi-day walks in the world. Most people start and finish in the small town of Les Houches (7km down-valley from Chamonix) and take around 11 days, following the circuit anti-clockwise so as to finish along the Grand Balcon Sud - a high belvedere path following the northern flank of the Arve (Chamonix) Valley (through the mountains of the Aiguilles Rouge) offering endless views of needle-sharp peaks separated by the icy tongues of numerous glaciers, while heading straight towards the highest peak of them all. A wide array of ... read more
Glacier-clad Peak
Balcony Path
Cliff-hugging Trail

Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Trient September 9th 2023

Fresh from a relaxing couple of days in Geneva, I headed an hour south to the Alpine Mecca of Chamonix in the shadow of Mont Blanc, where the crowds of people were even thicker than usual due to the UTMB ultra-marathon. This was all the reason I needed to avoid both the town and the mountain upon which its fame rests - for the time being at least - in favour of a night spent at a quiet little oasis of calm 7km away in the village of Les Grassonnet; followed by a four-day hike around a nearby (but much less well known) peak: the Tour du Mont Ruan. Unfortunately getting to the trailhead would prove to be a greater challenge than I could have anticipated... Having been assured that the 8:40am train from La Joux ... read more
Clearly not following the waymarks
Picturesque Trailhead
Worth the Climb

Europe » Italy » Veneto » Belluno August 30th 2023

Leaving the Rifugio Nuvolau on my fifth day on the Alta Via 1, there was a choice of onward route - either backtracking downhill to the Rifugio Averau and contouring around the base of the mountain, or dropping straight down the southern face of the mountain on a Via Ferrata route. With a full pack on my back the former seemed to be the only smart choice. With the cable cars having not yet started running for the day, the walk down was both scenic and peaceful... until I reached the road crossing at Passo Giau to be confronted by hordes of day-trippers starting out on their own hikes. But the scrum was soon left behind as I continued on the south side of the road (which seemed to attract only a fraction of the people ... read more
Grassy Slopes and Angular Peaks
Stone Scrapheap
Intimidating Backdrop

Europe » Italy » Trentino Alto Adige » Brixen August 24th 2023

The Alta Via 1 is one of the most famous multi-day walks in Europe, threading its way south for over 120km through the Dolomites - a mountainous landscape renowned for its sharp limestone pinnacles, whose northern end lies in the province of South Tyrol (which, despite being ceded to Italy after the First World War, is still predominantly German-speaking - hence the dual place names). With a plethora of accommodation options along the way - from the usual mountain huts that I've come to know and love; to farmhouses offering beds in their haylofts; to campgrounds, hotels and bed & breakfasts down in the valleys - the only challenge is securing sufficient reservations to complete the trail. Thankfully I'd managed to do just that, though admittedly it had taken some flexibility on my part, as well ... read more
Off to a Stunning Start
Reward for Effort
Empty Pool

Europe » Austria » Tyrol » Matrei in Osttirol August 17th 2023

A couple of hours to the southeast of Innsbruck lies Hohe Tauern NP - the largest protected area in the Eastern Alps. Many of Austria's highest peaks rise amongst this mountainous wonderland, including the country's highest, the Grossglockner (3798m), and its fourth-highest, the Grossvenediger (3660m). Though I harbour no interest whatsoever in scaling any such ice-clad peaks, my passion for wandering amongst lofty mountains combined with my newfound love for staying in alpine huts had found a perfect outlet in the form of the Venediger Höhenweg: a 5-6 day hut-to-hut walk curving around the southeastern slopes of the mighty mountain. Unfortunately, though the weather forecast was predicting mostly sunny weather for the Saturday, Monday and Wednesday (my first, third and fifth days on the trail), the same could not be said for the Sunday and Tuesday ... read more
Falling in Steps
River Rapids
High Mountain Scenery

Europe » Austria » Tyrol » Neustift im Stubaital August 11th 2023

One glance out the window of my dorm room at the Dresdner Hütte, 2308m above sea level in the Stubai Alps, was all it took to confirm the good news: the miserable weather of the previous three days had finally come to an end! Ten minutes later I was the first one downstairs at the breakfast buffet, and an hour later I was on my way - hopeful that the clear weather would hold, but unwilling to trust that it would do so for more than a couple of hours. Despite the lack of rain I had decided to put my wet weather gear on over the top of my regular hiking clothes to combat the cold, with the temperature hovering not far above zero. True to form though, within about ten minutes of starting the ... read more
Rugged up and Ready for action
Stone City
Glacial Basin




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