Saturday, 20 May 2017

Walking the Dark Sky Park - New South Wales

Journal entry: Packed backpacks with three days worth of food in the hope of finding enough water to stay out that long. Parked at Pincham Camp, grabbed one litre of water each. Plan was to fill up at Spirey Creek and camp on Bress Peak. Old maps show a walking track up onto Bress Peak, now disused and invisible. Set off walking. Spirey Creek dry. Kept walking. Spirey Creek still dry. Rethink plan.

We have blogged about Warrumbungle National Park only once before. It is a long way west in NSW, so we don't visit often. It is also quite a dry park, with mainly ephemeral creeks. Its network of trails climb the high, dry ridge lines.  Carrying litres of water for overnight walks is unavoidable and restocking supplies along the way needs careful planning. We knew this before setting out with our measly one litre each. But, we always have a plan B up our sleeve.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Walking the wild river - Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

The lead stallion stops just five metres away. His small herd gather behind him, dripping with water, their sides heaving with exhaustion. A couple of young horses are visibly shaken, their hind legs quivering. For two days we have unwittingly pursued these brumbies up this narrowing valley. The riverbed is now so rocky they they have been forced to return downstream and confront us.

We struggle to stay hidden and quiet, crouched awkwardly behind a boulder amongst trees on the river's edge. The stallion may not be able to see us but he is suddenly, acutely, aware of our presence. His nostrils flare and he snorts loudly, staring intently ahead. The nervous energy in the air is intense as he snorts again and again. A stand-off begins. 

This is not our first exciting wild encounter of this 4-day trip walking along the Chandler River from Long Point to Wollomombi Falls. This is, after all, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and hiding behind a rock with my heart pounding, it seems 'wild' has been the order of the day, every day.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sea kayaking - Myall Lakes National Park, NSW

A vast lake lies ahead, smooth as glass reflecting blue sky and the leaning branches of ancient paperbarks. This feels like a soft, soul restoring journey. White sand beaches slide by as we paddle steadily across the tannin-stained water. It is day two of a so-far idyllic trip - exploring isolated, shorelines where goannas hunt and young sea eagles practice flights and battles. 

Then, about mid-morning, the wind gets up, ruffles its feathers of air. White caps rush ahead of us. The roar of the southerly wind rises. We are out in the centre of Myall Lake and the water crashes regularly across the bow of our kayaks as white streaks of foam begin forming on the torn surface. 

The suddenness of the change in weather is humbling. I focus on a tiny island of trees just ahead and try to keep the boat straight. The distance looks longer and harder with each passing minute.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sliding into the green room - Williams River Canyon, Barrington Tops

Moss-green walls of rock rise either side of the river, forming a narrow chute where the water curves right then left, drops into a small hole, and continues around a final bend before disappearing out of sight. I edge my way down the slippery, smooth channel and test the depth of the first hole. Caz is waiting at the top. I give him the thumbs up. It's time for his next water slide.

I scramble out of the way as Caz gives a little "woo-hoo" and splashes to the bottom of the ride above. The water is freezing cold and a rich emerald colour. We swim as quickly as possible across the large, deep pool that lies hidden around the final dip. Our small packs are like buoyancy vests and our wetsuits keep out the worst of the cold. We are both grinning from ear to ear and the day has only just begun.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Is this the best view in NSW? Mt Bushwalker, Morton National Park

Lyrebirds call in the valley below as the dawn sky changes from pink to peach; ripening to day. I sit up in my sleeping bag, having built a nest of essentials around me – cup of tea on my right, notebook, pen, binoculars, gloves. A rock plateau stretches away in front to where it suddenly drops in a cliff edge. Beyond that is a vast, magnificent view. 

For half an hour before the sun rises, the land is filled with the best light we have seen for weeks. Last night's sunset was nice but not spectacular. The morning is both. Distant cliffs lines glow with reflected light. Even the deep valleys are infused with this soft colour. At 7:09am the sun cracks the horizon behind me and everything changes, contrasts arise, colour strengthens. I pick up my pen and notebook, take a sip of tea, and write: 'Wow'.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Open your eyes to this year's wild land

I remember battling 120km/hr winds on top of an exposed peak, struggling to keep my sanity while searching for a foot of ground we could safely sleep on. Then there was the night we slept under the stars, tucked amongst sandstone pagodas as if living in a private wing of some grand, many-roomed castle. Months earlier, our adventures had brought us the unexpected beauty of an ephemeral waterfall tucked up a narrow valley in a landscape caught between the semi-arid and the granite belt. Which reminds me of the breakfast we had the next morning, watching a spotted quoll rummage through cracks on the cliff-lined creek.

It has been a good year. Twenty-two National Parks in 12 months, with multiple visits to some of them. This blog, then, is a collection of observations and snippets from a year of adventures. It is also our passionate call to everyone - get out into this amazing wild landscape we live in.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Valley of a Thousand Fallen Trees - Barrington Tops National Park, NSW

Last month we walked through The Valley of a Thousand Fallen Trees to reach The Ancient Lands of Poa. Magical places high in the mountains, hidden amongst trees of autumn-colour-in-spring and filled with birds born from the blood of lovers.

In less fantastical language, we spent three days struggling up the tree choked and rugged Kerripit River valley in Barrington Tops National Park until we reached the high plateau and collapsed in an exhausted heap on the snow grass, grateful to have finally reached clear open beech forest where new spring growth blushed the forest in autumnal colours and breeding pairs of crimson rosellas roosted in the treetops. 

And, while we created mystical names for the landscape, there is a very real mystery hidden in the forests and mountains - Australia's only modern-day unsolved aircraft disappearance.