2008-10-31 -32 138
Photos will be up shortly.
In an extremely remote section of Mt. Remarkable National Park
By the time he reached the hash, a very exhausted UnwiseOwl
The Terrible Tale
You hear stories of people walking off in Australia and never coming back, it happens all the time, especially in National Parks, which are generally in very rural areas away from civilisation. So generally, going out in the bush is a bad idea. If you have to go, don't go alone, don't go without a first aid kit, don't fail to tell people where you're going, don't fail to pack food and provisions, don't forget to take a mobile phone, don't leave the path, and definitely, definitely don't go at night.
Knowing all this, when a hash appeared 1km from the nearest track, in a National park 250km away, on a workday, with me not having a phone, not having prepared and not wanting to tell anyone because I knew they would talk me out of it, I set out on my adventure into the wild Australian bush.
I've been to this national park twice before. The first time, I was a young child and got the worst blisters of my life climbing Mount Remarkable (which is a truly incredible monument, so much bigger than everything around it and with breathtaking views). The second time, I was on a 24 hour rogaine called 'The Thighmaster', with 40C temperatures in the daytime and negative temperatures at night. As I drove north amongst the traffic (some clever person had allowed roadworks on both major northern arterials at one time) I gradually remembered that the undergrowth had been so thick in this region that we daren't leave the paths for fear of not finding them again, that it was too cold up here at night to sleep, and that 'The Thighmaster' was a very apt name indeed.
With realisation of what I had started slowly dawning, but having come too far to turn around and wimp out, I stopped for a 'Stakey at Wakey', or in non-South Australian terms, for a famous steak sandwich at Port. Wakefield (it's something of a family tradition, like screaming out the window all the way through highway tunnels and that sort of thing). As the sunset painted the sky a breathtaking pink and I passed by the pink salt lakes, being reminded of Douglas Adams' electric monk, I continued North. As I passed the town of Pt. Pirie, I realised that it was very, very, dark, and that there would be hardly any moon to help light my way. Tempted again to turn around, but I pressed on in this folly.
3.5 hours after I left town, I arrived at the park, and paid my entrance fee. At least, no matter what happened now, I was assured a ribbon. I parked somewhere near where I thought the walking trail began, and wandered around looking for the trailhead while my eyes slowly adjusted as well as possible to the (lack of) light. I suddenly found myself wishing I'd brought a bigger torch. When I found the trailhead, I laughed at the sign that said the path I was taking would take me 8 hours return, after all, I was only going up there a little.
With my pack on my back I headed up the little trail, turning my light on periodically to conserve batteries while checking that I was still on the path (I generally wasn't). At one point the trail had obviously moved where it went, but I wandered up what was apparently the wrong path for 200m or so until I realised that this was obviously not right, and had difficulty finding my way through the bush to the correct path, just 50m to my left. This was the first sign that perhaps this was going to be a very difficult hash. But I'd been out for too long now to turn back.
After 5.5km (about an hour of walking), I decided it was about time to leave the track (which had joined up with an obvious fire trail and become far too easy) and head off at right angles, with 1km to the hash.
5m into the bushland I encountered my first obstacle, a huge copse of briar bushes that required me to get down on my hands and knees to crawl under it. That was about par for the course. Apart from a few clearings that were too rocky even for the hardy Australian scrub to grow there, which I used as much as possible for ease of movement as well as to regain satellite coverage (these clearings really were Godsends, each and every one of them) the whole km was steep gullies, covered in dense bush. I quickly learned that where the trees were growing was slightly less dense than everywhere else, and at least you then had a handhold to drag yourself through the undergrowth (not quite the right word when it's bigger than you are).
I made good progress until I got down into the gully, where the bush was so thick that I was moving at little more than a snail's pace, pushing through thick, thick bush at every step. I took solace in the fact that I was almost certainly in a place where no human being had ever been before, but this soon evaporated as I realised this meant that my body might never be found. As I lay down in a bush for a bit, this thought was foremost in my mind, but I was only 500m from the hash, and couldn't bring myself to push back through all the stuff I'd just come through, so I got up and laboured on. It's amazing how you can misjudge distances so badly in the dark, and in the scrub.
200m away from the hash, is another patch of insanoscrub, the worst happened. My GPS ran out of satellites, and no matter what I did I couldn't get them back. I suddenly had no idea where I was, no way of getting to the hash, and even getting back to the firetrack seemed doubtful, as all the hills suddenly looked the same. I settled down for a quick cry, but eventually decided that I might as well wander towards the direction I thought the hash was in, as there was no point dying in the bush not having reached my goal. I think I may have been overreacting, but when you're bleeding all over and exhausted and there's no end in sight or even a goal without the satellites to guide you, you suddenly feel so, so lonely, and so, so useless.
Then an incredible thing happened. As I walked blindly into a branch, I heard a gentle whistling. I turned on my torch (looking a little low on batteries, now :( ) and saw a tiny little red bird, apparently asleep on the branch I'd just walked into. 20cm in front of my face, was this incredibly colourful little robiny thing. I got out my camera and took a photo, flash and all, and it didn't move, just whistled quietly at me. I honestly beleive I could have reached out and petted it, and it would have just sat there. Then I realised, despite all my whining, my pain and exhaustion, my total lack of any positive thoughts at all, I was enjoying myself. I was having one of the most exhilarating times of my life. I was exploring a place that no one had ever been, seeing things no one had ever seen, pushing my body to its limit for a ridiculously pointless goal and loving every second of it. The terrain seemed to get easier, the satellites came back, and I had a third wind. I was stuffed. Utterly stuffed. But overjoyed to be there. Never has a hash been visited with such joy and enthusiasm. The hash was in the middle of waist-high thorny bushes, but I just didn't care.
I was at the hash.
It had taken me as long to do the 1km cross-country as it did to do the 5.5km on the track. And now I had to do it all again.
The first 500m was suprisingly easy. Too easy. It had to come to an end, surely. And it did. I found myself on top of a cliff (photos below). Not to be deterred, I climbed down, only to find I'd climbed down into a very, very thick section of scrub. The thick scrub continued most of the rest of the way, and the GPS was too inaccurate and the scrub too thick to allow me to re-find the clearings that I'd waypointed on the way. Somehow, though, it didn't bother me so much. A bit over an hour after I left the hashpoint, I arrived back on the fire track. It's quite possible that no-one has ever been as happy to see a fire tower, a sign of civilisation, as I was after 2 hours wandering in the dark in an untamed wilderness.
As a measure of just how tired I was, the walk back down the track took me an hour and a half, though it was all downhill, when it took me only an hour on the way up. I got back to the car, refilled my empty water bottle, and disappeared into the night. I got home at around 4:30 am, 11 and a half hours after I left work. Exhausted, but overjoyed to be alive.
- Food: $12
- Fuel: $60
- New shirt to replace the one torn to shreds: $20
- New shoes to replace the ones torn to shreds: (Cost unknown, I still haven't bought them).
- MNIMB Hash: Priceless.
So, the moral of the story. It was worth it, but next time I'm convincing some other idiot that they want to come with me. I don't want to die alone.
I AM THE THIGHMASTER!
|UnwiseOwl earned the Virgin Graticule Achievement|
| UnwiseOwl earned the Admit One Achievement
| UnwiseOwl earned the MNIMB Geohash Achievement
| UnwiseOwl earned the Velociraptor Geohash Achievement