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…

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