Cuckoo Falls 2018 Feb

Cuckoo Falls Feb 2018

Bruce and I tried to get to Cuckoo Falls two years ago, but made the mistake of underestimating how much time it would take. We didn’t get started until 3.30 on a winter’s afternoon, and never reached our goal. On that occasion, we spent a lot of time putting out tapes in the forest, pulling in tapes that went  in an entirely misleading direction, and breaking bracken fronds along the old track so that the way would be clearer, and the going faster next time. At last, this weekend that ‘next time’ came by, but Carrie was a to be my companion this attempt.

Now, please don’t get excited when I tell you I put out tapes. My old tapes were still there, indeed, and they had had babies, which is great, as other tapes had joined them, but this does NOT mean that the going is easy or the way is clear.  Like last time, I had a little bag of ribbons of varying colours, grabbed from here and there, and we added even more tape when we thought things weren’t clear, but the trick to adding tape is that you do NOT add it unless you know for sure you’re on the right track, for otherwise you are more of a hindrance than a help. This means that when you need the tape most, you can’t put it out, as you are not confident you’re on track. Once you become sure again, of course, you don’t need tape. Carrie put up with my going backwards on several occasions once we knew we were back on track, and I put tapes where I hoped it would be helpful.

But again, please don’t rejoice and think I have now solved all your problems. Even with the path thus “fixed”, I had to use my gps several times both on the outward and return trips to ensure we hadn’t wandered. There remains ample room for error, and this waterfall must absolutely not be attempted unless you really know what you’re doing. Not only is the path unclear on many occasions, but the way, especially at the end, is rough, violently steep, and challenging, and the rainforest you traverse is old and decayed. Both of us fell now and then when the forest floor gave way under us. This can prove fatal, as Philosopher Smith noted when he was exploring old rainforest further west. I also think that Bruce must have had a fall in the forest (having wandered off track) and got covered by leaf litter: it’s my only explanation as to why we never found him, despite a huge, professional search. Walking in old, decayed rainforest is not to be done without full knowledge of the dangers. I once watched a very experienced bushman break his tibia when a log gave way underneath him, upsetting his balance. I once did a dangerous faceplant down a slope for the same reason. You’re not expecting what’s under you to give way, and so you tumble when it does.

I am putting in my map of our route below to show you its shape. This is nothing new, but merely a shortcut for you, as the shape / route can also be seen on the List Maps, or on old 1:100,000 maps. What is clear on a map is not so arresting on the ground. This is not a track for “tourists” or people who “just” like photography, or even for “track-type” bushwalkers. It’s for experienced, off-track bushwalkers, wearing boots and gaiters, who not only know how to read maps, but also know how to move through potentially dangerous areas, and how to manage steep slopes, as there is an art to negotiating unstable areas and not causing a landslide that would damage the person or the environment. If you are an experienced walker, then this area is pure magic.

So, enough dire warnings. Let the story begin. As hinted above, it begins by negotiating a very unclear path through delightful ferns, alongside a magnificent creek that is soon left behind as you ascend to dryer domains where the undergrowth is not so lush, but the forest is still pleasing. That said, it comes as a relief when you at last once more hear the sound of running water, as, by this time, you are getting impatient for your goal. We took one hour forty to cover the mere three kilometres of the outward journey, and I would not call us slow. One has to be hesitant in such country, or else it is easy to wander off the route. Like a tracker, you are on the alert the whole time for signs that other humans have been this way.

The final hundred or so metres were hilarious. I used to run 100 metres in 12.2 seconds. I think we took over ten minutes to negotiate the final hundred into the falls – or was it even longer? I didn’t time it exactly, We had started to lose our belief in the existence of what the map was promising, as we could neither hear falling water of any magnitude, nor see the telltale white glare up ahead. At last I gave a victory shout. We had done it. Before that, however, there were squeals of joy, like infants when they see the birthday cake. Once we descended from the heights down to the river, we felt we were in fairyland. It was utterly wonderful, and we were yelping in our excitement, lining up pools and cascades we would shoot on our way back. At that stage, we both wanted the final goal first, and these other spots could follow.

The way there took, as said, 1 hr 40 mins (walking). The return, where we spent less time track finding, 1 hr 20. These times do not include tag maintenance, hesitations while route finding, photography or eating. When you add in those things, the trip was 4 hrs 20 minutes long – and that does not include lunch. We had that back at the car. At “lunchtime”, we both grabbed a rushed few bites of chocolate bar, and then set about photographing, which we did for forty five minutes (so my phone’s track data tells me). We probably spent another thirty, at least, photographing pools on the rebound.

There is a curious feature about the photo I have included. Can you see there’s a falls labelled Cuckoo that we didn’t visit? And that we are claiming to have visited Cuckoo Falls at the far end, when it is not labelled such? The far end Cuckoo Falls are the falls of the 1:100,000 map, and also of the List Maps, government site. These falls on this map seem to be a speciality of some 1:25,000 maps. I am still seeking an explanation of this intriguing matter. We were totally happy with the falls we found and the photos we took, and did not have time to explore these other, nearer falls on this occasion. Besides, it’s nice not to exhaust an area of such beauty as this, and to have an excuse (as if one needs it) to return. If you know the story behind the two Cuckoo Falls, please let me know in the comments if you can.
Post script. I have now been told by a very experienced person from Scottsdale that the “lower” falls marked and labelled on this map do not exist. They need to be omitted from List Maps. I guess someone made a transcription error at some stage, and it has been handed down.

Ralphs Falls 2018 Feb

Ralphs Falls, Feb 2018.

I didn’t think that the walk to Ralphs Falls was going to be particularly exciting (being a mere six minutes along a track from the carpark), or that the falls themselves would offer much, being a thin sliver down a brown cliff, but I am one of those thorough types and I like to see everything at least once for myself. I didn’t think Ralphs would be exciting at any time of year, so why not do it in summer? At least we’d had some rain last week. You never know your luck. And if we’d been certain of a big flow somewhere, I can think of much better places to be than a waterfall that has a single narrow line of water dropping into a space that you can’t see below. So, our adventure for this week would be Ralphs Falls, an attempt at Cashs (or at least a viewing of the Cashs Gorge), and then Alberton Falls.
(see ).

Cascade above Ralphs Falls
Off Carrie and I set. We were both struck by the extreme beauty of the forest. This, for us, outweighed anything the waterfall might or might not bring. The forest was an end in itself. Luckily I had asked Carrie to meet me nice and early, as, even at this early hour, the sun was casting shadows that were a little too bright for good photography. We enjoyed the fairy forest without photographing it. The falls were as ‘exciting’ as we expected,  but we were glad to see the view, and to make the acquaintance of this Fall.

On we continued around the circuit, wondering how long it would take. (Twenty four minutes, actually, which wasn’t a great deal of bang for the driving buck, but don’t worry, I extended it, as you will see). The route remained wonderful, with a sense of space beyond the trees that felt lovely. The forest floor was really open and clear – like a parkland – and we delighted in it. We got to a point where one could go down the steep, unknown spur to try to see the base of Cashs Falls, but we were both filled with curiosity still to discover what could be seen from above. Nine minutes’ walking  after leaving Ralphs Falls, we arrived at the Cashs Gorge viewing platform, where we learned you could see precisely nothing of the actual falls. Hm.

The situation had not been right to go down the first spur that we could have followed (and then traversed in to the base). I had left a few things at home – like suitable clothes if it got any colder, and had forgotten to charge my gps which now read at 8%, bespeaking a crash at any moment. I had had a fire on my property in the late hours of Friday and early hours of Saturday morning, with very little sleep, and was not in a good headspace. Meanwhile, Carrie was wearing sneakers rather than boots, and it looked very steep down there. And, my tripod was sticking out, and would catch on all the bushes. I needed to have a different pack which could protect it if I was going to do THAT kind of bushbashing. However, now that we could see that we couldn’t see, we were disappointed, whilst still rejecting that first route to visibility for the above reasons.

Therefore, I suggested we follow the big spur opposite around to where it might give an opportunity of approach on that side. It was a beautiful route through more surprisingly wonderful forest, and we happened upon a pad, which a handmade sign said belonged to a Rattler Range traverse. We left that though, to do what I wanted. However, my tripod kept getting stuck here, too, once we started to lose contours, so we decided to come back to Cashs on a day where the flow would justify the bash, and on which I had a suitable pack for my tripod. Just in case, it would also be nice to have a gps that wasn’t going to faint. We had no risk of getting lost – I could have drawn a contour map in the dirt had Carrie wanted one – but for knowing whether you are above or below your destination, and other fine points of detail, a gps is of comfort. We went back to the car and fed her before doing the next falls.


Alberton Falls 2018 Feb

Alberton Falls Feb 2018
The web remains curiously silent on the topic of Alberton Falls, and I am an incredibly curious person who likes visiting outré places. Alberton Falls yelled out its challenge to me: “Come and get me if you can.”
I suspected that this wouldn’t be a brilliant mission with respect to photography, but, well, you never know, and we did have a huge storm last night, with a cloudy, possibly rainy day forecast for today. Of course, seeing’s we were there to photograph, the sun shone brilliantly nearly the whole day. The aim with this waterfall was, more than anything else,  just to get there and to satisfy my curiosity. Any good photos would be a bonus.

Off we set. It seemed by the sound of things that Carrie was not appreciating walking through marshy button grass in summer heat. Early on she thought she heard a snake. I forged on, trying to pacify her by saying they’d bite me first. I don’t know how convincing I sounded. It seemed she was of the opinion they could bite either of us, and more likely her, as I had on gaiters. I kept pointing to where the forest began: “See, just there. Once we’re there we’ll be in lovely forest with no snakes.” And I was right. The forest was really beautiful, and we didn’t see one single snake. Now we could both start enjoying ourselves.

Once we were in the forest, we just followed the creek down. I spotted signs that someone had once walked this way, and Carrie, whose eyes were not so glued to the ground, started spotting old bits of faded, rotted tape, many of which were above my head in height, so I guess a kindly giant put them there. They were not to be relied upon, but that’s fine. I was navigating using the normal methods, but their reassurance was a friendly one.

Eventually we came to the “falls” – except that nothing much was falling today. However, just as you can tell that a building was once beautiful by inspecting its ruins, you could tell that this waterfall would be a lovely one when the water was flowing. The drop away from us was huge. We looked out from where it exited the rainforest past a whopping cliff and out, out into the way way yonder. We were both determined to have some photos for our efforts, so snapped away just because that’s what you do when you’ve arrived.
As we both enjoyed the magic rainforest, which was surprisingly open, and so beautiful that we spoke in whispers so as not to spoil the feeling of peace and serenity that prevailed, I took us on a route back to the car that maximised our time in the forest, and thus minimised our time in open land. (The crookedness of the line exists because I was using the parts of the forest with almost no undergrowth, as opposed to areas where this was not the case.) To the north, the land dropped to eternity below us. It was a gorgeous forest and a fun adventure, and we have now documented a previously web-neglected waterfall, and had the pleasure of experiencing a place that not many others have seen, one suspects.

I nearly forgot to add: it took us 23 minutes to the falls, longer on the way back, due to weaving and more map consulting than on the way there.

Eldon Peak 2018 Jan

Eldon Peak, Jan 2018

Several times on the Eldon Peak adventure, I was reminded of an earlier trip I did to Mt Emmett. The two trips may well seem worlds apart, as one (this) was done in extremely hot temperatures, while the other (Emmett) was done in a blizzard. On the Emmett trip, only four turned up, so Bruce and I comprised half the number. We didn’t make the summit on that day, but it was one of the prettiest outings of my life, and we spent the whole time yelping like little dogs: “Wow, wow, wow”, as we wended our way through the white witch’s wonderland, taking myriad photos. Steve, who is ever fond of quoting an adage, noted, correctly: “You’ve got to be in it to win it”. We four had braved the elements, taken the chance, and had won. If you don’t turn up, you can’t luck in on wonder. Of course, you can be in it and not win it, like the time we took a friend to sleep on Walled Mountain and received nothing for our efforts but a view of close-range, very thick mist. But if you’re not there, you won’t ever luck in on the times nature grants you – sometimes unexpectedly, of you are a reader of forecasts – a magic evening. (And even on the Walled incident, Elin kept saying she could feel she was on a summit, and she was exhilarated by the sense of space she could feel.)

Fun times chatting and chilling out on this trip.
And as I sat on the pebbly beach beside the Eldon River, enjoying the fact that I was greatly refreshed from a wonderful swim in one of nature’s magic gifts – a three-metre deep, crystal-clear waterhole – and enjoying chatting to my fellow walkers, Steve’s words came back to me. All of us present were prepared to get out in the bush, not really knowing what it would bring on this scorching weekend, yet just being there brought rewards that filled us with joie de vivre. Not for the first time, I was so happy down there by that river that I didn’t care at all whether we made the summit – which was naughty of me, as this trip was a promise by Paul to help get me to that very summit. The year before I was supposed to be on the boat, bouncing my way to the end of Lake Burbury with the others when, literally as I was about to quit the house (all my gear was in the car), Bruce started acting very strangely and I had to call an ambulance. He had a temperature of 42 degrees, and had sudden onset pneumonia.  (Not a single cough did he make). He was in intensive care for the next six days and we were very lucky not to lose him in that episode. In the wilderness eight months later, doing what he loved doing, was a far, far kinder way to go. His whole body was failing him, but he fought on valiantly. Thanks so much Paul for keeping your promise. It means heaps to me. Without a boat, this mountain becomes a formidable task.

Half way up.
And so, the trip to the summit began with a journey by boat up Lake Burbury to its northern end, followed by a walk along an old road that was pure bliss, as this former route for wheels is now a bed of spongy moss that traverses an area that could be parkland. It reminded me of the Blue Gum Forest as it was when we all loved it, with pale-trunked silver wattles instead of blue gums.

As we had no intention of climbing that first day – this day was all about getting to the startline to be ready for an early departure the next morn – the rest of our time was spent swimming in the glorious pool mentioned and pictured above, or sitting around on the pebbly shore (or in the rainforest, for some) chatting and eating. It was a wonderful time to savour being in the wilderness.

Day Two, summit day, was scheduled to be very hot, so we were ready with our packs at 6.30 for a departure that would give us plenty of climbing time before the heat advanced. There were a lot of contours to get through this day. Although this mountain has a huge climb, it seemed to me that most of it was in wonderful rainforest that was a sheer delight to traverse. The patch of scrub above this line didn’t last long, and then the rocky final ascent was pretty quickly dispensed with. The three earliest to the top were there before midday.
I had the fastest “touch and race away” of my life (something I normally never do) at this summit, as it was aswarm with a black cloud of galvanised, flying Jack Jumpers, and I was terrified. There is no point telling me they’re not interested in me. I am very interested in them, and I don’t like pursuing that interest at such close range. (For mainlanders and foreigners, these ants sting with a mighty punch. It is impossible to be bitten and not yell violently with pain.) They do not always swarm this or any other summit; it just happens to be mating season right now, and they like a good view while they select their partners and secure the next generation. At least they have good taste.)

Standing near the summit of Eldon Peak, it seemed I was on a huge monster of a mountain that totally dwarfed surrounding, otherwise-impressive peaks. Mount Lyell, Marble Bluff, and Mount Owen all seemed quite dominating down at lake level, but were transformed into silly pimples from the top of this giant. Even in midday glare and with Jack Jumpers for company, it was a great place to be.
That said, it was so hot and glary up there I was pleased when we started our descent. A swim at the bottom was calling. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to camp, hunger was stronger than the need for a dip, so cooking dinner on the beach and paddling had superior claim on my priorities.

The boat trip back on the final day was magic, but unfortunately I can’t show my own photos, as my camera refused to open. I fear the heat of the day may have cooked it. (Because of the heat and climb and boat trip, I didn’t have my normal full frame DSLR). Once more we had an early start, so walked out in golden light. The water at that hour was pure mirror. I felt very lucky to have been part of the group.

Jonny’s photo; my edit. The walk out.

Bruce’s love poem for Louise.

Bruce’s Love Poem for Louise

A love poem is written for the lover, and yet poets have shared their love poems since time immemorial. Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (Sonnet 18), or the lines “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, / or bends with the remover to remove” (Sonnet 116), spring to mind (although I feel the sentiments of that second one, beautiful as they sound, raise many questions I wish to discuss). Donne’s image in his love poem Valediction of the compass is another that presents itself without much thought, although he, too, writes words which challenge me: “Dull sublunary lovers’ love / (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit / Absence, because it doth remove / Those things which elemented it.” I agree more with CS Lewis who sees love as an equal and mutual exchange between two people, and which thus requires the presence of both for its full continuance and active renewal.

Possibly my favourite love poem, however, is that by ee cummins “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in. my heart)i am never without it(anywhere. i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done. by only me is your doing,my darling). This was chosen by Gracey to read at Bruce’s memorial service.

Some at that service did know about Bruce’s poem to me, as it had been read by Bruce at Kirsten (our firstborn daughter)’s wedding. Yelena (our second-born daughter) chose to have it read at her recent wedding, where it made more than a few people cry. I share it publicly here, because it is a beautiful poem, because people have been asking me to have access to it again, and it seems fitting to have it shared, to honour Bruce the writer, and to commemorate a love that has not died just because he has. I do agree with Donne that love transcends physicality.
In this poem, you can sense Bruce pondering not just his love for me, but the nature of love itself. Like the bard he loved, he furnishes his reader with no simplistic answers.

Bruce’s Love Poem to Louise.
Somehow there’s a sureness about it,
A certainly which defies logic.
When something of me responds to something in you,
And it’s not exactly clear what, but what is clear
Is that we belong together
And somehow the two of us together make a whole
Which is greater than the sum of its parts
And richer than the rest of the world
Or whatever part of the world we might ever come across.
When I recognise that the part of me which is tied up in you
Is the most important part
And nothing else really matters very much.
When I know that nothing is more important than pleasing you
And nothing hurts more than when I know I let you down,
Because in that I failed myself.
And it isn’t very comfortable
Because I know my most important audience is my
Strictest judge
And since you are the only judge whose judgement counts
And since you are the only one who really knows me
And since you are the only one I want to please (save God)
I know there will never be an end
Only, please God, more and more wonderful beginnings
For the new beginnings are implied in the old
And we start again and again in the work of loving
As though a lit candle constantly renews itself
And the wax wrinkles mean nothing
And the flame never burns out.
And there it is.
In the end, love is a flame that never burns out
That sometimes grows dim and diminished,
Dwindles to a whisper for a moment,
But casts off its flicker
And flames out in the darkness that encroaches.
Love is something true, and lovely,
And I find myself
In you.

I am not a poet to respond to him. My art forms are prose and photography. I cannot give back in kind to this great man who seemed to have enough love left over for the whole wide world, but I hope that the gift of our shared life for so many years was poetry enough.

The magnolia pictured in this selection is one that was bought and planted on the day that Abigail Grace, Kirsten’s daughter, was born. The white rose was bought in honour of Yelena and Jonnie’s wedding.