Time of writing: 10:15am 6 July
Perhaps it was because I was asleep by 7:00p last night or perhaps it was the cold. But I was up at 4:00am and couldn’t get back to sleep. As it was, hitting the trail at 6:30am was good because it allowed me to catch the 7:45am train to Wondabyne instead of having to wait until 8:50am. On my way to the station, I met four Oxfam Trailwalker teams out training and at least three more teams got off the train I boarded.
The walk from Wondabyne to Scopas Peak was stunning! It crossed big rock flats that gave out huge views of the Mooney Mooney Creek and surrounding hills. Sometimes it was like walking on an alien planet, especially after Mt Scopas.
I’m sitting on the banks of an unnamed creek that is flowing across a rock slab. My guide book says it is intermittent so there must have been plenty of rain recently to make it flow this quickly. I love how the water has cut holes and clefts into these rocky creeks. It makes for pretty viewing and unique gurgling.
A father and daughter just walked past. They too are Newcastle-bound. But they’re doing the walk one day walk at a time. I’ve seen their names in the registration books along the way. They told me they swam across Calna Creek at Crosslands and that it was cold. That was in early June before the rains that flooded the track through the swamp lands. They also said that the only way to Patonga is train to Woy Woy and then taxi to Patonga. I’m glad I decided to just travel north from Wondabyne.
The birds today have been plentiful. Mostly big green lorikeets and honey eaters. Their chirping is a pleasant break from the hum of the nearby F3. And they don’t seem afraid of me either. They just watch an arm’s length away then continue eating the nectar of the bright orange banksia flowers.
Time of writing: 3:49pm 6 July
I’ve been at camp since 1:00pm. My early departure from Brooklyn Dam also caused me to arrive hear early. The easy flat walking these past 4km along Mooney Mooney Creek and the flat 2km along Piles Creek before that also helped. It was tempting to push on to the next camp about 4km down the track but I am already a day ahead of schedule and that would mean I miss a night here in the Mooney Mooney Valley.
Mooney Mooney Creek is a muddy tidal creek with swampy surrounds. In some ways it’s like the lower end of Bayview Conservation Park back home but on a grander scale. Much of the track is muddy; fortunately, my shoes have been drying well overnight. I am long past avoiding the mud and water; it’s far easier to just plough through.
Before I entered the Mooney Mooney section of the trail, I passed two guys whose car was bogged in mud on a gravel road under the F3 bridge. At first, I was intimidated by them (they were rough-looking guys) but as I walked I thought it wrong to leave them without trying to help so I walked back. Two kayakers in a van also went to try help. The guys with the van towed the car while I pushed and the second guy from the bogged car sat in the back of the van to add weight and traction. It worked so we all went on our ways again.
The campsite is a small clearing next to the track. Just behind is a wet swamp with pools of water. Mooney Mooney Creek is below a bank on the other side of the track. Everything here is damp and it was difficult to find a dry flat spot for my tent. Ultimately, I chose somewhere more dry than flat. Above me are towering blue gums. They are amazing. Earlier, their big white trunks and branches almost glowed under the blue sky. Now they are changing in character as darkness falls, making them less mystical and more skeletal in appearance. They make this campsite. Down at ground level there are lots of ferns. They form a foot high carpet around the edges of the campsite and offer some shelter from the cold air coming off the swamp.
The swamp is teeming with life. Frogs croak to each other. Some have short sharp calls while others are more throaty. Birds twitter around in the ferns and shrubs. They are small birds who seem to thrive in this moist and enclosed place. Earlier, a group of yellow breasted birds with grey wings and backs checked me out. They were at camp when I arrived and have only left as the sun’s rays have started to become weak. They flitted around, landing on my tent and the nearby log.
The air is cold here tonight. I have all my clothes on including my rain pants (well, not my stinky walking clothes but everything else). It’d be okay except my feet are cold. My camp socks just aren’t doing their job. Perhaps the Somersby Store will randomly sell warm socks tomorrow.
As I arrived at camp an older man appeared from the opposite direction. He had walked from somewhere up near Newcastle way but was calling it quits. It seems many people start this walk but fail to finish. On my first day, a young guy told me he quit (“bitched it” to be precise) at Somersby and caught a train home from Gosford. I’ve also read more online stories of people stopping than those who finish. I wonder whether it is the ease with which you can escape the track on public transport or by car that makes this reality. At the end of a day, when you’re tired and sore, it’s easy to wonder why you’re doing this as a through walk instead of as a series of day hikes. I think the constant proximity to urban life is also a challenge. For example, tonight and last night the sound of the F3 dominates. So you walk all this way to escape the hustle and bustle only to hear it more than you would at home. It’s an interesting conundrum really. Because the walk is so visually diverse and stunningly beautiful. It is physically demanding. During the day, you don’t hear the F3 because you’re engrossed in walking or you’re listening to creeks. But at night, when the birds retire and the air is still, the sound of the cars and trucks is quite overwhelming. It’s a constant white roar. To be honest, I was prepared for it to some extent but it’s still quite discombobulating.
Though I’m not complaining. It’s nice to have the trail and campsites mostly to myself. So far I’m the only through-walker who I’ve seen in the registration book with dates back to May. Many have walked sections and some are walking the whole trek over a series of day walks. But none have registered as end-to-enders in a through-walking sense.
Shortly, I’ll cook tea and dessert. Maybe I’ll have a cup of tea too. Then I think it’ll be another early night. Tomorrow will be quite a long day to Palm Grove. But hopefully Somersby Store will be open so I can have a burger, chips and chocolate milk.
Time of writing: 6:19pm 6 July
As I sit here under the stars listening to a tiny trickle of water to my right and the frogs singing their songs. I can’t help but think about how this trip is like two others I’ve taken in the past.
In 2002, Dad and I cycled 1,600km (1,000 miles) from the tiny Outback town of Birdsville to our home in Brisbane. It took us 15 days and was one of my favourite trips. Every day we just rode. We encouraged each other. Shared the highs like getting through the sand dunes or reaching the sealed road or whooping down the mountains from Toowoomba. We got through the lows like my achilles tendonitis or the near constant head winds. But it was the little things that made the trip. The local who told us we were mad. The endless salt plain with a head wind. The sight of a clump of bushes that told us there was a creek ahead. Not to mention our support crew: Mum, Oma and Suwati. They fed, encouraged and cheered us the whole 1,000 miles.
Then, in 20090-10 I spent nine weeks traveling on my motorbike through south-eastern Australia. I explored Outback NSW, the Snowy Mountains, the Victorian deserts, the Great Ocean Road and Tasmania. It was a solo trip punctuated by visits to people I’d met on an online gardening forum I used to be on. Like the Birdsville to Brisbane bicycle ride, the highlights of my motorbike trip will always be the small things. The crow at the summit of Mt Kosciusko. The night by the campfire at Ben Lomond. The mountain hut at Mt Hotham. The sunset on my first south-facing beach in Victoria’s Gipsland. The hospitality of strangers.
Sometimes, it’s time to be quiet away from the jumble of the world that helps ground us to our souls. To some, this trip might seem like good training for adventure racing. To me, adventure racing is good training so I can take trips like this for my soul. I hope I don’t need to wait 3-5 years between drinks at the soul well in future.
Total: 17km with 25kg pack
- porridge with fruit and nuts
- chocolate chip cookie
- 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with chocolate spread
- fruit puree
- 2 x Milo bars
- Organic Food bar
- lamb Vindaloo
- bbq beef
- semolina pudding
- hot chocolate pudding