Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, photographers, authors
September 2014 August 2014 >>
Four Day Dhyana
After raising our children afloat we returned to land to gather for our future. Between busy work spurts, to help us recharge, we turned to trekking the wilderness as a way to get our Nature fix. One of our favourite jumping off points was Raspberry Lookout on the Gwydir Hwy, three hours drive from home base, where from a simple viewing platform at the tip of a tiny road a mind-boggling forest stretches for as far as one can see, light and darkly crisscrossed by the great Mann River system.
Beyond the guardrail trends a long ridge once used by aboriginals to traverse down to hunt game, fish and shells, as did early settlers when running supplies and grazing cattle down on the river flats, and self-reliant miners and timber-getters also used this route early last century. Jack and Jude have also been down in those valleys, dozens of times. We never tire of their pureness; we never find a butt, claggy spent snot tissue, nor nary a footprint except our own. And yet there are secrets to be found.
It is steeply downhill from the lookout, and if the shortest route to water is taken, the start of that sidetrack is scary steep and tricky. Just at that spot we are carrying lots of weight, for starters at the start of a week-long trek there’d be four kilos of red wine in my backpack. That mountainside is so steep we cannot see the end and we sure do not want to miss the slender saddle that shyly forms or next we’ll be descending into a fast forming ravine.
Last year’s broken knee saga was a scare for both of us, and while that is ancient history now, several knee doctors advise that if we’re going to think “off track” then best hang onto the real knee, albeit damaged. Therefore a few weeks ago we tested Jude’s knee for weight bearing on irregular surfaces, trekking to South Bald Rock with four days of supplies, reached by walking 10 km along a reasonable well-made fire track. As reported then, Jude performed exceedingly well. She was less puffed than I, had little trouble, and certainly no pain. She could even manage up and down the pink granite tors.
Below Raspberry Lookout the forests along Cooradoral Creek are ancient and have never been logged. Super straight trees dominate with regal grace over the bracken and grass paddocks found in those lost valleys. No greater peacefulness can be found than under dappled sun watching tall giants sway slightly to the steady chime of water streaming around and over rocks. Here’s the rub; this paradise, even for a youngin’ with two good knees, is quite a challenge to reach. We know that from experience and still we both wanted the challenge, but knew we had to lighten our loads and then take our time. In the last several weeks poor weather or appointments kept us at home base until the day after Father’s Day when a free week and clearing weather set us in motion.
The clan had gotten together for a yummy roast dinner, hosted by Jason and Ally, and in grand style we three fathers celebrated our good fortunes, Jude and I then sliding off to finish packing our rucksacks with Jerome’s gift of liquored chocolates tightly under my arm. It rained most of Monday and we camped with misty drizzle in the Boundary Falls campsite that night. From the lookout the clouds were clearing and the grassy paddock at the confluence glowed attractively.
The walk down did not become a nightmare, no call to the rescue helicopters needed, but it proved hard on bodies lacking fitness. Jelly legs attacked Jude so at the cross-tracks I elected to take the short steep route down while she still had some strength. The heavy going down put me in a pressure cooker with aches from newish footwear making each step a painful one. Gaining the creek, we camped on the first open area, and once setup with a glass of wine, the day’s achievement seemed rather grand and so we had several more while the fire crackled and moon glowed.
See also: The Valley of Tranquility