Another stunning day. So very different from the day before. Silver was replaced with brilliant colour, and the sun never stopped shining. We’d met at Granton at 6am, and were at our start point near Poatina and ready to go by 8. The gate across the road that stopped us from driving any further sported a sign “Hang gliding prohibited”, bummer! We’d have to walk all the way up and back.. Oh well.. We set out along the road, taking a right hand fork onto a not as well maintained road, but still very decent.
When we got to the point where all our maps and GPSs said we should hit the zig zag road we’d be taking up to the plateau we had a wander around.. nothing that looked remotely road like. After a bit of phaffing, we headed up, trying to stay roughly where our GPSs said the road should be.. it was most unread like.. in places we came to stretches that could resemble rough roads, but they weren’t continuous.. Many of us had long given up on the hope of finding a ‘road’ thinking it might just be best to do away with the zig zagging through scrub and rock and head straight up, but then we hit the real road.. a very decent real road!
The pace picked up and up we went, following the bends. Interestingly, though the walking was easier, I found myself looking more at my feet than out at the view. But as it continued to open up as we gained height, that was soon rectified. We stopped on the way up to enjoy the sweet sweet taste of Warratah dew, a first for me. There’s always been something about Warratah flowers that remind me of dead spiders with their curled up legs, and as such I’ve never quite felt the pleasure that many people seem to take from them, but now a new dimension has been added to my experience of them! If you’re out and you come across them, and it’s not too late in the day that the dew has all dried up, do taste it.. you won’t regret it!! This led to a conversation about Elder flowers and cordial, and the ease with which it can be made.. A must do, I’m thinking!
Onwards we trudged, puzzling over the inch or so wide holes we kept finding in rock, eventually deciding it must be from blasting rods or some such from the construction of the road. And then quite quickly we could see the final rise, marking the edge of the plateau. We popped over, 2 hours after having started, eager to check out what the going might be like.. Looked ok, not too scrubby at all! A regroup, and off we wandered to our first destination, Bradys Lookout. We gradually split into our own smaller groups again, as some stopped for clothing adjustments, pitt stops, or to take photos..
Murph, our leader, was unusually (for a tail end Charlie) out in front, keeping the incentive up to keep moving. I wondered if that had anything to do with his last walk a few weeks ago, that had turned into a 23 hour epic, or whether he was just all too aware of the mood of the group and the day. It was just so nice, it was wrong not to enjoy it, and so instead of getting on with the walking we did a lot of photo taking, a lot of chatting, and a lot of just admiring the day. It was full of brilliant blue sky, beautiful green scrub, and that rich earthy brown red land and grey rock. White fluffy clouds gave character to the sky, and spread their shadows across the mountains. I love the colours of Tassie.. but today was to be even more colourful!
I was near the back, and we slowed down considerably when we got to a part that I call the scoparia garden. Scoparia is most commonly known among bushwalkers for its prickly leaves (spikes really), that scratch and poke as you gingerly weave your way round or through it, turning expensive rain jackets into sieves. It only flowers for a very short period each year, and is easy to miss, or to only catch as the flowers are on their way out.. I’ve mostly only seen red before.. and even a week ago on the Southern Ranges I don’t recall seeing any other colour. But today’s gift was as unexpected as it was beautiful.. Scoparia in a range of colours! Whites, yellows, oranges, reds and pinks.. What a delight :)!
We lagged behind considerably, but perhaps it was a good thing that the ‘garden’ wasn’t too big, and we were soon concentrating on weaving between knee high alpine scrub on whichever of the numerous cairned routes we fancied. They seemed to merge into one, and we formed the more conventional single file. A good thing maybe, because when it was too late we realised we were a bit too far inland, and had some more serious scrub to go through. The higher land near the edge of the plateau to our left looked more open and inviting, but we weren’t backtracking, and it looked like we’d have to go through a small bit of scrub anyway. So we did, veering left so as to hit the higher and more rocky ground as soon as possible.
It wasn’t long before the going was open again.. over a rise, and there our summit lay. We could even see the stick sticking out of the summit cairn. A short climb and we were up, enjoying the views. Perhaps slightly less dramatic than the views of range upon range in the southwest of the day before, but very nice, and far reaching, all the same. We could see right back towards Mt Wellington even. One that stole my attention was unmarked on my GPS, but I’ve since been informed it was Tumble Tor. A fitting name I think. It seemed higher than Brady’s LO, on which we sat, and the summit cairn was certainly much more attractive! Might just have to pay it a visit when I go back and climb Billop Bluff, which is on its other side.
The reluctance to move that goes with pure enjoyment was kept in check by the quite cool wind, that had some of us donning jackets quite quickly despite the suns best efforts to warm us. So after lunch we retraced our steps, but in hope of avoiding the worst of the scrub we stayed closer to the edge, and were rewarded for doing so. A few more scoparia photos on the way, and we were back at where we’d started on the edge of the plateau a very relaxed 4.15hrs later.
A snack break, then off to Blackwood! We followed the road to a rise, then stayed high to avoid the thicker scrub. We smiled at small white flowers bringing colour and cheer to the rocks they grew between, I heard others whistling, and I thought that maybe I wasn’t so weird. I’d felt like singing the two songs that were in my head out loud all day, but I’m not that brave, nor can I sing particularly well. Whistling seems like something I should take up! Though I’m quite sure that you probably can’t whistle any better than you can sing when walking uphill!! To go with the singing, I’d also wanted to spread my hands out and run, like I did as a kid, in an expression of freedom and joy, or even a cartwheel.. but that was curtailed to the occasional bouncing from rock to rock. I was full of a different kind of energy, and it needed an outlet of sorts.
I chatted with whoever I happened to be walking near, but at times I dropped behind or wandered ahead, alone with my thoughts. Enjoying the more distant sounds of happy conversing, spontaneous laughter, whistling, and even the odd children’s song :). There were birds singing, and bumble bees bumbling around as they do. It was nice to see them out and about again. There’s something powerful in nature, that brings out the best in us if we let it, I don’t think I’ll ever know quite what it is, or understand it, but that’s quite ok. I do know it makes us freer, less judgemental, softer and more at peace both with the world, others, and ourselves.
Anyway, back to the walking. The cairn on Blackwood was visible from a distance, and we just had one dip and the necessary rise on the other side to get down and over, and then we were there. There was another unnamed high point a bit further west, which looked higher, but wasn’t named, and we wondered at why points are allocated in the manner they are. We often do this from time to time, always with the same conclusion – there is no reason! But that didn’t stop us enjoying the summit we were on and the views out towards Cathcart Bluff, Drys and a whole heap more. While the others wandered around taking photos, I lay back, surprised at how much it cut down the chill from the wind, and concentrated on the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin. I shut my eyes, opened my ears and relaxed into the moments.
It had taken us 50 minutes to get there, and another 20 on top, and then it was time to head back down. We were tired, but we promised Murph that we wouldn’t slip and break anything, and, with an echidna to bring smiles to our faces again, we got down safely in 2:20. That included a stop at a very cool and refreshing waterfall just before the cars. We also solved our road problem – the road must have been rerouted and no longer goes where the map says it does.. if you’re interested in this walk, keep walking past where the maps have the road marked, until you come to a very decent road.. or follow the track we took on the way down, not up!
When we got back to the cars at 5:50, Murph asked who was keen to go to Sandbanks.. there was silence, and then Catherine said with a hint of tiredness and none of her usual enthusiasm, that she would. She didn’t have a choice though, it was her first Murphy walk, and that means there’s expectations to meet ;)!! We all decided we’d go, maybe not everyone would have if someone had said no, but I think we were all glad we did. The drive round was quick, and we made the few adjustments necessary. Some donned volleys or runners, ditched packs, or lightened them. The walk was deemed a gaiter free zone (bar one small strip of scrub) so they were also ditched. I’ve already briefly written this one up, and it was the same terrain, but a different walk. We traded the jumping of fences for a walk round the edge, and then we were on the scree..
Scree.. tired legs didn’t stand a chance, their complaints were ignored as the rock monkey spirit took over. Everything became about where to put the next foot or hand, which rocks could be trusted, which should probably be avoided. Because it was so short and so open, the route obvious, we could just go at our own pace and wait at the summit. For rock lovers, the walk is a lovely little one. On top the light was lovely, the sun casting its golden evening colours on the tier. The wind hadn’t let up, and it was that, and the time, that would eventually drive us back down. But we did get to enjoy the summit for a bit, and it was probably just as well we left when we did. It meant that by the time we were near the bottom of the scree field the sun was turning the rocks red, and the moon had just risen above the ridge line. Another gratefully received gift from nature.
2:20 hrs after having left the cars, we were back down. Most of us didn’t worry about getting changed, and we enjoyed the fading light as we drove home.. drifting off along the way..No wonder: for the two trips 20.8+3.5km; 9:53+2:22hrs; 905+297m ascent.