Thursday, January 16, 2014

Doing the Great North Walk Backwards

Day 14 - 21 December 2013 - Day of rest

Day 15 - 22 December - Somersby to Mooney Mooney

Early on Sunday 22 Doria dropped me back where she found me, Somersby Store. I was carrying 3 litres of water thinking that would be enough, and sadly dismissed the thought of calling into the shop to buy couple of additional liquid treats. Didn't want the weight. Thought I'd get water at Somersby Falls and I'd be fine.
I set out on sealed road, to dirt, to track. Hot day, getting hotter by the minute. Thundering cicadas. At least there were no flies, like there are around Alice Springs. The track wounds through scrub, then angophora forest above Mooney Dam. About midday I came to a sign advising the connection track to Somersby Falls was 'not open', which was a worry as the map assured me the falls was a good water supply.

Not to worry, although temp still rising and very muggy. Came to a dam, unnamed on the map but in middle of Brisbane Water Nat Pk. See photo attached, beautiful, but still dark water and a few warning signs around about 'submerged objects' so decided against drinking it or a swim, although feeling the heat.
Mooney Dam?
Following Mooney Mooney Creek I came upon huge expanse of rock, quite moon-like, maybe thus the name? Water was flowing, sort of, but not fast enough for my drinking safety test. Note to self- consider water purification tablets next time. Kept walking and feeling the heat by late afternoon, I found a space to camp near the creek, stripped off and jumped in. It felt so good, although brackish and tidal. Setting up camp I couldn't understand why it kept getting hotter so late in the day. I got into the water again several times just to slow down my sweating, worried about drinking water.

Day 16- 23 December - Mooney Mooney to Brooklyn

Next morning I set off early with water on my mind. Thought of Burke and Wills, their tragic end, (see my review of a recent book in NSW Law Soc Journal, Feb 2014) who may have survived if they had relaxed their cultural presumptions about indigenous knowledge. Meanwhile, still following the M-M creek, it became less inviting and more salty with mangroves. Then above me appeared the towering New M-M Bridge, carrying the M1. It seemed incredibly high from the creek looking up, maybe 100m.
The M1 fly-over bridge
Then came to a few isolated houses fronting the creek, considered knocking on doors for water but was still very early and the Aust Nationalist flags were not welcoming. So I continued on to find the Old M-M Bridge, carrying the Pacific Highway across the river, with memories of the James mob in the '60's crammed into our FJ Holden heading up to Budgewoi. Now it seems only motorbikes use it.
Walked across to other side of creek, a few more km into wilderness, stopped to sip water, check the map, and re-think situation. Already sweating, another hot day brewing, and prospect of climbing Mt Wondabyne. Need water. Big decision... hate retreating, but it was wise.
So I headed back a few km, back to the sleeping houses with the Aussie flags, thinking I had the right kind of hat (Akubra) I banged on the door til a bloke came out. Of course he was great guy, topped up my water, wanted to chat but I had to keep going.
Later climbing Wondabyne, drinking freely, and sweating just as fast, reached the top and crossed large expanses of rock. It reminded me of Ayers Rock partially covered in Eucs. Feeling the heat and stopping a lot, looking out over an ocean of tree tops.

Early afternoon I came to an intersection. One way to Patonga Ferry, to cross the Hawkesbury R, the other to Wondabyne Station, to flag down a Sydney train to stop and take me to Brooklyn. The ferry service from Patonga had closed down years ago and the map (2008) said I should ring and book a water taxi instead. I had already tried that. The captain said the 10 min trip would cost me $80, however if someone offered him a glass of wine that day he would not turn up. Quick to get the message, I chose plan B.
Looking across Mullet Creek from Wondabyne

Wondabyne must be the smallest station in Australia, nestled on Mullet Creek. Trains stop only 'on request', which might be once or twice a week, although I saw the latest Opel ticketing system had been installed on both tiny platforms. I flagged a train down. The last carriage came to a stop at the platform, and there it stayed for an hour. Apparently a goods train had broken down ahead. The guard stepped off for a chat and said this train was now two hours late. He reckoned since the goods-rail service had been privatised, breakdowns had increased, causing more delays in passenger trains which were coping the criticism from irate passengers. Soon there was a mini-mutiny, about 50 passengers walked the length of the train to exit through the guard's door onto my tiny platform just to complain to the guard again, and have a smoke. It was awful! I was about to walk into the bush again for some air when word came the track was clear and they all filed back into the single door, one guy stubbing his fag out into the side of the train as if in anger, and off they went.
I flagged down the next train, then tunnel, bridge, tunnel, and Hawkesbury River Station (Brooklyn), Angler's Rest Hotel, beer, shower, bed.

Day 17 - 24 December 2013 - Day of rest

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