Monday, 29 July 2019

The Secret Waterfalls of Barrington Tops National Park, NSW

I know, it looks amazing. But, we’re not telling. 

The creek has no name anyway. And, if we told you, well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.

It is beautiful though, one of the prettiest creeks in the Barrington Tops. The waterfalls are only small but they are immensely scenic, surrounded by ferns and Antarctic Beech cool temperate rainforest. Perhaps someone else has walked into this spot, but there is no evidence of previous explorers - no disturbed soil or footprints, no broken branches, no path. It feels like we are the only visitors in a long, long time. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

Grattai Wilderness - Mount Kaputar National Park, NSW

From atop the rocky cliffs, the views are uninterrupted. The vast, clear sky burns orange at sunset and again at sunrise. But it’s been *@!# hard walking. If I hadn’t experienced this kind of off-track challenge before I would have left after the first night. Instead, I’m leaving after the second.

Just two days of moving through this wilderness and the emotion that spills out can’t be hidden. I try putting a ‘gloss’ on the place. Then decide on honesty - it’s fuckin’ shite off-track walking. Even the good open forest has so many sticks that trip you, poke, slap, scratch, snag in your gaiter strap on each forward step. Then there’s the sections of dense, sticky hop bush, scratching everything. We have had to push through it with our arms and the weight of our whole bodies. There’s the downright evil spikey-leaved shrub on the rocky plateau above Waa Gorge (pronounced War Gorge, appropriately enough). My back aches, my legs are exhausted, my knees and feet ache and my body craves replenishment. I have burnt so much energy - carrying water and tackling the ridiculous terrain - I can feel kilos dropping off me. 

We are in Mount Kaputar National Park, exploring its northernmost reaches around the spectacular Waa Gorge, Mt Waa and Mt Bobbiwaa. It is incredibly scenic country - from a distance.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Stone Library – Mutawintji National Park, NSW

Descending from the Bynguano Range, we come upon a dead goat, hanging upside down from one of the mulga trees; its rear leg trapped in the fork of two branches. Unable to free itself, it has been a slow death. The grisly find brings home the unforgiving nature of the terrain around us. The air is still and the smell fetid. Our view has disappeared in the hot, close scrub. Trees scrape on our packs as we push onwards. Old branches snap underfoot. And yet, this wilderness has a beauty and magic to it. 

In the July/August 2018 issue of Wild magazine, they published a story of ours about Mutawintji National Park in western NSW. The article described the park’s many walking trails, its Historic Site as well as two 'Wilderness Zone' overnight trekking options. The information had been gathered the previous winter, when we spent 10 days exploring Mutawintji. And the park, left a strong impression. It possessed such an immense sense of space and timelessness. The landscape seemed durable and eternal; the scenery vast and beautiful in the evening light. 

So, we have decided to share here our more personal observations of how and why this place resonated so strongly with our aesthetic and sense of wilderness. For detail and track notes, see Wild mag. But for the special beauty, read on.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Crabapple Kingdom - Whispering Gully, Barrington Tops National Park, NSW

14/4/19 5:41pm

I am writing this to you from the forest; sitting in the tent. The ground is lumpy but soft. The creek is just a few metres from the door and it is noisy over the rocks. It is day 2 of our walk. My lower back is aching, sitting hunched over my notebook. Caz is rustling around beside me searching out the lumps under his sleeping mat. He extracts a stick and then a rock. He flattens some dirt. He has filled one bad hollow with his spare socks. 

It has been a long day. I am tired and my eyes just want to close but it seems a ridiculous time to go to bed. It is dark outside. The rainforest trees are so thick, the valley we are in so deep and shaded, that the evening gloom set in at 3:30pm. The scrubwrens are still chattering outside. I envy their energy. I know the first thing you will ask me - was it a hard walk. I’d say no, but it also wasn’t easy. It certainly was not what we planned.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Capturing the Ephemeral - mist and fog in the Australian landscape

This is an old, but strong, memory: Caz and I standing on the edge of an extinct volcano at dawn. Mist, settled in the valley below. In the distance, the volcanoes remnant central vent, Wollumbin (Mt Warning), and 600m below my feet lush farmland now covering the ancient crater. We are at Pinnacle Lookout in Border Ranges National Park, entranced and awestruck by the day’s first casting of shadows. 

The sun’s morning light is soft and golden. Birds are calling in the rainforest behind me. The metal lookout fence is cold beneath my arms. The sky is clear. And, the mist is making this moment magic. It has thrown a thin veil over the landscape below. The trees, the paddocks, the farmhouses and dams are a mosaic of light and dark - long rays of shadow streak across the hills like the strands of a fine and delicate tapestry still being woven.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Two ‘Tops’ Days Out - Barrington Tops National Park, NSW

Tuesday, two weeks ago, I was rock hoping down a narrow creek. Tea tree crowded the banks. The rocks were black and the water a dark trickle. Beyond the edge of the riparian zone stood tall mountain gums with pepper bush, banksia and snow grass in an open, rocky forest.

Tuesday, one week ago, I was rock hopping down a narrow river. Sub-tropical rainforest pressed in either side. The water was fast flowing and crystal clear. Huge Blue Gum emergents towered above the steep sides to the valley. There was red cedar, giant stinging trees and lush green moss and lichen. 

For both adventures, I was in the same national park. As the crow flies, just 22km apart. As ecosystems go, it felt like a millennia of difference - the ancient Gondwana rainforest species so vastly different to the more recent dry-living xerophytes. Both of them exploiting the topography of the high plateau of the Barrington Tops: the wet, shaded, rain-soaked southern slopes and the exposed, dry western fall of the mountains. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Marching Orders - Cape Le Grand National Park, WA

It takes time, to find the emotional distance one need's, to re-tell a traumatic story. Finally, I am ready to write about the first and only time Caz and I have been kicked out of a national park. 

And not just any national park, but the stunningly beautiful Cape Le Grand in the south-west of Western Australia with its granite peaks and deserted white sand beaches, its turquoise ocean; whales frolicking in deep bays, its unique flowers decorating the low heathlands and our overnight off-track adventure that was, at the time, an absolute joy.