Pigs might fly.. or so the saying goes… but for this one, it was to be more a case of wallabies do fly (but we’ll get to that)!
The idea to lead a walk to Western Bluff was, like all my ideas, driven purely by the fact that I hadn’t been, wanted to go, and thought it achievable in a day (even if it was to be rather a long one, due largely to the drive). I don’t think anyone relished the 5am meet up at Granton that I insisted on, but it didn’t seem to affect numbers too much. I had had 13 expecting to show, but last minute cancellations due to other commitments brought that down to an easier to manage 9 (still 1 over my group limit of 8!).
A fairly tired but timely meet up, and we were off, objective number 1 being to get to Banjos in Campbell Town for a coffee. As we watched the sun rise and the sky change as the day began, I couldn’t resist teasing our car load about being thankful for my insistence on an early start. Just to assuage any possible remaining resentment, coffees were on me and, once suitably fuelled, we set off. The time flew by, as we chatted about a whole range of things, including a 5 hr controversial operatic thingy that Catherine had attended the night before, and that was to influence the way words came out of her mouth from time to time throughout the day ;)!
A frisbee and loo stop in Deloraine was called for (and this might have been where Liz, a newbie, might have started to wonder what she’d signed up for), then off to rendezvous with the final member of the group who was coming from the NW. We briefly discussed routes. I’d chosen to skip the Urks Loop road as I’d heard it wasn’t in the best condition, and I really don’t like driving on dodgy roads. In fact, that the forthcoming edition of Abels Vol. 1 will be recommending a route from Lake Mackenzie, precisely because of concern over unmaintained roads. I had a soft copy of the proposed route, written by a friend from HWC, and was armed with a GPS route from another friend, who had been in quite recently.
So off we went in convoy, stopping on the way up at the lookout to admire the mountains in the reserve, a view we would have pretty much all day long! A bay off the southern side of the road gave us room to park, and by 9am we were ready to set off. Jess wondered how long it would take someone to notice their t-shirt was on backwards, Ben pulled out the new boots, and I decided this really would be the last trip for my gaiters. All geared up, we were ready to tackle a few hundred metres of scrub before hitting the nice open stuff.
With Ben then Graham in the lead, I had nothing to worry about at all. Ben has a nose for route finding and terrain reading, so I happily left him to it. I got to enjoy the freedom we got when we broke out of the green stuff and onto rock, but otherwise spent a bit more time than usual paying attention to the group and how people were travelling.
Happy enough to let people string out once we were out in the open, we did just that. Though walking as a group, people were free to break off and chat with one or two others, changing around based on individual needs to grab something out of a pack, take yet another photo of the views, duck aside for a loo stop, or avoid someone taking revenge for a trick or prank you’d just pulled off! I do like this about walks, because you can walk as a group, but still have little bits of private conversation with others, catching up on how they’re doing and what’s been happening, whether it’s been ages since you saw them, or just a few days.
Having spotted a glimpse of our bluff on the horizon, and finally set into a rhythm, someone mentioned if we’d be having a morning tea stop. I hadn’t even thought about it! Whoops.. It was after 10, and the early start meant it was warranted, so we plonked down right where we stood. It really wasn’t hard to take, and it was pretty obvious that this was going to be a rather relaxed day of walking. After refuelling and a small commotion caused by Jess doing her usual hide something of someone else’s (Ben’s hat this time), and having her head torch suitably relocated in retaliation (which led to an interesting discussion about the need for head torches on walks – not everyone had one on this one!), we got back to the walking business.
I tried to stay somewhere in the middle of the group, sometimes dropping to the back, but I did a horrible job. My legs tend to have a mind of their own, and I kept finding myself near the front. This was particularly hard to resist when we climbed a rise and got a full view of Western Bluff and its scree sides.. now that DID look like fun :D!! Unfortunately that wasn’t the way we were going, but it had sparked something, and so after dropping down to a small saddle, Ben and I both took to a small run across a little bit of scree, perhaps in an expression of the joy and freedom and all the other things we were feeling at being out there with friends.
We regrouped before a small climb up scree, and tackled it in single file. Ben led, followed by Jess, Graham, myself and Liz. Murph, Jen, Catherine and Chris were behind, though I’m not sure in what order. Climbing up you could only see one, sometimes two people in front. Half way up I heard a scuffle as if someone had slipped or had a rock go under their foot, and a yelp from Jess. I couldn’t see anything past Graham, but assumed either Ben or Jess had fallen. But no. While I was looking up at Graham’s pack he seemed to move sideways, and a ball of brown fur came flying past his left side. I automatically ducked, and turned around to see what had been a flying wallaby collide with Liz. She stumbled backwards a few steps, while the wallaby dropped to the ground and bounded off sideways.
We spent the next 5 or so minutes trying to make sense of exactly what had happened, laughing at the incredulity of it, checking that Liz was ok, and (Graham) applying some (of Ben’s) antiseptic to scratches on her arm where she’d been hit (we do team work really well). All ok, we headed off, only a short saunter over rock to the summit. We all went first to the cairned and higher point, then over to the edge of the bluff where the trig was, to settle in and have a bite to eat.
I think we pretty much had all the mountains in the reserve named accurately by this time, so we took more photos and otherwise just sat/wandered around and enjoyed them, the sun, and one another’s company. The snacks came out to accompany lunch and were shared around. From possibly stolen home made brownies (delicious) and sour worms, to pods, and later, red frogs.
It was just as well I wasn’t alone, or we’d have never left the summit. But Graham sensibly suggested moving off so as to not be too late, which made my job all the more easy. Although I clearly wasn’t the only one dragging my feet, feeling rather a bit too relaxed and enjoying every moment of being out there. On most occasions when we needed to regroup someone would find a comfortable spot for a lie down, and do just that. Probably the only thing stopping people from actually snoozing was the constant threat of bombardment of wallaby scats!
With a bit of ganging up happening, when we wandered past a small tarn/water hole I commented to Jess how I wished I had a cup.. her reply.. I have a drink bottle! And so, readily armed, she walked up to an unsuspecting Graham and gave him a squirt down the gaiter!! After things had settled down again, I ended up with the bottle, and, asking some random question (perhaps about the name of a peak) to act as distraction, I gave Ben a squirt down a gaiter too. I then spent the rest of the walk back trying to keep a certain distance between myself and Ben, as Jess did from Graham, and had to be extra careful when we came to the wetter sections (Ben’s hat, as it turns out, makes for a good way of scooping up water).
The way back down was a tad scrubbier than up (you can guess who was leading by then!) but we made it out easily enough, and all intact. At the cars, a quick discussion about whether or not we wanted to check out the Devil’s Gullet, with assurance from Chris (the only one who’d been before) that it was worth it and was short enough, had us decide to delay our return by 10 or so minutes.
Ben and Jess started off going for a bit of a run, while the rest of us made our own, slower, way up. But we caught up, in time to see Jess pluck a $10 note from the side of the track. I asked her where my $1 was, making reference to a conversation we’d had in the car on the drive up. She just laughed.
We had been having a discussion about justice and perception (we are sometimes a bit more mature than the wombat scat wars suggest!), and Graham had told the interesting anecdote about how, if you were walking along with a friend, who found $2, and decided to give you $1, you’d feel pretty lucky. But how, if your friend had found $100, and gave you $1, you’d feel ripped off, even though your friend didn’t have to give you anything, and in both scenarios you ended up with $1 that you didn’t have before. Needless to say, I didn’t get my $1 ;)!!
BUT, we did get to the lookout, and were quite impressed with the sheer cliff face and seriously big drop. Jess dropped a few stones off the edge, and we watched the wind move them around. Some of us were keen on a closer look or a photo from a different prospective, and managed to make the others really quite uncomfortable with our proximity to the edge (sorry :(!). A goodbye to Chris, and home we drove. The challenge was on to get there as fast as possible (for those who had work to do that night), avoid getting everyone soaked through an open sunroof and sprinkler system that was watering the road as much as the fields, and enjoy the changing light of dusk and sunset as much as we had the dawn and sunrise. Catherine quoted words she’d first heard Rachel speak on a bushwalk along the lines of having seen all the sunlight hours, and how true it was. We’d seen every moment of the day, and I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent them.
All up: 14.5km, 8.30 hrs, 494m ascent.