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Author Archives: Margot

November 19, 2011

Hiking at the Beach

Adventure, that’s what I was looking for – adventure – some way to break out of the humdrum of life. I wanted an experience that was difficult, a challenge, something I had to push myself through to achieve success. I wanted to be able to say, “I did it!” and yet, hopefully, have a bit of fun along the way.

And that is pretty much what Yuraygir coastal walk had to offer.

I met my three hiking buddies, Sarah, Susy and Lynn at the Blue Dolphin resort in Yamba late on Friday night the 25th November. My university unit finished, everything handed in … done! It was time for some fun.

I enjoyed the pokey bunk bed in our overnight cabin, as I knew it would be heaven compared to sleeping on Michelle’s Thermarest mat for the next three nights.

Having done the Overland in 2009, I felt fairly laid back about embarking on this adventure – just over 50ks in four days. Looking back, perhaps I was a little overconfident and could have prepared more. But the excitement was infectious as we strapped on our packs ready to enter the walk at the Angourie Surf Reserve on Saturday morning.

It was a perfect day for hiking, overcast and not too hot. Rain was threatening but we set off confidently, prepared to deal with whatever came our way. Though remote in sections, the walk touched small coastal communities along the way so we knew we had plenty of options to pull out if things went awry.

Day 1

We trekked between the beach and the national park walking track as we made our way to Lake Arragon. Spiders loved this track. It was a perfect width for webs to catch unsuspecting prey … and unsuspecting hikers. A face plant into a multitude of thick webs pulled up the lead hiker abruptly time and again; terrified a large hungry spider might jump surreptitiously into her hair or worse, onto her face. Spider-terror slowed the going.

The slow pace reminded me I was hiking with city girls … sigh.

But no-one likes a face full of spider’s web, so the lead hiker held her weapon of choice – a stick of just the right length – to down as many webs as could be seen as we progressed. We all took a turn and though it may be disputed, I believe I approached the task with the most enthusiasm and tenacity. After all, I am a bush-girl these days!

After hours of trekking it was a relief to step out on the open beach again. But to our dismay we confronted a fast flowing river! A double check of track notes and GPS only added to our confusion. This was not a planned river crossing. Regardless, we had to get across.

We gingerly picked our way through the fast flowing water. The base was strewn with rocks which made our footing unsteady. We each experienced a moment when we feared we might fall. A saturated pack on our first day would have been a hard start to our adventure. Once safely across we learned from another camper that Lake Arragon had broken through the sand wall the day before and was emptying into the sea. No wonder it wasn’t expected.

A welcome lunch break helped us recover from the 13k morning hike. As it was only midday we decided to press on another 5ks to Brooms Head. A great start with a first day hiking appetite of 18ks! We were ready to quit at Brooms Head though. Limping to our camp site we gladly set up our tents and kicked back for the rest of the afternoon. We deserved those beers from the bottlo! Though we were fully self-sufficient, how can you resist taking advantage of civilisation when you feel you really deserve it?

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep (as good as it can be in a one man tent with a thin mattress), we packed up the camp and hauled our packs onto our backs again. At first the pack felt fine and well fitting. I was ready to go.

The tide was against us so we opted to hike on the dirt road for a bit to avoid the soft sand. Sarah, had pulled a muscle on day one and, though dosed with pain killers, preferred to avoid the soft sand. We set off down the road to Sandon, expecting to cut to the beach via a four-wheel drive track on the way.

Well, this undoubtedly proved the most difficult sector for me. The pack sat heavy on my shoulders. It was a hot day, no cloud cover and no sea breeze to ease the temperature. We slogged down that dirt road until someone had to pee (thank goodness) and we took a break under a tree. My stomach was nauseous and churning. I couldn’t face the thought of food until I’d rested a while. I just sipped on my water bladder.

We missed the four wheel drive turn off and were nearly at Sandon when we finally emerged on the beach. We ripped off our packs and some of our clothing and took a well-deserved dip in the water. That cool sea water was healing to everything and restored some sense of joy in being in such a beautiful environment.

We took a break at the Sandon camping ground. Sarah’s pulled muscle was causing her some difficulty so, over lunch, we decided to camp there and take a break for the afternoon. This gave us some time to enjoy the river and the beach. We managed to push the anxiety of the Sandon River crossing out of our minds.

A swim, a sleep, a walk and a few games of President’s and Arseholes made for a perfect evening.

Day 3

A cool sea breeze had sprung up overnight which evaporated the dew – a great opportunity to pack away a dry tent. This coupled with a foreboding sky, galvanised me into action. I was up and packing up my tent in the blink of an eye. The girls soon followed my lead. We were packed and ready to move before we had enjoyed our breakfast. We wanted to get started early too, because we hoped to hitch a ride across the river with an early morning fisherman. The weather wasn’t looking conducive to fishing but fortunately, we had a backup plan – a canoe – but that would take a few trips with all of us and our gear.

At the mouth of the river, we surveyed the scene, the tide and our canoe option. A friendly fellow camper and fisherman came to the shore to inspect the tide. Our saviour, a knight in a faded blue singlet to the rescue! Robert kindly agreed to ferry us across for no charge. It really made a good start to our third day of hiking.

We made our way through the little Sandon fishing village expecting two options for our next 10ks. Sarah and I hoped to take the track and wrestle with spider webs as an easier option for her pulled muscle. Susy and Lynn would take the beach trek to Illaroo. But poor track notes and no track markers lead us all to the beach unexpectedly. No one wanted to back track.

The tide was on the way in so we set off down the beach, able to stick to reasonably hard sand for the first 5ks.

I quite enjoyed this segment of the walk, my body adjusting to the hike and the pack. The conversations with my fellow hikers were stimulating and varied. We got talking about poignant times in our life – embarrassing moments, funny stories. It all helped to take our minds off our sore muscles and aching shoulders.

Sarah’s distress became more obvious as we progressed and the soft sand began to slow us down somewhat as the tide crept in. Sarah’s limping was now unmasked. We took what weight we could from her pack and trudged our way to Illaroo.

Illarroo proved our favourite camping spot. It was beautiful and tranquil – well protected and well facilitated. Sarah, glad to take a load off her aching leg, declared she would pull out here. No more hiking for her.

Day 4

After much deliberation, Suz, Lynn and myself decided to leave our packs with Sarah and hike the remaining 16ks all the way to Red Rock. Sarah waited for her husband, Dean to retrieve her. Susy was tenuous with nasty blisters on her feet but felt brave enough to give it a go.

We set off with day packs, plenty of water and a supply of gel bandaids. Our pace was slower than anticipated, even without the packs. Poor track markings and track notes again created extra distance as we had to double back in a few places. But the tide was with us and we all enjoyed clambering over the rocky platforms around the headlands. It was tough to pass a couple of idyllic lagoons without a swim, but we felt the pressure of time.

The conversations deepened and time was forgotten for a while as we explored philosophical perspectives. At Wilsons Headland we checked our time and came, reluctantly, to terms with our over-ambitious goal for the day. The pain in Susy’s feet was becoming difficult to ignore, the tide was creeping in and we would not get to Wooli before midday. The tide would be against us from there.

Though disappointing, it was also a relief and gave us an opportunity to enjoy the sea once again, instead of rushing. Back on the beach, the cold salty swell was healing and soothing. There was no one else around – a suitable farewell to the Yuraygir Coastal walk.

The tide was creeping in and though it was motivating to see the Wooli township ahead around the bay, 7k’s was still a taxing walk in the heat of the day. It was tempting to jump into Dean’s Pajero when he and Sarah pulled up next to us on the beach. But no! We had to keep going and trudged all the way to Wooli.

The sun was hot and our bodies weary when we reached the campsite at Wooli. The hike was over.

No more protein bars! No more fitful sleep! No more trudging through the soft sand. Civilisation again; time for a cappuccino!

Leaving the beach and clambering into the car was disorienting. Perhaps I carried a twinge of disappointment (and maybe even guilt?) that we had pulled out a little early and perhaps even cheated on our last day by leaving our packs behind.

Whatever … that ice-cream tasted awesome and I really wanted to have a shower and wash my hair.

I had had an experience that was difficult. It had been a challenge and something I definitely had to push myself through at times. I could now say, “I did it!” … well almost. But by far the highlight was the unexpected bonding in getting to know some really cool women. Something about sharing such an adventure draws you together; a sense of trust that cannot be forged in any other way.

I look forward to our next shared adventure.

August 27, 2010

The Rescue Mission

Having my daughter-in-law, Lauren, visiting was an opportunity for a pleasant drive to checkout the dams at Cambren. We have been enjoying such an unusually wet winter and we wanted to see the water levels and show Lauren around. Fortunately, we had morning tea and water with us when we set off.

We had only looked at the first dam when, on our way back to the track, Chris drove over a rather unassuming stick. It made an alarming noise and Chris immediately turned off the vehicle and jumped out. Something bad seemed to have happened!

A quick check under the bonnet revealed quite startling devastation. The apparently unobtrusive “stick” had managed to disconnect the power steering cable, poke a hole in the radiator and shatter the radiator fan! A piece of the fan was lodged in the underside of the bonnet. Ouch! What now?

Fortunately I had pulled on my hiking boots that morning as Lauren was wearing my work boots. So I volunteered to undertake the rescue mission. I set off with a bottle of water. It was about an eight kilometer trek back to the house.

My pace was fast at first and I even jogged a little way in my enthusiasm. I love to hike and the excitement of the rescue made it all the more fun…until I reached the creek. Our usually dry rocky creek bed was now a raging torrent! It looked more like a river!

Scrambling along the edge of the creek searching for a suitable crossing point, I finally found a spot reasonably narrow with a number of large rocks which could be used as stepping stones. I found a branch to help me balance and embarked on the crossing gingerly; balancing carefully on each rock and leaning on the branch once a stable spot could be found to plant it. When I could see I was only a couple of hops away from dry land, I made a dash for it. Oops! I lost my footing.

Plop! Both boots were now submerged in the raging waters. I scooted up the bank. No time to squeeze out socks. I had to resume my mission! At least now I was going to find out what it was like to hike with wet socks and boots. I could hear the water squelching each time I planted my foot but nothing was going to deter me. My grandson was out in the sun with no hat on!

It was a relief to get to the road where I hoped a passing vehicle might speed my return. No such luck. At least I didn’t have to worry about navigating the remaining creek crossings. I just barged straight through!

Head down, bum up I took each squishy step in determination and made it to the car parked in the Shearing Shed in record time. Once in the Navara, I zoomed back down the road crashing through the creek crossings. Lauren and Chris waved from their spot by the creek as I approached. Back at last. It had taken me an hour and a half.

How tough it had been for them waiting. They were enjoying a lovely picnic in the shade by a babbling brook while I slogged down Spring Creek Road in wet boots!

Sigh. At least it was all over now and I could take off my saturated shoes and socks. Or so I thought!

But it wasn’t just a matter of picking them up and taking them home. Chris was quick to shatter my sense of “mission accomplished”. He informed me we had to take the injured vehicle with us too! That meant I had to drive one of them; either the towing vehicle or the vehicle being towed! Both seemed terrifying to me.

I opted to steer the broken Nissan Patrol while Christopher towed. He couldn’t help but grin. He, as usual, was enjoying the challenge.

Lauren and Laird came with me for moral support.

The snatchy strap in place the tow began. I sat on the edge of my seat. The ignition was off, the gears in neutral. All I had to do was steer and break if needed. No problems, except of course there was no power steering and we had to cross 7 or 8 creeks, uphill and down dale. I was terrified I would crash into the back of the Navara.

Poor Laird was subject to some rather inappropriate language lessons from Granny! But the funny thing was – he loved the whole affair. He just watched it all with great interest and grinned at me whenever I looked back to make sure he was okay. He even gave a little chuckle from time to time. Such a boy!

What a relief to pull both vehicles into the driveway next to the house. I was so glad to get out of that car safe home; all rescued.

It was time for a glass of wine by the fire and to put it all behind me; maybe even laugh about it. At least I got my exercise for the day…or maybe it was for a week! But really, it was just the usual challenges of living in the Traprock. Sigh. At least now I know nothing much happens when you hike in wet boots. It was just a little uncomfortable.

But I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do that again anytime soon. I hope…

May 30, 2010

All the way up hill …

Dreams are mixed and confused: in a blur I arrive in the wrong t-shirt, run 10ks before the race starts … and other crazy stuff.

Chris is up before the alarm.
He’s more worried about timelines than me!
4.55 am and we are on the road.
A nervous start, shivering in the cold, drizzling Sunday morning at Killarney.
I check out the other runners.
Am I dressed appropriately?
They are all wearing T-shirts from another event.
Mental note: next race I enter I must wear the T-shirt from this race.
Makes you look like a pro, ha ha.
7:15 am the race begins.
I’m well back in the crowd as we start.
The air is imbibed with energy and hype as the runners surge forward.
The race is on!
I turn up my iPod trying to focus on my own pace.
“Keep control of your breathing,” I tell myself.
Everyone is going so fast!
I tune my mind into the Black Eyed Peas and turn up the volume.

The race now well in progress, more and more people overtake me.
Stricken, am I now the last in the crew?
All my training, hard work and determination for what?
To come last? Nooooooo!
Not that I’d trained to be a serious contender. I’d trained for endurance, to complete the task.
But I’m not prepared to be so outclassed!
I cross the 4K marker before I notice any markers at all.
Great news … I’m nearly half way there feeling no pain … yet.
At last, I manage to overtake two other contenders.
Relief … at least I won’t be LAST.
I slog away along the bitumen exhilarated to reach the 5K marker – half way!
Keep focussed, the real work starts at the 6K marker. That’s where the 10% incline begins.
My mind replays my mental training: “Head down, hold your pace to ensure control of your breathing, don’t look up, listen to the music and just KEEP RUNNING.”
I manage to overtake two more contenders as the ascent steepens!!
Definitely not LAST now. Phew!
I’m in the zone, that great place when running long distance.
It’s hard to describe. My pulse is elevated; my body warm (despite the constant drizzle); I’m focussed; in a rhythm.
Looking forward to the end but feeling good.
7K … 8K … 9K Hooray!
It’s nearly over.
I overtake another, much younger than me. Woo hoo.
Finally, I cross the line.
I look for the camera to snap off my photo.
Oh … the photographer has already left. Boo hoo.
My eyes scan for the clock.
I’ve been running for 85.25 minutes … but I made it!!!!!
I slow down, exhilarated. I achieved my goal.
I approach the car and the waiting Christopher, grinning.
He didn’t think I could do it, but I did!

December 17, 2009

My Quad

I remember the excitement the day our two bikes arrived; Chris’s two-wheeler and my four-wheeler (Quad). We wheeled them off the trailer and started them up.  I figured it was just what you needed to do at 50 – learn a new skill like riding a farm bike.

After Chris took me through the basics we set out on our first run up Spring Creek Road to our other property, Cambren. We rode abreast and talked a bit as we putted along. We picked up speed as I grew a bit more confident. I remember Chris yelling to me laughing, “Where are the kids? Oh that’s right. They’re not around anymore. Ha!” We had to hold on to our hats as we zoomed along.

It was like we were teenagers again on a new adventure. We felt a new found freedom and tearing along on our new bikes was liberating.

At first I just wanted to ride on the road but gradually I ventured onto the tracks. We have tracks all over our 10,000 acres. They range from being suitable for a two-wheel drive vehicle in places to being almost indistinguishable amongst the re-growth and washed out gullies.

Creek crossings are the scariest, probably mostly because I stacked the two-wheeler early on trying to cross a shallow stream. I was going too fast and once out of control it climbed up the bank and into a tree. I sustained only minor cuts and bruises thank goodness. I remember Chris being really cross because I broke the headlight. But you should see his bike now – there isn’t much left of the original paraphernalia. Chris has stacked it too many times to count.

Sometimes I might be on the bike pretty much all day when we are mustering. We have such large paddocks and once you start a muster you can’t really stop until you have secured the stock. It can be a long way to the yards even up to 8 – 10ks.

You would laugh if you saw me get off the bike after being on it all day. I can hardly walk. It looks like I’ve just got off a horse, which I guess in a way, I have.

Though I mightn’t be able to do fish tails like Neal or burnouts like Michelle, I’m pretty confident on it now and can go pretty much anywhere.  Though I’m at my bravest when a recalcitrant cow or calf takes off in the wrong direction. I become fearless, tearing across the paddock to halt its escape.

But mostly when you are mustering, you are putting along in 1st or 2nd gear. We use it to run water checks, stock checks, put on pumps, get the mail and of course it provides endless entertainment for some of our guests.

It does a lot of work my Quad but for me it will always somehow be a symbol of the new found freedom I have with my life on the land.  I love it.

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