Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Visiting the relatives - Manning River 60r, 23r and 8r

Manning River 60r

We spread the topographic map on the lounge room floor and spot a relative. We should go visit. It looks like a perfect trip for us. A renowned relative, seldom seen; found in deep, steep-sided wild country.  

What relative?

Well, on all NSW 1:25,000 topographic maps many waterfalls remain unnamed and are marked simply with a blue line across the watercourse and beside that some digits followed by a lower case 'r'. The 'r' indicates a cliff or a drop 'relative' to the surrounding landscape. On the upper Manning River, in Barrington Tops National Park, there are several such relatives, the most visited being 8r & 23r, and further downstream, 60r. What that implies is an 8m, 23m and a 60m waterfall. Now that's a bunch of relatives worth visiting.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The wild and crazy west - bushwalking on the Bibbubulum Track from Bow Bridge to Denmark

The forest smells of sun-warmed rain. The trees by the track drip with water. It wets my boots and I feel damp leaves against my bare arms.  The path winds between twisted, low gum trees. But, this kind of track walking makes me look inwards more than outwards. A dozen ideas, conversations, random stories and thoughts jostle loudly in my head. 

It feels both cleansing and annoying to let the internal noise run its wild path as we leave the road behind us and begin climbing towards Nut Lookout. The white sand track becomes mesmerising. I watch my feet and am still only half aware of my surroundings so that Caz has to stop me and bring me to the moment. Look at the view, he says. It ranges across verdant farm paddocks to the coast that stretches eastwards. I search, uselessly, for the exact route of the Bibbubulum Track, and where it will takes us over the next 7 days as we wend our way from our starting point (Conspicuous Beach) all the way to the town of Denmark, about 82km east. 

There are track notes for this walk in plenty of obvious places - the reliable and endlessly admirable authors John and Monica Chapman cover this section in their Bushwalking in Australia book. And you can get detailed notes through the Bibbubulum Track website as well as a plethora of other information online and in print.

What you will get here, at awildland, is a combination of the noise in my head and Caz's beautiful images. You'll get the cleansing process that comes with long walks.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Moses Rock and the first commandment in off-track bushwalking - Nymboi-Binderay National Park, NSW

As the lay of the land drops away, we begin down a gentle slope. I notice Caz keeps stopping. Every now and then he looks around the forest with searching eyes. This is Caz taking me for our first off-track walk together (many years ago now but I can still vividly recall this moment) him constantly looking around, checking back over his shoulder. He claims he has been here before but as he stops yet again I grow increasingly nervous. He looks lost to me.

We push through the light scrub and fallen logs. The walking is slow and precise - stepping carefully through long grass, pushing past lanky stalks of cassinia, resting a hand on the rough skin of stringybarks.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Steep Drop Falls - two hundred years of wonder

Everything is gone. The forest of stringybarks, manna gum and she-oak ends abruptly. The very ground drops away at a cliff.  A hole, more than 200m deep, opens up before me and I step to the edge of nature's open cut. It is all air and shadow ahead. 

In 1818, the colonial explorer John Oxley, travelling east from Macquarie Marshes and over the Peel and MacDonald Rivers, stood in awe near this exact spot on the edge of the New England tablelands. Nearly two hundred years apart he and I equally impressed by the view. 

He wrote in his journal: "It is impossible to form a correct idea of the wild magnificence of the scenery without the pencil of a Salvator." 

I have only a pencil from the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). I shall to do my best with it; hopefully drawing with words the spectacle of Steep Drop Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, NSW.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Stone Country - an overnight bushwalking adventure in Gundabooka National Park, NSW

This story is a reminder to never underestimate the small walks. The shortest off-track sortie can reap great rewards (I've said this before, haven't I). Our night on the red cliffs of Gunderbooka, dazzled by the earth's curvature, awoken by the strange visitations of water birds and humbled by the smallness of our place in nature, taught this to me again.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Red Rocks - Wollemi National Park, NSW

Ahead lies our destination, Mt Dawson rising gently out of the surrounding plateau and visible through the trees as we stand atop some rocks. It is an hour or more walk away, weaving between numerous sandstone pagodas where they break out of the scrappy forest. And, I already know we are not going to make it. It is not that the forest is too thick or the afternoon too late.  It is the fault of beauty.

Having left the car mid-morning, we have wandered up Little Capertee Creek, climbed the steep slope to the top of the scarp and onto the Capertee-Wolgan Divide, a narrow run of range separating two valleys. We have continued across the narrow divide to check out the view from the other side. And, this is where the plan goes awry.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The song of the wild lands - Girraween National Park, Queensland

A lanky, dark-haired man strolls over to me in the car park. I am standing there making final adjustments to my pack. It bites into my shoulders loaded with winter walking gear and a couple of days of food.

"Have you seen any lyrebirds on your walk," he asks.

At this stage, I haven't been on my 'walk'. I am waiting for Caz, who is in the Visitor Information Centre at the entrance of Girraween National Park, in southern Queensland. We are about to start an overnight exploration around Mt Norman, the highest peak in the park at 1,267m. 

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 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'.