“Ah this is the life”, I said with meaning as I gazed around at our tents pitched amongst King Billy Pines and Pandanis, with swathes of pineapple grass nearby, burgeoning lumps of lurid green cushion plants, a creek of superbly clear water maybe 50 metres away, and Mts Anne and Lot clearly visible, brooding darkly above. Light accentuated the claret edges of the curling green pandani leaves.
The Wilderness offers many different things to different people, as well as a range of various pleasures to a single person, depending on his / her current mood or needs. It can be a quiet place for reflection or meditation; a place where you can submerge yourself in the almost overwhelming beauty of a vista or detailed minutiae. Or it can be the venue for an adventure – solo or with friends. Some use it as a sporting arena in which they can pit themselves against the challenges of nature, or as the most beautiful workout place imaginable. Many harbour it as an escape from the stresses of work or of modern life in general (it should not surprise you to learn that bushwalking was very popular in the Great Depression of the 1930s; walkers went bush, where the woes of debt and unemployment could easily be forgotten for the time they were there). For many of us, it is a place where our soul finds peace.
Wilderness means all of those things on different occasions to me, and there are thus times like last weekend when I go there, not to climb a new peak or have a grand workout in nature, but just to be there, pure and simple: to sit back and stare at the wonder of it all. What better place for that than a circuit that encompasses Eliza Plateau and Pandani Shelf? (Many other places, of course, equal this venue for the purposes).
Day 1: Drive down from Launie, avoiding (with enormous self-restraint on my part) the temptation to eat cake at The Possum Shed en route. Even so, we started so late I was already desperate for lunch before my pack was on my back. I was promised l could dine at the cute little hut at High Camp, which seemed like a very late lunch to me. Going was much slower than expected, as, not only was the day exceptionally hot (33 in Launie), but one of our party (who claims he didn’t overindulge on New Year’s Eve) was rather ill, and looked the colour of a garish IG sunset after a mere ten minutes. Our schedule became akin to “walk fifteen, stop thirty”. No matter. The view on the ridge was lovely despite the general haze of the day and we had all day to go almost nowhere. We switched from Plan A, which was to camp on Pandani Shelf, to a new plan to sleep the first night on Eliza Shelf. We camped with a massive view, tarns to drink from, and a mountain for me to climb for sunset (Eves Peak).
Day 2 was even shorter. We went from this spot to the Anne / Eve saddle, and then circled Anne on the non-walkers’ route side (i.e., to the west). Most climbed Anne from here, before the whole group continued on to the shelf, which we briefly explored before setting up camp. I was not feeling at all well myself this day, so once my tent was up, just sat around enjoying the mood of the place and chatting to the others. It is such a treat to have the leisure to do precisely that and take some time out from always being underway, much as I love movement and summiting new peaks. Mountains offer me healing to refresh me for my role of being my husband’s carer. I was so enjoying this existential pleasure I didn’t even bother going off looking for photographic opportunities.
Day 3: On this day, we exited the shelf, walking along the fabulous ridge on which it lies for a while to near where a most dramatic sinkhole can be seen far below. From the small group of King Billy Pines before the hole (biggish cairn), we then dropped steeply off the edge, following an assortment of tags in the rather enthusiastically marked pad through King Billy forest up high, and later, rainforest (lots of wonderful Myrtles) to the button grass plains below. From there it was a trudge along a pad as wide as a pinelog plank on mostly dry mud – although one of our small party of six went in up to her thighs in the goo. After the shade of the forest, the button grass with stunted, face-high melaleucas to be pushed out of the road nearly every step felt glary and relentlessly hot, but the medicine did not take too long to swallow. Unexpectedly, we popped out onto the road. In less than a minute a car appeared, travelling in the wrong direction, but I managed to uphold my unblemished record of success in these matters, and procured us a lift with the very nice driver who agreed to turn around and go backwards for 10km to take two of our party back to get the vehicles.
We made it to the Possum Shed before it closed and so had a wonderful time sharing cake and coffee at table together beside the river before continuing our drive home. (No, they do not sponsor me. I say this simply because I love home-cooked food and quality caffeine).