Day 3. Ooze Lake to Wylly Plateau
Woke in the morning to cloudy skies but some sunshine so I quickly got ready, packed up and set off to make the most of the weather while it was good.
Unfortunately, it only took about an hour for the cloud to come back down and showers to start. But at least I was walking and the cloud wasn’t so thick that I couldn’t find the cairns the track notes said I needed to follow.
The route climbed up to a small saddle just under the summit of Pindars Peak where the track branches to go to the top and then traversed under the peak’s sheer cliffs and descended an open ridge to scrub. I’ve been on top of Pindars Peak before and it was cloudy this day so I didn’t bother bagging it this time.
It was a long, tough, exhausting day of walking. This was the day when the bush bashing started and the track disappeared in places. The weather was showery too, which was frustrating because looking down to the coast it looked sunny.
Heading down off Pandani Knob I entered dense bush that closed overhead. At one spot the track just seemed to stop. Leaf litter on the ground obscured obvious signs of a track. I looked around and couldn’t see any sign of it. I doubled back, retracing my steps to see if I’d missed a turn somewhere. Back on higher ground, I stopped and had some lunch and pondered my next move – turn back? I went back down, slowly and carefully and watching for any path I may have missed, and returned to the spot where I lost the trail. This time I looked more closely and methodically at the ground and found patches of mud where boots had gone. I was back on the trail, much to my relief.
Leaning Teatree Saddle was a dog’s breakfast for the track though. It was muddy and there were paths in all directions. I stuck with ones that appeared the boggiest and, therefore, most trafficked and I was okay. On the way up to Wylly Plateau people had placed sticks across false trails too, which were a great help.
There was no shelter on the plateau and I didn’t get much sleep as showers and strong winds buffeted my tent through the night.
Day 4. Wylly Plateau to Low Camp
Woke up around 4am and just lay in my warm, dry sleeping bag listening to the wild weather outside the tent. It was such a nice feeling – warm and snug inside; wet, windy and cold outside.
But I knew I had to get moving at some stage. Around 6am I had a look outside and could see a line of light on the horizon as the sun came up. Dense dark cloud lay overhead though.
I packed as much as I could inside the tent and then around 8am the clouds started to break and the rain stopped. I jumped out of the tent and got it packed as quickly as possible in the weather break and then set off walking again.
More hard walking bashing through sharp, cutting scrub, losing and finding the track again and then rock scrambling up Kameruka Moraine. I surprised myself however and got into Low Camp after only three-and-a-half hours of walking.
Day 5. Low Camp to Cavern Camp (up and over Precipitous Bluff)
Someone did a lot of work creating the tent sites at Low Camp in the saddle at the base of Precipitous Bluff’s cliffs. They’re sawn tree logs laid flat. Luxury! Slippery though while wearing boots. There’s no water nearby though and I had to carefully gather water from small shallow pools around the campsite and purify it.
It rained for much of the night and morning again and wind whipped the tent. The roar of a waterfall coming off the bluff added to the wilderness soundtrack.
When it came time to pack though, again I was incredibly lucky and the rain stopped for long enough for me to get everything into my pack and to set off. I also had a chance to eat breakfast outside the tent and in the open for the first time since I started walking.
This was the big day. Up Precipitous Bluff and over the other side. By this stage I was very keen to get off the range and down to sea level where it looked like the weather was better and more stable.
I sloshed off through the mud towards a steep valley on the bluff and the waterfall I could see from the campsite. The route went up the side of the waterfall, which involved a fair bit of scrambling up rock faces. It was a bit nerve wracking with a heavy pack on and the rock wet from rain. The path continued up a valley and levelled out a bit at the top of the waterfall. The views were fantastic but were not to last as the cloud came back down again and strong winds blew.
By now I was sick of the weather so put my head down and focused on getting down the other side. Incredibly, the track on top is a constructed path of large flat rocks laid out in a long line. I am in awe of whoever did that.
The path down was well marked with cairns and went steeply down through rocky gullies. Again, very nerve wracking. The scale of the dark cliffs all around were awesome. Very Lord of the Rings/Mordor-like. Passed a couple of nice waterfalls streaming down the rock faces which I happily drank from. Once out of the cliff section it was into dense forest on on the descent spur. It was still steep and in places the track disappeared again. But thankfully there was plenty of coloured tape tied to trees and branches to mark the route. Orange and pink became my favourite colours.
There was some beautiful forest of huge old eucalypts surrounded by carpets of ferns. Back on level ground I walked under tall tree ferns and moss covered trees. At one point I heard and saw a lyrebird.
Reaching the campsite on the shores of New River Lagoon was a huge relief. I was back at sea level, the weather was calmer, it wasn’t too windy and the campsite was sheltered amongst tall trees. I could also put up my tarp and sit outside my tent when showers came through. Bliss after nearly seven hours of intense walking.
To be continued …