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

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