Time of writing: 6:19am 8 July
One of the nice things about ridge top campsites is that you can watch the sun rising. Down in the deeper valleys, all you see is the sky slowly getting lighter with no sign of the warming red ball. But here on the ridge, I can see the horizon starting to glow through the trees. Behind me, to the west, the sky is still a deep navy blue. But from about 70′ above the horizon, the sky is starting to get gradually paler until the last 30′ where there is a bright band of colour. First, at the top, there’s a peach coloured band of light. Then, light orange before a central puddle of dark orange directly to my east where the sun will rise to warm the day. As it rises, the sun’s light makes it possible to distinguish the leaves and branches of the trees, which, just a few moments ago, were just bogs of black against the dark sky. These final minute before the dawn are always the coldest. It’s almost as though the cold fingers of night want to punish us for wishing the darkness away and celebrating the daylight hours. In the distance, I can hear kookooburras sing their morning song. This means it will be light within the quarter hour.
Oh, there we go, the tops of the trees are turning from black to green. See, the sun itself is rising behind a thick grove of trees so I can only see the periphery of the dawn not the birth of the sun itself. But the leaves of the trees above me are now slowly becoming green against the lightning sky. It’s starting from up high but with every passing second more are changing colour.
At ground level too the dawn is showing. I can now make out the long green grasses waving in the breeze. I can see the leaf litter is brown and can just start writing without my headlamp. To my right (uphill from here), the taller trees are now topped with brown branches, not the black limbs of night. Lorikeets just flew by, chirping as they went. And now more birds are calling. A new day has begun. Though it is still just day break.
Time of writing: 6:59pm 8 July
So much for that rest day I was going to have today. Despite not leaving camp until 8:00am, I made it to Archer’s Camp at 10:20am, having covered 11km. It seemed ridiculous to stop and I was feeling strong. But continuing meant committing to a 33km day because the next campsite was on the other side of Yarramalong by 14km and I was still 11km from Yarramalong. I decided to push on.
I spent much of today walking along roads. Within 1km of leaving camp I came to Ourimbah Valley Track Head and followed a gravel road (Ourimbah Creek Road) through the valley past the massive Hidden Valley Equestrian Ranch, complete with cros country hose riding course and lots of pretty horses.
At the end of the road, the track continued along the banks of the Ourimbah Creek to Stringybark Point bush camp. Boy am I glad I didn’t go there for a camp! It was cold, miserable, wet and there was frost on the ground. Perhaps it is delightful in summer but it’s definitely not a winter camp.
The trail climbed steeply from Stringybark to Archers before becoming fire trail. I ran the downhills and walked the rets give than I had decided to push on past Yarramalong. It wasn’t just the food from the shop that was driving me; it was a desire to get the boring road parts of the walk done so I can enjoy my last few days in the bush.
The walk from Archers to Greta Road passed through some pretty country, including a beautiful mossy little creek. But it was also largely functional and ugly, especially once it hit the power lines and roads. Anyone who has done the Queensland leg of the Adventure Race Australia series in either 2012 or 2013 can probably attest to how undelightful power line tracks are: they are just tough and unrelenting. Here, the track wasn’t even a nice vehicle track; it was a rough single track that went straight down without so much as a considerate swerve around washouts or weeds.
From the power lines, the trail again turned into the bush following an old dray track from timber-getting years long gone. This was quite pretty with rock cliffs, tall trees and pretty brown leaf litter.
Then, the gastronomic highlight of my day: works burger and chips at Yarramalong Store. For those not familiar with works burgers, they are hamburgers with the lot: meat patty, onions, tomato, lettuce, bacon, egg, cheese, beetroot, pineapple and bbq sauce. It was huge and I couldn’t quite get through it all. Nor the massive bowl of hot chips with yummy chicken salt. I didn’t wash it down with chocolate milk though; just Powerade. After hiking 19km, I really needed some electrolyte action. Though I did buy a 220g block of peppermint chocolate, which is almost gone.
The Yarramalong Valley is a scenic and friendly place. I’m not sure that this fact quite compensates for the long 10.5km hike along the main road with no verge. I smashed it out on 2hrs 20 mins including a 15 minute chat with a race horse breeder and trainer. While the march (for it was more a march than a walk) was tough (I was covering 3.5km every 35 minute session), the valley was beautiful and would make for lovely postcard subject-matter. I used this section of the walk to practice my map reading. I’d stop every so often to compare where I thought I was and then confirm it by picking the next feature I should pass. I’ve been doing this all week. But with this quick march I was able to really focus on the navigation.
It was a long 2km climb to camp. While the sign at the trailhead said 21km, I think my maps more accurately show the distance as 3 – 3.5km. I almost thought I’d somehow missed camp when the trail finally climbed the ridge to meet the fire trail that led me to a large walkers’ rest area.
This pretty ridge-top rest area is also the first campfire legal spot I’ve camped since Ridge Top where I was with the Duke of Edinborough people. And I’m making the most of it. It’s 8:00pm and my journal entry is taking so long because I keep playing with and staring at the flames. It’s so lovely to be warm after some early nights escaping the cold by retiring just after dark. Though I am super tired after my 33km day so I’m not sure how long I’ll last. I’ve done my stretching, eaten a cold meal (I was too fatigued to cook) and planned tomorrow’s hike (a short day to Basin Creek campsite, which is meant to be really nice).
I just noticed that I can’t hear the F3 anymore. This is the first night of true quiet.
Total: 32km with 18-22kg pack
- porridge with fruit and oats
- Organic Food bar
- apple and cinnamon bar
- fruit puree
- 220g peppermint chocolate
- works burger and hot chips
- 6 x Vita Wheat crackers and sweet chili tuna