Mt Jagungal (nearly)

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It was a big drive in the afternoon to get down to Cooma for my first walk in the Snowy Mountains area. There had been a lot of discussion about what the weather was going to do. There was a lot of rain on the coast but not a lot forecast for the mountains. So I had sunshine, cloud, grey clouds and rain off and on the whole way down. It was getting late when I arrived in Cooma, so I just had time to buy some dinner, have a shower and try to get to bed at a reasonable time.

Friday morning I was up at 6am to meet the others in Adaminaby at the ‘Big Trout’. There was another hour or more to drive to the start of our walk. We drove higher and higher, 1250m, then 1400m, then 1500m and then remembered that we would be up about 17-1800m on our walk. We had a brief stop at Cabramurra to make a last phone call to Grandpa and wish him a happy wedding anniversary for tomorrow. Ooops, I forgot about that when I booked in for this walk. The wind was howling but not cold, time to put on the fleecy. It was different driving along these roads as usually we only come here on the motorbike, still, I had time to enjoy the scenery. It was good to see that some of the trees were eventually resprouting after those really bad bushfires so long ago and those that were dead and close to the road were being cut down.

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Our walk started from the Round Mountain Fire Trail and it was a last repack and put on warm clothes. We started walking at 9am and the weather was still the same, bit windy, bit cloudy, bit rainy but not too cold.

It is good making new friends as you walk along chatting away. We talked about how good for you walking is and bushwalking in particular. Walking is good for the mind, the rhythm of walking is soothing and meditative, we have evolved walking so the body knows exactly what to do, leaving the mind free to wander. It is a shame in some ways that we have replaced walking with other forms of transport except of course when you want to drive 400km to go for a walk! Walking is very good for your body and depending on how and where you walk, it can have tremendous benefits for your health and strength. The foot striking the ground builds bone strength, while walking uphill and downhill, increasing and decreasing your heart rate is a very basic form of interval training. Trying to keep up with a very fit 72 year old while talking can be a good indication of how fit you really are. But for me, bushwalking is good for the soul. I will be just walking along and then have a big smile on my face just looking around at the world, experiencing the weather, the trees, rocks, flowers, everything.

The wind and rain continued off and on but mostly it was great bushwalking weather, not too hot, not too cold but just right, in short, a Goldilocks day.

I could tell that the training I have been doing is starting to pay off, I could keep up the same pace uphill by using my glutes, as long as the hill was not too long or steep. The track was easy to walk on, an old fire trail that still must be used as some of the creek crossings had new culverts. The water flowing in the creeks was very clean and clear. Would be very nice in summer.

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We passed Round Mountain which from some angles was flat on top, then we got glimpses of Mt Jagungal when the cloud cleared from the top. It is supposedly a ‘bushwalkers mountain’ as it stands alone and you can actually walk up the sides, rather than the other high peaks in the Snowy’s where they are only marginally higher than all the other hills around. There were still lots of flowers out, even though we are heading into autumn, paper daisies mainly, so it would be great to come in spring to see them all. We were heading to Dershko’s Hut and a sheltered camp site with a view of Mt Jagungal.  Dershko’s Hut is nestled in a sheltered valley with a small creek flowing by that we got our water from. It also had a loo with the best view of the sunset later. The walk in was about 17km and we were there by 1.30pm.

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We put up our tents first, in case it started to rain heavier, then collect wood for the fire, then water and a look inside the hut. We decided to stay for a game of cards to pass the afternoon out of the rain.

 

When it started to cool off, we decided it was time to light the fire and get dinner organised. All I had to do was add hot water to my dehydrated spaghetti bolognaise, so that was easy. I was starting to feel a bit stiff, so went for a wander around and enjoy the sunset, it was beautiful. The sky seemed to be clearing in the west but the wind was coming from the east and the forecast didn’t look good for the rest of the weekend. Through the night the wind sounded like a gale but I was snug in amongst the bushes in my little tent.

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It was still drizzling in the morning and the forecast was not looking promising with heavy rain and wind. Not a good day to walk to the top of Mt Jagungal. We discussed it over breakfast and decided that the best thing to do would be to cut the weekend short and walk back. A bit disappointing but I will be coming back later in the year, I might be able to go up Mt Jagungal then. So I packed up my gear without getting too wet and returned back along the track. We met a school group heading to camp at the same spot, we were lucky to miss that tonight.

Rainbow

We did a detour down to Round Mountain Hut, an original old hut and found a family staying there for the weekend out of the rain. They had ridden in on their mountain bikes. I loved the huge fireplace, one you can get right into and cook up a feast in, if ever we build a shack, that is what I will have in it. There were just some iron frame bunks and a table but it was very cosy.

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We made really good time to get back to the cars with enough time to get home before dark. I would have preferred to go camp and walk somewhere else so the weekend wasn’t wasted but it was our 39th wedding anniversary after all and Grandpa was on his own, so off I headed home. Plus it was the youngest grandson Henry’s 4th birthday tomorrow and I shouldn’t miss that either. Oh, what a busy life!

Around Australia – Heading East (and home)

We left the south west corner of Western Australia on a very wet and miserable day. When the sun did come out, the glare on the road was really bad, but we got to see rainbows in the rear view mirrors. The next thing on our list was to visit some big trees. We passed through lots of towns ending in ‘up’, which means place, like Nannup and Manjimup and they all had great food and coffee, too bad we weren’t working up an appetite sitting on the bike.

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Now that’s a wagon wheel

A few towns along the way had been yarn-bombed, but Bridgetown was the best so far.

I found the big Diamond Tree which you could climb and had a fire lookout at the top. It was 53 metres up a dodgy set of spikes going around the tree. Grandpa didn’t believe me that I was going to climb it. It did look a long way up and the spikes were a long way apart and cold. No matter, off I went. It didn’t take long and the view once you popped out above the surrounding forest made it worthwhile.

Then there was the tree-top walkway to get a really close look at the Karri trees for those not into climbing.

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Our next camp was at Denmark where we could see the full moon rising over the sea. Much more private than the “Staircase to the moon” at Broome.

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The next day the rainy weather continued, we knew the weather would be like this in these parts. It really was winter but we were getting used to it now, 2 pairs of gloves, thermals and plastic bags in the boots helped to keep us warm and dry. Albany was an interesting place but wet so we continued to Hopetoun on the coast. The rain had eased a bit but the wind was blowing so hard it blew me and the bike over when I foolishly parked side onto it down by the water. The pub had a fantastic fire box which could have kept us warm all night though.

Next stop was Norseman and then off across the Nullabor and the big, long straight. The weather had cleared by then so we made camp at a roadside stop just past Madura (which had THE most expensive fuel of the trip $1.99/l) and had a lovely fire, the best camp of all. We came across this ingenious way of getting water in the middle of the desert. A big roof and some tanks, probably only catches the dew, but it was enough for us. The Roadhouses along the way will not let you have any water, you have to buy it in a bottle.

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The next day we were back in South Australia and it got slightly warmer. This is where the cliffs start along the Great Australian Bight and we had to stop at all of the lookouts. It is amazing scenery and you get the sense of what a big island Australia is surrounded by all that ocean. The last one at the Head of the Bight was where the whales come to calve and play with their babies. The new viewing platforms meant that you could see them closer than if you were on a boat. If you look close you can see a tail! (the phone doesn’t zoom very well).

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Still cold, wet and windy so we stayed at a dodgy Motel/Roadhouse. Where the German manager did a fantastic job of keeping the locals in line. A big day’s ride to Port Augusta the next day and the highlight for me was seeing the setting sun on the Flinders Range coming into Port Augusta. One day I am coming back for a walk. We set up camp and then found the best old pub by the water, Hotel Augusta with good food and beer and ambience. We nearly ended up spending the night. Somewhere along the road today, there was a town claiming to be the halfway point across Australia but all we saw was a bloody big galah!

So cold, cold, cold that when we stopped at a little place called Orroroo we bought thermal socks and had the very best pie of the trip at the Gum Tree Café if you are ever passing through. This was also home to a gigantic gum tree.

We wanted to see Broken Hill on our way home but in typical fashion, we only had time for a brief drive-by and then on our way the next day. The winter rain had been heavy all over and some of the roads we wanted to take were dirt and we didn’t fancy riding on mud, so we headed south to Wentworth  where the Darling flows into the Murray and then along the Hay plain. Our last stop was at the Bland Hotel in Quandialla and a quick hello to Daniel.

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And so back home again. My first thought when going inside was “What is this place? Oh yeah this is a house”. It felt very strange to be inside after being outside for all that time but gee it felt good to have a shower and find some other clothes that I hadn’t been wearing for the last 6 weeks.

We had such a great time, yes it was tiring and yes we would do it again, sometime later and maybe in the car with a kayak. The next day Kevin hopped on the bike and did the remaining 40km so we topped 16 000kms!! The bikes were really great even if they did cost a fortune to service and of course we have already started talking about where our next adventure will be too.

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