Friday, 27 September 2013

Granite Tigers and River Dogs - Gibraltar Range & Nymboida NP

Seeking to escape the madness of Christmas one year, preferring instead to immerse ourselves in a deep wilderness, Caz and I set out on a five-day off-track adventure that involved walking across the top of the Gibraltar Range National Park, out past the granite tors of Anvil Rock and Old Man’s Hat, and down a long curving ridge to the Mann River into the remote neighbouring Nymboida National Park. At the river we planned to pull out small inflatable boats, stowed in the bottom of our packs, and paddle 15 kilometres through the rugged Mann River wilderness to its junction with the Nymboida River before continuing another 10 kilometres, around Bridal Veil and New Zealand Falls, eventually drifting through farmland back to our starting point at Jackadgery.

The story of this fantastic adventure appeared in Australia's outdoor adventure magazine, Wild. While the story cannot be viewed online, you can order back issues of Wild magazine by contacting them through their website. The story appeared in issue 128.

In hindsight, this adventure is one of the toughest I have ever done. After the challenging 17-kilometre walking leg we reached the Mann River and I collapsed in an exhausted heap. Caz still managed to find the energy each day to take some spectacular photos so here are a few extra images that did not appear in the magazine at publication. I've also included a few tantalising snippets of the adventure. Hopefully they will inspire you to track down the full story and plan your own adventure in this beautiful and wild part of our landscape. 

Dedicated in 1963, Gibraltar Range National Park is one of the oldest parks in New South Wales. Long stewarded through history by Aboriginal people in the area, the Gibraltar Range continues to hold significance for contemporary descendants. The Range is rich in cultural sites and sacred places, with Aboriginal groups having moved regularly between the tablelands and coastal plains, conducting ceremonies and gathering food along the way.

The Bindery (Mann River) area contains archaeological evidence of Aboriginal occupation for 4,000 years. Open campsites are well preserved in the Mann River terraces and sources of stone blades and axes are found on areas of abundantly available river gravels. Other stone artefact sites occur on the higher ridgelines, possibly indicating the presence of camps used en route to the tablelands. 

See the Colong Foundation's wilderness index here for incredible detail of the conversation efforts and history of the area. 

"Our first night’s camp was tucked on the edge of a rocky slab overlooking the park as low summer mist and scudding showers drifted across the surrounding granite peaks...."

"At one point, a 25-metre gain took nearly half an hour. We grew more fatigued as the afternoon wore on. The vines in the scrub were spiky and our hands, arms and legs were soon scratched and bloodied. We ploughed on...."

"Late in the day we noticed the beginning of a ridge heading to our left. We wondered if this was our way to the river. Landmarks were difficult to see through the thick scrub and we consulted map and compass. Was this the wrong way or the right way? An incorrect decision would cost time and energy, neither of which we could spare..." 

"A new day, a new challenge. Rain drifted down the valley as we sat on the gravel blowing up our boats by mouth for roughly half an hour - with occasional stops to recover from bouts of head spins...." 

"This patch of river provided the wilderness we sought; deep in the Mann River valley, surrounded by forested mountains cut with steep sided gullies and creeks. No human sounds or sights, the peaty smell of foaming river water, bird calls in the weeping bottlebrush, and the voices of the water as it twisted and turned around boulders..."

"Downstream the water smashed into or over boulders that split the flow into even more channels and chaotic whitewater. Launching into the flow I could feel the river trying to drag me a million different ways. As I fought my way across, both Caz and I realised I had drifted dangerously downstream without being far enough across the river to make the eddy. Caz shouted encouragement and instructions as the strong flow tugged me towards the whitewash. It felt like my paddles hit more air than water as I frantically windmilled and shouted out that I wasn’t going to make it...."

"With the Nymboida River now flowing into the Mann River we realised just how much rain the region must have received since we set off on Christmas Day. The river rose high over its banks and spread into the surrounding forest and paddocks but the flow ate up the kilometres..."

The full version of this story first appeared in Issue 128 of Wild magazine as The Right Way, The Wrong and the Best Way. 

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