Friday, 31 July 2020

The Tyndalls: Paradise in the sky

I drag my boots through my over pants, zip them down to my ankles then reach for my gaiters. These I strap on over the top. I zip up my raincoat, despite the sky being blue and clear. This full armour feels stiff and ungainly as I shoulder my overnight pack and follow Caz into a tight scrub of tea-tree and banksia. Last night it rained. This is why we wear everything. The trees are heavy with moisture. It is like pushing through the wet swirling brushes of a wild car wash. I wish I had added gloves to my bare hands. At this early hour, on the shady side of the mountain range that lies ahead, the trunks of the small trees are covered in frost. I grab and wrestle the stubborn branches and my fingers grow increasingly numb. There is a path, but it is narrow, rough, muddy, slippery, strewn with puddles and hemmed in by this encroaching, tough, west-coast Tasmanian scrub. They are admirably persistent trees in Tasmania. About 2-3m high, thin trunked and flexible. They hold their ground with determination; and a knowledge of their right to be exactly where they are.

Fortunately, it is a short half hour of this kind of tense conversation and we emerge onto open, mountainside heath marked by clumps of buttongrass waving their bobble-headed flowers stalks in celebration. Above us now we can see our destination - the spectacular and geologically bizarre Tyndall Range. Many locals argue that this mountain, and its labyrinth of lakes and cliffs, is the state’s finest alpine region, with relatively easy access and few crowds. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia

We arrived during a wicked thunderstorm; driving headlong into clouds the colour of the bitumen road. Then, torrential rain and the wipers banging madly left to right. The unsettled weather lasted three days. The rainfall meant dirt roads to the Murchison River gorge walks were closed. So, we began our explorations of this national park along the coast. 

We had stumbled into Kalbarri National Park, following a tip-off from a friend who rated this park as their favourite in the entire state of Western Australia. A vast state, in our vast continent, with this astoundingly unsung pocket of country. The coast walks showed us shifts of colour, brilliantly combined. Then we finally got access to the Murchison River gorge and the dramatic, swirling cliffs and flooded Murchison River took this park to a whole new level of scenic. The impressive beauty was deeply surprising and the sense of discovery hugely satisfying. 

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Mt Twynam, Mt Tate and the Rolling Grounds - Kosciuszko National Park

The sweeping, grassy hillsides are thick with daisies; their bright, white and yellow faces smiling away as I walk past. There’s an ancient snowgum halfway on the climb to the summit. Its canopy is a storm-swept tangle of twisted branches; its bark has those steely subtle hues of grey and green. As we walk, there are grand views across the range. Ravens are circling distant rocky peaks in huge flocks. Their loud conversation carries on the breeze. The weather is sublime, a sunny day; cool nights are forecast. 

This is how I remember this walk. Sweet memories. I could pour a swirling glass of nostalgia from this walk until I nearly drown in it. The long sunny days and isolated, scenic campsites. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Seeing is believing - Mt King William I

There is meant to be a mountain above us. I keep looking up in hope. I see nothing but a ceiling of cloud - the sky, overcast and low. It seems, if I stood on tippy toes I could touch it. As we follow the track towards the base of this invisible peak, it is tempting to turn around. I am wondering, what fun could we possibly have on a mountain in grey, wet soup like this? We keep walking, despite. There is, after all, a mountain above us, whether we can see it or not. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

A celebration of waterfalls

Lower Belmore Falls, Morton National Park, NSW

“Of all the waterfalls we’ve ever visited, do you have a favourite?” I ask Caz.
He repeats the question back to me, then takes a sip of coffee. There is a long silence.
“Let me think about it.”
“You need to think quickly. I want the answer now, for the blog.”

Lower Ebor Falls, Guy Fawkes River National Park, NSW

Saturday, 29 February 2020

The lure of hidden monoliths...

I love bushwalker log books; but, this one is particularly unforgettable. It is housed in a silver box, attached firmly to a rock on the summit of a little-known mountain. The lid of the box is beautifully engraved with the mountain’s latitude. Due north is marked with a bold arrow. All the surrounding peaks are named and distances to them are also given. The logbook is an unexpected surprise because the walk here is rare, untracked, unlisted (in print or online) and hard, physical work.

“I wonder how I got to the could I let myself be dragged into this adventure...[but] a very beautiful place, superb!” - Stephan Delabre, 4 July 1991 (written in French). 

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

'The Monarch of Tasmania's west' - Frenchmans Cap

Picture this: a large rock midstream in a fast flowing river. The rock protrudes above the water. A swift current races around it and on the downstream side is a pocket of calm water. The current causes the sides of this calm to change and swirl with movement. But immediately behind the rock is complete stillness. 

Now imagine the protruding rock is Frenchman’s Cap. The river's current is the wind and the water is dense cloud. The mountain’s bare, white quartzite peak holds firm above it all. Picture two little bushwalkers, sitting in that calm spot on the downstream side, sheltered from the howling south-westerly wind. A tongue of clear, still air stretches away before them while either side, the dense clouds whip past, whirling on the edge of the eddy in a dance of mesmerising flurries. Then the sun rises above this streaming world. The light is crystalline but diffuse. Picture the two bushwalkers sitting in the morning sun completely entranced, watching this wild show of streaming clouds, backs leaning against the bulk of the mountain. Sudden pirouettes of cloud rise and fall on either side. They are alone, for more than 4 hours, bewitched. The day warms. The flood of streaming cloud slowly disperses, swept away across the world.