Category Archives: Bushwalking

Walking tour guide

Playing hide & go seek by Andrew Gills
Playing hide & go seek, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

My uncle is visiting from Holland. He is staying with my parents who live near my home. So this morning we met at 5:20am at my house for a bushwalk in Bayview (my new favourite place in the world).

A thick white fog hung over the grass field as finches sung contently all around. Once in Bayview we wandered the single trails, winding our way between the trees and hopping across gullies.

I practiced speaking Dutch to my uncle (I need all the practice I can get) and tried to find the flattest route for him. See, while our hills in Bayview are low by most people’s standards (the highest hill we walked up today is just 62m above sea level), they are high by Dutch standards because that country is flat. I think my uncle will feel his calves tomorrow but I know he enjoyed the walk.

Total: 7.8km trail walk

Great North Walk: Post script from Stockton Beach

My footsteps in the sand in Awabakal lands

My footsteps in the sand in Awabakal lands

Time of writing: 8:00pm 14 July

As I lay here in my tent for my final night before returning home, I can’t help but look back on the highlights of the past two weeks. It already seems so far away; it’s odd how that happens.

I think the thing that’s touched me most are the people I’ve met along the way:

  • the artist lady and her children who reminded me to keep an eye out for animals and birds
  • the fitness walkers in Lane Cove who wished me well
  • the father with his children who kept me company that first day when I was quite anxious about whether I’d make it to the finish
  • the Duke of Edinborough group who welcomed me around their campfire
  • the Christian missionaries who left me with such a sense of peace
  • the cyclist who took me to water
  • the Scout leader who shared a yarn with me when I was lonely
  • the teenage boy who insisted I take $3 in change because he thought what I was doing in taking on the GNW was inspiring (I am going to donate the money towards my Cycling for Hope challenge)
  • the wounded warrior camped next to me at Stockton Beach who gave so much for my freedom (I hope he finds peace for he is only my age but has paid a heavy physical and emotional price)
  • the man camped on the other side of me who I only met tonight but who offered me a lift to the airport (I politely declined because I have to leave early in the morning)
  • all the other people who’ve taken the time to stop and chat as our paths have crossed.

The journey has been intensely physical but also deeply spiritual. Everyday I have spoken to the elders past to tell them why I was traveling through their land and to offer my respect. Everyday I made time for prayer. Today I bought some simple prayer cards from a church of another denomination from mine. I spoke with the good people there and they gave me an extra card: A Blessing for Travelers. I will keep the prayer in my heart and will also wish it on others who take a journey on or off the road:

Loving and gracious God, you always show mercy to those who love you, and you are never far away from those who seek you.

Remain with your servants as they travel far from home, and guide their way by the light of your Word.

Shelter them with your protection by day, given them the light of your grace by night, and as their companion on their journey, bring them to their destination in safety.

May they see your face in everyone they meet, and know the depth of your love on every road they walk.

At the end of their journey, may they return home once again with renewed faith and hearts full of joy.

On this journey I learned that if I just put one foot in front of the other and don’t give up, then, even with a heavy load and rest stops, I will get to my destination. It might not go according to plan and plans might change. But that’s just par for the course. And the most magical moments occur when my heard is open to hear what my ears cannot.

The End

(for the Great North Walk story)

Total: 16km walking around Newcastle over two days

Links

Great North Walk Day 11 (12 July): Watagan Forest Motel to Finish at Queen’s Wharf, Newcastle

Ready to head out into the cold pre-dawn for the final time

Ready to head out into the cold pre-dawn for the final time

Time of writing: 3:22pm 13 July

While I toyed with the idea of braking the final 41km down into two days, the reality is that it was never going to happen. I could either hike 15km to Teralba and spend $40 on a crap caravan park site, or I could hie to Teralba and catch a train to Newcastle for the night before catching a train back the next day to finish off the hike. Neither was an appealing prospect, so a marathon day it was.

I set off long before dawn, excited about reaching the end. Not because I’d had a bad time (I had a fantastic time) but because I was ready to return to the world.

The world was shrouded in thick fog as I walked out of the Watagan Forest Motel. My head lamp illuminated the little beads of water in the air, making navigation a challenge. The lack of signage and multitude of 4WD and dirt bike tracks compounded the challenge. But, as always, the guide book by Wild Walks was spot on and got me out of a few jams (the map kit has been hopeless in this northern section).

As I reached the ridge that would take me to Wakefield the sun started to rise ahead of me. My final dawn on the trail. I will miss the break of day on the trail the most. The possibilities of the sun’s rise are endless.

Once the sun was up, I descended into Wakefield. Oh boy! The road was dangerously busy with limited shoulders and invisible corners. I had to rely solely on my ears to cross and walk along the road. Urgh! The 7km from Wakefield Road to Teralba were terrifying. First, I had to walk through about 2km of road construction with machinery going everywhere and some stupid directions from road workers (really, you want me to walk behind the reversing plant because there might be cars on the road who are driving forwards and would actually be able to see me? Okay. If you say so. And yes, I am walking to Newcastle. That’s what those Great North Walk signs are all about people).

Roadworks cleared, I turned right onto Rhonda Road. There is no shoulder on most of this road, which leads past a busy quarry. I’d come through blind corners, praying no truck was hurtling the other way and then trying to balance in the steep roadside drop if they did. If you are doing the GNW, try to organise a lift to avoid this section. I wished I had. It was not fun or safe at all.

Teralba wasn’t much. Just an industrial town perched on Lake Macquarie. But once across Five Island Bridge, things improved greatly.

Lake Macquarie from Speers Point

Lake Macquarie from Speers Point

Speers Point Park was delightful. It was a vast open grassy space overlooking Lake Macquarie. A group of women were running and jumping under the guidance of a personal trainer. I couldn’t help but notice that I’ve never seen anyone smiling or fit-looking (as in toned and athletic, not the British use of the term “fit”) in a personal training class. Think I’ll stick to hiking and cycling myself.

The chip butty (I couldn't eat it all because it was so big)

The chip butty (I couldn’t eat it all because it was so big)

At Warner’s Bay, I treated myself to a chip butty. I had a massive serve of hot chips and bbq sauce on a hamburger roll with a slab of butter slathered on it. I’d covered 22km with just 19km to go and it was still only 10am.

The big sign at Charlesworth that brougth me almost to tears

The big sign at Charlesworth that brougth me almost to tears

From Warners Bay it was a long 7km to Charlesworth Trackhead. It was the most difficult section of the day (roadside walk not-withstanding). But I got through it and found myself almost overcome with emotion when I reached the trackhead near a huge Great North Walk sign next to the Pacific Highway. I wonder how strange I looked to those drivers as I sat trying to hold back tears of emotion near the sign.

View from Leichardt's Lookout

View from Leichardt’s Lookout

The final 9km were beautiful! First, I went to Leichardt’s Lookout overlooking Glenrock Lagoon.

Burwood Beach in the direction of my travel

Burwood Beach in the direction of my travel

Burwood Beach

Burwood Beach looking the other way (south)

Then down to Burswood Beach, which I followed north for 2km around a rocky point to the Merewether Baths. The soft sand was simultaneously soothing and challenging to walk through. But it was such a treat.

Newcastle surfer

Newcastle surfer

Then, I put my shoes back on to walk on the roadside paths along Dixon and Rocky Beaches, watching the surfers as I went. I almost didn’t even notice the final climb up the headland before the finish (though I’m not sure why we had to walk up in a loop around the obelisk).

Look, I walked 250km

Look, I walked 250km

And then, as simply as that, I was standing at Queen’s Wharf looking at a sign that said Sydney Cove was 250km away. I tried to take a selfie at the sign and a kind girl took a photo for me before trotting off to return to her friend.

Celebratory dinner

Celebratory dinner

A short ferry ride and a kilometre or so walk later I was at Stockton Beach Holiday Park. After a quick visit to the grocery shop and bottle shop, a shower and shave, a phone call home, a steak dinner cooked in the camp kitchen, and a bottle of sweet cider I was asleep in my tent.

There will be more adventures. But first I need to reflect on and process this one. There’s things I need to change in my life. Priorities that need to shit. Attitudes to be adjusted. Lessons to be implemented.

But no one can take away the adventure I’ve just had.

Total: 42.5km hike with 15kg pack

Links

Great North Walk Day 10 (11 July): Barraba Trig bush camp to Watagan Forest Motel

Checking the map

Checking the map

Time of writing: 10:37am 11 July

Fatigued at Hunters Lookout

Fatigued at Hunters Lookout

My body and mind are totally exhausted. I just want a shower, clean clothes and a soft bed. I’ve never been this long on a hike and the novelty has warn off. Mind you, it’s taken until Day 10.

View from Hunter Lookout

View from Hunter Lookout

I’m at Hunter Lookout just past Watagan HQ. The view is superb! Mountains enclose a massive green valley on three sides. To the south-west, clouds still hang low, wafting out of a hidden valley’s mouth.

Sunrise from the trail

Sunrise from the trail

View from the trail near Barraba Trig bush camp

View from the trail near Barraba Trig bush camp

I’ve already walked 13km this morning. The Scouts weren’t even awake yet when I left. The first hour of my walk was beautiful. I walked along leaf littered ridges with stunning views. I watched the sun rise over the valley and hills, lighting the world. Then came a long arduous and dull slog along vehicle tracks to Watagan HQ. Once there I dumped all my excess food and rubbish in the bin to lighten the load on my back. I think I managed to drop about 3kg.

There’s really nothing at Watagan HQ so I have walked here to the lookout. There’s a water tank here so I’ve boiled up 800m: half for a cup of tea and half for sports drink once it cools. I want to get some extra fluids into me because I’m a bit dehydrated, which is adding to my mood slump. I want to get to Watagan Forest Motel and shop today. Then I’ll decide whether to camp in the park or to push on for 15km to Teralba. Given that the shop is said to sell hot food, I imagine I’ll dine there and camp one final night because 42km might be a big day. But I have my race mode on now, so anything could happen.

Time of writing: 6:14am 13 July

I was too tired to write once I got to Watagan Forest Motel. It had been a huge day of hiking. So I rented a room for the night, surfed the internet on my phone, spoke with my partner and watched television. It was just what I needed.

View from McLeans Lookout

View from McLeans Lookout

So, how was my walk that day? Long and tough with stunning sections. Not far from Hunters Lookout was McLeans Lookout. The views here were of a similar area but just slightly more northerly. I could see a communications tower way off in the distance and cliff-lined mountains. Little did I know that I would be hiking all that way and then some. Nope, I just looked at the view in awe. I also finally learned how to use the panorama feature on my camera.

Jungle creek

Jungle creek

From the lookout I fully expected to be walking fire trails all the way to Heatons Lookout. But the trail can be sneaky. Instead of a hard march I found myself dropping down a single track into the jungle. And oh what a jungle it was. It lived and breathed with the intensity of a crazed but well-meaning lunatic. Creeks flowed quickly. Waterfalls rushed. Strangler vines grabbed and tangled me and the path. Cliffs were surrounded bu fallen boulders that held no moss. Massive trees littered and blocked the path, creating an overs-and-unders obstacle course. Mud sucked at my shoes. It was glorious to be surrounded by such vibrance.

GNW registration book tube

GNW registration book tube

I sloshed, limboed, slipped, scrambled and picked my way through the jungle for hours. Bell birds heralded my passing. Whip birds went about the business of calling for their mates. Creeks ran clear through mossy gorges. The scent of the rain forest was dense and intensely earthy.

Views from Heatons Lookout

Look at the mileage

Look at the mileage

And then, as quickly as I had entered the jungle, I popped back out at Heatons Lookout. There, splayed out to my south and east were the coastal lakes (Macquarie Lakes) and the ocean. It was difficult to imagine that I’d be walking all the way from the lookout down to the sea off in the distance. Some school students on holidays were cooking sausages at the lookout and offered me one. Best sausage sandwich ever! But then, I was famished.

Views from Heatons Gap Lookout

Views from Heatons Gap Lookout

Feeling good again at Heatons Gap Lookout

Feeling good again at Heatons Gap Lookout

From the lookout I made my way down to Heatons Gap and the Watagan Forest Motel. After a meat pie, two chicken sticks and some sort of chocolate protein milk drink I decided to rent a room and live it up for the night. Well, living it up is relative. The Watagan Forest Motel is probably 2.5 stars quality but is clean, friendly, had a bed and shower, and free laundry with drier. So I washed my clothes, showered and slept without being cold.

Total: 26km hike with 15-18kg pack

Food

  • beef and vegetable soup
  • semolina pudding
  • 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles Happy Cow cheese
  • Organic Food bar
  • 2 x museli bars
  • sausage on bread
  • fruit puree
  • meat pie
  • 2 x chicken sticks
  • 2 x chocolate bars

Links

Great North Walk Day 9 (10 July): Basin campsite to Barraba Trig bush camp

This is what life's about

This is what life’s about

Time of writing: 8:08pm 10 July

What a day! 36km of diverse and tough hiking under my belt. I left camp in darkness and made camp in darkness, but what a day in between. A day of highs and lows. Of rainforest, lookouts and roads.

GNW trail marker in the bush

GNW trail marker in the bush

The first few kilometres out of Basin camp took me back through the rainforest I walked in through yesterday. The rainforest was dense and I often had to crawl under fallen trees or step through strangler vines. At 6:30am, the sun had not yet penetrated the jungle so I walked by torchlight until the grey light of dawn outshone the artificial beam. With overcast skies and the remnants of last night’s rain all around, I was soon covered in sweat from the humidity.

View from the ridge near Mt Warrawolong

View from the ridge near Mt Warrawolong

Walking along the ridge

Walking along the ridge

More ridgetop views

More ridgetop views

It was a stiff climb out of the Wollombi Brook Valley up to the ridges I would follow all the way to Mt Warrawolong. The campsites up on these ridges were lovely. First, there was a spot at the end of Kangaroo Point Road that would be a nice open spot but is obviously frequented by 4WDers (I can’t imagine walkers carrying beer bottles and the rubber gloves really had me scratching my head). I then crossed a narrow ridge just before Mt Warrawolong from which I had AMAZING views across the mountains and valleys on both sides. Clouds hung in the valleys, making the peaks look like islands. The ridge was definitely a high point for the day.

The awful dirt bike destroyed descents from Mt Warrawolong were one of the lows. It took ages because the track was so rutted, slippery and eroded. I’m glad I didn’t push on to Watagan Creek bush camp because it wasn’t much and also showed the signs of improper use, such as litter and broken glass.

View from Flat Rock

View from Flat Rock

From Watagan Creek I crossed some pretty cow paddocks to climb up to Flat Rock Lookout. I don’t know what it is about hiking through fields of green dotted with cattle that I find so pleasant. But I do, so that’s just that. The hike up to Flat Rock was stiff but the views from the lookout were FANTASTIC! I could see the whole Congewai Valley laid out before me, including most of the 19km path to Barraba Trig where I would be camping. There’s something magical about seeing where you will be traveling. And something awesome about knowing that you will descend a mountain, cross a valley and climb just as high on the other side.

At Flat Rock Lookout I turned on my phone and had service for the first time in a week. It was so good to be able to share the view with my partner. I am rather homesick and missing her now. I don’t miss my house but I do so miss her. On my Tassie trip over the summer I need to work out a way to speak with her regularly. I also randomly found a pile of stick magazines the loggers had left behind. I guess they are something the next visitor can enjoy.

The walk down to Congewai Valley was largely uneventful. There were some glimpses of views to the left but mostly I just pushed on the 8km to the valley road.

The Congewai Valley

The Congewai Valley

Unlike Cedar Brush Rd a couple of days ago, the Congewai Valley Road was relaxing and easy to walk. The whole valley had a sense of security and calm about it. I met a local mountain biker who pointed me to a running creek about 150m in the wrong direction where I could get water (I was running low and didn’t want to rely on the advertised water tank ahead). The mountain biker told me that two to three days ago he gave two walkers a lift to Cessnock because they quit the hike. They were only carrying 600ml bottles each and refused to drink from creeks. I’m glad they quit the walk because 600ml water carrying capacity isn’t enough to survive a walk like this, especially when you refuse to refill them at creeks (there are no taps for most of the walk).

From Congewai Valley Road I hiked up to Barraba Trig. This was a challenging push coming at 31km and right on dusk. It was good to reach the top of the spur and follow it to camp. During those final 2 – 3km on the spur I watched the sun set over the valley and mountains I’d spent the afternoon walking through. The old wood cutters’ hut on the spur creeped me out as I walked past. It hulked in the darkness and its derelict nature made it feel threatening.

The first informal campsite I came to had amazing views over the lights of Cessnock and Singleton. Unfortunately, there was a car, some old caravans and lots of rubbish lying around. I will never understand why bush car campers are so darn disgusting and messy.

Just 150m further I came to Barraba Trig bush camp. This delightful spot between the grass trees already had some guests: a group of four Scouts and their adult leader. I added my tent to the mix on the other side of the track. I introduced myself to the adult leader so that he could rest easier with a stranger camped nearby. We talked a while about Scouts and hiking.

Look what I discovered at camp

Look what I discovered at camp

Now I am in my tent writing as I listen to the Scouts talking and laughing in their tents just like our Scout troop do at home. It’s a far cry from the joombies of Basin campsite last night who were over 100m away up the hill but played their music so loud it sounded like it was a disco inside my tent. They had a generator, massive audio system and a chainsaw they kept using. Mind you, the music was pretty good and I did enjoy hearing tunes for the first time in over a week.

Total: 36km with 18-22kg

Food

  • beef and gravy
  • lamb with rosemary
  • porridge with fruit and nuts
  • oat bar
  • Milo bar
  • apricot bar
  • Organic Food bar
  • fruit puree
  • 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles of Happy Cow cheese
  • hot chocolate custard

Links

Great North Walk Day 8 (9 July): Walkers Rest north of Cedar Brush Trackhead to Basin campsite

Loving life

Loving life

Time of writing: 4:33pm 9 July

Oh what a luxurious day! It started with a sleep in, followed by a short 8km walk and then more sleeping. I could just stop there and maintain the laziness but you know I won’t.

I finally got the ground cold problem sorted the other night at Palm Grove, so I made the most of the relative comfort this morning. Firstly, I put my wet weather gear and towel under my sleeping mat as extra insulation. Then I put my pack and food bags inside my tent as a barrier to stop me slipping off the insulation and mat. It worked so well that I stayed warm all night, even through the rain showers. Going to bed warm from the fire probably helped too. I don’t know why I didn’t think about using my wet weather gear as insulation sooner. I mean, I use my motorbike jacked and pants the same what when I go motorbike camping.

With just 8km to walk and rainfall pitter-pattering on my tent, I stayed snuggled up inside my sleeping bag until well after 7:30am. Even then, I had to forcibly drag myself from bed. Once up, I had a random breakfast of cinnamon beef noodle soup and hot chocolate custard before setting off after the rain had stopped.

Morning on the trail

Morning on the trail

For the first hour or so, the trail followed a ridge-top fire trail through open eucalypt and cedar forest. There were no views but plenty of birds and evidence of feral pigs and dogs (including a massacred bird). Fortunately, the authorities have set baits to kill the dogs.

At Walkers Ridge Road things got a bit confusing. The GNW signs pointed me down a single track carved by dirt bikes but my guide book said to follow the road. I decided to follow the guide book’s instructions because they made more sense (given where I was heading) than the signs. The guide book was spot on and I soon found another GNW sign only to go wrong at a large unsigned intersection. After following what I thought was the track for about 200m, I again consulted the guide and retraced my steps to try a different path. This time the book was more accurate than the map (the book has GPS-generated maps while the topographic map kit just has some lazy straight lines). After pacing 400m from the intersection, as instructed by the book, I came to another GNW sign so knew I was in the correct spot.

Do you see the trail?

Do you see the trail?

Into the rainforest

Into the rainforest

Tiny mushrooms (smaller than my pinkie finger)

Tiny mushrooms (smaller than my pinkie finger)

The trail wound downhill through rainforest to Wollombi Brook before traveling to Basin campground. The forest floor smelled earthy and moist, the rotting leaves and branches highly scented. Small mushrooms of red, pink, yellow, white and purple dotted the ground. They sprung up out of the nooks and crannies between rocks, roots and man-made steps. I imagine the people who lived here before knew exactly which were safe and delicious to eat (I left them alone).

Time of writing: 5:53pm 9 July

Cooking dinner

Cooking dinner

So the mention of food reminded me to check on my fish curry rice, which I had been cooking on the fire. It was finally ready after bubbling away for about 35 minute. It’s a dish that I concocted using the dried fish from the Asian section of my grocer. Other than the rice being impractical to cook on a gas stove (especially brown rice), this dish is fantastic. The fish are delicious when cooked up in water.

Now that I’ve finished cooking, I’ve ramped up the fire to get me warm. In doing so, I discovered that I burnt a hole in one of my socks. Fortunately, my toe wasn’t in the sock (I was drying it too close to the fire) but it’s still inconvenient because I’ll now risk foot irritation when hiking in that sock.

Basin camp and my wood pile

Basin camp and my wood pile

Basin camp is lovely. There are plenty of sites, some of a grassy slope and others on sand near the creek. While the site on the grass would be perfect, it was very soggy today while the site near the creek are drier. The grassy site has a big picnic table while the others don’t have anything to sit on. There are three big fire pits (I’m camped near one), a drop toilet and a rain water tank. The toilet even has paper in.

I spent over an hour collecting firewood, and washing myself and my clothes. Then I slept in my tent from about 1:30pm – 3:00pm. See, I told you I had a lazy day. Then I lit the fire, cooked some food and stared lazily up at the blue gums that stand in the grassy area.

Mmm ... the warm comforting glow of a campfire

Mmm … the warm comforting glow of a campfire

Now the fire’s roaring, my washing is drying and I”m ready to stare at the flames until I go to bed.

Total: 8km hike with 18kg pack

Food

  • beef noodle soup
  • hot chocolate custard
  • 2 x museli bars
  • fruit puree
  • Organic Food bar
  • 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles Happy Cow cheese
  • coconut curry soup
  • fish curry rice

Links

Great North Walk Day 7 (8 July 2013): Palm Grove bush camp to Walkers Rest north of Cedar Brush trail head

My new friend

My new friend

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.

The trail along the creek

The trail along the creek

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.

Pastures near Yarramalong

Pastures near Yarramalong

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.

*Drools like Homer Simpson*

*Drools like Homer Simpson*

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.

Yarramalong Valley

Yarramalong Valley

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.

Cedar Brush Trackhead

Cedar Brush Trackhead

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.

Walkers Rest bush camp

Walkers Rest bush camp

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

Food

  • 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

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