I was sure Mike had said it was a reserve. When confronted later he denied all. Perhaps it was my blind enthusiasm that affected my hearing two days before. Right now I was sitting on some lichen enriched granite and contemplating some of the best views of the New England area I’d ever seen while making a phone call.
It had been a difficult exercise getting this far, about two hours in. When I pulled up on my mountain bike and asked a stranger walking his dog where the entrance to the reserve was, he’d shaken his head, albeit with some reluctance, and then checked google maps. “No reserve shown anywhere here”, came the retort, this time with confidence. I was on my own from here on Gaol Creek Road, hoping there was no significance in the name.
I sighed, knowing, deep down, that I would soon be jumping (figuratively speaking of course) someone’s fence and heading in the general direction of “up” on private property. The granite was mesmerizing. There were two particular outcrops I desperately wanted to shoot after viewing from the road two days ago.
A 3 metre high rock near the fence line gave me some incentive for concealment. On my side was a thicket of “farmers’ friends”. About the only time I can think of the plant as being of some use to me. It stood around elbow height, ideal for hiding my bike and backpack. In fact, from 3 metres away you’d not even know it was there.
Soon I breached the barricade and followed an “out-of-sight-of-the-properties-on-either-side” route to reach where the main body of rocks and trees stood. It would be around three hours before I saw this spot again. With no trail, merely virgin scrub, it really felt like an adventure.
Granite outcrop after granite outcrop stood in my way. Other than the naked eye there was no indication as to which direction to take. I tended to the right, since there seemed less obstacles, and already I was viewing much more than my expectations had a right to.
Monoliths shattered in half over the aeons, threatening overhangs weighing hundreds of tonnes, rounded monsters lording over the tree line and, here and there, mysterious cracks between giants, some of which you could make your way through. There were also a few grass trees that had not fared well during the recent dry times.
Always there were plant seeds grasping at you making your way upward. They covered every lead taken and then, I came upon one of the curiosities I was to see today. There, on the side of a vertical slab, were anchor points for rock climbers. Had I not been considering a photo I would have passed them by unseen.
Next up was a pair of rocks that looked like the heads of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, replete with pointy heads and a tree shadow for enhancement. Occasionally roots had penetrated the cracks, seeking the water from runoff no doubt. Another significant boulder had a large sliver coming off one side. Though that in itself is not unusual, the fact that mosquito – like insects were loving the inside of the crack I found fascinating.
Now I was veering slightly to the left, but also ever upward until I reached a point where I knew I was near the top. Rounding another great slab, the view indicated that I was, in fact, still a long way from the top. Bugger. Options were limited and zig-zags were common, luckily I had lots of things to hang onto though.
Now I was almost flying blind so to speak. Wherever one looked it seemed impossible until I chanced upon a rough tunnel scoured beneath one of the giants. Then I scrambled through and was on my way again, reaching near the top quite quickly while rubber-necking constantly. I made a conscious decision to aim for the left rock I fancied, since I’d taken a telephoto of the other one earlier from the road. It was around here I noticed a long ago discarded rusty horseshoe. How on earth had it got there?
Weaving around I reached a significant vertical slab I’d seen from the road and stepped my way around to the other side, only to see some wit had written “Smile, you’re on candid camera”.
It coincided with a small track, the first I’d seen. After resting and making that phone call I followed the trail. It sure was a whole lot easier than what I’d been doing for the previous couple of hours and a quick descent got me to a vertically aligned fence line that a fallen tree had made a whole lot easier to negotiate, but then it was back into virgin scrub.
Butterflies were noticeable aiming for the lichen in one prolific spot as I scouted carefully coming down beside the biggest outcrop of all.
The footing seemed like it might be a little uncertain in places, particularly where water had run down the granite and one slip could have meant a trip to the hospital……assuming someone could find you!
It was about half an hour before I stumbled over a spot that looked familiar. Relief was paramount because, if I was correct, the bike was only 15-20 minutes further down the hill, and so it turned out to be.
Right beside me though was another huge monolith, though it had been scoured from underneath and you can’t help but feel a little apprehensive as you slip into the cave like environment “Is today the day it moves and rolls on top of you?”
I found a much easier way over the two fences I’d slipped through at the start and soon I retrieved the Lambo and spent the next 10 minutes getting seeds and burrs off my clothing and shoes, much to the amusement no doubt of a couple of passing motorists.
Though I hadn’t made it to where I could photograph the two outcrops I’d aimed for, there was so much more I was amazed that the tor wasn’t a nature park of some sort. It was easily the best granite show I’d ever seen.
Oh, and the other thing I found up there; still can’t believe it – a golf ball!