Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Viewfinders - Ben Nevis and Hewitts Peak, NSW


I carry my cup of tea and binoculars out to the cliff edge. Sunrise, the far horizon strung with orange cloud. Winter lyrebird song drifts up from the sea of mist in the steep valley below, bright and clear. It is yet quite dark but a treecreeper is also up, busy searching the loose bark of the grey gums clinging to the edge.

I find a flat boulder that offers the best views. The rock is cold to sit on so I choose a thick piece of sloughed bark to lay over it. When settled, I raise my binoculars to the new horizon. Is that Dandhara Crags I can see to the north-east?  This is a new mountain, a new view. It is difficult to place familiar, known landmarks from this entirely different angle. There is a map that would tell me what lies so far away, but I left it in the car. It is not the usual 1:25,000 topo that we rely on for routes and details. It is instead a huge, colourful square of paper, first published in 1971 and again in 1985. It is the Glenn Innes State Forests map - a 1:125,000 gem that stretches from Armidale in the south, north to Washpool National Park, east to Dalmorton and west to the headwaters of the McIntyre River. It is Map 3 in a series of 18 State Forest maps covering the entirety of NSW. The back of each map features a list of Points of Interest and a brief summary of what each area offers.

For this one: "While access is often difficult, there are several safe, negotiable roads to where breathtaking views of mountains and gorges and high quality forests can be experienced."

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Mt Donaldson, Sundown National Park, Queensland


Hidden amongst the information on Sundown (in print and online) is brief mention of a three day, wilderness loop walk - tantalizingly remote and untramelled. The walk starts at the main southern campground in the park, called The Broadwater. A picture of The Broadwater, in the same print and online info, shows a deep, wide pool on the Severn River. It looks peaceful and refreshing, a long stretch of still water disappearing upstream and out of view. The 3-day loop walk circumvents the Broadwater. It begins across the other side, following a tributary of the Severn (McAllisters Creek) upstream for many kilometres and past two waterfalls. The route then veers up a ridge onto the summit of Mt Donaldson before dropping back down to the Severn River valley.

It has taken us many years to make it to Sundown National Park to try out this off-track, wilderness walk. And, when we finally arrive – like so many advertised holiday destinations – it looks nothing like the brochure.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Talaterang Mountain and the Clyde - Morton National Park, NSW


Wind shakes the tops of stunted mallee trees. Small birds lurch from branch to branch, fighting the strong gusts. High cloud holds the sun at bay. But, nothing can hold back the joy of the view ahead. We are back at Mt Bushwalker - undoubtedly one of NSWs grandest viewing points - looking across the Clyde River valley, southwards to The Castle and into the wild heart of Morton National Park.

This trip we have four days of hard walking, along a largely untracked route that drops in and out of the deep river valley below. It is winter and cold. I am wearing most of my gear - gortex jacket and pants, gaiters, and a long sleeve merino. But, as we head south from Mt Bushwalker and begin weaving along the sandstone escarpment, finding the next cairn and the next cairn ahead, it gives me time to warm up - not just my body but also my off-track instincts. These first few kilometres are the time to purge my soul of the lazy comforts of home, get sluggish blood moving, stretch the underused lungs, take the time to tune my mind into the challenges of the Australian bush, before the easy, track walking runs out.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Rainforest ramblings - Chichester River, Barrington Tops National Park


The journey ahead is about bringing into focus the essence of our blog - off-track wanderings, a vague route, changing direction depending on the demands of the terrain, searching out campsites, pressing on into rarely visited corners of wild country. The anticipation, the unknown, the mystery - these seem to shimmer in the humid air as we set off from the carpark. 

What we find is this - a remote river valley, untouched forest, trees towering 50m high like city high rises, a fruit laden canopy and hour after hour of beauty. It's been to long time since we've seen beautiful, wet rainforest. It satisfies our longing to escape the dry oppressive summer and disappear into another world.

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.