Day Eight: Rumpff Saddle to Low Saddle – “Seeing Clear”

The day starts at 6pm.  It should have started at 6am, but I couldn’t see clear of some other commitments fast enough.  There’s nearly two hours of daylight left before I won’t see much of the mountain views, so it’s better to make a start anyway.  The views are clear in spite of the trees, and goals appear on the horizon.

 At the bottom of a steep descent down the Barkley River Jeep Track is the grassy green clearing of Rumpff Saddle, recently used by a few horse-handlers I think.

From there the walk is a stroll gently along a solid white road flanked by gum trees.  The road skirts around the hills, and I am amazed at how little traffic (none) utilises this road which would have taken considerable energy in construction.  There’s money in logs I think, since this is the Barkley River Logging Road.

Two black dingoes appear on the track, then they scoot into the bushes upon my approach.  A tree frames one of my upcoming goals, what I think is Mt McDonald off in the distance.  But the sun begins to set and it’s time to see clear and find a suitable campsite for the evening.  I find a grassy track junction where the AAWT branches north from the Middle Ridge Road.  I pitch the tent and scramble up the adjacent hill for a sunset through the trees.

The following morning is foggy, difficult to see clear.

It is an opportunity to re-focus my energies on what I can see.  As the immediate mist lifts with the sun’s warmth, I can see clear across the valleys.  It is a magnificent sight to see the blanket of white filling up the landscape with a bathtub of bubbles.

The mountains pierce the froth and stand tall above it, hiding only tranquillity beneath.  Sometimes we need to remove layers of froth and bubbles, toil and troubles, to re-connect with our inner beauties.

There is a steep decline across slippery rock, some two hundred metres drop in elevation, only to have to trudge up the other side again to a similar elevation.  Progress.

This is The Gorge, marked by a small sign, but larger thoughts emerge of descending down the gorge.  The plan however is not to do so, rather I stick to the track heading north towards Mt McKinty and Mt Sunday.
I see a modern reminder of seeing clear, a sign that trailbikers may have discovered this hideaway previously.  They too have a need to see clear, and their methods are clearly adaptive.  Fortunately I do not see evidence of destruction which so often accompanies these modern devices.  The northward track then carries me gradually higher from knoll to knoll, peak to peak.  There is a multitude of these false summits, teasing me with a further one to follow as I see clear of the previous.

Further on I see a window of opportunity, shattered at some point by stretching the bounds of material strength and human will-power.  The window glass is someone else’s prior attempt at seeing clear, a lost conquest now juxtaposed against the elements of nature.  A fight against nature is not a fight that is worth having, and this window presents an opportunity of reflection.

The mountain views appear through the trees.  I see clear to my subsequent destinations, from Mt McDonald all the way north-east across to Mt Howitt in the distance. Not today.  I push on towards the helipad at Mt Sunday.  It is within easy reach prior to lunchtime, something which later turns to my detriment.  A little more of the undulations and I reach the helipad, then I bounce across to the track on the far side of it to the shade of trees, escaping the midday sun of the clearing.

After lunching on hot salami and parmesan, I continue along the track to the north and it soon turns sharply downhill.  I am on auto-pilot after the degustation, but I soon disgust myself as I feel the track turning to the north-west.  I discuss it with myself, and my auto-pilot tells me I should have been swinging to the north-east as I turn downhill.  Meanwhile I have lost altitude which will only need to be regained if I am to see clear back to the correct track.  I reverse back to the helipad and I log one hour of overtime.

The correct track had branched off from the north-eastern side of the helipad, while I was distracted by the onset of a lunchtime feast.  Quickly after I re-commence the descent down the correct track to the north and north-east, my auto-pilot re-calibrates but then almost immediately I see the track  scatter across the open bushland and become indistinguishable.  I consult my track notes, and the suggestion that the track is well-marked but tough work as a result of the regrowth from the recent bushfires says one thing – someone is wrong or at least horribly mistaken.

I do the barest minimum of scouting around, but I don’t see any track markers.  The overriding supercomputer brain tells me to head north-eastish downhill since the track I am seeking has a section north then east then south as it traverses down the spur-line.  It is impossible to go too far, I’m sure to cross the track at some point, and my chosen path easterly is grassy beneath trees with occasional sections of bushy regrowth.  I find the descent steep, but the bushy sections are initially useful to prevent slipping too quickly downwards.  The troppo map tells me I’m halfway down to the watercourse at the bottom of the gully, and I can see clear to verify this.  But the vegetation is thickening and barbed lances of blackberry are showing themselves.  I conclude that crossing the gully at the bottom will be difficult if this trend continues, so I choose to traverse to the north again and hopefully locate the track before the vegetation is too thick to move.  This turns out to be a wise choice, because the vegetation thickens anyway, and progress is very very slow.  Temporarily I forget that I’m in the sparse Aussie bush, and I start believing that this is now the Amazon jungle but I am not prepared for carving off the incessant barbs which deter me.  I can’t see clear now, so I have only one option – keep going, and keep checking my direction with the aid of my compass.

Finally I bust through to the official track and I’m just short of Mt Sunday Rd at Low Saddle, but unfortunately it’s now decision time.  This marathon in the Amazon has cost me two hours, so I am now up to three hours overtime for today.  Ordinarily this would be absorbed, but my plan for a subsequent day’s rendezvous is now in jeopardy.  The decision is to end this instalment, and reversing out entails some more Ruchschau practice.  In doing so, I review the earlier loss of the track but it all seems clear in hindsight.  I reflect that even a visually clear path ahead is not always sufficient to see clear for the entire length of a journey.  Distractions come in many forms…

Day Seven: Mt Shillinglaw to Rumpff Saddle (backwards) – “Looking forwards”

The morning starts with the pre-dawn winds, showing me renewable strength and determination.  I rise before the sun spills over the eastern mountain ranges, washing rays of the new day into the valleys below.  The winds continue, the speed of the low-lying clouds is racy.  After a warm breakfast, it is time for Ruchschau and some German lessons.  I use my brains and not my Braun, and it’s such a guten morgen.  Rumpf sounds like a German name too.Car

Looking forwards, the section of track before the Saddle includes views to both sides of the spur.  An insect tries to conceal its true self and not to show its true colours.  I’m not one for football, but Essendon might get a guernsey with this bug.  Looking forwards to the north, as the track approaches the junction of the Jamieson-Licola road the views are to the east with patches of denuded gums in surprisingly close formations.

I’m still not much for football, but the steely look of a Carlton supporter shows that the power in the draught.  Heavy winds create an orchestral masterpiece replete with rhythmic percussions and arrhythmic repercussions.

I am feeling lucky, knock on wood, it sure beats the hum-drum.  The sounds are quite eerie and they are matched with natural geography, topography and choreography.

It is wildly xylophonic and polyphonic.  The timbre of the timber is so magical that I feel the lumber tones lingering in my lumbar bones.  There are bees buzzing around too, and  I wonder whether a wood bee would be bionic if the winds became cyclonic.

Looking forwards as the track leads north-west uphill to a track junction with the Bicentennial track joining from the south-west,
there are signs of industry.

A rusty wire-rope cable recoils into the bush as I approach, and a burnt-out stump carries a lonely track marker somewhat dubiously.  Nature shows that mushrooms are opportunist, and will venture into the light of day when tired of being kept in the dark and fed on b.s. I reflect that with the right attitude and a good sense of humour, it’s not difficult to be a fun-guy.

Looking forward though, the b.s.will continue to be emitted from alpine cattle or from the debate they generate at least for the near future.  Looking forwards to the west as the track departs the Jamieson-Licola road, fernery shroud a wide track which no longer serves vehicles.

A solitary tree has staked a claim on the centre of the track.  Further on, a long strand of gumtree bark is wound around a branch, producing some kind of swing for local birds. 
Many a municipal park tries to emulate this product of nature for the playtime pursuits of local children.  Looking forwards, nature is a true source for creativity, imagination and innovation.  So we should be looking forwards, to preserving nature for the playtime pursuits of tomorrow’s children.

Looking forwards, this ends an Ah-Ha instalment.  And at the bottom of the dry and grassy rolling hills I discover the elusive Purple Cow.

Day Six: Fiddlers Green to Mt Shillinglaw – “A Clean Slate”

Today is a clean slate.  The morning starts well, after a clear sky overnight and a helipad from which to view the stars without obstruction.  It is a simple scoot along the smooth road of Mt Selma, then I launch north up a very straight two kilometre section of the Champion Spur track.  A detour takes me to the northwest and then up a narrower track along the spur line itself.  I ignore the first official track marker leading north from the top of this hill, and instead I walk a further one kilometre to the north-west to the track branch in the next saddle, then I follow the north track away from the Champion Spur.  The rainbow colours of the local birds are a treat. After one kilometre there is a further track joining from the east in a saddle, just beyond a short but rocky stretch steeply downhill.

One more kilometre north and I reach a junction at the top of a shady hill.  I have a clean slate, so this is a perfect lunch stop and I make use of the rock seats.  After lunch is a stretch of three kilometres steeply downhill on a single track with significant regrowth, but it is easy to stay on track, and the shade is welcomed.  I order a short-black, and it comes in the form of a short black snake with an indistinct head.  The Humour Stick ushers it away for now.  Back on track, and I then see the feathers of a bird, but no birds of the feather. A wonderfully carpentered solid log crossing leads to a wonderfully carpeted river bank.  An excellent camp here for the evening, I think.  The river water is clear and cold, very refreshing, and the ferny banks are lush and tranquil.  Some blackberry bushes provide a tasty treat after a hearty meal.  But it’s time to decide what to do next so I’m stuck between a rock and a shard place.   The rock in question is a still a clean slate, but as peaceful and recharging as this Black River stop is, I’m slated to continue on. In fact with no bird to hand, it can’t be worth two in the bush.  Could this have been the work of the short-black?  The track opens up to vehicle width in the lower section prior to reaching the Black River, where it dives west into the lush forest and descends to the river banks.
I trudge up the steep incline on the other side of the river.  It is a northerly walk of two and a half kilometres uphill before a short shuffle down to a saddle and then uphill for another two kilometres north east to the peak of Mt Shillinglaw.  I encounter the forces of nature in the form of a burned-out gum tree, showing its resilience as it continues to preside over the landscape.  I also encounter the forces of nature in the form of the wind making matchsticks from a gum tree.  I’m sure that many splinter groups have tried to emulate nature’s powerful forces for darker aims, but such thoughts are swamped by a picture-perfect postcard-picture of gums leaning over the leaf-littered track.  I ignore a side-track to the east at an open clearing, and I follow the picturesque track a further one kilometre in a steady decline down to meet the Jamieson-Licola road.  Looking back, the AAWT sign for the section I have just travelled describes the track as “undefined in sections” and “remote navigation skills required”.  I know it is true, but I only know this in hindsight.  I could not have known without looking back.  I believe the act of looking backwards is called “Ruchschau” in German, but in English we probably call it “Looking Backwards”.  I recall doing a driving lesson as a teenager, and the driving instructor described a lane-change as the most dangerous driving manoeuvre because it involved “driving forwards whilst looking backwards”.  I reflect that many people struggle to drive their lives forward while they spend all their energy looking backwards.

I recall that fun, play and happiness spin off into creativity, imagination and innovation, and that these qualities provide the improvements that our world craves.  So for the following day’s walking from this Barkley River track junction to Rumpf Saddle, I decide to experiment creatively with the Ruchschau concept.  To explore this idea further, I set the aim of looking in the opposite direction to the direction I am walking, but instead of looking backwards while walking forwards, I decide to walk backwards while looking forwards.  For this purpose I accept a lift to Rumpf Saddle prior to sunset this evening.  This turns out to be a bonus because the skies are impeccably clear and the crescent moon is sitting peacefully below Jupiter with Venus to the side.  I choose to explore the ridgeline of Mt Skene where the panoramic views are amazing.

The sun sets against a foreground of gum trees denuded by the bushfires.  The sky darkens gradually as the red glow slips behind the farthest fold of blue mountain ranges.  A jewelboxful of stars pierces through the blanket of night.  The Milky Way sets a tone for the evening, and the night is filled with natural peace and unity.

Day Five: Red Jacket to Fiddler’s Green – “Lucky Stars”

The day starts when it is still night.  I rise at 2am to check out the stars, and it’s definitely more than five-star accommodation tonight.  I begin counting the lucky stars and I lose count at about one thousand and three.  Nice number for a mailbox, I think, but no need for that out here.  I see the Southern Cross and I use my long-lost bush skills to confirm that it is 1am.  The daylight saving clock doesn’t really work at night, I think.  In any case the stars are timeless, I think.   I reflect that it is rather ironic to use something timeless to measure time.  I try to get a few more hours rest, but the clear sky encrusted with stars is just too mysterious to allow it.  Sometimes life’s to mysterious to take too serious……ly.

Track marker after fire.

I have a quick breakfast and get underway up the hill.  The vegetation has suffered the effects of fire, and some of the track markers have also suffered attrition.  Most of them got lucky, though.

Half-way up the hill I come across half a horseshoe.  Half my luck I think.  It’s a clear sign that luck is all around.  Not sure what the horse thought at the time, though.

Half a horseshoe, half my luck.

I am stumped when I see a tree stump completely burnt-out.  I hope not to feel completely burnt-out at the end of today after a steep climb up the Victor Spur.  I am feeling lucky that I won’t.

I see a tree that has managed to maintain a laugh, despite being ravaged by the bushfires.  The look is encouraging.  It spurs me on further up the Victor Spur.  It is hot, but I am feeling victorious as I near the top.

The last few kilometres to Fiddler’s Green are easy walking along a vehicle track.  There is a monument to the survey crew who ventured this way many years prior.  The track also leads back to an old-fashioned shack.  The road is corrugated, and so is the tin shack.  Nature is full of strange co-incidences, too.

My subconscious is still at work, seeking out objects which look like snakes.  It finds a cast-iron S-hook.  Non-venomous, I think.   Later on the subconscious actually finds a big black snake on the track, so the Humour Stick has work to do again, and it humours the snake away into the leaf litter.  Lucky, I think that one was venomous.

I reach the top of a hill.  It doesn’t appear too green, as a result of someone fiddling about with the topography and creating a helipad.   But I’m willing to hang my hat on this being Fiddler’s Green.  I factor in that it is jest a hat, but I hang my jester hat on the post, and I post this fact with a message to the rendezvous team.  I realise don’t speak French, and this ends another instalment of the AH-HA walk.

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist

Day Four: Thompson River to Red Jacket – “Stay on Track”

Termite Mounds

The sleep is wonderful.  No leeches find their way in during the night.  Time to get up and prepare for a bush-bash through the ferns and blackberries, north up the steep face and onto the spur.  The vegetation clears after about 300 metres and I can then use the compass to find the track.  I come across a termite mound.  I know that termite mounds can be used as a compass since they are built to face the cardinal points, but these little guys have upped the white ante and started building a map of Australia too!!

A Cairn and a brick marked Clifton

The walk up the hill is initially steep, with intermittent sections of lesser gradient, enough to catch my breath.  I climb to the peak of Little Easton where there is a pile of rocks with a small crossed sign which makes it look like a grave site.  It turns out to be the cairn, but also at the rear of the cairn is a brick marked “Clifton”.  I recognise it instantly, it doesn’t belong here in the bush, and I think that whoever had the idea to cart a brick all the way up this hill must also have had rocks in their head.  They were clearly way off-track to do so, and the brick’s disharmony with the Aussie bush is stark.
A bright purple berry?
Something  catches my eye here and it is not a purple cow. It is bright purple though, but it is a plant.  I will do some research on this plant, I think, since the bush rule is if it is brightly coloured it is probably poisonous.  I stay on track and avoid it for now.

I get glimpses of the Thompson Dam through the trees to the east.  Water, the ultimate laughter liquid, is being stored up for future reference.  I walk on up the hill to Mt Easton.

Thompson Dam

Steep track back down the hill.

Just as steep from the bottom up

The track back down the hill is very steep.  It is widely cleared as a fire-break and this lets the sun in completely to cook the rocks under my feet and reflect the heat into my face.  It is hot.  Very hot.  There is little shade, virtually none actually.  But the track leads downhill to the river, so there’s only one way to go and that is forwards.  At least that’s what I think until I realise that the track is so steep that it involves more reverse than forwards.  My hat tilts to a jaunty angle against the sun’s rays, and I stop frequently enough to take in water.  It feels like a long trip down because it is.  It is some 500m downhill all the way from the peak of Mt Easton to the Red Jacket river level.  Finally from the bottom, I breathe a sigh of relief.  I glance back up the track just descended, and strangely it looks just as steep from the bottom up as it did from the top down.  Well by staying on track I reach the solace of the shaded river banks.  The gurgling of the water is wonderful.  The blackberries seem to have made it their home too.  I walk only a little further to the Red Jacket camp, and take it easy for the balance of the afternoon.  I bathe in the river and recharge.  The water is sweet-tasting, perhaps it’s the blackberries.

Shaded River Banks

I pitch the tent early when I see the storm clouds rolling across.  They drop a little bit of rain, but it is not significant to dampen my enthusiasm.  I cook up dinner and then there are many hours to fill enveloped by tall trees and another overture of the flowing waters and bustling bird life.  This is not a difficult task.  The kookaburra gets the last laugh again tonight.

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist

Day Three: Camp Saddle to Thompson River “Push Through The Bush”

A wonderful sunrise, obscured only by the snow gums.

The Whitelaw's Hut on the way to the top of Mt. Whitelaw.

The day starts with a wonderful sunrise, obscured only by the snow gums.  I take advantage of a head-start last night since I have camped only one hour south from Whitelaw’s Hut. It’s a bush-push to get there and the overnight dew saturates me from the waist down.  The re-growth dissipates after Whitelaw’s Hut and it is relatively easy walking to the top of Mt Whitelaw and down the other side.  There are nice views appearing to the south before descending down a wide fire trail track.  Lovely boulders are strewn around.  I remember that a rolling stone gathers no moss, and this one has been stationary for a while by the looks of it.

The view on Mt. Whitelaw Top
Tree or Snake?

My subconscious is still on the lookout for snakes, and it finds a tree root which reminds it of a snake.  It’s enough to make me freeze for a few seconds while the conscious mind evaluates it.  Spiders also love the width of this track and their web of intrigue spins me out.  I pass the junction to the Upper Yarra track, and  I reach the logcutters’ Stronachs Camp for lunch.  I log my time on the logs, then push on uphill through a relocated section of the track to another log-strewn ridge with wonderful northerly views.

Logcutters' Stronachs Camp

Three-legged Martian

Up the Trig Point track is a survey marker resembling a three-legged Martian.  The track downhill from the trig point to the river road is really steep.  I have to reverse down.  I encounter a moth caterpillar who is well-adapted to the steep gradient.  It has evolved 4WD capability on its full circumference and the full length of its body.  I could use some of that right now, I think.

Well adapted caterpillar

A kookaburra is laughing, reminding me that I should be also, despite the steep gradient I am negotiating, and despite the intense heat from the rocky track and from the sun.  Some respite appears as the track narrows and the tall trees close over it.  At the bottom of this track I feast on some bush tucker blackberries.  I sit down for a short break and a wonderfully scented gum leaf flutters down and lands on the top of my hat.  Nature gives and gives again.

Easton Reservoir Cascade

I walk on to reach the Easton Reservoir weir and I am suitably refreshed by the cascading of water onto rocks.  In the last kilometre towards the Thompson River camp there is a snake sunning itself on the road.  It turns out to be a rather large snake who thinks my boots are fair game.  I trump it with the Humour Stick and wave the snake on its way.

The track leads away from the road and into overgrown fernery entangled with blackberries.  I push my way through and find a log crossing the Thompson River.

I cross the log and find there is major overgrowth on the other side too.  It is the end of a long day’s walking and there is no clearing in sight.  My option is to find an area large enough to pitch the tent under the overgrowth.  That done, I fight my way back to the river and fix up a meal.  While sitting on the rocks at the water’s edge, a fish surfaces from below, swims up to me, nuzzles in between two rocks, looks me in the eye and says hello.  This is the start of a very tall yarn, I think.  But quickly the fish is looking like a fish out of water and it backs itself into the river and swims off.  I feel as if the fish plans to visit me again before I finish my dinner, but we’ll see.  Dinner is brief, I’m  having tuna.  Now it’s time to relax.

The vegetation says this is leech country.  They appear on the walls of the tent, so I wonder if my man-made defences will suffice for the night, or whether the leeches will leach through.  My advice is they will not, but just in case I take the advice with a grain of salt.  The leeches squirm at the thought of the salt.  Night-time comes early due to the low-lying camp and dense vegetation.  I make the most of the rest-time, and for most of the rest of the time I am restless about the leeches.

Thompson River

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist

Day Two : O’Shea’s Mill Site to Camp Saddle (and finish to Mt. Baw Baw) – “Water Under the Bridge”

I sleep like a log, then rise to the sound of running water, but no water-saver shower heads and no half-flush buttons stuck down accidentally wasting more than they save. There are just the wonderful sounds of Nature doing its own water recycling. It runs down, it evaporates up, and I note that Newton got it the other way around. Anyway I get to drink a bit while it is running down again, then I head off up the hill away from O’Shea’s Mill Site. Two kilometres up the hill actually with a rise of about 400 metres, until the track meets perpendicular to Mt Erica Rd. Here the track and the road are one, and there is water at frequent intervals buried only by lush fernery beside the road. The road heads to the north-west and then swings to the north-east and finally it comes to a Tee. Heading east for one kilometre is the Mt Erica car park which initiates a Nature walk and is the starting point for daytrippers to Mushroom Rocks and Mt Erica. About 400m rise to Mushroom rocks, and about another 400m up to Mt Erica. Mushroom RocksAt the rounded top of Mt Erica the track flattens out and declines slightly towards Talbot Hut remains. There is water at the track junction to Talbot Hut beneath a short footbridge. After circling the Hut site, I choose a track which is strewn with more tree branches and gumtree bark than usual, and only later do I realize that this is no longer the AAWT. What I thought was recent storm debris not yet cleared from the track, is more likely a disused track. I finally decide this is the case after about one kilometre, so I have to do some fancy compass work to find the main track again. Was I just lost in the bush, or geographically embarrassed? I think that one of the secrets to life is embarrassing yourself and enjoying it, so should I tell everyone to “get lost”, and frequently? (The more correct route is back at the first branch to Talbot Hut remains, where I noted there was water under the bridge. It springs to mind that it would have been right to walk left, but now that is just water under the bridge so I’m not troubled by it.)

After rounding the Talbot creek towards the north, I walk for the next five kilometers steadily to the north-west, occasionally treading the boards upon water beneath, and finally coming across Mt St Gwinear’s track junction, the Rock Shelter and Camp Saddle. Feeling a bit saddle-sore, it is time to make tracks towards Mt BawBaw. Another one kilometre further on the track already-made is Mt St Phillack then the BawBaw junction to the left, diverging from the AAWT for an end to this instalment of the AH-HA Walk. The BawBaw track includes a number of footbridges over mushy ground. In each case there is no shortage of water under the bridges, but not the nicest choices for re-filling water reserves. The BawBaw village looms closer, but the ski-run tracks which are surely amazing in the winter season become equally a-mazing during the walking season and they turn out to be quite a labyrinth. I get dizzy with labyrinthitis, but finally I approach the village and car park. There are remnants of snow only days prior. Mid-summer, and Nature has kept us guessing….

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist

Day One : Walhalla to O’Shea’s Mill Site – “Nature is Superior”

The Start of the Australian Alpine Walking Track, Walhalla

I start after lunch and a quick scout around Walhalla.  I walk 50 steps up the hill and choose to take a photo of the start of the AAWT.  I realize I have left the camera behind, but I decide the phone camera and a semi-photographic memory will have to suffice.  The first few kilometres around behind Walhalla are an easy walk.  As the track starts to ramp upwards and begin to tower over the town road, I am quickly swathed in pure wilderness of gum trees and underbrush.  And then there is a tooooot of the train and a truck’s exhaust brakes just to remind me I have only just left civilization.  My pace hurries to escape.

Around to the south, then to the west, then to the north to follow the Thompson River up to Poverty Point, the track is ducking into the side of the hill for two or three water points before turning west again.  I am admiring the stunning views of the river bend from upon high.

No signs of poverty here, just some of Nature’s riches.  The track is well graded along this section, for reasons which become obvious upon approach to the Poverty Point bridge – a narrow-track earthmover is parked beside the bridge!!  Still not far enough away from civilization….but the earthmover is our attempt to control nature.  We are not superior to Nature, I think.

Poverty Point

I cross the bridge where the earthmover simply cannot, so on the other side the country is long long grass and short stubby bushes casting shadow.  This country is snake country, I think.  Next time I will consider wearing gaiters, I think.  I am pushing between the bushes, again high above the river, this time on the south-western bank, on a rock ledge merely two metres wide.  My feet are finding their way with the occasional glimpses down at the track-line as the bushes spring apart, and then my subconscious does its work, and I freeze.  The snake froze too.  So much for “fight or flight”, we neither did either.  Fight “funny” I think.  I am not superior to Nature, I think.  Time for some research on snakes and what types are dangerous to me…but no snake reference manuals to hand right now, and no way to sidestep on a two metre wide rock shelf.  A stick to hand would be handy right now, and that sticks in my mind.  And as I look down to the left side of me, Nature’s right-hand has left a stick.  It is just over a metre long, about 3cm thick, a forked end and brown.  The snake is also just over a metre long, about 3cm thick, a forked end but it is black not brown.  I distinguish between the two, and shoo the snake into the bush before it can shoe me.  It would be a shoe-in for the snake to bite through to my toes, and I get toey just thinking about it.  I keep the stick as a reminder that Nature is superior, and that “You gotta laugh”.  The stick becomes the Humour Stick, a little warped, a little rough, a tool to fend off danger, but also as a baton with which to pass on goodwill.The snake hiding in the bush.

Well, seeing that snake in the grass makes the earth move, but the earthmover is not involved. So now it is a decision point, but is it a turning point?  Should I turn around at this point, and should I head back to Walhalla and get myself some gaiters? Or shall I choose to walk on without?  I choose to walk on without, because downtown the shops shut at closing time and I won’t make it back today.  I am good at improvising so I start thinking of things that I can strap to my legs should the need arise with continuing frequency.  I think of gum-tree bark, I think of cutting the sleeves off my jumper, I think of the time I cut off the top sections of a mate’s socks to gain access to a nightclub with a dress code.  That last bit is not useful here, and I tell myself to put a sock in it.  I walk on, but I tread carefully knowing that I am not superior to Nature.

I follow the river to the north-west and then to the north until the river bends to east and the track doubles-back and heads to the west.  I discover more freshly graded track, this time it is a steep climb up Fingerboard Spur towards the Thompson Valley Road.  Across the road I expect the track to follow down the South Face Rd as per the troppo map, but it has its own parallel track 50m to the north, and then it gradually slips down into the gully.  The track is much nicer than a road, but before I leave the road I am reminded that Nature is superior.  The sign depicts a great big tree about to squash an insignificant person.  You gotta laugh at that!  I find the black stump and I choose to go beyond it, towards O’Shea’s Mill Site.  The vegetation change to mountain ash is inspiring and it is very cool in the late afternoon.  I decide to make camp here for the night, by the Tyers River East, rather than walk onwards to Mt Erica, since onwards is upwards at this point.  Water is plentiful in the river, and the waterfall of two metres height creates a refreshing cacophony of sound for a full night’s sleep.  Nature is clearly superior.

Author: Andrew Watkins, The Adventure Capitalist