Photographs by Harry Whaite 1912 - 2011

 

 

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An Unplanned Exploration.

By Dorothy Svenson (S.B.W.)

from The Bushwalker Annual 1942

We had no intention of roaming the Nattai Plateau, but it was one of those walks which just take things into their own hands.

Instead of a leisurely ramble up to Couridjah, we climbed up from the river by way of a nasty creek bed, growing nastier and drier all the way. The foxes and the wallabies did what they could to tell us we were on the wrong track. So did the great trees storms had thrown across the way. But with grim determination we ignored the animals, clambered under trees and scratched our way over fallen rocks.

At last we were on top. Here was a cairn of stones. Ha ! now for the road and the railway. H'm ! In this wilderness ?

We studied our map. We must be there, or there—or, perhaps, there ! In any case the railway was ahead, and the road. But in between and all around were wild ranges. We walked along the rubble-strewn top of the ridge to which we had climbed. Shadows were lengthening. We reached the end of a spur. Where were we ? We turned back a little way. It was no use wandering about in the dusk, so we pitched our tent on the top of some short bushes— there was no clear space—and settled down among the stones. Our evening meal consisted of two wheatmeal biscuits and half a small mug of soup. We'd carried a container of water, thank goodness!

We dozed. The night was dark and still. Suddenly a shrill whistle pierced the air—the whistle of a train! Then the railway was over there. At regular intervals we heard this whistle, and comfortably told our hungry selves that morning would show us our way. Perhaps the road lay quite near.

More dozing. A loud grunt rends the air ! A wild pig! I'd heard of them, ferocious animals! We crouched among the bushes. Several more grunts and scratching ! It couldn't see us, anyway. After hours of apprehension, we heard it wandering off. A train whistled. We were re-assured.

Impatiently we waited for daylight. Then, breakfasting handsomely on another wheatmeal biscuit and our last half cup of soup, we gathered ourselves for serious thought. Wherever we were of all those likely places, a south-easterly route would take us to the railway. All right. Back to the edge of the spur and view our surroundings. Just ridges these were, with deep creeks between; rough ridges by the look of them. But there, stretching away in the distance, was a burnt ridge. Its blackened tree-trunks went on and on in a beautiful curve—a south-easterly curve. But between us was a deep creek. We noticed two great rocks at the base of the ridge we wanted. We'd make for them and straight up. But oh! •where was my breakfast!

Thanks To The Wild Pig!

The downward slope was covered with low-growing bushes. For a. while we struggled through. Then a passage disclosed itself ! By bending double we could practically run down the slope. Thank you, wild pig!—or were you just a wombat ? And many, many more thanks when the track ended beside a clear, cool spring! A sparkling spring where tender ferns grew and moss covered the rocks with green. Were I a poet, I'd write an ode to that spring! We drank and bathed, refilling our container, for we'd learned the value of water. Then we went up from our two rocks.

I'll never forget that "up." At the top I sat on a rock with that deserted feeling in my heart—or was it my stomach ?—while my companion went forward along the ridge. The ridge was good. Then a train whistled cheerily. I strode forward. It was a nice, even ridge—on and on it took us, always in the right direction. It broadened. Ferns grew among the grasses. Here trees had been felled. Here was an old cart track—a very old one, the wheel marks just discernable, ferns and flowers overgrowing it. Here was a very rusty spade. Oh, civilization, I never before realised your worth !

With light steps we walked the track, now broadening. Our ridge had gone. And here was the road—the broad, red highway. Actually, we ran along it. At a small farmhouse, where they wouldn't give us bread, we learned that Hilltop was only a mile away. Hilltop! And a mile? We found a morsel of cheese in one of our packs. Slowly we munched it. So we'd not come to Couridjah or Picton, but back to Hilltop!

Where had we been? I dared not think of it! I'd heard about the Nattai Plateau! Yes, I have to admit it.