Friday, 21 December 2018

Lessons in the Alps - Kosciuszko National Park

On this, our first (ever) extended walk in Kosciuszko National Park, we learnt a few lessons - that Pygmy possums appear like a blue flash out of the corner of your eye, that rivers rise equally fast on the back of rain. We learnt about theft and mountains and aesthetics and adventure. Each lesson reminded us that when out walking, it is so much about the journey not the destination. Here then, are those lessons.  

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The silent river - Wollemi National Park, NSW

It is the strangest sensation, to stand by a fast flowing river and hear nothing of its movement - no sound of water over rocks or gravel or bank. The Colo River makes not a whisper of noise as we set up camp on a wide sand beach. A lyrebird, foraging beneath the river oaks, gives an occasional squark but the river moves swiftly and silently by. 

Cutting its way through Sydney’s sandstone basin the Colo River does have stretches where boulder and rock choke its narrow gorge and it becomes the same as any river - noisy and tumbling as water drops and weaves and crashes over small ledges. But these rapids are interspersed with long, flat sections of sandy riverbed and deep pools that smother and silence its voice. 

Much of the Colo River, in its upper, upper reaches, is quite inaccessible. The 361,000 hectare Wollemi Wilderness is, in fact, the largest wilderness in New South Wales, as well as the largest in eastern Australia between Cape York Peninsula and Tasmania. Within this wilderness zone, the Colo River, as it travels eastwards, enters an incredible 69km long gorge of towering sandstone cliffs and high valley walls. Within this gorge, there are a few unlikely access points that can be joined together to form anything from a 2-day walk to more than triple that.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Exploring the western fall of Cathedral Rock National Park, NSW

It has been too long between camping trips and the pleasure of waking this morning, amongst tall messmate and mountain gums, creates a resonate hum of joy, deep, deep inside.

The absolute stillness of the morning, coupled with the anticipation of the days ahead, feels like that exhilarating moment when the orchestra has finished its warm-up, the conductor raises his hand and we wait for the symphony to begin.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Gunnemooroo - Warrumbungle National Park

This blog post is about a hidden pocket in famous country. A place rarely visited and a little neglected but wickedly scenic. To convince you of its beauty here are our notes and photos: there are off-track walks and explorations, anecdotes collected along the way, wild encounters had. This blog is also aimed at disproving an opinion - as we handed over a security deposit for the key that opens the gate to this treasure trove - we were told in surprised tones: 'you know there's nothing to do out there.'

Ah, Gunnemooroo, where there's nothing to do. We chanted this for 6 days as we bagged amazing peaks, slept under the stars, soaked up the solitude of a remote bush camp and woke each morning to sweet light and the spectacular countryside. 

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Aberfoyle River - Guy Fawkes River National Park, NSW

I have a strategy for climbs like this – from a distance our ascent ridge appears to have five distinct steps and so each becomes its own stage. Stage 1 takes us 45 minutes; rising 200m in elevation off the river, my backpack loaded with food for the next 3 days and enough water to camp high somewhere up there, ahead. Stage 2 takes 25 minutes; where possible, walking on the lee side of the ridge to shelter from the roaring, icy south-westerly wind while watching wedgetail eagles use it to take long, fast diagonal dives into the river valley below.  Stage 3 takes half an hour and suddenly the day's walk is over. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Camel's Hump - Mt Kaputar National Park

Caz and I cross through open forest behind Mount Coryah and steal silently south. It is 10:30am and only 5 degrees celcius. The sky is blue. A north-westerly wind feels icy. We walk for a long time without speaking. This is usual. Many words would spoil the growing pleasure of getting out into a Wilderness Area*; there are few that do it justice. 

The silence gives time for my mind to cast lines of thought and memory as we emerge at a cliff edge and stop to check the view. East is Euglah Rock, north is Mount Kaputar, the Governor and all around are as many cliff lines as you could hope for. I remember how years ago, when my father, a civil engineer, read one of our first blogposts he commented that it 'needed more geology'. In this national park, there is no getting away from it. 

Every interpretive sign in Mt Kaputar National Park mentions vast geological timescales and talks of resistant trachyte, shields and dykes and sills, lava, basalt and rhyolite, organ piping or columnar jointing. So this blogpost I dedicate to my dear old Dad. There shall be geology. And one of the best little off-track bushwalks in Mt Kaputar National Park. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Viewfinders - Ben Nevis and Hewitts Peak, NSW

I carry my cup of tea and binoculars out to the cliff edge. Sunrise, the far horizon strung with orange cloud. Winter lyrebird song drifts up from the sea of mist in the steep valley below, bright and clear. It is yet quite dark but a treecreeper is also up, busy searching the loose bark of the grey gums clinging to the edge.

I find a flat boulder that offers the best views. The rock is cold to sit on so I choose a thick piece of sloughed bark to lay over it. When settled, I raise my binoculars to the new horizon. Is that Dandhara Crags I can see to the north-east?  This is a new mountain, a new view. It is difficult to place familiar, known landmarks from this entirely different angle. There is a map that would tell me what lies so far away, but I left it in the car. It is not the usual 1:25,000 topo that we rely on for routes and details. It is instead a huge, colourful square of paper, first published in 1971 and again in 1985. It is the Glenn Innes State Forests map - a 1:125,000 gem that stretches from Armidale in the south, north to Washpool National Park, east to Dalmorton and west to the headwaters of the McIntyre River. It is Map 3 in a series of 18 State Forest maps covering the entirety of NSW. The back of each map features a list of Points of Interest and a brief summary of what each area offers.

For this one: "While access is often difficult, there are several safe, negotiable roads to where breathtaking views of mountains and gorges and high quality forests can be experienced."

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Mt Donaldson, Sundown National Park, Queensland

Hidden amongst the information on Sundown (in print and online) is brief mention of a three day, wilderness loop walk - tantalizingly remote and untramelled. The walk starts at the main southern campground in the park, called The Broadwater. A picture of The Broadwater, in the same print and online info, shows a deep, wide pool on the Severn River. It looks peaceful and refreshing, a long stretch of still water disappearing upstream and out of view. The 3-day loop walk circumvents the Broadwater. It begins across the other side, following a tributary of the Severn (McAllisters Creek) upstream for many kilometres and past two waterfalls. The route then veers up a ridge onto the summit of Mt Donaldson before dropping back down to the Severn River valley.

It has taken us many years to make it to Sundown National Park to try out this off-track, wilderness walk. And, when we finally arrive – like so many advertised holiday destinations – it looks nothing like the brochure.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Talaterang Mountain and the Clyde - Morton National Park, NSW

Wind shakes the tops of stunted mallee trees. Small birds lurch from branch to branch, fighting the strong gusts. High cloud holds the sun at bay. But, nothing can hold back the joy of the view ahead. We are back at Mt Bushwalker - undoubtedly one of NSWs grandest viewing points - looking across the Clyde River valley, southwards to The Castle and into the wild heart of Morton National Park.

This trip we have four days of hard walking, along a largely untracked route that drops in and out of the deep river valley below. It is winter and cold. I am wearing most of my gear - gortex jacket and pants, gaiters, and a long sleeve merino. But, as we head south from Mt Bushwalker and begin weaving along the sandstone escarpment, finding the next cairn and the next cairn ahead, it gives me time to warm up - not just my body but also my off-track instincts. These first few kilometres are the time to purge my soul of the lazy comforts of home, get sluggish blood moving, stretch the underused lungs, take the time to tune my mind into the challenges of the Australian bush, before the easy, track walking runs out.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Rainforest ramblings - Chichester River, Barrington Tops National Park

The journey ahead is about bringing into focus the essence of our blog - off-track wanderings, a vague route, changing direction depending on the demands of the terrain, searching out campsites, pressing on into rarely visited corners of wild country. The anticipation, the unknown, the mystery - these seem to shimmer in the humid air as we set off from the carpark. 

What we find is this - a remote river valley, untouched forest, trees towering 50m high like city high rises, a fruit laden canopy and hour after hour of beauty. It's been to long time since we've seen beautiful, wet rainforest. It satisfies our longing to escape the dry oppressive summer and disappear into another world.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Finding Tanglefoot - The Labyrinth, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

A steady stream of bushwalkers head south along the narrow track. But, we are walking north - against the flow.  I wait off to one side as the latest group pass. A lady looks up in surprise; she says – "Oh, you're going the wrong way!" 

I want to whisper to her our secret - that this is what it takes when you are hunting Tanglefoot, when you are pushing deep into the high mountains, searching the hidden corners of The Labyrinth that lies beneath Mt Geryon, named for the fearsome giant of Greek mythology. Ssh, I want to say. Don't tell anyone. 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Koi Kyenunu-ruff - the Stirling Range Ridge Walk, Western Australia

The track notes say to expect the following: narrow ledges, much scrambling over rocky peaks, probable violent weather changes including whiteouts or snow while tackling steep ascents and descents with unreliable water sources and other 'significant challenges' such as the trail being easy to lose.

Guide books are, of course, by their very meaning, supposed to be accurate guides to a walk. But the tatty track notes I have borrowed for this 3-day walk are more than 20 years old so I would excuse them some discrepancies, particularly with the ever-changing nature of a wild landscape. The fact they turn out so eerily accurate, in directions and in the adjectives used, is worth mentioning.