While this story isn't about gardening and I'm probably not even on the Green thumb blogroll anymore due to my self-imposed exile from blogging, I do want to record our fantastic effort last week bushwalking in Namadji National Park. When we were planning this walk, I looked back at the record from our last family bushwalk, Bingi dreaming track walk 2007, and it helped get us all enthusiastic about this one. See there is a point to blogging.
We were hoping to do a 2 night walk this time. In fact, I had some grand plan of each year adding one extra night, so that by the time the littlest one is 10-11 years old we'll be trained up and ready to walk a week. Cradle Mountain in Tassie here we come.
So, here's adventure number two in the grand plan. If you check the dates you'll notice we missed a year. Somehow the bushwalk in 2008 didn't happen so, this year, in 2009 we need to do the two night and the three night bushwalk. But actually, I have a little secret - we still need to do the two night bushwalk, cause we mismanaged our planning on two fronts - we left too late (ie. Saturday instead of Friday) and second, we didn't take enough methylated spirits to cook on the second night. Lessons learnt.
We had a very similar start to last time. Early into the walk the children felt they had done their bit and were over the hard work and could we stop please and take photos of the ever present Kangaroos, and then do we really need to put those packs back on, and couldn't we really just get distracted climbing on rock forms and looking at things but no actual trudging along in the open valley.
I had to get all Sargeant Major-ish to get everyone back on the track. After about an hour's walk, we had settled into the rhythm and Nick and I discussed how, on the first day you start out all soft and flacid and have to toughen up - and well that's kind of hard - and then you hit a flow where you are tough but you haven't yet gotten tired - and that's the good part of the day - then sometime before you reach the campsite you start to tire and the whole thing gets hard again. This became a bit of a theme for the weekend, with the kids and I nominating where we were in the cycle. Tim didn't need to play this game. He rides to work 4 days a week. He probably didn't even know what we were rambling on about.
Well, sometime during the good bit, we needed to cross Middle creek. The walk we were doing doesn't have a trail or track. It is through open valleys. We were heading up to Rendezvous Creek to try and find the Aboriginal Rock Shelter to look at the Rock Paintings - some of which are thousands of years old, and some of which was done after European settlement because there are horses and people riding horses. Many, many years ago (14), in a life long long ago, Tim and I had done a three day walk from Nursery Swamp, to Rendezvous Creek and on to Yankee Hat. We had designed the walk around visiting each of the three Aboriginal Rock art sites. We had three friends with us and we camped the first night high up on Rendezvous creek, the second night we camped at a cattleman's hut, and on the third day we walked out to Yankee Hat. The night we spent at the cattleman's hut was Easter and in the morning coloured eggs were found under trees outside the hut. How did that bunny know we were there? It was a fantastic walk, with good friends, one of whom was 3 months pregnant - though we didn't know. I still remember one of her friends picking up her pack and saying "Is your husband carrying everything - this feels like a handbag". It's become one of those family expressions.
I found crossing Middle creek a bit of a stretch. Tim jumped our packs, and the littlest one, across the creek, one at a time. Then he demonstrated and Nick and I followed. I got him to recreate the run up for the camera and for posterity. Focus. No one got wet.
The swamp adjacent to the creek is quite wide at this point. And the grass is high. The kids are pretending to shoot us with objects found along the walk (animal bones - probably kangaroo, some rabbit). There are a lot of bleached bones & skulls lying about in the valley.
The walk out of the swamp was a bit long and slippery and a tad freaky for my taste. Animals have made some trails to and from the water, so we used one of these to work our way out. It involved walking on these bumps of grass, which are fairly small and slippery. The fall off one of these clumps isn't far, maybe to mid-calf on a short lady, but it had me nervous while I walked imagining sprained ankles, muddy wet feet and falling with a heavy pack. I didn't say anything at the time, but resolved to talk to Tim about finding a different way back.
At one of the many stops, we had a bit of a lesson in reading the map. I wasn't that interested, something I'd regret later when we had a lot of trouble reading the map to find the Aboriginal Rock Art Site. You see the National Parks' signage, and the viewing platform had all burnt down in the 2003 bushfires. In fact, so had the cattleman's hut. We knew all this before we headed out and I was glad I knew in advance.
Nonetheless, it was still sad to see the remains of the hut. Not sure if it is Rolly's hut or Rowley's hut or someone elses altogether. These huts were all through the high country - the Australian Alps, Namadji, probably bits of Victoria as well. Recent bushfires have destroyed many of these historic remnants of our pioneering history. I remember being thrilled all those years ago when we walked over the hill and saw that shabby wooden hut. We were tired on the second long day of walking and it meant not having to pitch the tent, and that night we slept on the wooden floor of the hut next to what I remembered as an enormous fire place. The weeds are very tall but you can just see the burnt out stumps that supported the floor and one burnt out log that would have supported the fireplace and roof. The European trees that were growing around the hut have pretty much been destroyed. Unlike the Eucalypts, they didn't regenerate after the fires. In the photo, you can see one has survived but the others (more off camera) are all dead.
This was pretty much our destination for the day. It was a little over 7 kilometres in from the car park and we were about 2 kilometres from the Rock art, according to our map. It was 4pm in the afternoon and it had taken us 4 hours to walk this far. Nick and Tim had set a good pace for most of the walk, with Tess and I bringing up the rear. On that first day, I did have to do lots of cajoling to keep the littlest one walking. Mostly cheerful but not always. We dropped our packs at this spot and while the boys scouted for water down at Rendezvous creek, Tess and I sat in the shade of a Banksia tree. Bees and ants were enjoying the nectar.
Tim and Nick found a spot on the other side of the creek that was more sheltered and prettier than camping out in the open valley next to the ruined hut. We donned our packs one more time and tramped down to the creek, jumped it at a very narrow spot, and pitched tents under the Black Sallees.
Notes from this website> Eucalyptus stellulata Sieber ex DC. (See 'Hardy Eucs' website) Tree to 15m high. Bark dark grey, grey-black or olive green in colour. Adult leaves elliptic to broadly lanceolate, 5 - 9cm long and 1.5 - 2.5cm wide. It occurs from near Wallangarra, New South Wales, through the Australian Capital Territory to near Melbourne, Victoria where it usually grows in open flat areas of the tablelands and mountains. Commonly known as Black Sallee.
This time around the kids pitched their own tent and we can use the experience towards their Guides and Scouts camping badges. So everyone was pleased!
It was Earth Hour on the Saturday night so we didn't use any of the torches we hadn't brought with us (more lessons learnt) and we all lay on the ground under the stars and did that amazing thing you always do when you get away from a cities' bright lights - wonder at the brightness and vastness of the starry sky. In the morning, we were on the cold and shady side of the valley. I sat outside the tent in my sleeping bag and shivered while we waited for the sun to creep down the valley and come up to our side.
After breakfast we bumped into a troop of Duke of Edinburgh award kids, who were doing the walk we had done all those years ago, Nursery Swamp/Rendezvous/Yankee Hat. They had found the Nursery swamp art site but not the Rendezvous creek. And as it turned out, despite having a map, marked with the site from last time, we didn't find it either. We spent hours wandering up and down the valley looking for it, but the treeline had all changed because of the fires, perhaps the drought had dried up some of the marked creeks, there were no official markers, the kids got tired and bored with our failed attempts, I led us on a couple of wild goose chases (note to self - learn to read a map, note to husband - stop being so patient, I can't read a map). Sometime after lunch we gave up and began the tramp back to the car. We had worked out that without metho and given our very slow progress breaking up the tents, we couldn't possibly spend another night out and still get Tim to work on time on the Monday morning. Our plan had been to walk back to Yankee Hat, look at that rock art, pitch the tent close to the car and then early in the morning, break up camp, deliver Tim to work and the kids to school. Wasn't going to happen.With somewhat of an empty feeling on my part, we left without seeing any rock art. Maybe next time.
About half way back to the car, we stopped for lunch up on a high, rocky spot. We could see miles up both sides of the valley. Suddenly a pack of wild dogs broke from the tree line and started hunting the kangaroos. It was like watching a David Attenborough, except much more exciting and kind of scary. They hunted as a pack and although you understand the nature of these things, I was pleased when they didn't catch anything. We watched them for about half an hour, work their way up the valley, progressively spooking mobs and mobs of kangaroos. They were bright white dogs. Very surprising. We had heard the dogs howling in the very early hours of the morning. It sounded like a number of packs, howling back and forth to each other. They really shouldn't be there - feral pests that they are. Perhaps that explained so many of the bleached bones all through the valley.
On the way back across Middle Creek, I got my wish and we crossed at an easier part of the creek. It doesn't necessarily look easier as I'm standing forward of where we crossed. Trust me. It was a lot easier and there was no swamp. In the background is Yankee Hat. See the shape -a yankee hat. Flat at the top and sloping right and left.
Well just to finish off, we were all enormously proud of our efforts. Tim and I reconnected with a part of our life we had left behind us on the journey to becoming parents. My son particularly earned his stripes on this trip. My daughter has a bit more seasoning to do, but even at her worst she was still fairly good company. Finally, this was my view for much of the walk. Two boys out in front, bringing up the rear with the princess, open views, a wide brown land, grassy plains and trees on the hills. I love it. Winter is coming now and we'll have to wait till Spring for the next trip - I think we'll need to have another crack at the two nighter.