There are some walks that are nothing like what you expected them to be. Often, expectations are exceeded.. occasionally, they’re blown out of the water.. I suppose sometimes they’re not met, but I’ve been lucky enough to have that happen only once. This was one of those walks that was just so unexpected with the surprises it had in store for us.
I’m not so sure about the others, but I was under the impression Mother Cummings was an easyish climb, short, and probably similar to other central plateau peaks with a little bit of sparse scrub of the NE variety that gradually gives way to scree as you ascend. Well, talk about an underestimation!
We went in via the smoko creek/river track, and that’s definitely the way to go. You follow the directions in the Abels, and the signs along the road, arriving at a carpark when you hit the river. Clearly the road once went across the river, but there’s no longer a bridge. We picked our own way across, taking care not to get wet feet so early on (not all succeeded here), and followed the road for some way. Part way along there’s a clearing and an array of old signs, directing walkers to various other walks (including Ironstone, for which I will return). The road eventually becomes a track, with tapes, markers and cairns guiding the way.
This is where the real delight begins! The track works its way gently up the climb, alongside the river and in the shade of the quite green (predominantly? I didn’t really check though) myrtle forest. The river was flowing steadily, a constant and soothing rush of water over and around rocks, with mini waterfalls cascading over rocks and down drops at very frequent intervals. Climbing the peak lost some of it’s allure, and we spent much time admiring, and trying to capture on our cameras, the beauty around us. We gradually made progress, and towards the top of the valley were surprised again by the height of Smoko falls.. though perhaps not as photogenic or as beautiful as the many little falls along the river..
Then it was out of the forest, with a view across the tops of King Billies, then into a bit more, but not quite as green, and eventually out onto the scree and through the light scrub. The scree was the nice kind of stuff, that lets you dance from one rock to the next without worries of things moving unexpectedly underfoot. I was in my element. After a wait on one particular scree field, the three of us most prone to summit suction were given the go ahead, and with the leash off, we bolted :p! Well, not quite.. we followed the track through the scrub, danced across the boulders, and when on top did a mixture of hopping, skipping and jumping.. oh, and some walking, towards the summit. We did start out mistakenly following the cairns to the east, but a sense that that wasn’t quite right, and a check on the gps, revealed we should head due south and ignore the cairns. We did, and the slight bump on the horizon was proved to be the summit.
We ducked over the edge, out of the wind, and sat down to eat some lunch and wait for the others to catch up. We then spent a pleasant lunch break chatting, sharing nibbles, or wandering about the plateau as we desired. It was finally time to head back down, and so we did, lazily, enjoying the sun, lying on boulders to wait for others to catch up (no, I wasn’t the only one having 40 winks, but I did have an excuse, having been up since 9pm the night before, hard at work before the walk).
We all moved at our own pace, perhaps rather like the playing of an accordion if viewed from above, as people stopped to take photos, take off or put on layers, make a pit stop etc. At the first river crossing we stopped for a regroup. About half the group had crossed the river and was sitting on the opposite bank. I crossed a little further down, and stopped midstream, sitting on a rock. I was only about 10-15 metres away, but couldn’t hear the animated chatter of the group, drowned out as it was by the sound of the water racing downhill. It was peaceful and beautiful, sitting there tired but very relaxed, enjoying what was.
As one walker approached and stood at the edge, picking out a route over the rocks, one of the guys on the other side of the river threw a rock so that it landed near her feet, splashing her. Then another one follows. I watched as those sitting on his side of the river laughed at her surprise, which was quickly followed by her own laughing reprimand, and a return volley. I can’t hear the laughter, or the words, but I don’t need to. As I sit there and look on, at the ability to be a child, at the friendship, but also at the underlying respect, I feel alive, happy, and like I’m in the right place. This is life, and right now, it’s perfect.
We wander back, still chatting away (sometimes I’m sure we do more chatting than walking), learning more about each other and the world through our exchanges, deepening friendships, enjoying the natural beauty of the world we live in. And then we’re back at the cars. The supposedly 5 hour walk (which could probably be done in almost half that time) was stretched to 7 hours, though had it been warmer I’m sure we could have added a swim or two in to make it even longer! It was 10.4km in total, with just over 700m of climb (which was surprisingly well graded, despite appearances on the map and as you approach the mountain).
We said our goodbyes, as I had a few more days of walking planned with the other Bec, though our late return necessitated a slight change to those plans!