Postscript May 16, 2014
THREDBO TO CANBERRA
Day 40. We had a late 'get away' from Thredbo, saying long farewells to our newfound friends from the Diamond Valley Walking Club and catching the chairlift to take us up to re-meet the AAWT at 1000.
The climb to Kosciuszko was following 'walkways', which were largely cleared of snow, despite the thick layer of snow covering all else within site. It was wonderful to be on the highest peak in Australia, with many other tourists. A first for this journey! The only difference was that we were carrying 20+kg backpacks!
It was a glorious day, the sun shining brightly from its dawning. The snow melt began early, however not quickly enough to avert us from becoming very wet as we diverged from the well-padded 'summit' track to venture north in an attempt to find the ‘alternate track’ of the AAWT. This led us over the Main Range were we relied heavily on our map and compass as the track was obscured by snow and the GPS only showed the ‘official Track’ which follows the bitumen road over Charlottes Pass. A route we did not desire to take.
At times we were sinking in the snow, up to our thighs. Our feet were soaked and squelching in our boots. As the snow melted, there were frequently 'streams' of icy water forming under the snow, which when stepped in, were extremely chilly! It was also very slippery, causing us to fall on several occasions, needing to jump up very quickly, or face the prospect of having more than wet feet!
Somehow we took an incorrect turn at one point and found ourselves looking over the Blue Lake, a little closer than we had intended. As beautiful as it was, this diversion meant that we had to retrace our steps back up the mountain, before continuing on our way, arriving at our campsite at Anton-Anderson Saddle 2 hours later. This beautiful campsite is above the tree line, tucked in behind a saddle for protection, and near a creek for water.
Day 41. Today we have completed and survived the Main Range! We were walking all day over snow grass and shrubbery, and through gullies and streams hidden by snow. Tonight our legs and ankles feel as though they have been tortured! This has proved to be as physically and mentally demanding as any section on this rugged Track.
This section of the Track was not marked as it is in a wilderness area. The land marks givenin our guide book were difficult to identify, as there were so many 'granite boulders'! Theysurrounded us, and we had to navigate our way through and over them. Thank goodness for the GPS for coordinates, the map and compass!
Schlink Hut is located alongside a fast flowing creek. There are a group of snow gums above the hut which are gnarly and full of character. The Main Range can be seen on the distant horizon. It was such a relief to arrive there, heralding the end of the Main Range walk.
Day 42. We continued on our way along the Munyang Geehi Rd to the Valentine Trail, where we turned and continued heading north into the Jagungal Wilderness. The mountains are giving way to gently rolling hills which descend into pretty water ways.
We soon came upon the conspicuous Valentine Hut where we enjoyed our morning cuppa looking out over the Valentine River in the valley far below.
We had 4 river crossings today, requiring the removing of boots, icy water on feet, before boots back on! Very refreshing for feet, but somewhat time consuming! We arrived at a large open rolling plain and on the distant hill could be seen this
Grey Mare Hut displays many pieces of old machinery, relics if a bygone gold mining era. The water supply comes from a pipe in the side of the hill. This hut is reputedly haunted, however when we encountered the ‘ghost’ throughout the night, it was in the form of anAntichinus’, whose eyes I caught in the light from my head torch as it attempted to explore our goodies. Our tent is way more peaceful!
Day 43. Today's walk took us along the Grey Mare Trail in a freezing cold cross wind, which kept blowing us sideways off the track. The trail followed a gently undulating path, crossing numerous waterways. We passed through large open rolling hills, bare of tree growth in the lower flanks, however the hill tops were adorned with Snow Gums. We believe these to be known as Frost plains.
We then proceeded on around the base of Mt Jagungal, deciding it looked just fine from its base! We were both feeling 'track weary' following the Main Range, and do not have the energy to tackle this now.
Arriving at Mackays Hut by 3 pm, we were just in time for a much needed cup of tea, and a quiet avo. Along the way Simon spotted a hare trotting down the track towards us.
Day 44. What a miserable windy cold morning to walk across these open exposed plains! We were almost blown off the trail once more by a freezing cross wind most of the morning.
We continued along Grey Mare Trail, passing through Happy Jacks Plain. Jack obviously enjoys wind far more than I do! It was horrid and we were so relieved to be out of it! I’m sure Jack must have named Happy Hut because he was so happy to return to it to avoid the elements!
Day 45. The 'bush bash' up to Tabletop Mountain Rd was challenging, pushing our way for 1.2 kms through knee to chest high scrub, up a 250m climb. We then continued on towards Tabletop Mountain, and upon arrival, found a perfect log against which to lean for morning tea. One of our favourite pass times!
Our camp for the night is at Four Mile Hut which is built out of flattened five gallon cans and an array of any other building materials found locally, left as a remnant from the gold mining heyday of the 1860s. These huts often contain intriguing memorabilia, speaking of the history of the surrounding lands and inhabitants of past eras.
Day 46. Following an early start with the birds, we picked up our final food drop (with its delectable treats!) from the scrub near Kiandra and entered the last section of this incredible journey. We quickly sorted our gear and repacked before having a cuppa. Then it was on the Track once more, with heavier loads, and on down the hill for a quick walk through Kiandra's historic precinct.
After fording the Eucumbene River, we passed through more open snowgrass covered plains, stretching for thousands of acres through the gullies. We continued to be fascinated by thesevast open gullies with treed ridges.
We saw a large mob of approx 40 brumbies as we crossed Wild Horse Plain. As predicted, they bolted for the ridges when they saw us, all bar one large white stallion that stood guardwatching us and stamping his hooves from the hill above. As we walked on, he began to trot towards us, before he also turned to follow his mob to the cover of the trees. We later discovered that this particular white stallion is known for being aggressive! Thankfully he thought us not worthy of 'taking on'! I wonder how useful a hiking pole would be to defend ourselves should the need arise?
Day 47. Today's highlight was fording the mighty Murrumbidgee River. It sounds so grand, however I must confess, given we are near the Great Divide, the river has yet to swell to grand proportions, and is but a narrow stream, meandering it's was through the valley.
However we had a pretty walk out from the Murrumbidge, along a faint foot track, which followed a contributory upstream, then cut across country for several kms before meeting an old telegraph line. Only a few poles are remaining. This section of track required navigation which always presents a welcomed challenge.
So tonight we are camped in our beautiful little tent alongside the Hainsworth Hut. This two roomed iron hut was built in 1951 by Hainsworth and Corkhill for grazing. An amazing oldSnowgum is growing behind the hut, all gnarly and twisted, nobbly and streaky. Such beautiful trees.
Day 48. Today we traversed the longest flattest section since leaving Walhalla. We bypassed the turn off to the Blue Waterholes and continued on to Oldfield’s Hut, built in 1925. It is a delightful 3 roomed hut, with loads of character. Its walls and long front verandah areconstructed of wooden slabs. Its outlook is over to Bimberi peak and Murray Mountain, between which we will be hiking tomorrow morning. There are several beautiful ancient black sallee trees nearby. A gorgeous setting.
This is our last night in NSW.
We share this site with a couple who are pack horsing along the Bicentennial Trail. It has been wonderful learning about their adventure and the trials and tribulations of pack horsing. I think we are on ‘easy street’!
Day 49. After crossing the Goodradigbee River, we climbed 200m up to Murray's Gap, bringing us to the ACT-NSW border, and the Bimberi Wilderness in Namadji National Park.
There is a distinct change in the landscape, leaving the open extensive plain behind and re-entering forests in undulating mountain country. Along with this come the steep ascents and descents which are very reminiscent of the Track in Victoria. For the first time since leaving Victoria, our trail became a single forest trail, away from roads or no trail at all! It was quite delightful!
We subsequently passed Cotters Hut, and forded the creek, before moving on to Cotters Gap. This involved yet another good climb; we passed by numerous enormous granite boulders, before reaching the saddle, at which point we came across a swampy grassland plain. It is so lovely to see this wilderness unscathed by horses and other stock. The wetlands appear to be so healthy, having regenerated since the removal of stock earlier last century.
Shortly after crossing the Gap, we stopped for lunch, than descended to Sawpit Creek, where we spent a leisurely and delightful afternoon.
I have developed matching blisters on my heels. Day 49, 2 days left on the Track, no previous blisters, and I have the matching pair! Unbelievable! I can only imagine it is because I have become unaccustomed to walking on flat ground! No other explanation.
Day 50. We had a gentle climb out of the valley, passing large, moss covered boulders in a glorious forest of mainly mature mountain ash, before we entered Orroral Valley, a delightful picturesque lush open valley teeming with kangaroos. Hundreds of them!
Morning tea recharged our ‘batteries’ for the long steady climb which took us up to meetOrroral Ridge Road. There was then a steady descent to Honey Suckle Creek, during which time we had close encounters with an echidna and black snake.
Day 51. Last night we were ‘flooded out’! We can hardly believe we can get this far having been warm, snug and dry in our little home, in snow, thunder and hail storms, and much rain, only to be caught in a torrential downpour which overflowed into our inner sanctum! It is all about the placement of the tent in a public park, and avoiding potential ‘water courses’! Thankfully our bags remained dry and our sleeping mats held us off the water for long enough to mop up with towels. Some electronics didn’t fare so well however.
How nice it will be tonight being under a tiled roof in a dry bed.
Our walk down the hill into the Namadgi Visitors Centre stirred varying emotions within us both. One of joy and relief to have arrived at the trailhead, especially given the days were heating up, tomorrow being forecast as 38 degrees in Canberra. We also felt considerable sadness at the thought of completing this amazing journey and leaving this beautiful Track, which now holds so many incredible memories of places traversed, views delighted in, experiences had and the wonderful people met along the way.
We received a very warm welcome from the staff at the visitor’s centre, who informed us that 12 – 15 people complete the AAWT each year (including both E2E and sectional walkers). In some ways we were not surprised, given the lack of fellow walkers we have (or have not) encountered over the past 51 days and 659.6 kms. We passed a woman who was heading south E2E and we have been told of 3 men who were ahead of us on the Track by 2 weeks, plus the occasional sectional walker, however generally this would have to be the Australian hikers best kept secret. It is a magnificent, challenging and often brutal track, so remote yet accessible and so worthy of the effort taken to venture from one end to the other.