The Pleiades: 14 February 2021

The Pleiades GPS route. Note the walking started in what is mapped as water, where the slight dog-legg is just above the word ‘Lake’.

There’s nothing like a bit of unfinished business to bump a walk up the list. Especially when you’re about to lose the kayak you’ve had access to for the last 5 years. It’s even easier when you’re not the only one hatching similar plans! The Pleiades had first become a serious target at the start of the year following a club walk to Pokana Peak. It had been discussed as a possible side trip and had certainly sparked interest. It was to be far too ambitious for that trip, but it looked good and wasn’t a mountain easily forgotten… 

Mark went back in in a boat a few weeks later, which I found out after the fact when we were chatting via email on another matter. He kindly shared his route when I told him I was also planning a trip back. Tim got roped in, even though he’s not supposed to be walking until he’s finished an upcoming exam, because he’d lucked out as my partner in crime on the Pokana trip and I was pretty certain he’d be keen. He was, so we locked in the one day we could both do and hoped we’d get lucky with the rain and the wind (or rather, lack thereof!).

After I finished a day shift on the Saturday, we loaded kayaks and gear and headed down to the end of Clear Hill road. The drive this time seemed to take forever, probably reflective of how tired I was feeling and my desire to just be there. We’d tried to make good time, but the last hour was in the dark and the wildlife was more active than I’d have liked. The Mini had its first wallaby encounter in three years of driving. It was certainly easy to pull up when we finally made it, set up sleeping bags and get a relatively solid night sleep in the back of the car.

Both of us had talked about setting alarms, thinking we were in for a decent but achievable day walk, but neither of us remembered. I certainly didn’t have much time between being ready to sleep and being out to it. As a result we were ready to start paddling at 7:30, 1.5 hours after our intended departure time. We sped across the very smooth lake, faster than we’d calculated, but still taking time to enjoy the reflections of the dead trees dancing on the surface of the lake as we wove through. The spiders still hung in their webs at the top of the skeletal remains, this time accompanied by lots of little black dots – their offspring.  

The Pleiades in Greek mythology are the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. To avoid Orion’s lust their parents turned them into doves and placed them amongst the stars, apparently! I’m not sure why this particular mountain ended up with the name, but we were keen to see if the summit would give us any clues. We could see far enough to pick out the clearest line up the first and likely steepest bit of the ascent. It was just as well, we reasoned, that we’d slept in, as we wanted to allow the low lying cloud sufficient time to burn off.

Thats the first bump to get up. We select the least scrubby ramp that runs up the right hand side.

Off we set, initially across the old lake floor, now just blackened mud and quartzite gravel. This gave way to the typical low button grass, tea tree and melaleuca scrub of the south west. The wild flowers had largely done their dash and it was only higher up that we had a little bit of pink in the odd trigger plant to offset the greens, browns and yellows – the ‘spice colours’ of Tassie wilderness as mum puts it.

Taking a moment to catch our breath and glancing back. We’ve gained a fair bit of height already, which is just as well, the legs are protesting! We parked out boats on the tiny black isthmus about an inch in from the left edge of the photo.

It was generally easy going, with only one or two slightly scrubbier gullies/creeks to cross. Even here it was easy enough to pick a good line. Perhaps the hardest part was the sheer incline coupled with slippery went muddy goop underfoot that often had you sliding two steps backwards for each one forwards. In spots the button grass thickened and proved to be unsteady underfoot, requiring more energy than it should to make progress. 

As is always the case, however, we steadily climbed our way up and across and were more than half way up when we figured a breakfast stop was in order. We were nearly at the bottom of the cloud, which was proving to be more stubborn than forecast and were aware of the need to either slow down or to summit with no views. There’s only so much time you can take to eat, however, especially when your shirt is drenched in sweat from the climb and the high humidity and now sticks like a freezing cold icepack to the small of your back.

Where things become a bit more exciting! The slog through uneven button grass is replaced by a bit more of a climb/scramble up into the underbelly of the cloud. I did like this bit!

Procrastination exhausted and fingers turning yellow and numb, we continued up the ridge. It got a bit interesting from here on, all the more so because we couldn’t really see what we were in for… entirely! Just that there was a lot of very steeply sloped rock with scrubby channels running vertically in the gaps. Once we got the hang of it and safely extracted ourselves from a scrubby gully we’d got caught in, we found it to be much better going. It wouldn’t be much fun for people not comfortable on steeply slanted rock with not a lot of purchase in some spots though! Oh, and it would be pretty miserable in wet weather too.

Head in the cloud, the summit materialises as we approach. We duck out of the wind and wait…

Once we were past this bit the ridge top walking resumed and the scrub diminished as we ascended, eventually to be replaced by cushion plants, pineapple grass and the likes on the summit plateau. By this stage we were definitely walking in the cloud, although we could tell we were right at the bottom of it and knew it would have to lift sometime soon. So we wandered over to the high point, aided initially by GPS and then by the unmistakable cairn, and then ducked over the edge to sit out of the wind. 

Glimpses of view are promising. It’s a beautiful, gnarly kind of land out here.

It was only 1.5 hours after we’d had breakfast, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have something more to eat as we enjoyed the wait. There were plenty of little white quartzite mounds scattered around the otherwise fairly flat summit plateau, but I’m not sure there were exactly 7. The naming of the mountain will remain a mystery I think!

Summit cairn, rocky outcrops and a hint of Lake Gordon
The best view we were going to get to the southwest. The ridge here is a longer but perhaps less climby way up.

The sun broke through intermittently, deliciously warm on our legs and backs, gradually drying our shirts. We got tantalising glimpses of the view before it clagged back in, worse than it had been. I began to despair, but Tim didn’t seem to be in too much of a rush (despite plans to study on his return home) and so we waited some more. It was worth it in the end, even if we didn’t get views to the west, where the wind and clouds were coming from. The ones east down to the lake and mountains beyond and north to Pokana were lovely enough.

On the way back down, just a short walk from the summit. Perhaps this is one of the sisters?

Eventually (1.25 hrs after arriving) we dragged ourselves away, keen to get back before dark. We were much faster on the descent, which was largely downhill, although the views meant we (well, to be honest, I) stopped more frequently for photos. The cicadas were out in force and our trampling through the scrub disturbed a number. It’s always been a familiar sound that evokes warm memories from childhood and again it had me smiling.

Sidling around the edge of the steep rocky and scrubby section. It’s much easier than on the way up

We chose a slightly better route in spots, did our fair share of sliding and only got mildly distracted by what turned out to be three kayaks dragged well inland. It looked like a family were also out having lots of fun, so we left them a smiley face made from rocks on the upturned belly of one. 

The cloud still grazes the tops of the mountains to the east. Stepped and Clear hills are pretty impressive looking
One last glance back, now that the summit is clear. The high point lies on the plateau behind the rise on the left.
It’s beautiful walking on the way back and I’m guilty of pausing many a time to enjoy it! Look at that lovely ridge to walk along…
I do like colours, textures and lines. Stepped Hills, the Thumbs and Clear Hill stretch out across the eastern horizon.

Our legs and feet were grateful to be back at the kayaks, looking forward to an hour of rest. I, of course, had to add to the excitement by doing what could have been classed as a well executed parkour move while attempting to get in the kayak. It ultimately resulted in me moving from one side of it to the other, complete with a 360 degree horizontal rotation. I did not manage to do this while staying entirely dry and I’ll admit the landing could use some work. The kayak, fortunately, stayed upright. Tim was most disappointed to have had no time to get the camera out!

Some brilliant rock up here as we wander down the ridge. Pokana Peak is off in the distance on the right.
And the final ascent down to the kayaks. The going, as you can see, is really pretty good. No serious scrub bashing required if you pick the right kind of line!

One last glance back and off we set, taking only a little longer to get back out than on the way in, courtesy of a bit of a southwesterly breeze and a substantial level of fatigue. We still made good enough time that I was home and unpacking the kayak in the last bit of dusk before it gave way to night.

Paddle: 6.0km one way, 1 hr there, 1:10 back

Walk: 9.3km, 6:34hrs, 890m ascent

P.S. Happy Valentine’s to everyone reading this! I hope you spent it doing a few of the things you love with some of your special people and found time to reflect on why they’re special to you. And if you didn’t, I’m sure it doesn’t matter if you pick a different day ;)!

Food and hydration for the beginner

A rather embarrassingly long time ago I was asked to put together some tips on yummy bush-tucker, aka the kind of food you might like to eat on a walk. I said I’d get onto it straight away…. I did, it’s just taken this long to complete! So my sincerest apologies to the reader who asked for it :/. I’ve decided to start off with dinner – cos it’s the big one. There are many ways of doing this, and I reckon a great approach is to check out what everyone else does and steal all the things you like to come up with your own food menu. I’ve tried to include a bit of a range that will give you an idea of what I found good from the I-can’t-cook or I-don’t-have-time perspective through to the I-have-a-dehydrator, I-want-yummy-food and I-want-to-know-exactly-what-goes-into-my-tummy end of the spectrum. But preparation time and taste aren’t all that it boils down to, there’s also weight and gas consumption involved. It’s up to you to make the call on what combination works best for you – these are just ideas that are perhaps best suited to those who don’t do much overnight stuff and want a bit of a place to start.

Preparation:

The quickest, easiest way to get a dinner meal is to buy one. If you’re really pressed for time, you can order online (can’t say I’ve done this!). There’s a few brands out there and many of the camping stores will stock back country, backpackers pantry or the outdoor gourmet country. I’ve had a few of these and found them rubbery, pretty average on taste, salty and have heard that for many guys they’re not big enough (they’ll buy a double serve). They’re cheap and easy on gas – add boiling water to the packet, let sit, and eat in 10 minutes. There’s always those easy pasta meals you can buy from any supermarket, which probably have a bit more taste, are cheaper and you can throw your own combination of veggies in.

A much better alternative to the bushwalking specific meals is Strive Food (https://www.strivefood.com.au), made by a nutritionist with calculated serving sizes. They’ve got to be the best pre-packaged meal out there for taste and cost (in my opinion). They are marginally heavier (130-150g single serve as opposed to 90ish grams) and take a little more to rehydrate, but a boil up, 10 minute wait, and reheat if needed works pretty well. My favourite would be the spaghetti bolognaise (even better it uses 2 minute pasta so it’s super fast), followed closely by the creamy vegetable pasta. If you shop in store they have ‘seconds’, which is all just about the packaging not the taste, and is another way to save a little bit of money.

Taste:

The best tasting meals are home cooked. If weight isn’t an issue and you’re on a short trip, frozen is a perfectly good option and I’ve used it before – just choose a relatively juicy meal so you don’t get it stuck to the bottom of your stove while reheating!

You can obviously cook from scratch, but this is pretty costly with gas and time (not what you want to be doing after a long hard day) and not very practical if you’re out by yourself (it’s more efficient if you’re group cooking). Fresh veggies also don’t last particularly long, and are hard to keep from getting squashed!

The best option for taste that’s also weight and gas efficient is to dehydrate your own meals. This does, of course, take a bit longer to prep at home, and requires some basic cooking skills! A few tips are to use super lean meats, get them minced, and dice all veggies nice and small. My favourite home cooked meal is definitely a lentil curry, although green chicken curry, spaghetti bolognaise, balti chicken and chilli con carne all taste amazing as well.

Weight:

As mentioned, the most weight efficient meals are dehydrated meals. But you do need to be careful that you don’t skimp on a few grams and end up hungry. Your own dehydrated foods are the best option for a reasonable weight as you can cater exactly to your needs (for instance, I’ll have 70-80g of whatever meal we’ve cooked up, and add 30-40g of rice, but will give Graham 100g and 50g respectively). Extra potato deb or couscous are both handy to have in the bottom of your pack too to bulk up your meal for a minimum amount of weight. To add a sense of fresh green veggies, dried peas are wonderful by day 4 of a walk and we’ve recently tested out Campers Pantry dried veggies – the mushrooms are very tasty! And if you’re worried about needing an emergency meal, you can’t go past 2-minute noodles for weight and ease (I’d recommend one of the spicy brands like Indomie).

Gas consumption:

The most fuel efficient meals (short of bringing a second lunch that doesn’t require cooking) are bought dehydrated meals. You only have to boil water once and they’re good to go (though a tad rubbery). Both Strive and home made dehydrated meals come in next. A boil, a 10-15 min wait, and a part-boil just to heat it back up are usually enough to get your meal back to normal. Occasionally minced chicken will still be a tad chewy, but not rubbery (that’s very important)! Cooking from scratch obviously takes a lot of gas. If you have the time, putting your food in water to soak before boiling it up also decreases gas consumption.

Extras:

There are a few handy extras you might want to consider:

Packet soup/miso soup: These come individually packaged which means they travel excellently AND they taste delicious. Always a good starter to rehydrate or warm up with, especially while waiting for a meal to rehydrate. You can also make your own from dehydrated veggies, veggie stock power and some nutritional yeast – I’ve started doing this to cut down on packaging. If you do spinach/kale/silverbeet or lentils in a little bit of tamari it adds the perfect amount of flavour too.

Chocolate: If you like chocolate, this never goes astray. Always rounds off a slightly salty meal with the perfect amount of sugar. Lindt balls are my favourite 😉 but they’re a bit bulky to pack, and if they get too warm they’re a complete mess!

Snacks: you can buy anything you want, taste dependent. I used to go with the highest calorie per 100g rating, but now make my own (less processed and less packaging). I take a mix of date, almond, cashew and cocoa slice and energy balls made from apricots, tahini, oats, honey, coconut, ginger and apricots. You can google any energy ball recipe. For me, 2-3 snacks a day does me just right.

Custard powder: A handy thing to have if you’re unsure about your serving sizes. Can fill you up that tiny extra bit if you’ve underestimated your appetite, and can be had hot or cold. If you’re feeling luxurious, a few strawberries go brilliantly with it too, or dehydrated banana!

Port/Muscat: For those who like a little drink, this one just seems to fit (though I’m aware it’s very much a personal preference thing!).

If you’re dehydrating your own meals, don’t forget extra salt, pepper, and some chilli powder – so much easier to make adjustments out there.

Breakfast:

Again, there’s plenty of options here. I now use 75g of quick oats, with a handful of sultanas, home dried bananas or apricots, some peanut butter, dessicated coconut, chia seeds, pinch of cinnamon and some milk powder for breakfast. That does mean a hot breakfast (which I find a quite nice way of easing into the day), but it might not appeal to all. Other people I know do muesli or pre-boiled eggs (for the first few days, and egg powder thereafter). I just didn’t find either filling enough.

Lunch:

I have to say, I rather love my lunches on bushwalks. I’ll have anywhere between 4-6 vitaweets, spread with butter from a small tub (so much more palatable!), a slice of cheese for each vitaweet (off a block – pre cut slices are messy if they get hot), a chunk of salami (1-2cm), 3-4 cherry tomatoes (depending on how many were in the pack and how many days they have to last) and 3-4 sugar snap peas (as with the tomatoes). The cherry tomatoes and peas are a huge luxury, but they keep excellently (yes, even on 10 day walks!) and are just divine the longer a walk goes on. That all usually fits into a lunch box that’s a tad smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, although occasionally the cheese or salami starts off outside until after the first lunch (cos they don’t squash or break up).

A photo of my lunch from the Old River circuit walk. Had this for 9 lunches (plus an extra biscuit with cheese, which was in my mouth at the time I was taking the photo!)

Snacks:

This is where a lot of my food weight goes. I tend to go through three ‘bars’ a day on bigger walks. There’s heaps of options out there and they’ll all give you the extra calories you’re burning off. I used to go for the bars with the highest energy per weight, I now try to steer away from purely chocolate to more of the natural or ‘raw’ bars when I can afford them. Partly because they’re better for me, partly cos they don’t melt, partly because they leaving me feeling better and fuller for longer than pure sugar. Play around with your own mix of scroggin, beef jerky (home made is great!), dehydrated fruit or leathers, and lollies for when you need something extra.

Hydration:

Shotz tablets [now called Koda I believe] (or other rehydration tablets): these guys are great for on the track. Rehydration is one of the most important things out there, not just of water but also of essential electrolytes. If the electrolytes and water lost throughout the course of your walk exceeds your intake or body’s ability to compensate it can leave you feeling particularly crummy, with symptoms ranging from fatigue to nausea, vomiting and cramping. Shotz/Koda are the best brand out there (in my opinion), but the main thing is to use them if you’re doing tough, long or particularly hot or dry days. Some friends who have found cramping to be a problem also use a version that has a lot more Magnesium (you can get them from the chemist or supermarkets like Woolies/Coles), to great success.

A few bits a pieces, the two meals are green chicken curry and chilli con carne, there’s beef jerky, dried banana and strawberries, apricot leather, and dried mango

Kayaking: July 2014

Mist and early morning light on the Bangor Property
Mist and early morning light on the Bangor property

The plan for Sunday was a paddle, walk and paddle, with the intended destination being Mt Cawthorn in the Southwest. It was ambitious for a winters day, and perfect weather was going to be crucial. Ambitious enough that I’d initially expressed doubts to Simon, the organiser, over whether I’d be able to paddle fast enough over the distance we’d need to travel with my back the way it was. He reassured me, and a solution I was happy with was found when I asked Graham if he was going, and if I could share his double.

Reflections
Reflections

The weather didn’t agree however, and the fine day I’d had climbing Frederick the day before was not to be repeated. The wind was forecast to be 25-35km/h, with 80% chance of rain from 10am-4pm or something ridiculous. Plan A was called off.. Plan B was formed, pondered, and also decided unsuitable. A lot more last minute work on Simon’s part and Plan C was devised: A drive in to Bangor, just past Dunalley on the Forestier Peninsula, launch from Lagoon Bay, and paddle around to check out the Tasman monument (commemorating the arrival of Abel Tasman on December 3, 1642). There were also options to explore nearby islands if time/weather/people agreed.

The spiderwebs were beautiful
The spiderwebs were beautiful

I was still conscious of wind and swell, and the fact that I’m not an experienced kayaker by any means, nor do I know how to roll a boat. I actually sent Graham a message questioning whether or not I should go (he was, after all, the one who risked getting wet if things got rough, and he could still go in his single if I didn’t go). He convinced me otherwise, just, and once the double was on his car there was no backing out.

Diamond necklaces..
Diamond necklaces..

By Saturday night after returning from Frederick I was too exhausted to think about it any further anyway. I couldn’t even get my head around what I needed to pack (walking is automatic, kayaking requires thought!). So I left it for the morning, and headed to bed. I was rather annoyed to find myself wide awake after a few hours sleep, but still too tired to think about anything, so I resorted to sorting through and posting photos of the walk up Frederick. I finally drifted off, only to wake at 4am to my alarm.

Tree, cobwebs, mist in the morning.
Tree, cobwebs, mist in the morning.

I had to get up, I still had all my gear from the last weekend hung out around the house to put away, kayaking gear to pack, and lunch to make. I bumbled through it, deciding it might not be so kind to vacuum the floor at such an early hour (a good excuse anyway) and was ready to be picked up shortly after 6.

More mist, and by now, some very patient friends!
More mist, and by now, some very patient friends!

The drive was a bit quiet due to the mood I was in, but Graham managed to talk me out of it, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re around happy and bubbly friends who are excited about being together and going on yet another adventure. Jess was the only one who look positively terrible, and it hit me how easy it is to take her smile for granted. She had good reason, and Bec gave her what only Bec can give: a Bec hug (they’re different from normal hugs). I was glad Jess had still decided to come, and it was even more special to see her laughing and smiling later in the day.

Lined up, ready to be packed and launched.
Lined up, ready to be packed and launched.

We set off, a little late, but made good time. As the sun started to rise the day got really special. We drove past scores of trees, covered in dewy spiderwebs, that shined in the mist. It was really rather magical, particularly in those few moments when the sun had risen above the horizon and turned the mist and cobwebs a golden yellow. I should have listened to Graham when he insisted I ask to stop if I wanted to take any photos, but I was being stubborn, and we hadn’t discussed the possibility with Simon, who might have wondered where we had got to if we suddenly dropped off the back of the convoy.

Bec says it all in one gesture.
Bec says it all in one gesture.

Later on though, after arriving at the Bangor property and picking up the key for a fee of $10 per person, everyone else started to photograph cobwebs on fences or the beautiful misty views. It took me a while, but I reluctantly joined in… and then got a bit carried away. I was very much aware that it wasn’t my walk, and I was making everyone wait, and after getting bogged and losing my sandals in some smelly marshy stuff while taking photos of yet another cobwebby tree, I thought I should be a bit good.

Leaving the bay
Leaving the bay

A brief stop at a river to wash off my feet and sandals so that I didn’t make Graham’s car smell too badly, and one other to take some photos of reeds in front of mist (which I justified as being ok because it was Graham’s suggestion, not mine!). We drove past swans, sheep and belted galloways, and saw our first few sea eagles flying the skies. Already, any expectations I’d had for the day had been far exceeded.

Heading out to sea.. beautiful.
Heading out to sea.. beautiful.

A bit more of a drive and we found ourselves at a grassy spot to park, just above Lagoon Bay. The water was calm, the sand soft and damp underfoot, decorated with seaweed and heaps of perfectly whole abalone shells. I was ready for the day now. Boats off cars and down to the water’s edge, gear sorted and packed, skirts and pfds on, and we were ready.

Looking back as the others pass through the narrow strip of water between land and Double Rock (left)
Looking back as the others pass through the narrow strip of water between land and Double Rock (left)

Out we went, in our own time, enjoying the freedom of being on water. Bec glided past, paddle resting across her boat, arms spread out in a gesture that expressed what I think we were all feeling. And so, in that fashion we made our way out of the bay, keeping closish to the edge. A seal waved a flipper at us as we passed and cormorants looked on from their well inhabited rock, before we made our way between the land and Double Rock.

Seals.. there's three believe it or not!
Seals.. there’s three believe it or not!

Three more seals were spotted on rocks to our left, and we went to check them out. Narrow passages between the  columnar rock of Cape Fredrick Hendrick were very tempting, but I don’t think any of us novices trusted our kayaking skills enough to think about an attempt for longer than a few moments.

About to round Cape Frederick Hendrick
About to round Cape Frederick Hendrick

Slightly further around Simon spotted another sea eagle, perched on rock. We paddled over to check it out, and Graham decided it must just be a tree stump, because it didn’t move an inch. I agreed. But we were to discover on the way back that it wasn’t there anymore, so sea eagle it must have been!

Looking back
Looking back

And then we were paddling out across North Bay, the water nice and calm, disrupted by a decent sized splash just to our right that none of us saw but could only assume was another seal playing. We each paddled at our own pace, happy to be alone in our boats, but to also have the occasional chat with others as they passed. At one point we made a kayak raft of 5 boats, sour worms were passed around, and more laughter was shared.

Jess in the sun :)
Jess in the sun 🙂

A little bit of playful splashing, jokes on initiation rituals for Graham’s double kayak, and enjoyment of the place, activity and moments kept us occupied as we passed by Two Mile Beach and rounded Monument Point into Tasman Bay. Beaching on pebbles proved a tad slippery but manageable, and very quickly priorities turned to food and photos. I was really quite hungry, but kept finding things to photograph. A slice of Meredith’s home made muesli slice did the trick, and I indulged my desire to try and capture the orange and yellow lichen growing on rounded grey rocks before turning to lunch.

Peta.. perfect example of calm, effortless gracefulness.
Peta.. perfect example of calm, effortless gracefulness.

We sat in the sun on the pebbles, chatting away, munching on lunch, sharing dessert. Smiles all round had me smiling, and feeling that warm glow of perfect happiness. All done, we went to check out the monument, and a decent sized hut nearby, before returning back to the boats. The wind was up a bit, so we decided to just push back.

Bec and Visscher Island
Bec and Visscher Island

Though a bit ‘lumpy’, as Simon described it, I suspect the double was rather a lot more stable than some of the singles, and I was surprised to find I didn’t feel at all concerned, in fact I rather liked the feeling of rolling with the waves. The sea eagles were almost out in force by now, and one flew almost directly over head at one point. Quite special!

Part of our raft of 5.
Part of our raft of 5.

After rounding the choppy Cape Frederick Hendrick again we had the wind behind us, and paddling became a whole lot easier! The seals were gone, but another sea eagle was flying around Double Rock, and one was perched on a tree on the land to the right of it. Graham decided we were going to pick up the pace as we went through the narrow bit of water between the two, which was rather fun, especially when we caught a wave.

Pulling in to Tasman Bay
Pulling in to Tasman Bay

Once through, we were back in the shelter of Lagoon Bay, and decided to wait up for the others here. My back was aching by this stage, and I was glad of a break, even though there wasn’t much I could do to stretch it out. The four of us chatted about the day as we waited, and then together we cruised back in.

All up.. time for lunch!
All up.. time for lunch!

Packing up of gear and kayaks was interrupted slightly after Jess provoked Simon to the extent that he gave her a dumping in the sea. Later she nudged me, asking for a hand getting him back. We gave chase, but decided we needn’t waste our effort, as he still had to carry his boat back to the car. I figured I’d have time to help Graham with the double first, but for some reason I became the new target. Luckily I still had one hand on the kayak, and I wasn’t letting go!

Loved these lichen covered rocks!
Loved these lichen covered rocks!

Jess came to my rescue, turned the tables, and soon Jess, Graham and myself were all ganging up on Simon, and we had another chase.. also called off. Another go a little while later, and Simon finally conceded defeat and decided to walk down to the beach rather than have Jess and I carry him.

Close up
Close up

So the four of us walked into the water, which was not too cold after all the running round. Graham dived in, Jess had a go at Simon who eventually went under, and I was too slow in realising that I was the only one still dry!! Uh-oh!! Simon grabbed a leg, Graham an arm, and for a few moments I was balancing on one leg, being pulled in two different directions.

Simon and his monument
Simon and his monument

I thought I’d been given a break when Simon let go, but no such luck, he’d just decided to jump on my back. Time to go down it seemed..! I came up laughing, we all were. Crazy but happy. Completely soaked, out we walked together. Can’t say I ever expected to be swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter, but I’m especially lucky to have friends to do it with!

End of the day.. Con and Peta.
End of the day.. Con and Peta.

But the fun wasn’t over, and Jess soon had us playing frisbee (with the covers from kayak storage holes) while people finished packing and changing. Lots of fun, until we managed to lose one that just refused to be found (sorry Simon!). Another pretty perfect day.

Fresh dry clothes after our dunking, and a game of frisbee
Fresh dry clothes after our dunking, and a game of frisbee

Caving: October 2013

Cave entrance, looking out
Cave entrance, looking out

Another break from the usual adventures, this time it’s caving! I have been lucky enough to go once before, and loved it. So when I put out feelers asking who might be free on Saturday after 9 (yes, I had to work, but I wasn’t going to be able to walk on my usual Sunday and Monday off, so I had to get out when I could), and got an invite to tag along, there was no question about it!

 

Stalactites
Stalactites

We were intending to go to Mystery Creek cave this time, but the fact that it was still raining a bit, that there’d been a fair bit of rain already,  that you have to cross a river,  that water drains into the cave, that we had three kids with us, and that a group of Victorian school kids were killed when the cave flooded meant that a decision was made to go back to the Bradley-Chesterman cave. It was the same cave I’d been to before, and although that meant no new territory to explore or secrets to discover, it didn’t really matter because it was quite a different experience in any case!

 

Stalactites up close
Stalactites up close

I didn’t start the trip off too well, realising as we stood at the cave entrance and filled in the log book that I’d left my camera in my jacket pocket, which I’d kept on till the last minute before leaving the cars. In my rush to take it off and leave it behind I’d forgotten to take my camera with me. Great.. after a race back through the forest just to check that I hadn’t actually put it in my pocket and it had fallen out, I kept going with the others until I got too annoyed with myself, and begged for the key to the car. Somebody thought it would be funny to see how long it would take to make me cry. It didn’t come to that, fortunately, and once again I was racing back through the cave, then the forest, retrieved my camera, and ran all the way back. That was actually quite good, it meant I was nice and warm for the cold water.

 

Some tight sections
Some tight sections

While there was probably a similar amount of water in the cave to last time, in parts it was moving much faster, and there was a section full of foam that had been formed by water racing through the cave at some earlier point. There were also more cave spiders and crickets than I remember from last time. Oh, and our lovely little blood sucking friends, leeches!

 

A bit of mud
A bit of mud

The cave itself isn’t too long, and at the ‘end’ (the furthest we’ve been, as there’s a collapse which would involve being on your tummy in water, and probably not suitable for kids) there’s a ‘mud cave’ off to one side. It also involves sliding along on your tummy, but it’s just muddy, with no water. When you pop out the other end, you’re in a literal mud cave.. there must be rocks under all the mud, but the walls are just covered in it, and you squealch along in very muddy water or thick mud that threatens to keep your shoes. Hehehe… ah, why is mud such fun?!

 

Well and truly covered in mud by now!
Well and truly covered in mud by now!

Cave spider
Cave spider

Big kids and little kids alike had lots of fun, though I’m not sure why I seemed to be the primary target of the mud and foam wars! If you’re up for something different, and don’t mind small dark spaces, being wet and muddy, and the occasional spider or two, caving is great fun. I can’t wait to go back to another one, or even to explore this one past the rock fall :D!!

 

Forest fungi colours
Forest fungi colours

 

 

 

 

Snowshoeing: September 2013

First few steps
First few steps

This one’s a bit of a break from the standard… We didn’t climb any peaks that I haven’t already written about, but snowshoeing is something different that most people wouldn’t normally think to try, and it’s beautiful. Snow shoes, by the way, can be hired quite cheaply, so as long as you have the warm gear, you can have quite a fun day! It’s something I’d recommend everyone try at least once in life. It takes you back to being a kid, laughing at falling over in the snow, having a snowball fight (or three – no photos of that, as I was the main instigator), trying to walk backwards or sideways without falling, and feeling full of wonder and delight at the small enclosed soft white world of snow in which you find yourself. The perfect remedy after a depressing election day.

Got the hang of it
Got the hang of it

We set off, and were getting into our gear at the Lake Dobson shelter in no time.. we shivered our way along the Urquhart track, but by the time we broke out onto the road we were stripping off the layers, and throwing a few snow balls :p! A quick march up the road, a word of greeting to the SES guys who were practicing rescues, and we were off along the track. Still in our boots, with snow shoes strapped to our packs, as there wasn’t quite enough snow to warrant putting them on straight away. But as we got to the ski tow on the way towards the Rodway Range, the snow got a lot deeper, and after struggling with sinking in up to our knees, or at times further, it was time to put them to the test!

On the scree
On the scree

On they went, and we took our first few awkward steps, before getting used to the weight, the best way to move in them, and the big no-no’s :p! It doesn’t take long to adjust, and soon enough if you’re like me you find yourself running with joy, or even skipping!! The others were slightly more contained than me, and kept expressions of joy and happiness to smiles and verbal phrases, while I laughed and clapped and ran and skipped and lay down in the middle of it all… yes, for those of you who don’t know, I am the biggest, craziest nutter of them all.

Bit of snow, and bit of a drop
Bit of snow, and bit of a drop

We proceeded to enjoy the rest of the day, marvelling at the rock that looked like someone had taken out a piece of charcoal and sketched it then and there; at the way the wind caused ice to form in certain patterns, sometimes on the leeward and sometimes on the windward side of things; at the sheer beauty of it all, even though the whiteout limited how far you could see at any one time; at the isolation, the strength and sting of the wind driven sleet, yet the immense calm, peacefulness, and tranquility of the place, and its ability to transport you out of reality, into a surreal winter wonderland for the day.

Pure, pristine, beauty.. untouched and only seen by us
Pure, pristine, beauty.. untouched and only seen by us

We had flat expanses of snow interspearsed between the scree fields that make up the Rodway range, and though the going was much slower on the rock, and snow shoes surely can’t be designed for that, it was much faster and easier than without snow or snow shoes. I was surprised at how much grip they actually do have, though you have to put up with the unnatural and unpleasant sound of metal and plastic on rocks.

Rock, and ice patterns made by wind
Rock, and ice patterns made by wind

Extra special highlights (the whole day was a highlight really) included the challenge of climbing steep sections of snow without sliding down on your front, and the intentional sliding down on bums to get down steep enough sections of snow (much better than any water slide you’ve ever been on). Even falling over is fun, and it’s impossible not to laugh..

Icicles
Icicles

So next time there’s snow and you feel like a fun adventure.. consider hiring or borrowing a pair of snow shoes and heading out with some crazy friends.

The fun way down :)
The fun way down 🙂