Thursday, 22 February 2018

Finding Tanglefoot - The Labyrinth, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

A steady stream of bushwalkers head south along the narrow track. But, we are walking north - against the flow.  I wait off to one side as the latest group pass. A lady looks up in surprise; she says – "Oh, you're going the wrong way!" 

I want to whisper to her our secret - that this is what it takes when you are hunting Tanglefoot, when you are pushing deep into the high mountains, searching the hidden corners of The Labyrinth that lies beneath Mt Geryon, named for the fearsome giant of Greek mythology. Ssh, I want to say. Don't tell anyone. 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Koi Kyenunu-ruff - the Stirling Range Ridge Walk, Western Australia

The track notes say to expect the following: narrow ledges, much scrambling over rocky peaks, probable violent weather changes including whiteouts or snow while tackling steep ascents and descents with unreliable water sources and other 'significant challenges' such as the trail being easy to lose.

Guide books are, of course, by their very meaning, supposed to be accurate guides to a walk. But the tatty track notes I have borrowed for this 3-day walk are more than 20 years old so I would excuse them some discrepancies, particularly with the ever-changing nature of a wild landscape. The fact they turn out so eerily accurate, in directions and in the adjectives used, is worth mentioning.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Visiting the relatives - Manning River 60r, 23r and 8r

Manning River 60r

We spread the topographic map on the lounge room floor and spot a relative. We should go visit. It looks like a perfect trip for us. A renowned relative, seldom seen; found in deep, steep-sided wild country.  

What relative?

Well, on all NSW 1:25,000 topographic maps many waterfalls remain unnamed and are marked simply with a blue line across the watercourse and beside that some digits followed by a lower case 'r'. The 'r' indicates a cliff or a drop 'relative' to the surrounding landscape. On the upper Manning River, in Barrington Tops National Park, there are several such relatives, the most visited being 8r & 23r, and further downstream, 60r. What that implies is an 8m, 23m and a 60m waterfall. Now that's a bunch of relatives worth visiting.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The wild and crazy west - bushwalking on the Bibbubulum Track from Bow Bridge to Denmark

The forest smells of sun-warmed rain. The trees by the track drip with water. It wets my boots and I feel damp leaves against my bare arms.  The path winds between twisted, low gum trees. But, this kind of track walking makes me look inwards more than outwards. A dozen ideas, conversations, random stories and thoughts jostle loudly in my head. 

It feels both cleansing and annoying to let the internal noise run its wild path as we leave the road behind us and begin climbing towards Nut Lookout. The white sand track becomes mesmerising. I watch my feet and am still only half aware of my surroundings so that Caz has to stop me and bring me to the moment. Look at the view, he says. It ranges across verdant farm paddocks to the coast that stretches eastwards. I search, uselessly, for the exact route of the Bibbubulum Track, and where it will takes us over the next 7 days as we wend our way from our starting point (Conspicuous Beach) all the way to the town of Denmark, about 82km east. 

There are track notes for this walk in plenty of obvious places - the reliable and endlessly admirable authors John and Monica Chapman cover this section in their Bushwalking in Australia book. And you can get detailed notes through the Bibbubulum Track website as well as a plethora of other information online and in print.

What you will get here, at awildland, is a combination of the noise in my head and Caz's beautiful images. You'll get the cleansing process that comes with long walks.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Moses Rock and the first commandment in off-track bushwalking - Nymboi-Binderay National Park, NSW

As the lay of the land drops away, we begin down a gentle slope. I notice Caz keeps stopping. Every now and then he looks around the forest with searching eyes. This is Caz taking me for our first off-track walk together (many years ago now but I can still vividly recall this moment) him constantly looking around, checking back over his shoulder. He claims he has been here before but as he stops yet again I grow increasingly nervous. He looks lost to me.

We push through the light scrub and fallen logs. The walking is slow and precise - stepping carefully through long grass, pushing past lanky stalks of cassinia, resting a hand on the rough skin of stringybarks.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Steep Drop Falls - two hundred years of wonder

Everything is gone. The forest of stringybarks, manna gum and she-oak ends abruptly. The very ground drops away at a cliff.  A hole, more than 200m deep, opens up before me and I step to the edge of nature's open cut. It is all air and shadow ahead. 

In 1818, the colonial explorer John Oxley, travelling east from Macquarie Marshes and over the Peel and MacDonald Rivers, stood in awe near this exact spot on the edge of the New England tablelands. Nearly two hundred years apart he and I equally impressed by the view. 

He wrote in his journal: "It is impossible to form a correct idea of the wild magnificence of the scenery without the pencil of a Salvator." 

I have only a pencil from the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). I shall to do my best with it; hopefully drawing with words the spectacle of Steep Drop Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Stone Country - an overnight bushwalking adventure in Gundabooka National Park, NSW

This story is a reminder to never underestimate the small walks. The shortest off-track sortie can reap great rewards (I've said this before, haven't I). Our night on the red cliffs of Gunderbooka, dazzled by the earth's curvature, awoken by the strange visitations of water birds and humbled by the smallness of our place in nature, taught this to me again.