Thursday, 10 April 2014

Styx River - Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

I remember the descent; an open ridgeline to the river. There were forest red gums on the slope, very little understorey, fine shards of rock underfoot and towards the end it was easier to descend sideways, like a crab, inching our way down. A fire had been through before us, maybe only a week or so prior, and it had left us more view than expected. We could see down into the Styx River valley; from ridgetop to riverside we had to drop 700m in elevation.

As we descended, the elusive spotted quail-thrush nearly eluded us. Two of them took flight through the trees. We listened for their voice: it is a high pitched 'tseep tseep' that is almost beyond hearing and then when settled they call in far-carrying, repetitive notes similar to a treecreeper but slower, more plaintive.

On the bend where we met the river, there were some wild cattle: four herefords and one white-faced black angus. They were spooked by us and somehow vanished. I remember the campsite that first night, on a grassy ledge near a white cedar tree whose bare branches were tipped with full bunches of yellow berries. All its leaves were gone. It framed the pale, blue rock of the river bed. I remember watching two brush-tailed rock wallabies chase each other at phenomenal speed along the rocky, high eastern bank, darting over narrow ledges, leaping tall spaces in a single bound.

This adventure is one I remember through these vignettes of image and mood, all of them pooling to form a lingering reservoir of impressions: deep satisfaction, joy, wildness, and a sense of welcome in a place I had never visited before. I remember this as my favourite walk in a long time and since. It was comfortable deep in the river valley. Downstream of camp there was a river oak, its fist of roots wrapped around a handful of rocks. 

On the second day we began walking downriver and only crossed twice for progress, which meant some tricky manoeuvres around ledges and passing the packs up and over in two spots. It added a nice challenge. Caz reminds me how we poked our noses into Fred's Creek and found three waterfalls with the last one coming down a narrow, deep gap, with sheer rock walls either side. I have forgotten a lot of  other details, but we passed a dead wedgetail eagle on the bank, with its head tucked under its wing.

At the junction of the Styx River and the Chandler River I remember a series of massive gravel banks and so much sky for such a deep valley. There were rock wallabies on the opposite bank. There were butterflies all day. And at dusk, Caz wandered barefoot in the freezing water taking photos. A platypus emerged in the pool upstream.

I remember most clearly a ring of grass in the trees, up on the bank above the river. I walked its circumference. It appeared manmade and thus unnatural (if you consider man as outside of nature). We were a long way from anywhere or anyone. To me, it resembled the quail-thrush's bird call, almost beyond hearing but far-carrying; repeated evidence of people who once lived around here.

The walk out was similar to the walk in but up a different ridge. There was a long haul back along the forest road to the car, a shower of heavy rain along the way. I am wondering if an exact memory of every journey is essential. Do I need a map-like record of every tree and hollow and fallen log passed over, or river crossing made and each identifiable rock. On this occasion I have a snippets of memory, images, and beneath that a more elusive record, stored as layers of feeling. 


  1. It's always a pleasure checking your blog guys. Great work and nice cover shot on BWA Magazine!