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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #054

Editorial

Well, talk about an epic, ok maybe just a feature but this walk is the hardest one I've done in many a year. Truth be known it wasn't really that hard, it's just me that's soft, something that should be rectified probably by doing more walks.

But despite being a basket case at the end of the first few days I did start to harden up, and by the end of the walk was quite comfortable with the weight of my pack and the exercise routine.

All in all we had a great time, the three of us are very similar with interests in photography and IT so we always had something to yap about and are now planning a similar experience over in the Pilbara area of Western Australia in about 18 months.

So stay tuned for some more walks.

Meanwhile you may like to read about this one, it's not a bad yarn and I certainly got some good photos. And speaking of photos, they are larger in this issue (typically 800px as opposed to the 600px the diaries have used up 'till now) which is good for viewing but no so for your download data so let me know if you think they should go back to the smaller size.

Still speaking of photos, I've included some taken in the mid 90s on previous walks into this area. They're easy to spot because they are all black and white. As far as possible I've cropped either the new or old version so they can be properly compared, although in some cases the shots were taken from slightly different locations so direct comparison is not easy. But it's interesting to see for example the the lichen on a rock is still there after 15 years, it's just grown in size.

 

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Wed 14 Oct 2009

We're camped at Wog Wog now and guess what, we do have reception of sorts. The modem works so I have email, but the phone doesn't. Go figure.


Camped at the Wog Wog entrance to the Morton National Park.

Glen flies in today but that's not until this afternoon, meanwhile I pick up David from Braidwood. On our return to the truck Chris takes the wheel and drives into Canberra to do some shopping before she meets Glen at the airport.

Later in the afternoon Glen is on deck, he organises his backpack while David and I pretty much just faff around. As mentioned my pack weighs 27kgs, but with water that will be closer to 30 or put another way 35% of my body weight. That's going to hurt.


Glen sorts out his gear.


Meanwhile I show Chris how to inflate the Jimny's tyres should she need to while I'm away. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

I've created a composite aerial photo (below), click on it to load a large (1.3Meg) version in a new window. It shows the route and has links to photos showing some of the campsites and views. Leave it open so you can swap windows, this may help keep things in context as you read.

Thu 15 Oct 2009

We're off. After a 2-hour car shuttle the three of us are standing at the trail head, about 5k from the township of Nerriga.


The three amigos.

The trail starts on some very confusing private roads most of which are not on the map.


That doesn't seem right.


Oh, wrong map.
(Both above copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)


We do encounter some trail marking signs but it seems that they are for a loop walk from the nearby B&B so they aren't much help. Then again, maybe we should follow the signs back to the B&B and just book in for 12 days.


Not quite sure what this means, but the track marker is not for us, it seems to be for a private loop walk.

Before long we're on the Red Grounds trail, this will take us into an area called the Vines at which point David and I are on familiar territory.


That's the right technique, always at least three points on something firm.


Sod it, I'll just jump.
(Both above copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)


It's threatening to rain but never does; we walk and walk stopping at a lovely creek for lunch and passing through a landscape that varies from open plains to dense forest.


This looks like a good lunch spot.


Plus we can get a few photos while we're here.
(Both above copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)



David and Glen on the track as it passes though the tall timber.

I start to feel blisters forming on the bottom of both feet so we stop and tape them, that helps but it's not a very good start.

We pass several great camp sites and I admit I'm very tempted to drop everything and make camp, but we're aiming for the Endrick River and so press on. At around 4 we finally reach it, there's a short balancing act to cross the water on some round rocks then we drop our packs. The track turns into a 4x4 fire trail at this point, Glen does a recce up the trail to look for a better campsite but in the end we camp in the middle of the road and hope nobody will drive through in the night.


Camp #1 on the banks of the Endrick River and in the middle of a fire trail. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

I lay on my thin sleeping mat wondering what the hell I'm doing here, after only one easy day on a relatively flat fire trail I'm a basket case.

Fri 16 Oct 2009

My feet are killing me. The taping seems to have nipped any blisters in the bud but I can still barely walk because my feet are so tender.

We continue along the trail for an hour or so until we reach the Vines and the intersection of the fire trail and the track that leads to Hidden Valley and Styles Creek. If you continue straight on at this point you reach the old Newhaven Gap car park which used to be the nearest park entrance for Hidden Valley walks, however about 10 years ago they closed Newhaven Gap and moved the entrance 7k further out to Sassafras. I remember being fairly pissed off at the time as Hidden Valley was a favourite spot of mine, but I admit it was over used and the NPWS idea was to cut down on the valley's usage and let it regrow. We'll see if that has eventuated.

Another hour brings us to a favourite lunch stop of ours on a creek so we down packs and rest.


The old logging road crossed here, don't ask me how.


Same view in 1995.


Both views side by each.


This is the log you see in the above photos, it seems to have formed part of a rough bridge. Note the 3/4" steel cable at bottom right.

After a snack and some photo taking it's back on the track and before long we reach the turn off to Hidden Valley, marked by a tree fern with 'HV' cut into the bark; from here it's less than a kilometre into the valley. Thank goodness.


HV cut into the tree fern bark.

We climb through a narrow pass and enter the valley, it's very overgrown compared to our last trip so maybe the regrowth plan has worked, still it makes finding our way more difficult and we get a bit lost looking for the campsite. I'm sure there used to be a fairly obvious track along the side of the swamp but there's no such help now and we have to push our way through the cut grass and boulders.

Eventually I spot a rock that looks familiar and a few minutes later we're at the campsite. The view isn't what it used to be 15 years ago due to the tea tree growth, but it's still a great spot.


An old favourite camp of David's and mine. More overgrown than it used to be though.


Approx same view in 1995.


I've used a different modern photo this time because it is a bit closer to the old one.

It looks like rain so I try to get dinner cooked while it's dry but no such luck so I finish the cooking inside my tent then lie down to listen to the rain. My feet are still killing me but life could be a lot worse.


Cooking in the tent vestabule.

Sat 17 Oct 2009

What a delight to be back in Hidden Valley, despite it being much overgrown compared to last time I was here so the view isn't quite as good as it was. As I said though this was becoming very over used and now there's not much sign of human habitation at all so I guess the NPWS plan worked. Also, despite the walk in from Nerriga being a lot longer than was the case from Newhaven Gap, it's by far a more interesting walk. So overall this still rates as one of my favourite spots, and if it now takes twice as long to walk in here then so be it.


Breakfast. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

Our original plan was to camp up on top of nearby Mt Sturgiss for the next two nights but on seeing the height of the cliffs and remembering the weight of our packs this quickly gets downgraded to a day walk up the mountain and a slack day in the valley.

At around 9 we pack cameras, lunch and assorted survival gear in case the weather turns bad and head off to the side of Mt Sturgiss. David and I have been up the mountain before but our memory is a bit hazy so it takes us a while to find the access point.

After a short scramble and tight squeeze we arrive at an exposed cliff.


Here I am stuck between a rock and a...well another rock. I can't go sideways because I'm too lazy to drop my pack. No room for overweight bushwalkers here. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

Glen starts climbing but it's difficult and we get to wondering if it's worth the risk, the climb itself is only about 3 metres but any fall could put you over the edge which would mean a 50-metre drop

I have a go without a pack, I'm soon up the climb and decide to recce ahead to see if that is the worst of it. Before long I encounter the other hard part, I'd forgotten about it but instantly remember as soon as I see the 3-metre near-vertical rock face. I also remember that it's permanently wet as there's a spring somewhere not far above.

With no real foot holds in the rock it's a bit difficult but at least there's an obliging tree root in just the right spot. I shinny up the face and am now—for all intents and purposes—at the top of Mt Sturgiss. There's still a steep walk through some scrub to go, but as I recall that's the end of the climbing.

I return to the lads and relay the info. We decide that we couldn't be bothered with the climb and subsequent walk to the southern end of the mountain to overlook Pagoda Rocks, and so return to a very convenient ledge a few metres back.


Me surveying the scene. That's one of the Pagoda Rocks (the one I call the Big Pagoda) in the background. Note my home-made panorama head on the tripod. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)


And one of the resultant photos.


A similar 1995 photo from the same spot and on a day when I wasn't too lazy to get up here at sunset.


Not much has changed here, just the trees have growth a tad.


The 1995 view over Pagoda Rocks from the southern end of Mt Sturgiss, what we would have seen if we weren't so lazy.

After lunch and a few photos we return to camp. The rest of the day is spent just hanging around, exploring the nearby rocks, and photographing the sunset.


Bark.


Me contemplating the fact that I'll probably never return to Hidden Valley.


A God beam and Quiltys Mountain.


Looking back across Hidden Valley to the wall on the other side, that's the side of Mt Sturgiss.


Quiltys Mountain at sunset, a beam of light just hit the rocks I am standing on.


Some rock formations in the cliffs above the campsite.


Cooking in the bush 101, how to simmer your meal using a Trangia stove. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

Sun 18 Oct 2009


Quiltys Mountain at sunrise.

Now that the two-day camp on top of Mt Sturgiss is off we decide to leave Hidden Valley, this gives us a day up our sleeve to get into Monolith Valley and as we haven't done that trip from here before we feel that having an extra day is a good thing in case the going gets rough. If we weren't meeting Chris on the 21st this wouldn't matter, but we are and we don't want to risk missing the rendezvous.

We cross Styles Creek...


The crossing at Styles Creek, there's a fantastic campsite here, what a shame we've got places to go.


Same crossing in 1995, almost, the track now crosses about 2 metres away from where it used to.


Both pics. Note that the track crossing spot has changed so I photographed from a slightly different position this time which makes it difficult to identify the rocks (I've labelled three that are the same). Never the less some quite large rocks seem to have dissapeared.

...then turn left to try and avoid the worst of the boggy plain (which I'll call Styles Swamp although I don't think it has a name) between us and the next objective, Mt Haughton. This we largely do with only one small bog incident in which we all get at least one foot drenched.

The navigation is a bit tricky because the 'track' splits into a 100 directions as people have attempted to find a good spot to cross the bog. Still we're across in a few minutes and back on what is obviously the track to Mt Haughton.

While having lunch at the other side of the plain we spot two walkers approaching. They stop and we get chatting. It seems they are NPWS (National Parks & Wildlife Service) employees on a two-day walk to check on track conditions etc.

One piece of interesting news they impart is that there's plenty of water ahead, so we quickly dump most of the water we're carrying. We all filled up with 5-6 litres back at Styles Creek just in case and it's a relief to dump most of it.

The other interesting fact is that they came through the bog the day before and it took them two hours to find a way through and rejoin the track.


Looking across Styles Swamp to Quiltys Mountain.


Our NPWS friends head off, that's the Big Pagoda in the background, this time seen from the south.

We leave the plain and enter the forest at the base of Mt Haughton. After a steep climb we're at the cliff face and start to contour along the mountain. Now 'contouring' means that you stay between two contours and therefore are walking at the same altitude and in theory on a more or less level surface, but that still leaves +/- 5 metres to play with and these tracks at the base of the various Budawang mountains use it to full advantage.

Up 3 metres, climb over a huge boulder then down the other side and scramble down 6 metres only to come back up again to crawl under a fallen tree, get caught on a sapling, then carefully make your way across a wet slippery slab under a waterfall before repeating the process again and again. Will someone tell me when we're having fun?


Grotto at the base of the Mt Haughton cliffs.


This is the 'track', such as it is, typical of the route along the base of these mountains. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

The only positive thing is that this is a very good workout, I'm strengthening some muscles that haven't done a days work in years, which come to think of it pretty well describes me as well.

Late in the afternoon we find a fantastic amphitheatre cut into the side of the mountain and I'm tempted to camp, but David and Glen want to continue so I tag along. We can see Mt Tarn through the trees and they are keen to get to the top of it to camp, however between us and the mountain there's a saddle with a steep descent and equally steep climb and frankly I don't feel up to it. Fortunately we find a good camping cave just 100 metres around the corner. That's enough for the day.

Note: There are dozens of "camping caves" in the Budawangs but, with one exception that I know of, they are all really just shallow rock overhangs. Good shelter for the most part, but if you get rain and an 'onshore' wind then you may as well be outside.


Our camp in one of the camping caves at the side of Mt Haughton.

We set up camp then settle in to cook dinner. It's obviously sunny somewhere because through the trees we can see the great afternoon light on Mt Tarn, but there's no way we can get any decent photographs from here.

Mon 19 Oct 2009

The plan today is to cross Mt Tarn, skirt Mt Bibbenluke and Mt Cole, and get into Monolith Valley. This may or may not prove a little ambitious—it depends on the track conditions—but if we don't make it there are camping caves along the northern face of Mt Cole so plan B is to camp in one of them.

We quickly cross the saddle and climb up onto Mt Tarn, it's not that far and I would have made it yesterday if I had put my mind to it. No matter we're here now.

Most of the mountain top is covered in tall scrub so we can't see anything, there are however several rocky outcrops that afford a view of the area, and we climb onto one to get some photos.


Part of Mt Bibbenluke, with a receeding hairline.


Abstract 'Rock over Grass' available in a limited edition of 15,000.


Looking along the outcrop. Way in the distance can be seen Mt Cole and behind that is Monolith Valley.


Time to hitch up and get moving. We're heading towards the left of the mountain in the background. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

We leave the outcrop and before long are heading down a gully and off the mountain. There were a few spots we could have camped on top of Mt Tarn so I flag that fact for future reference (yeah, like I'm ever going to be back here).

At the southern-most end of Mt Tarn, after descending the gully and traversing the base of the cliffs for a while, we find an amazing cliff covered with bright orange lichen so it's down packs again and out with the cameras.


Get a load of these cliffs, and the orange lichen.

You could spend a day just exploring this feature, but not this day I'm afraid. We leave the cliffs and another steepish descent brings us to the saddle between mounts Tarn and Bibbenluke.


David emerges from the spur that leads from Mt Tarn. Mt Bibbenluke foothills are on the right and now we can see that Mt Cole is getting closer (the blue cliff in the far left).

We cross the open ground in the hot sun and have a snack in the shelter of the trees on the side of Mt Bibbenluke. The Wog Wog track branched off just a hundred metres or so back, we'll be taking that in a few days when we walk out, so from here on the ground we cover will largely have to be walked again as we backtrack to the Wog Wog trail.

We now have a very steep descent off Bibbenluke ( I'm not looking forward to that on the way back) and another ascent to the Mt Cole cliff line. On reaching Mt Cole the track Ts at a small overhang, left is supposed to track along the northern face of Mt Cole and into Monolith Valley, right heads around to Mt Owen and an alternative route into the valley. The map is quite ambiguous though and shows the track going along the top of Mt Cole whereas we are quite obviously at the bottom of the cliffs. Still if we turn left we can't go far wrong.

It takes the rest of the day to negotiate the track along the base of Mt Cole, eventually we collapse (I say "we" but really it's me that is struggling, Glen and David are both pretty fit) in another camping cave, there's no way we're going to make it into Monolith Valley today.


Another day, another camp, this time somewhere along the northern face of Mt Cole.


There's water here but we have to use my patented Gray Water Collection System because the drops are too far spread out to make catching them in a bowl practical.


Full water bladders are hung off a conveniently placed stick, while a tripod is pressed into sock-drying service.


Now we can sit around the fire we don't have and pretend to be warm.


The weather is still crap.


So Glen heads off to bed.

At least tonight I'm looking forward to the next day's walk, we're nearly at the end of Mt Cole so it should be a doddle to stroll into Monolith Valley tomorrow.

Tue 20 Oct 2009

After breakfast we continue along the base of Mt Cole, it's very difficult to get a bearing though and after a while we start to wonder why we're not turning towards Monolith Valley.

We try a couple of more or less south-leading gullies but there is no obvious way through, let alone a track. Time to down packs and scratch heads. We're pretty sure we're in the Donjon area—in which case we've gone too far—but it's so hard to tell when you're right in amongst things.

If you're looking at the aerial photo now you may wonder how the heck we could miss a feature as large as the apparent valley leading just south of east along the side of Mt Cole (the dotted line). But it's way harder on the ground where all you can see is rocks and trees followed by trees and rocks. Sometimes just being 50 metres out can lead you up the wrong gully and cost you a couple of hours scrub bashing.

Note: Our topographic map appears to be wrong at this point, or at least misleading. It shows the northern side of Mt Cole as being just a steepish incline whereas in fact it's a 70-odd-metre vertical cliff line. The location of the track is also open to interpretation, is it along the top of the mountain, in which case we missed it entirely yesterday, or along the bottom which means we came the right way for the most part but missed the entrance to the top of Monolith valley.


The 'view' from the base of the cliffs. No way to triangulate anything from here and all the cliffs look pretty much the same.
(Copyright © 2009 David Houlder)


Glen decides to head back and see if we missed anything, meanwhile I think the top of the nearest cliff might give us a position from which we can see something so I head up there.

After several minutes climbing and scrambling through the bush I emerge onto a rock clearing and see a cairn. Looking to the right I see what may be another cairn. It seems that there is a track here running approximately north-south.

I climb back down and tell the lads, Glen didn't have any luck so we decide to investigate my find further. We all climb back up the cliff, starting with our packs but dropping them at a difficult spot, if it pans out we'll come back for them.

At the top it's fairly obvious that there is some kind of marked way but where is it going? Glen is not convinced that it's of any use to us so we climb a bit higher to get a better view. We can see a valley that looks like it's going in the right direction, but it's only a hundred metres away and we certainly didn't see any navigatable route into it, it's possible it's a perched valley that just presents a cliff face to the track we've been on, and with a good 30m drop there's also no obvious way to get down into the valley from here.

Nevertheless it does seem to be our best option, we climb back down with a view to returning along the track and finding an entrance to the valley. When I reach my pack though I decide I can't resist taking some photos from the top so I grab my camera and climb back again, David waits by the packs and Glen heads off in search of the valley entrance.


Views of the Donjon. We climbed up from the base of it to see where the heck we are.


That's the entrance to Monolith Valley in the distance, it's just a couple of kilometres away but how do we get there? Mt Cole is on the right, Seven Gods Pinnacles just left of centre, we're supposed to be walking between the two.


A wider view.

By the time David and I catch up to Glen he's decided that there is no way into the valley, his GPS is not getting a signal so that's no help (Note: Never rely on this technology) so we elect to continue along the base of the cliff, if we are where we think we are then the cliff line should turn to the east before long then sharply south some time after that.

If this turns out to be the case then we're at the base of the Donjon, well out of our way but at least we would no longer be geographically embarrassed (read "lost").

More slogging along the cliff line, the cliff does indeed turn to the east and after another half hour or so we encounter the south-running cliff face. So now we know exactly where we are, at the base of the Donjon.

We should now be only 500 metres or so from the track on Mt Cole, normally a walker can barrel along at 5-6kph but in these conditions you measure your progress in metres per hour. That 500 metres could take a long time.

And it does, after 2 hours of climbing, descending and scrub-bashing up hills I hear "Track!" from Glen. What a welcome call.

A minute later I also emerge from the scrub onto a clear rock shelf and indeed there are two cairns and an obvious track leading off into the bush at each end of the clearing.


We break through the scrub and onto a rock ledge, saved.


Check out the shirt, that was a rough couple of hours :-)
(Both above copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)


Thank goodness, we're now within striking distance of Monolith Valley. But we're not there yet and still have to get through the valley and find somewhere to camp, so after a brief sugar hit and some congratulations to Glen for getting us out of the wilderness we continue along the newly found track.

NOTE: Glen is a wilderness guide from Tasmania, his nav skills are quite impressive and without him I'd probably still be there :-) I guess it's the training that makes the difference, I've done a fair bit of off-track navigating over the years and never been lost for very long, but I know that I have the "wishful thinking" gene which causes me to decide a gully is the one I'm looking for because I want it to be, regardless of the evidence. Glen looks at the facts and makes decisions accordingly.

Now we're just about half a kilometre from Monolith valley and another 1.5k to a campsite, all on a good track so it won't take long.


As we enter Monolith Valley the track passes through an amazing world that at first we call the 'Tolkein area'.


Then the valley opens out so we take a few quick photos. (Shrouded Gods Mountain in the background, Glen in the foreground.)


Shrouded Gods mountain with Seven Gods Pinnacles at the left.


Looking towards Nibelung Pass, that's the way to tonight's camp and I'm done with photos, I need to drop my pack.

I head off leaving Glen and David to take more photos, I just want to collapse somewhere and I'm not game to do so until I don't have to get up again. I press on through Nibelung Pass and drop my pack and my arse at The Saddle, I don't have the energy to make it to the official camping area at Cooyoyo, 500 metres away.


Finally we get to set up camp.


The weather closes in again but there's a great quality to the light.

Wed 21 Oct 2009

Today Glen and I have the unenviable task of walking down to the base of the Castle to collect more food. The walk is only about 3k each way but it's very steep and will take at least two hours to get down and another 4 to get back up to our camp. Add a hour to sort out stuff at the car and that's 7 hours just to pick up some food. I'm beginning to wish that we'd just carried the extra vittles, but that would have taken my pack to 35kgs which is weigh (sic) too much.

We leave David minding the camp, and with almost empty packs head down the mountain. Two hours later, right on cue, we emerge from the bush to see Chris and the car. She has prepared all sorts of food and I confess to making a pig of myself, something I later regret.

What a pleasure it is to sit in a real chair and drink something with taste.

Last night we decided that we're doing too much walking and not enough photography, so I floated the idea of exiting from Yadboro (that's were Glen and I are now) in a few days rather than spend 2-3 days just walking out. This eventually got the approval of the lads but I now need Chris to give the nod as it will mean a huge car shuttle. It's about 150k from here to the truck and we can only take one passenger at a time, so that means three 300k return trips for a total drive of about 900k.

Phew! That's a lot of driving and mostly on dirt roads so it will take at least all day and probably longer. Despite that the plan gets Chris's approval so we agree to meet here on Sunday at which time I'll go back to the truck while David and Glen will either camp here or stay up the mountain for another day. Either way we'll come and get them on Monday.

That decided we fill our packs with food, clean clothes etc and head off.


Sorting gear at Yadboro Flat, it's all got the be carried back up the mountain. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

My recent gluttony has an immediate affect as I can barely bend over enough to tie my boot laces, but the other problem is that my body is using a lot of energy metabolising two large bread rolls, several pieces of chicken, some bacon, nearly a litre of yogurt, a tumbler of apple juice, and whatever else I could get my hands on.

There's no energy left for a grueling uphill walk and I struggle even more than usual.

Four hours later I stumble into camp, Glen has been here for about 45 minutes (did I mention that he's younger and fitter than me?), it's been hot and I carried a couple of litres of water but that's gone now and I'm gagging for a nice long cool drink, however David has taken all the bladders to the nearby water source to fill them so I sit with my back on a rock and await his return.

The wait is not long and soon I've been watered and have fully recovered. That wasn't so bad after all, but I'm not volunteering to do it again.

Thu 22 Oct 2009

It's back into Monolith Valley today. The weather is not looking too promising but what else is new?


Still foggy, that's the side of Mt Nibelung from our campsite. Monolith Valley is up there in the fog.

The track in is very steep in places as the valley is actually perched between four mountains. From the south you gain access through Nibelung Pass, a narrow cleft between two of said mountains which mostly involves just some scrambling over rocks but at one point there is a thoughtfully-placed chain to help on a particularly difficult section.


This cliff is about 10 metres high, it's quite climable without help, but the chain is welcome. (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

We enter the valley to find a magical land shrouded in fog, this valley is usually likened to Jurassic Park by visitors, it's perched 400 metres above the surrounding country with access though just a couple of narrow passes, if a dinosaur wandered past you would not be at all surprised.

Today however T-Rex himself could sit right next to you in this dense fog and you'd barely notice. It is changeable though so we set ourselves up on a rocky outcrop and take photos as the visibility comes and goes.


Gerillas in the mist, David and Glen taking photos.


Two similar photos each showing Seven Gods Pinacles on the left and Shrouded Gods on the right.


Shrouded Gods slowly becomes unshrouded.


Some of the monoliths that give this valley its name.


Not much point standing up really.


Then again.


Nice shapes but that sky needs lightening a tad.


That's better I used the computer to bright things a little bit. I think I got away with it though, it's not that obvious.

Glen gets itchy feet after a while and he heads off to the spot we walked through the other day. David and I hang around for a bit longer then follow, catching up with him in an area called the Green Room.

If Monolith Valley proper is Jurassic Park then this area has to be Middle Earth. What a fantastic place of dark crevasses, massive sinewy tree roots snaking their way over moss-covered rocks, carpets of ferns and a huge natural arch (called the Natural Arch, go figure). We separate and proceed to take photos at a rate that would have boggled the mind (not to mention the wallet) a few years ago when we used film cameras.


Entrance to the Green Room, where on earth did they get that name?


Natural Arch.


Roots at the base of Natural Arch.


Same roots in 1994.


New and old versions. New version seriously cropped to get a similar field of view.



Middle Earth, if some of this looks familiar this is actually the track in from Mt Cole we walked down a couple of days ago.

Now the poor weather is working in our favour, in this type of environment bright sunlight is a show stopper as the brightness range between the shady and sunlit parts is way too great to capture. Technically you can do it using modern HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques but the results still have blotchy light and are always too 'busy' and confusing. You need what we used to call 'landscape light', which is to say bright overcast and as the fog appears to be lifting a tad that's exactly what we have.

Fri 23 Oct 2009



Dawn from the rock ledge near the Cooyoyo campsite.

Today was supposed to be the day we climb up onto the Castle, but somehow we just don't seem to be able to muster the energy. Fortunately the weather looks like taking a turn for the worse and as there is no point being up there if we can't see anything we have a valid excuse.


Relaxing on the rock ledge in the sun. That's Glen's solar panel on the left, he's recharging camera batteries (when David's head isn't shading the panel of course). (Copyright © 2009 Glen Turvey)

After several hours of sitting around convincing ourselves we made the right decision not to climb the Castle we then have something of a guilt trip and decide we should at least try to get some photos.

The nearby creek shows promise so we head down there.

As the sun is out I forget about getting any landscape-style photos and look for small subjects.


Some general closeup shots from the creek area.


A five-minute exposure of a swirling pool and stationary leaves.


Same pool, 30-second exposure. Note the red square.


Here is the detail from the red square area, there's a spider on the edge of the pool, having a drink?, waiting for prey to swim past?


A nice little fern fiddle.


Greenery on the side of a rock.

Sat 24 Oct 2009

Up early again to witness the dawn and are rewarded with another great display of wispy clouds and misty valleys.



Another great dawn display, the pimple on the horizon is Pigeon House Mountain, that's where the tourists go to experience the Budawangs.

We're walking out today, I have to because Chris is meeting me at Yadboro tomorrow but the lads can hang around here for another day if they choose. They don't choose because David heard the weather forecast on his MP3/radio gadget last night and storms are predicted.

We climb the 500 metres to the saddle, from here it's straight ahead to walk down Yadboro and the car, or turn right to walk back to Wog Wog via Monolith Valley, Mt Cole etc. That will take two days or more and the prospect of doing it in the rain doesn't thrill the lads so they head down the mountain as well. It will mean at least a day driving, but that has to be better than two days walking in the rain.

Within a few hundred metres we meet Paul, he's been camping up on the Castle and is also on his way down to Yadboro. In many respects he is the same as us, into photography, interested in outdoor education, loves being in the bush etc. But Paul is different in one very important way, he has a four-seater 4x4 parked down at Yadboro.

I can feel a plan coming on.


Looking down towards Kalianna Ridge.


Glen and David spot a photo, that's Mt Nibelung in the background.


The western side of the Castle.


Glen takes a shot from a favourite lunch ledge, Mt Nibelung in the background.

We all keep company on the walk until after a rest stop at a dry waterfall roughly half way down, at which point Glen and Paul make a break.

As we approach the park exit we see the back of the entrance sign.


Oops, got that wrong.

Note it reads "Mortn", I can just imagine the engraver slaving away over a hot router when his workmate taps him on the shoulder and says "Shouldn't that be 'tOn'?"

"Sht!"

We look at the other side and sure enough it reads "Morton National Park", how cheap is that, flipping the wood over and using the other side. Still at least the NPWS is not wasteful.

By the time David and I reach the Yadboro River the other two are eating lunch, we join them and between mouths full of muesli bar I suggest that Paul might like to camp at Wog Wog with the truck and have some home-made pizza. Of course I could probably give him directions but I feel it would be a lot easier if we show him the way. I don't think he twigged to my cunning ruse because the next thing I know we're all piling into his car.

The Western Distributor (a high-fallutin name for the dirt goat track that leads to the highway) is being closed at 2:30 this afternoon for a car rally and getting there in time will be touch and go.

As we approach the road we see a car parked across it and behind the car is some tape. Oh no, looks like we're too late. We approach the owner of the vehicle, he asks which way we're going and looks at his watch.

"You'll be right" he says and heads off to remove the tape. Glen spots the time on his watch, 2:27 it reads. That was close.

We drive along the Distributor for an hour, stopping a couple of times to talk with rally officials and eventually cross the finish line first. Another half hour gets us into Braidwood and its famous pie shop where we perform the obligatory post-Budawang-walk "eating of the pie" ceremony before buying pizza makings at the supermarket, texting Chris to warn her of our imminent arrival, and driving the last 40k to the Wog Wog campground and the truck.

It's good to be back and Chris is well relieved that we don't have to do that huge car shuttle.

Note: To see David's photos from the walk go to DavidHoulder.com. Glen also has a web site (GlenTurvey.com) but it's being rebuilt at present so the photos may not be there for a while.

Sun 25 Oct 2009

After topping up Paul's tank from one of our Jerry cans he leaves for Sydney and we leave as well. The plan is for the lads to drive ahead in the Jimny to the rest area we camped at a couple of weeks ago on the Shoalhaven River. As the weather is looking a bit ominous this will hopefully give David a chance to get his tent set up before it rains.

On the drive in though Chris and I decide that we may as well just continue all the way to Canberra, with the weather as it is we would be better off spending the evenings at David's house and he has already said that Glen can stay there until his plane leaves on Wednesday.

All the way to the rest area we're praying that David hasn't already set up his tent and we are relieved to see them both sitting in the car when we arrive.

They have been thinking along the same lines so we swap drivers/passengers and head off.

Chris will go ahead and drop David off at his place then meet Glen and I at the wetlands. She will then take Glen over to David's and come back for me. We will both return to David's where we can drink beer, eat pizza and generally post mortem the walk and look at some photos.

Mon 26 Oct 2009

I work on my walk photos for most of the morning then go over to David's where Glen has already got a preliminary slide show of his images.

Later I go to collect Chris and we bring a lasagne back for dinner, and more beer.

Tue 27 Oct 2009

Once again I spend the morning working on walk photos then go over to David's. This time David has a preliminary slide show and I've brought my laptop so I too can show a few pics.

No communal dinner today though because Chris has to visit freinds that are only available tonight and she needs the car.

Wed 28 Oct 2009

I'm up relatively early and drive across to David's to collect Glen. Another short drive and we're at the airport where I drop him off.

That's it then, the end of our Budawang adventure, but we're already planning a similar epic in the Karijini area in two winters time.

It certainly has been a good couple of weeks, just having the freedom to organise something like this is great, and the lads also reckon they're lucky to be able to come along as most people can't take two weeks off just for a bushwalk.

David polled all his usual bushwalking friends looking for another person for the trip but nobody could afford the time.

So what have I learned from all this? Well firstly I've decided that I normally eat way too much. For ten days I've had a cuppa-soup and a muesli bar for breakfast, maybe another muesli bar and some dried fruit for lunch, and a pasta packet meal for dinner with another cuppa-soup. That plus a liberal supply of sweets for energy has been my diet for ten days and I've never been hungry even though I've been working my arse off for most of those days. As a nice side affect I can now fit into some pants that just days ago would barely fit over my bum and when finally coerced into the journey refused to fasten.

Secondly, I don't actually enjoy walking with a backpack, I never have but that's the price you have to pay to visit some of these places.

Thirdly, I'm too old for this shit, no more walks for me, I need a beer.

Thu 29 Oct 2009

Hmmm, where can I walk next? Kosciuszko looks good, it's another of my old haunts and it's been beckoning for a few years. The trouble is it's so expensive to get into the park these days. I rather naively figured that an annual pass would be not much more than the $60 it was last time I bought one. Wrong! Try $190 per vehicle, and we have two vehicles.

Ouch, that's $380. Admittedly we could stay in the park for a year with those passes but that's a bit long even for us. I did plan to stay there for a month or so but that idea may have to be revised. Maybe we'll camp just outside the park somewhere and cop a few $16 day passes to drop me off and pick me up for my walks.

Another job to do while in a large city is to get new glasses so we book in for a test. I'm happy to report that we have no serious eye problems, just the usual getting older stuff and I finally relented and ordered some bi-focals.

That's it then, I'm now officially a bi-focal-wearing old fart.

Fri 30 Oct 2009

As I mention ad nauseam in these diaries we almost never pay for accommodation except in national parks (those that don't charge $380 that is) but there are times when being in a more secure environment is useful, like over the next few days when we'll be visiting many friends and therefore leaving the truck unattended for long periods. Also we could do with topping up our water and we have a load of washing to do, so today we book into the Canberra show grounds (aka Exhibition Park In Canberra or EPIC).


Camped in the Canberra showgrounds.

Wed 4 Nov 2009

We leave the show grounds and drive down to a spot we know on the Murrumbidgee River. On the way I fuel up as we'll be leaving Canberra soon to spend quite some time in the Kosciuszko high country and there are no service stations up there.

At around 2 o'clock I pull into the Murrumbidgee River spot, it's not a camp ground so there's a fair chance a ranger will have a go but we'll see how things turn out.

Thu 5 Nov 2009

So far so good, no rangers yet but we're probably on borrowed time so this morning we scout around for a better spot. There is an official campground not far away (Woods Reserve) but it's way too small for the truck and not even vaguely level. However we do find a reasonable place nearby and will probably move there soon, we had a few hoons around last night and it wasn't even the weekend so it probably makes sense to be somewhere quieter come Friday night when the lunatics are let loose.

Chris is off to do some shopping at the nearby Hyperdome shopping centre while I goof off and tinker with the computer.

Fri 6 Nov 2009

I've decided I will be doing some Kosciuszko walks over the next few weeks and therefore I need new maps so we drive into the Paddy Pallin shop in town.

While there I also want to look at the JetBoil stoves, Glen had one on the recent walk and both David and I were mightily impressed with it. I've been using a Trangia for over 20 years and it's been fine, but the mentholated spirits is a bugger to light when it's cold and it's very difficult to control the flame. This is annoying in the open but potentially dangerous when cooking inside the tent vestibule as is often required.

So I stand in front of the JetBoil display putting on my best hang-dog expression and fondling one of the stoves, all to no avail though as at $189 Chris is obviously not interested.

While out and about we decide to cruise around some old haunts of ours. It's interesting to see that the gardens we built in the three houses we lived in are still largely as we made them, the trees have just grown up.

For a few hours we drive around to the sound of comments like "That's where that dickhead who sold us the Pajero lived", "Jee the foreshore's changed", "Remember when we had to drive all the way to Woden because there weren't any local shops?" etc.

I guess that's what they call "Having a history".

Sat 7 Nov 2009

Joe Cali, a photographer friend of mine, is visiting today but before he arrives we want to move from here as there's just too many people for our liking. So we take the truck out to the spot we found the other day.

Joe arrives and Chris leaves to visit her Mum. Joe and I yak all day about cameras, telescopes, vacuum pumps, spectrum analysers and such, as you do.

Sun 8 Nov 2009

What a nice spot, it's lovely and quite with views to the hills, no yahoos and almost no traffic. We should have moved here days ago.


Camped just off the road near Tharwa.

Mon 9 Nov 2009

After looking at two of the above walk photos, specifically the one of the Trangia stove on fire and the one of me cooking inside the tent, Chris put 2 and 2 together and decided it might be better for me to have a JetBoil stove rather then burn my tent down. So today I get one from a nearby camping store.

I've never been a big fan of carrying gas in steel containers when bushwalking but in the end it doesn't weigh any more than a Trangia + metho, it's a lot easier to use and more compact (all the above packs into the cooking pot) as well, so now I'm a convert.

Apart from that small piece of excitement I spend most of the day backing files onto DVD as I realised that I haven't done so for many weeks or even months.

Tue 10 Nov 2009

One more day around civilization then we're off to visit friends at Yaouk (pron. yi-ack), a locality a couple of hours drive south from here on the edge of the Namadgi National Park. Once again we probably won't have any reception for the next week or two so this seems like a good spot to wrap up this chronicle.

 

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