Alice in Wonder-Where-I-Am-Land.

Remember blimmin’ months ago when I promised to tell you about the time I went for a stroll around the block, decided to go off-trail into the bush and nearly put myself into a survival situation? Well I’m finally making good.

It happened on Easter Sunday. I remember it well, because I’d eaten a shitload of chocolate and was that jazzed I was practically vibrating. I took off rather abruptly, without the boys (who would’ve just stalled anyway) but did remember to grab my camera. I walked around the neighbourhood for half an hour then made a spur of the moment decision to hike cross country back to the waterfall to continue my quest to see where the creek goes. Remember that quest? That was even longer ago!

Quite often to check out the waterfall after a bit of rain.
They are quite pretty after a bit of rain!

I’ve been back regularly over the past 3 years (it’s been THREE YEARS?! Holy shit!) and it’s my little secret spot. And after the first two times I don’t even get lost finding my way there any more. Got to the falls then climbed to the bottom without a problem –  noting my crappy old sneakers are way less slippery than my hiking boots. Wtf is up with that?

Just around the first bend.

waterfall bush hike

We’d had lots of rain the week before but the creek was back down to a dribble – I’d like to come down here during one of our brilliant subtropical downpours but I think it’d be a bit hairy… high water and landslips and lightning strikes and trees exploding and so on.

little billabong and tree reflections
A teeny tiny billabong. nb for non-Strayans that means freshwater swimming hole.
Playing around with shutter speeds, trying to do a Ken Duncan.
Playing around with shutter speeds for that smoky water look… needs more water to get the full effect.

Nice gentle downhill rock scramble for a bit, then the creek narrowed to a sheer-sided narrow rock chute with three massive fallen trees jammed in it. Not particularly wanting to die, I didn’t go under them, but had to climb up a fucking steep and very slippery, unstable slope cliff to get around.

Yeah nah, not going under that.
Yeah nah, not going under that.

Bit scary actually! Such loose rocks and soil I could only get up by grabbing handholds on some bigger rocks (after testing them first, sending a few big ones crashing into the creek and having one roll on my foot) and flailing for trees and saplings and tufts of native grasses and anything else reasonably sturdy that I could reach to pull myself along. Fairly time consuming and hard work, it took 20 minutes to move a few dozen metres. Shit myself a few times too.

steep hill forest bush
Bit easier up the hill, though it felt even steeper than it looked.

Managed to find somewhere to climb back down into the creek bed without sliding off and shattering my pelvis, and discovered a cute little gorge. High rock walls on both sides, a little trickling waterfall at one end and a sheer drop at the other. I tried to smoke up the water again but without a tripod it didn’t work.

But because I am so completely anal about these things I came back another time with a tripod and tried again. Still needs more water!
But because I am so completely anal about these things I came back another time with a tripod and tried again. Ken Duncan I ain’t, though.

I just love freshwater streams and pools! Back in Carnarvon (the old hometown) there was the Indian Ocean or the local swimming pool to get wet in and that was mostly it. Maybe once a year the Gascoyne River would flow; fresh but stained orange from all the red dirt washing downstream from the inland deserts. That was relatively rare. But there’s water everywhere in Queensland! And you can swim in all of it. It’s brilliant!

After that I found a cliffside path around the next big drop through some scratchy bushes that was easy enough for a mountain goat, and headed to the bottom where all the loose rocks and gravel and branches got dumped after being scoured from the gorge. There were even a few small trees all knotted up together down there – the power of the water must be pretty impressive in flood!

looking down the gorge and forest

The creek bed flattened out into rocks and gravel and I kept chugging along. After a while the undergrowth next to the creek started to close in and the water disappeared. I started having to climb over and under bushes and fallen trees, and my path was getting harder to find. Still no signs of civilisation, which I was sure I should’ve come across by now.

I wish I could’ve got video of this perfect little bubble ball – it was rotating in place in the current…

I’d been hiking for over 2 hours by this stage and suddenly realised shit, I can’t hear anything. No traffic, no people, nothing. I thought I’d have hit the road or something by now, or at least be able to hear suburbia. I realized I had no idea where I was, how far I was from civilization, or where the creek went – though it was now apparent it didn’t go where I thought it did.

And I’m not going to make it if I keep going this way and it’s getting late and I have to climb back uphill all the way home and I have no idea how long it’ll take and I don’t have a torch and shit I could be totally screwed.

Quickly took stock. No phone. No water. Wearing a singlet and shorts. No jacket. Did bring my camera. (Though with the wrong goddamn lens. D’oh!)

Don’t know where I am, didn’t tell anyone where I was going, and don’t know how much daylight I’ve got left.

You idiot.

On the plus side, I hadn’t twisted an ankle, been envenomated or otherwise damaged. Also, I’d stayed in the creek the whole way so I wasn’t lost. Probably. So I about-turned and headed back, hurrying a bit, but not too much because I still had to get myself out of there in one piece.

I’d just negotiated my way back up the first waterfall when in the quiet of the forest I heard a sudden crackle and a rustle of leaves. If this was North America I would have instantly shit myself and thought BEAR! but phew, we don’t have bears in Oz.

But as it turns out it was a bear.
Does a koala bear shit in the woods?

Our neighbours further down the hill have seen koalas near their house but this is only the first one I’ve seen around here! Stoked. Was rather glad he was over the far side of the gully though; he was a big bugger. Not as big as the wild Victorian one I saw in Mum’s backyard that time but much bigger than the ones I’ve cuddled at wildlife sanctuaries here in Queensland. Sure they look cute and all with their big fluffy ears and snoring with their fuzzy square bums wedged in trees but have you ever seen a pissed off koala? They fight like the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Tunes cartoon. You may scoff but if you get on their wrong side they will seriously mess you up.

 

AAAAGH THE ADORABLE SAVAGERY!! MAULED BY EXCESSIVE CUTENESS! From Koala Hospital on Nat Geo Wild filmed down in New South Wales.
AAAAGH THE ADORABLE SAVAGERY!! DEATH BY CUTENESS OVERLOAD!
From Koala Hospital on Nat Geo WILD filmed down in New South Wales.

Finding my way back around the widowmaker detour didn’t take as long as I’d feared, and without stopping and taking any more photos I made it to the big waterfall in about half an hour. Phew! Sort-of civilization!

At least, familiar wilderness. The good ol’ “Sui-Slide”…

From there I pushed hard to the top of the ridge and sprinted home in twilight. The boys barely batted an eyelid when I rocked up sweaty, scratched, dying of thirst and a bit muddy with one shoe soaking wet from accidentally falling in the creek. However they might have started to miss me by 6pm when I wasn’t home in time to get their KFC for takeaway night.

Rather glad I avoided disaster despite my stupidity; considering I am usually super-prepared wherever I go, especially when bushwalking, with my backpack stocked with water, phone, sunscreen, snacks and even a mini first aid kit I’m surprised Murphy’s Law didn’t decide to smite me the one time I went out without it. Needless to say I have now informed J about where he might find me should I disappear from the radar in future.

– Michelle

PS You may not hear from me for a while; I’ve procrastinated about end of school year and Christmas shenanigans long enough. Plus we’re off to Ballarat for a couple of weeks too! So in case I don’t see you, Merry Christmas and happy holidays and see you in 2017 🙂 xxx

I *just* missed getting a shot of a mama and her joey. This is presumably the dad, maybe trying to be tough. Aww the widdle cutikins!
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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Christopher says:

    Wow. It’s a lucky thing you didn’t stray far from the creek and could find your way back. Also it’s nice to finally have a good illustration of a billabong. I’ve heard that word for years without ever being quite sure what one looks like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michelle says:

      Well that was ONE thing I did right – don’t stray from the path. Phew! I’d never do that; I wasn’t raised with forests around and it still blows my mind how much they hide things. But even if I’d entertained half a thought of ‘the road must be just over there’ I’d have never done it because I’ve read Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. 🙂

      Like

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