Today was not a day for dancing. The weather was to be ideal – bright and sunny, though the wind succeeded in taking all the heat out of it, and more – and the mountain was a lovely little one to climb – more than 1000 metres of up, straight up! But I learnt something about me and my relatively new found freedom in just being me out in the mountains – it doesn’t extend to people I’ve only just met, no matter how easy going their company may be (and don’t get me wrong, it was, as is usually the case, a pleasure to meet and walk with a new person).
I can remember at the start of the walk, as we were reading the signs at the entrance to Bob Brown’s property, watching two different small birds flit around, as if in pure enjoyment of just flying with no real purpose (or perhaps their seemingly happy and carefree ways were determined by insects I couldn’t see?), and thinking that my heart could fly with these two guys today, and I would be on my best behaviour (no racing off ahead to ‘see what’s round the corner, or over the rise’, no running, jumping or bouncing) seeing it wasn’t my walk, and I was kind of like a ‘guest’. It was only as I was walking back down and reflecting on the day that I realised that these birds would have been equally restricted in their flying, due to the strength of the wind at any decent height!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A busy, but generally good, week at work baking some nice bread, and I was set to work two half shifts on my days off to help the bosses out. I hadn’t planned a walk precisely because I wasn’t sure if I’d have the days off, but when David of HWC posted a flash walk to Drys Bluff on the Sunday I was keen. Pandani had been up when I was at the Southern Ranges, so I still had to do it, and going meant I got a walk in, but equally didn’t have to think too hard, or worry about navigating to the start etc (the part I like least about a walk!). With promises of good weather, it was really quite easy.
It turned out it was only going to be the two of us, but that wasn’t an issue. And as it was, we arrived half a minute behind another car, from which two men (one a pipe smoker, amusingly) from somewhere near Launceston alighted (hmm, that word always reminds me of Singapore!) and a brief chat revealed that we were heading to the same destination. They headed off before we did, as we hauled on boots, rubbed in sunscreen, then threw on jackets for the wind and sorted GPS’s. Then we were off.
Bob’s place is really quite cute, approached via a small bridge that clearly replaced an older, possibly drive-over-able one (given the Abels description for parking!). Drys Bluff looks down over the small red-roofed, white weatherboard house, a leatherwood growing close by its side, and a walnut tree a litter further off, and the two white ponies that graze in the yard. The mood is welcoming, and there was a promise of a nice walk ahead.. if, of course, you like up-ness ;)!
I was actually grateful to be following in a way, rather than leading, because I have a terrible tendency of walking faster than I can physically sustain (especially after working in the morning), and my legs end up going on strike in their attempt to keep up with the rest of me. We kept a very steady pace, trudging up the unrelenting track, David pretty keen to hit those ‘flat spots’ described in the Abels (they were few and far between, with only one really decent one). To start with the forest was mostly green or brown, depending on what was alive and what was dead, and while there was the occasional bird call, it seemed quite colourless and lifeless, most sound subordinate to the wind, which sounded less like it was pushing through the tree tops (which would have made a lighter rustling kind of sound) so much as (as I discovered later) racing straight at the rock columns that made up the bluff’s faces, slamming into them, then heading up and over (in a deeper restless howl). On this day I felt a bit of a connection with wind’s restlessness I must say.
As we ascended, the forest became more alive with colour, whether in the form of purple, white, yellow or orange flowers, or pretty coloured caterpillars. And then the trudge became more of a climb, as we hit the 4 or 5 rope sections. That got me waking up, as some proved an easy but nonetheless fun little challenge to do without touching the rope ;). At this height the views were opening up, and you could see the top of the plateau, though there was still a fair bit of walking to get there. A few short pauses, and there we were, barely over the lip, when we spotted the red container weighed down by rocks that contains Bob’s log book. That was the first port of call, and David wrote a short entry. I checked the Pandani entry from a few weeks back, and we also noted that the mountain had been visited on Christmas Day!
We then decided to continue left to the trig point (not the high point) to see if it would give us a vantage point from which to survey the best route across the plateau to the real high point (which from the top seemed like a rather small knob, as is characteristic of bluffs from their plateaus). Along we went, passing over (almost without realising) a rather mummified marsupial (Bennett’s wallaby perhaps), and on to the trig. There was another log book here but we didn’t write in it. A few photos, a short chat to the other two, who were ready for a rest out of the wind on the other side of the trig, and we were back to it. The sun was glorious, but the wind did rather steal the pleasure of its warm touch on bare skin, leaving only the concern of walking away with pink soreness.
We had what we believed to be a reliable recommendation to walk to the highpoint by sticking to the edge to avoid the worst of the scrub, so that’s what we did. Going started of ok, though a tad slow, opened up a bit, but there were a few patches of thicker stuff. Nothing tough, nothing nasty, just a little scratchy for bare knees that had been for over a month without having been beaten up badly (yes, they’d been spoilt for too long). The up side of the scrub was that it was splashed with colour from blooming scoparia, whites, yellows, oranges, pinks and reds. And this time there were some bushes that were turning from one colour to another! Nature never ceases to surprise and give, if your eyes are open. Mine were, though I was finding it hard to concentrate on what was before me. I caught myself from time to time looking at something and not even realising the significance of what it was I was seeing, and was getting cranky at myself for being off somewhere else instead of enjoying the here and now. After our little foray into the scrub, we were climbing the last bit of climb, picking our way between low scrub and rock, along the ridge until we arrived at the cairn marking the true high point of the range.
The drop over the side was wonderful, with the grey-y/brown of a massive scree field stretching along the bottom like a lake inviting one for a swim. Dragging my eyes upwards, they took in Quamby, heading back left they hit Western Bluff in the distance, then Ironstone a little closer, and closer again Mother Cummings Peak, further left Projection Bluff, and in front of that, Liffey. Pivoting round to the left and somewhere out there was Blackwood, Bradys and Sandbanks from the other week, as well as Millers and a few others I’ve yet to explore.
We had a short lunch huddled out of the wind, then decided to head back at about 1pm. My knees were keen to keep the scratches to a minimum, so I suggested an alternative route, more direct, that made use of what looked like a bit of a ridge running from just off one side of the high point towards the place we’d popped up onto the plateau at. I was given a tentative ok as David started to negotiate a path in that direction, and I followed until we hit some more deep scrub. Reluctant to do that again, I took to some nearby rock, and told David I’d meet him at a point he seemed to be heading to. The going looked ok, and David told me to go ahead. Ok, so I was supposed to be being good, but I figured that could wait till after the scrub. So off I went, stopping every so often at the top of small rises, partly to survey the next 10-20 metres, partly to wait up. David seemed happy with the route (basically scrub free), and we proceeded in that manner until we were within a few hundred metres of the track and we’d hit some kind of alpine coral fern. I throttled back, settled down, and stepped into line.
We headed down, no faster than what we’d walked up as David’s knees were giving him curry, and I spent the time reflecting, occasionally inspecting a flower that I’d nearly walked past without noticing its intricate patterns, or stopping to smell a plant I’d brushed past. Listening to the cicadas trying to rival the wind (which at this stage seemed a little more peaceful), inhaling that familiar and comforting smell of dried eucalyptus leaves that had baked in the sun all day, laughing amusedly at the trees as they groaned and creaked, as if in chorus with our joints.
And then we were down.. we could see Bob’s house through the trees.. but wait, it smells like someone’s got a fire going.. sure enough, there’s smoke coming out of the chimney. Is it Bob? Yep! We walk past his window and wave and he comes out to greet us. He’s met David before, but in spite of this he also talks to me, instead of around or over me, and he reminds me of all the really good people and fellow bushwalkers I know, who have the time to see you, say hello, share a yarn or two, and make a connection, no matter how brief. He’s writing a book of anecdotes, and I know who’ll be visiting Fullers before Christmas next year!
One of my favourite bluffs in this little region, for its decent climb, lovely profile from below, and significance (historical, political or otherwise).
12.8km, 7.38hrs, 1224m ascent.. Struggle to keep eyes open on the way back (thanks for driving David), home, bed by 8, up for work again at 1.. tired but refreshed again.