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Friday, November 9, 2007

Mountains in the Mist

I had an amazing weekend. Met with some guys from the outdoors club at my uni and went down to the Budawangs (a wilderness area with great bushwalking and lots of mountains) which is out of Milton on the NSW south coast, about an hour south of where I live. It was forecast to be wet, which didn't stop us, but did mean that I forked out for a proper hiking rain coat - a goretex. It cost a bit, but really was worth it.

The first night we stayed at the campsite at the carpark for the start of the walk. First thing in the morning packed up wet tents and headed up the mountain. It was wet, misty, foggy but lots of fun. You initially walk up straight towards the castle, a huge mountain with a rocky top which was the aim of our walk but as you get closer, other mountains appear. Walked up a narrow ridge to the base of the cliffline through forests with the ridge dropping off dramatically to either side.

Once the cliffline is reached the vegetation changes and we found ourselves walking through dense scrubby plants walking over small creeks and past breathtaking views. Breaks were short as the weather was not inviting and in fact, the cool weather made it much easier a walk than the previous time I had been there in a 36 degree heat wave. At this stage you do not walk much higher, rather follow the cliffline around the mountain to the otherside, where the mountains really unfold.

We dropped our packs in a cave and went exploring through monolith valley, a protected wilderness area that is full of rock topped mountains, monoliths (huge towering stones) and deep pockets of rainforests. We walked through to the other side and it looked as though we were standing on the edge of the world as the fog was blocking out the mountains which I knew were there, only 400 metres away. We went back through the valley, locating a beatiful natural stone arch and other spots where my breath was once again taken away before we left the valley to cross the last section before the climb back down to where our packs were. Problem. The mist was so thick that we couldn't see the surrounding mountains which are normally a wonderful guide to the meandering path. Shall we say it took a while to get back through that misty, swampy and disconcertingly darkening valley. A few prayers were offered up and at long last the boys listened to me (lol - it's actually completely true) and we made it back.

We reached our campsite just as dark approached, cooked dinner and soon afterwards went to bed.

But the weekend didn't end there, In the morning when I un-zipped the tent there were blue skies. Just a few metres from where out tent was was the lookout from where both the first and second photos were taken. The misty one about 15 minutes before the other with me in it. The same mountain top is visible in both. It really was magical to watch the mist and fog swirling around the mountains with only the rocky peaks sticking out.

After breakfast we packed up and headed back up to the main track from the campsite and then spent the morning climbing the castle, a very famous bushwalk in our area. It requires quite a bit of climbing and scrambling to get to the top, including a few places where ropes are placed, but nowhere you would need a harness. Once you get to the top it's about 500 metres to a kilometre across the top which is covered in dense scrub and lovely circular rock pools with frogs swimming in them across to the opposite side where you get this view.
The big mountain in the front is Byangee walls and it's the same mountain as was in the other pictures but from a very different angle. Looking at both of them gives you a bit of an idea of the height of the mountain we climbed. I think it's around 870 metres up. The pointy mountain in the distance is pidgeon house, another slightly easier bushwalk that is frequently attempted, and has ladders installed to get up to the top so less climbing is involved.

After grabbing some lunch back at our packs, we took a shortcut through a tunnel that involved passing all the packs through the tight spots, and then a long walk back down the mountain. I have spent the majority of the week recovering physically, and thinking about where I will go next.......

Am also working hard on my apron for the swap on Rhonda's Blog (see the link to "Down to Earth" on my blogroll on the side) I am making one for Bren in the US of A and very excited.