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.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Donkey Mountain - Gardens of Stone National Park, NSW

This is a tale of two extremes. A story from different ends of the one valley as well as different ends of the social and economic spectrum.

It begins, however, with a unique and beautiful ass – Donkey Mountain which is part of Gardens of Stone National Park. Donkey Mountain sits alone in the middle of the Wolgan Valley, north-east of Lithgow on the western fall of the Greater Blue Mountains. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Tinderry Peak, Tinderry Nature Reserve, NSW

It looks a bleak day for a walk. The dawn is grey.  Icy rain is falling in heavy squalls. We are in a spartan, upstairs room at a pub in Braidwood. There is a ghost, apparently, and all night the floorboards have been creaking. There is no heating and cold draughts sneak under the double doors that open onto a wide verandah. The empty street below is wet and shining under the light of a waxing moon.

But just 50km west, as the crow flies, this rain is falling as lovely snow and gathering in drifts on the granite tors atop Tinderry Peak.

By the time we finish a leisurely breakfast, the sun is out. By the time we reach Round Flat Fire Trail, and park the car at the start of our planned walk, there is clear blue sky and a cracking forecast for the days ahead.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Coonarma Peak - Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW

Many of our destinations are points on a map with no access track. Walks with no right or wrong way, in or out. This is one of those – to a peak perched on the edge of wilderness, a day's walk there and another back again, a weekend spent in conversation with the topography of the Gibraltar Range. 

Coonarma Peak is located in Gibraltar Range National Park in northern New South Wales. The national park is located 69km east of Glen Innes or 92km west of Grafton and within it, Coonarma Peak is an obscure outcropping of granite that juts out of the highland swamps and breaks open the ridges of dry stringybark forest. It is topped by an old trig marker and the sugary blossoms of grass tree spears in flower.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Waiting for Barney - Mt Barney National Park, Qld

A country road. A flooded creek. Morning. 

What do we do now? Wait. Yes, but while waiting?

Trying to reach Mt Barney is starting to feel like a scene from Waiting for Godot. We are forced into a holding pattern. So, Caz heads off taking photos of the flooded Logan River and its pretty rapids that ribbon through rounded boulders. I pace the road for a while and then begin searching the river oaks for elusive birds that seem to have vanished now I have my binoculars out.

“Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon: It would have passed in any case."

Actually, we have been waiting more than 5 years to climb this gentleman's peak. On our first attempt we were turned back by fire, as the park was scheduled for a prescribed burn. Not having checked ahead, we had donned packs, walked 2km in, and were confronted with the warning signs wired to the gate. Nothing to be done. We walked back out, and waited. 

Until now.  

This time it is flooding rains holding us back, and Mt Barney might evade us yet again.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Magic of Munmorah State Conservation Area, NSW

A week-day morning in Munmorah State Conservation Area and fisherman are strung along the rock shelf beneath Wybung Head casting baited lines into the turquoise water. Swell surges and foams against the coast and the sound of the ocean carries up to us as we search along the headland cliff-line for a track down to the long platform of rock below. The view south, from high on the bluff, takes in 8km long Birdie Beach with Budgewoi and Norah Head lighthouse in the distance and Bird Island Nature Reserve sitting offshore.

But, to the north, we can see a more varied, rugged coastline; a series of bluffs and sandy beaches, wide rock shelves and boulder strewn bays snaking around to Snapper Point. This is the direction we intend exploring, picking our way along the littoral to our finish point at Catherine Hill Bay. We are searching for some of the spectacular coastal features that are the secret behind this section of coast's protected status. We just have to get down off this cliff.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The Western Arthur Range - Southwest National Park, Tasmania

We awake to wind roaring across the range and powerful gusts pulling the guy ropes as the tent walls flex and bend. A southerly, blowing unobstructed for thousands of kilometres across the Southern Ocean is crashing into our mountains. But, it is not until we finally emerge, at dawn, that the ferocity of the weather hits home. 

We are camped on one of the wooden platforms beneath the southern cirque of Lake Oberon, high on the Western Arthur Range. Just metres away the surface of the lake is being swept into a spectacular, swirling vortex of mist that rises 10 metres into the air. Waves, driven by the wind, surge up the small creek that feeds the lake, forcing it to flow backwards. The simple act of walking is a struggle. We retreat, stumbling, back to our tent. 

This is meant to be our day for traversing high across the mountain peaks of Capricorn and Pegasus but as a wall of black clouds approach from the south a lay day is called. It is another round in our Western Arthur's weather spanking.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The things you find out walking…Barrington Tops National Park

Caz spots a chunk of metal half buried in the rainforest soil.  Weaving around the next few tree ferns we spot more and more small pieces, some lengths of wiring, plastic and fabric, and now we have our eye in there seems to be stuff everywhere. It intrigues us and we dump the packs and begin searching more closely, rummaging in the undergrowth.  We push and duck under tunnels formed by heavy fronds. Caz pulls up another substantial piece of twisted wreckage with remains of oranges paint on it. I find a labelled section of wiring that finally confirms our suspicions. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

What lies below - Dandahra Falls, Gibraltar Range National Park

By the time we reach camp I am barely capable of simile, let alone anything as profound as metaphor. Some adventures seem to exhaust my vocabulary. Diary notes are sparse. The concentration required throughout the day, and the physical nature of the route we have just taken, has exhausted not just my body but my mind. It is enough now to lay in camp and just observe – not to describe or compare or analyse. I lie back and just be: disappearing into the spectacular world that lies below Dandahra Falls. 

Reaching the base of Dandahra Falls, in Gibraltar Range National Park in northern NSW, has been on our adventure hit list for years. The fact we have also been unable to find any photos online showing what lies below this grand waterfall, inspires us further. An earlier attempt to reach the base of the falls has given us a good understanding of what is needed:  rope, harnesses and prussiks. It is a matter of satisfying our curiosity for wild perspectives. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Across Oz - cycle touring Australia, Coast to Coast

Most nights we just pushed our bikes off the road, into the scrub and pitched the tent. At one point we couldn't wash our cycling shorts for 10 days. Across the Nullarbor, we cycled Australia's longest section of  road without a bend - 146.6km over two days. Our legs got sunburnt, our stamina was tested, and the wind was a constant battle. This, is the story of one of our most challenging and memorable adventures yet.

The plan was to ride our bicycles coast to coast, more than 4,200 km across Australia from City Beach in Perth to Nobby’s Beach in Newcastle. There was to be no fundraising for charity, no-one sponsored us, we didn’t raise awareness for a particular cause, or visit public schools along the way. It was to be our first major adventure holiday together as a couple. Pure, selfish adventure.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A walk in the light green - Washpool National Park

The most exciting spots on a topographical map are where contour lines gather tightly side by side and blush the map with a patch of bright pink. The background of light green is barely visible between each squiggle. Sometimes additional straight lines, drawn across the curves, lead you to the map legend – "steep slope" it says, or cliffs or escarpment. 

In Washpool National Park, along Coombadjha Creek, on the Coombadjha 1:25000 topographical map, there is a short 1-2km section that draws the eye like this – a small square of tightly packed pink that glows enticingly. It's been on our explorers' list of 'things to do' for some time  – surely that piece of steep-sided country hides crashing waterfalls and spectacular remote rainforest.