I stood at the door; disheveled, sweaty, bloodied arm and covered in cobweb remnants. I pondered what they may think of me because I was about to look after their house for two weeks and it was the first time they’d ever seen me.
I hadn’t meant to arrive like this, it just happened. Well, that’s my story anyway. I blame the rock. Had its countenance not protruded above all else I would never have been tempted.
The day had been different to say the least. To begin with at Lake Macquarie it started out with threatening skies and the promise of rain. By the time I was parallel with Singleton, those promises had been fulfilled. Paddocks had ponds, the Hunter was rising, main roads were awash and the pace of traffic had noticeably slowed. The possibility of not being able to go any further floated through one’s mind as the rain was bucketing down.
Then it eased and stopped completely but the casual water and streams across the Golden Highway bore testimony to how much there had been. I sought solace at the Denman bakery and sat outside with two motorcycle riders who must have fully tested their wet weather gear at some stage.
Easing out of Denman on a road I didn’t even know existed J was grateful that the storm hadn’t made the one lane dirt roadworks harder than they were. Rock formations had become interesting and I tinkered with the idea of stopping and photographing one, but the opportunities for parking were zero and it would have been on private property. Well, that was until a small layby with parking for about four vehicles on the edge of Wollemi National Park on the Bylong Valley Way. This had promise for, on high, a ragged rock face stood above all else.
To heck with the bike ride I’d proposed to do, I saddled up with my work boots instead and headed off through the tall grasses that caressed my bare legs and dropped various seed varieties onto my socks. All part of bushwalking but the humidity was the discomforting factor. My new shirt was awash with sweat as the wooded terrain was reached and the grasses disappeared.
Then there was another distraction – spider webs. Many of my friends would stop right there but I’m beyond caring about them these days. Besides, they were Christmas (or Jewel) spiders and I wanted to get a shot of one. Eventually I would brush through about 200 of them but, early on, the destination was my main focus.
There were no set trails, just occasional parts were the grass had been trampled, whether by humans or wallabies it was hard to tell but I was grateful for those small sections. The summit was invisible as I crossed a tiny rivulet and started the ascent, zig-zagging this way and that, not knowing if I could even reach the goal. Eventually I got a bearing and worked away more towards the west, often using a stick to brush the cobwebs away, even though it seemed fruitless.
Now the glimpses of the outcrop were more frequent until I came upon a clear area with a conglomerate barrier that I’d have to climb. Not wanting to retrace my steps I searched until a slight gap finally appeared and I scaled up through that.
En route I noticed some horrible looking round cactus with nasty thick needle like spikes. Just how nasty was soon ascertained as I looked at my hand in shock. One had embedded itself and broken away from the main body. The spikes were in backwards, forwards and straight down. The problem was compounded because, as you removed the forward poking ones, that pushed the rear facing ones deeper. Teeth gritted, the removal was commenced and the bleeding began. Having to watch it unfold made it worse and unsavoury. Spike by spike, wince by wince, it was with great relief that the cactus was finally removed.
Then I went to use my camera/phone. Up came a message – You cannot use the camera because it is too hot to use; or similar. 60 years of photography and this was a new problem for me. I guessed it was partly due to the new cover I was using and I had to admit it certainly was hot as I removed the cover and let the breeze run over it while wondering what else this small excursion was going to throw at me.
Behind me, vistas across the Goulburn River and farmlands stretched way into the distant mountain ranges. I had no doubt this spot would have held some significance to the native people of centuries ago, though the thought of someone walking up here barefoot made me cringe.
The rutted vertical faces, pock-marked with erosion, were stained with leaching minerals. The flora appeared not to have been too affected by the historically recent bushfires though, probably why the spiders were in profusion!
Next came the thought that maybe the summit was possible. Working away to the north east the going was easy, ever so slowly rising till I made it around to the rear. Then, a crevice offered promise, at least it had the benefit of some dead fallen trees to grab hold of. Apart from one tricky section where the muscles had to be strained and unusual body positions attained, it wasn’t too difficult.
From the top, panoramas opened up in all directions with the winding, brown Goulburn River guiding the eye and up here the spiders became large orb weavers, their fat bodies indicating that food was plentiful.
It was pleasing to have made it but now I had to descend. The problem being that there were no tracks and the crevice had disappeared. I spent about ten minutes finding it again, and it was with some relief as I was able to bum slide down easily, only to face a new raft of a hundred more webs.
Still, a goal had been achieved, internal satisfaction gained and it felt good traversing the grasses again when they were eventually reached. The obligatory cup of tea afterwards went down well while the river flowed by across the road in its timeless journey to refresh the ocean whose surface would soon evaporate and return more rain. All part of the cycle of life.