I’m sitting by the fire on the morning of day six. Heather and I are always first up, (plus john and Dean) so while I brush my teeth and sort out what to wear, Heather goes out into the foggy flats of Wadbilliga National Park around Marco Opies place, to look for the occasional dry piece of fire wood amongst the drenched pieces from the showers of rain we’ve had. Dean just called out to wake everyone else up but that doesn’t mean much- they will take forever. But that’s good, because now I have time to write my diary that should have been written at the end of each day. So..
I left Mum, Dan and Ash standing at the Bodalla petrol Station, waving goodbye as I drove off in Allen’s little car. We stopped at the supermarket for some last minute camping food and went to Heather’s. Her family own a specialist bush food nursery, so I got the most delicious, nutritious last dinner before our journey into the unknown. Then Allen and I got into the containers of dried fruit and weird and wonderful food like bunya nuts. It was awesome. We stayed up in Heather’s room, doing some last minute bag packing before we slept. We woke to a frost, grabbed our packs and loaded into the car. We drove for a while around the Dinghams Creek area until we reached Bermagui. After a radio interview, some WIN news coverage and kisses and hugs goodbye from anxious parents, we set off.. All of us picked up a rock or shell from the sea to take to the snow. We stopped on the beach to be welcomed to country by Gary Campbell, a local aboriginal elder. He was really nervous but did it well. I think it’s going to be a sort of spiritual journey, what we’re doing. He got us all to pick up a handful of sand and explained that we should leave only footprints and that we are lucky to see the lands we will be. At Bermagui Primary School, we were welcomed nicely and went into the little hall to talk to the older kids. Our crew explained what our journey might consist of through a funny skit. It was sort of wacky; Ashley brought fairy wings and tin can phones. We got one little boy up and he put on a full pack, he almost fell over. It was so much fun, everyone got into it. The news lady interviewed Tom, Dean and I after that. I wanted to try and tell mum and dad somehow to watch the TV the next night. I thought about giving the lady our home number and getting her to call them. We are good friends now. After the school, we trekked down to the edge of Bermagui River where our canoes were waiting. We paired up, had a briefing on the map by the two leaders for the day, tom and I, and started navigating our way up the river. We saw stingrays and Dean told us that we were on clearest water in the state, it’s been proved. I tried paddling really hard that day but our canoe was the slowest. The next day I took it easy and it zoomed along way faster! I don’t get it. We stopped lots to have scroggin and enjoy the view- there were just thick forests all around. It was serene. Next stop was our Koala survey. Part of our Duke of Ed is to learn about the environment and help out to keep our ecosystems stable. We all pulled up on the back of Riverview farm and ate our lunch. Everyone went gourmet (nori rolls or focaccia with salami/pesto) but Heather and I packed really light (tasteless) food. Peanut butter and date wraps every day for us. Tom and I offered to paddle a bit further up river to collect Dave. On the way, the end of my paddle came off really quickly and I hit myself in the eye with it. I sorta got a black eye and a little cut, but it wasn’t much. Dean announced it on the radio though so I’m going to have to pretend it was a big deal-the first injury. We looked for koala scats up on a big hill and searched thirty trees around a central marked one. Gordan and another man from forestry explained how to search for scats properly. We scraped our hands through the litter around the tree looking for olive pip sized eucalyptus smelling poo. They never normally find any and neither did we. I got really sad, I’m so determined to get some. We learnt to name the trees too. On the bank of that river stop, some people rode up on horseback to see what we were up to. They were community development workers back from Ethiopia and Cambodia. We’d already begun meeting the most amazing people. We kept canoeing then got out and put the canoes on the support vehicle. It was then we started our first real hike. We went through familiar tracks that we had partly walked on our training camp. It wasn’t too hard but my pack felt heavy. The were nice cleared tracks, nothing to steep or rocky yet. We found our campsite on the banks of Wallaga Lake. It was such a gorgeous spot. We were on a hill and the lake just spread out below us. We had kangaroo meat and vege stirfry then grilled bananas with chocolate for dinner, it was pretty luxurious. There was even a toilet there. We spent the rest of the night talking first aid with Kim because Dean left to go watch his son Jye in a performance. Kim is a twenty something uni student/acupuncturist/ permaculturist. She’s beautiful and so nice, always observing and way too mature for her age. She has lots of wisdom. The next morning, we’d lost our map. Everyone got stressed and it turned out it was in Caroline and Ashley’s packed up tent. It was bad because us kids are the leaders each day, figuring out exactly where we are and where we need to go. We carried the canoes down to the lake with the help of Liam (Orlando Bloom look-alike), another Crossing volunteer. While we paddled across Wallaga Lake, the hugest pelican swooped down across the water in front of us. The weather was perfect and wind, non-existent. We stopped on the lake a few times, once, to hear aboriginal stories from Dean and then have a radio interview with ABC. Just before we went on air, a huge huntsman came into my sight on the canoe. I freaked and pretty much stuffed the interview, it was funny. We got to the other side of the lake speedily. Dean thought it would be way harder. We hung around listening to Mal Dibden talk about the land while sitting on his porch. He’s this old farmer who has been living there on his place for ages. He’s really active with the flora and fauna and helped establish Gulaga National Park. I needed to go for a wee and I found the best view where I squatted. We stayed for a fair while; we are never in a rush. That’s something that is hard for some of us kids to understand, it’s so different to our usual fast-paced routine. When we set off through Mal’s paddock, he and John went ahead of us in the support vehicle guiding the way. We walked through grass paddocks that just kept getting steeper. We paused above Mal’s daughters’ place to look back at the view. We could see the huge waves at Bermi Beach that looked so distant. The Wallage Lake stretched out miles below and we were all amazed at how far we’d come in the past two days. It was then we made our pact. We put our hands together and made the pact that we must achieve this as a team and reach the summit together, otherwise we hadn’t really been successful. It needed to be done because until then, we were all being very independent. We took the next winding hill slowly, it just seemed to keep going. We had lunch at the top, peanut butter date wraps again for us. The scroggin was good. I always wondered why it was called scroggin and dean said it stood for the first letters of the ingredients, sultanas, chocolate, raisins, oats, granola, ?, ?, nuts.. Anyway, I couldn’t live without our Cadbury dark chocolate chips. We took a wrong turn with our navigation around the time that we saw an animal poo about a metre long. We backtracked a bit then got to a huge valley that we needed to get through somehow. We tried a few different ways but there were lots of stinging nettles and slippery logs. We named it the Valley from Hell. Ash was in front of me at one stage and finding it especially slippery. I kept pushing her up by the butt. I had to stop to put on gloves and sturdy wet weather pants because I couldn’t stand being prickled by these plants. We found one big tree with wide leaves and Dean and Mal said that if we got stung by that one, we’d be down for a week. We pushed on through tracks that Dean had been through months before with a machete to clear a path. I led the way most the time it was so fun. We went what seemed like forever through these thick tracks, climbing over trees and separating ourselves through the vines. One massive tree had fallen on the track and to get over it we had to climb up a bit the roll over the branches to the other side. We took a shortcut that turned out to take longer. When it got dark, everyone got their head lamps out. I looked one of the two that I’d pack but I couldn’t find it, so I had to walk in the dark. It was such a long day and we saw so many different types of environment. We all got heaps of cuts and scratches and actually needed to use our navigating skills accurately. The medic had to help Ash with her cuts and we are all learning which clothes and equipment we should and shouldn’t bring next time. That night, we pulled into Nick and Jen’s property at Galafrey around 6pm. We were so incredibly hungry and pretty exhausted. That was our longest day completed so we knew we could take on anything now. Nick and Jen along with a few other Crossing friends and their kids had prepared pumpkin soup with hot bread and spuds. As soon as we got there we all dropped our packs and ran to the food. They had a clearing where we set up our tents and we all sat round the massive bonfire talking and relaxing. Nick told heaps of stories, he’s really animated. He and Jen once went on a 6 month horse ride up this side of Australia and had heaps of highlights and hilarious anecdotes to share. We felt really welcome. It was so nice to come to something, not just an empty place you decide to set up camp. Since that had been such a long day, we got a sleep in. One by one we all got up and gathered around the heat of the fire to keep warm. Heather and I prepared a radio interview. We all have roles, and I share the correspondent and caterer with Allen, that’s why I’ve been doing so much media stuff. John drives our support vehicle and walks with us a heap of the time. He’s filming us constantly because he’s making a documentary on the trip. It’s pretty exciting except it means I have to try and look good every day and sometimes it’s really hard, like when I’m carrying 20 kgs up a vertical hill. Anyway, John likes to have a lemon in the morning to kickstart his metabolism. I caught on and that morning I think everyone ate a lemon (except I had about 10 tbsps of sugar on mine).Nick and Jen drove over from their place and we all set off for a tour of their land. It is 100 acres, a heap of young forest and sloping hills around dinghams creek. Nick has very firm opinions and explained his theory of selective tree removal. He takes the younger trees around the ones to speed up the process of a mature forest to help protect the land from bushfire. He also uses the young trees for construction and firewood, which is very resourceful. They showed us the permaculture design of the house. Their youngest daughter, Fin, has just recovered from cancer and it felt like a celebratory time. I liked the house; Jen is a good drawer and Nick an electrician. We went and looked at the rest of the place, moving logs into the back of Dave’s ute for firewood. Whenever these families get a heap of people around, they take the advantage of getting some quick work done. The more hands the better and we were more than happy to help. We had a delicious lunch then packed our food bags into our packs. It was time to get serious, no more people spoiling us along the way. We journeyed up dinghams creek in the freezing cold water. Everyone screamed so loud, the water felt painful. The creek was so fun, it was mostly dry just with patches of water. I got into hysterics that afternoon. Heather and Allen and I were talking about what we like. They always do this little thing from a song about Pauline Hanson. It makes me laugh.When we are walking, Kim and dean are generally quiet. I like to be as well. Allen never stops talking I swear. Heather and Allen go to school tohether and they are really good friends. They both love Michael Jackson and always sing and play this crazy word game. I join in just to see how I go. We pick a letter and see how many words you can think of that start with it. When we did y, I never thought it would happen, but we ran out of words after a few hours. We took a left turn out of the creek and hiked along through forest tracks until dark. The moon looked so good through the trees. I kept tilting my head up to watch the stars and tried not to fall over. By this time, I was beginning to feel pretty dirty. As soon as we set up camp in the dark, heather and I put on our swimmers and grabbed our tiny square super absorbent towels and marched down to the lake. Everyone came down to watch with their head torches and the hiker cam. We managed to go under in about a foot of water. At first it’s bone chilling coldness but the your body has this really smart reaction and your skin just feels like it’s burning. We all cooked with our trangias and billy’s for the first time that night. It went ok. After dinner, we did some games which look more like devil worshipping chants.Ash taught us one that we’ve been doing continuously. It’s called the Shay Shay. It goes like this. Shay shay goule.(repeat) Shae ko fisa. (repeat)Go fisa lunga.(repeat) A lunga and she lunga.(repeat) Then repeat the whole thing about 5 times. It looked crazy. Later on, tom pulled out his marshmallows. I slept on the softest ground that night.
In the morning we were running late again. Heather and I were feeling a bit food deprived.. we had muesli (mine with water, I don’t do powdered milk) and everyone else had cup a soup or fruity rice porridge stuff or something yum and warm. Anyway, we stretched for ages to prepare ourselves for the huge climb ahead. The beginning of it was so rocky and steep we slipped a fair bit. It went thought different stages of steepness until about midday. We all have our own paces of walking. I like to challenge myself and walk quickly out the front. It’s good that way because you see the view without anyone in front of you to block it. Caroline was beginning to slow down. She’s had a cold for a while and it seemed to be getting much worse. She had hot and cold stages and looked awful. She started crying throughout the day and every time we stopped she’d fall asleep on her pack, sort of fainting. We pushed on. We stopped for a long lunch at the end of that big hill, the rest of the day was downhill. Dean and Kim were really worried but the rest of us weren’t really fazed. She kept saying she was ok and we didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation. Dean and Kim had seen this sort of thing before and knew how detrimental to our expedition it could be. We couldn’t take too many chances and they considered getting Caroline’s parents to come pick her up. Dean navigated the way down our last hill that day. He thought it would be really steep. It was a few kilometres down the long steep hill. We finally reached the creek where we were greeted by Lisa and her kids. By the end of day four, everyone was acting funny. Allen, talking more than ever. Dean, singing funny songs. Me, trying to cheer everyone up. Tom, saying ‘I’m gone’, and dragging his feet looking pretty delusional. Caroline, pretty much dying. Ashley, quieter than normal. Heather, slowly getting sick of Allen. Kim, worried about Caroline. The first thing we did when we to our campsite on Dave and Lisa’s creek flats was set up Caroline’s tent. She doesn’t like our help but we know she required it. She went to bed and rode occasionally for a cup of Miso. All the rest of the crew set up camp, stripped off and prepared ourselves from the freezing water. Heather was in first, she’s the best brave bush rat I know. Then Ashley then tom. Allen and I were so scared so Ashley prompted us by doing the Shae Shae then we went under in a big splash. Everyone back at camp (about 500 metres and a thousand trees away) commented on our continuous screams. Heather and I were so good at organising ourselves and our tent by this time. We had our trangia boiling hot Moroccan couscous and our feet warming by the fire in no time at all. Dean and john warned us about the numerous funnel web spiders common to the area. I freaked. That night, my crocs and boots were in the tent with me, wedged with drink bottles to stop any chances of spiders getting in. We out the tarp over our tent that night and thank god for that, the rain lasted about half an hour the next morning at 5:30. We got up and Caroline did too. We had a nice long day ahead of us, starting out by looking at Dave and Lisa’s creation, Provincial Landscape Gardens. It’s a sort of environmentally sustainable set up, used as a wholesale outlet for pots and food and stuff. They let us inside their house and we all sat in their spacious glass windowed office to listen to our next radio interview. It was the best one we’ve had so far. Dean spoke, then Heather, then me. I milked it for all it was worth and just kept talking. We even got in our phone number for any donations after doing a recap of the events and highlights of our trip. Dean was beaming. We all need to help make this an annual event for dean. This is his passion. We had a coffee at their house, which made me go scarily hyper. I don’t think I’m going to drink it anymore, the caffeine really hit me. I blabbered on about everything really quickly. Tom and I were the leaders of day five. We trekked up a steep part for the first couple of hours. We are all getting used to the uphills too I think. Every day Ashley asks me if her muscles are looking bigger. We stopped regularly, the land was nice but you couldn’t see much more than the forest around us and the ground you looked at when you plodded uphill. Further up the mountain, the real views began. Wandella road was a beautiful walk. We played the funniest games and looked out at the mountains the surrounded us. It was a ridge walk, we had really steep hills on either side of us. Dean and Kim let us know they would be interviewing us individually at lunchtime on different aspects of the journey. Lunch ended up taking two hours. Us kids set up a few bends further up than Dean, John and Kim. Tom went first to face the unknown. While he was gone we played celebrity heads and heather and I ate another peanut butter date wrap. Someone went to the toilet and came back with what they thought was koala scats. These things stank. They were supposed to smell pretty like eucalyptus leaves. When my turn came to be interviewed I was a bit nervous. They just asked me to comment on 5 different areas. Fitness, which I couldn’t be happier with. Environment, which we are continuously learning about, with different peoples perspectives and information on how to identify trees and just being more aware of our surroundings and location. Navigation, which I am enjoying and improving at because we actually put it into practise so it makes sense. Group Dynamics, which are fantastic. Everyone is getting really close and we are learning about each other, especially through challenges we are facing. Camp craft, which is only getting speedier. I probably should help everyone else when Heather and I have packed our things. Kim and Dean gave me exceptional feedback and some handy constructive criticism. We kept going; we were in Wadbilliga National Park. It’s spectacular. Dean had been talking about this place the whole way along the trip. He seemed to be hiding things. I asked about Wadbilliga and he’d just sort of say wait and see. The vegetation is so lush. Some of us worry a fair bit when we aren’t on time with the route plan and today we were two hours out. Dean is never too stressed, his times are very loose. We walked on winding tracks down to Margaret Opies place. Mum would have loved the little house. It’s so crazy to think that we were out in the middle of the bush and then someone’s whole life and house is just there. Margaret is this motivated 75-year-old woman who is away teaching aboriginal children at the moment. It rained along the way. We sat on the veranda of this amazing little cottage to have some scroggin and get some more energy into Caroline. She was rapidly declining at this time. Next up was a very steep hill. I hung at the back and had a good long conversation with Caroline. I somehow need to give this girl more confidence in herself. I carried her pack up the hill to make it easier for her. It had been lightened anyway, with heaps of her gear in the support vehicle. It rained again up that hill. I love the way the rain makes the plants smell. It’s so different to anything else. Once we got to the top it was a flat downhill windy track to our destination. I had a good old chat with Kim as well. She’s really fun to talk to. I want to try acupuncture now. They test it on themselves all the time in uni. Conversation while we’ve been here is not what I expected. Sometimes there is very little, other times it’s wasted on games. When everyone’s in a good mood we have some great talks. Heather and I do every night in the tent before we got to sleep. We arrived at Marco’s half built house just before dark. He’s Margaret’s son. I was feeling pretty dead. The rain is annoying. I made myself do everything, set up the tent, go to the toilet, organise my pack and bed before I went inside the little wood shelter to enjoy chai tea and a roaring fire. I knew if I went in there first, I wouldn’t come out. It was our last night so everyone was pretty keen to stay up late (past 7) and just have a good time. The smells coming from the pots on the fire were so good. Marco and his friend Gabby had put a big roast beef on the fire for us at 11am that morning. My god meat has never toasted so good. The other pot had potatoes, carrots, pumpkin and onion and the last was filled with creamy potato bake. It was so hearty. We had bread in dripping from the veges too. I gorged! Caroline was still going through hot and cold stages with her fever and she went to bed early. She was sick through the night. Marco was the most awesome man. Pretty skinny and always smoking. John and him were good friends and I could see why. I really loved this guy, he pulled out his guitar for us and played any song we asked for. Ashley plays as well. It was so entertaining. The banjo came out later on. Heather and I went to bed first. In the tent, my body was making some strange noises. We laughed hysterically for about 40 minutes. Heather had tears all over her sleeping bag and we designated one of her t-shirts as a snot rag. Everyone wanted to know what was so funny but I wouldn’t let her tell. Day six I woke early and started this diary. We all said thankyou to Marco and Gab and they came up to the top of our first hill to wave goodbye. Marco took us off track to show us a breathtaking view. It even had a little brick alter built where people came to meditate. It feels very special. Wadbilliga means the place of truth. We had our next radio interview with Ash and Caroline on that cliff face. I pulled a tick of Kim’s hip and checked to see if my lunch (last nights pasta in a bag) had split. We continued our walk, the last day was only 8 kms. We got to where we were supposed to make a turn in the track, but there was no turn. The map was wrong but we figured it out eventually. Caroline was really over the whole thing by this time (and I can understand why!) and wanted to just keep walking, thinking we’d get there sometime, we just shouldn’t stop. We needed to stop and figure out where we were. After a lot of testing and compass work, dean (who had been at the back quietly at the time, they’re not supposed to help too much) sat down and explained that we should walk up hill. We did and the track was only twenty metres away! It was such an old one, no one seemed to have use it in years. Some logs had been cut but others had fallen across the track since then and tall plants were growing on the path. We used the hiker cam a heap on say six to interview the crew. We walked through lots of green gullies filled with bracken, moss, stringy barks, monkey gums, woolly butts and she oaks. We stopped for a leisurely lunch and an animated conversation about where we were conceived before continuing on. We were all very silent towards the end, the views were just so much to take in. before we knew it, we had made it to the escarpment. John was already there, filming us come in. It was a pretty river we had been following for a few kilometres. We celebrated by doing the shae shae on a rock and eating any last food. We dangled our feet in and drank from the cold water in the stream. Dave and his daughter ruby pulled up about 200 m away in the minibus to take us back to Cobargo. We got lots of photos but it didn’t sink in that we had done it- successfully completed the first half of the journey. Heather wanted to go for a swim but I didn’t, I wanted to smell as awful as possible for Mum and Dad. Before we all got on the bus we put an item in a little bag to bury and collect again at the beginning of our next journey. It was so exciting. I put in a key that I’d found in an abandoned car on the first day. We buried it under a tree covered in prickly bush and tied Caroline’s well used hanky on a branch above the bag. We piled in and drove off. Dave passed out chocolate and we were all buzzing. John interviewed us some more and Heather recovered from her crying incident. We were back in Cobargo so quickly, meeting up with parents and reminiscing about the journey and organising how to keep in contact. This is the only way I could show how the journey was. I saw the most incredible sights and pushed myself. I learned to accept people for who they are and when it’s best to say nothing at all. We realised that if we don’t all make it together, we don’t achieve at all. I became more comfortable in my own skin. This has been an amazing experience; we have drawn so much from it. I can’t wait to reach the summit, I might even cry without needing Allen to poke me in the eye.
Second Half of the Journey:
The Sea To Snow Journey
-Escarpment to Summit-
Dad and I rushed to the car after some last second organization and kisses goodbye. We talked about the state of world affairs all the way to Cobargo., where he found the destination house with ease. As soon as we got there, Dean was keen to get moving to get thought the scarily approaching bad weather. We were at the bottom of the Wadbilliga escarpment before we knew it and on our bikes along the dirt road. We started on some gentle ups and downs, but soon we were zooming down steep, rocky terrain and Caroline came off round a sweeping corner. She pushed on, but even though she got some bad bruises and grazes, cut her pants and had dents in her helmet. The escarpment began on the other side of Wadbilliga River. We had no bike pump for Dean and Kim’s bikes, so we had to be careful not to get punctures. The only communication we had was by satellite phone from here on. We were all off our bikes and pushing up the seemingly never-ending, monstrous hill. We watched over a huge storm brewing in the valleys down below us. It didn’t really touch us except for a few drops of rain and impressive looking skies overhead. We all had aching legs and sweat everywhere and cherished the down hill on the other side immensely. We were over the escarpment and quickly arrived at a big creek to our campsite. The huge green paddock littered with cows and wombats belonged to farmer Geoff Ferguson. Heather and I stripped off straight away to go and wash the sweat and dirt away in the creek. Heather was fully immersed in the water and I was only waste deep when a massive lighting strike cracked down near us. We ran faster than lightning out of the water and into warm clothes under our group tarp. We played a game of tent golf, where we put bits of bright foil on tussocks all around the paddock. Then we had to throw tent pegs and count how many throws it took to get to each tussock. I lost dismally, but it was a hilarious game. Geoff Ferguson came to visit us, and after dinner and a walk we were straight to bed The sun was still shining.
We had an early start by riding a few kilometres back up the rocky, winding dirt track to a narrow turnoff. We tied the bikes onto the trailer and set off walking through the tough scrub with our hiking packs. For the first few hours we were alternating between short, dense scrub and scattered bushlands. A sharp incline puffed us all out and we had heaps of scroggin breaks along the way. Allan discovered the turnoff we needed to take to get to our campsite at Tuross Falls. We trekked through untracked bush, following the creek (that had an extreme lack of water). We climbed over dead trees and through vines and slipped on thick, leaf mulch ground. Finally we heard the sound of running water and ran down to the cascading granite rocks and pretty waterfalls. We were all looking scarily ruggard, and we didn’t expect to see people swimming in the waterhole. Ironically they left as soon as we arrived and we spent the afternoon wallowing in he water. The waterfall had a stream of running water down a really slippery, steep granite boulder, and we used it as a waterslide. It was late afternoon before we decided to head up to our campsite. We kept our swimmers on and put our packs on our backs to carefully cross the creek on dodgy little rocks. We simply had to walk up a million stairs to get to our campsite, then it started pouring rain. We all enjoyed hot soup under our communal tarp. Everyone though of funny games to play and we made friends with our neighbouring campers. Their names are Max and Madeline, aged 2 and 3. We had another early night because of the rain, but Heather and I stayed up late laughing in our tent. We were using sticky tape to catch bugs. After we got bored of that, I thought of a game where we both closed our eyes and had to try and keep your own closed the longest. In an attempt to pull open the other person’s eyes, we were hitting everything in the tent, and Heather purposely punched me in the mouth. I lost. We both opened our eyes and realised blood was gushing from my lip. We thought it might be time to go to sleep.
We didn’t have to leave the falls until lunch, so we ha plenty of time to explore. Dean led us up above the falls where the huge rocks were like a playground and offered a spectacular view of everything that lay before u. We took heaps of photo opportunities. Dean showed us where a big bolder had bored its way down into a piece of granite to make a deep hole. A water dragon was in on of these holes, and Tom saved it because it couldn’t get out by itself. We decided to go on a two-hour return walk to see one of the bigger waterfalls. It was a gorgeous walk, and the size of the waterfall was impressive. It had formed on sheer rock, and it looked like the mountain had been sliced by a knife and the inner rock was exposed. Kim, Heather, Allan and I all had one last swim when we got back to camp. We learnt to go hands and feet down the waterslide. A few bikes needed some repairs, so Tom and Dean took care of that. Our ride began with 10 kilometres of very steep dirt before we hit the tar and stoped to eat a lunch of mountain bread and kryvak salmon. The tar road seemed to go on forever. We tried to stay in a slipstream, where everyone’s wheels are almost touching in a line, but everyone has different paces. It was burning hot in the sun, and we all got some impressive sunburn. I was glowing on my arms and face. The change in country today was incredible. We started off in moist bushland and rode only 40 kilometres, but the differences were huge. The dry, barren desolate country around us seemed to stretch on forever. The sky was impressively blue with scatterings of big, fat happy looking clouds that seemed close enough to touch. We ascended up lots of long hills, with the promise of a downhill on the other side. We normally raced each other down. We were all exhausted by the time we hit Cooma, and we had trouble finding the scout hall where we stayed. I needed food so badly when we stopped. We all drank loads of water as well. Most of us went shopping in Cooma to pick up some new supplies. It was strange coming back to civilisation, and I don’t think we looked like we belonged, in our grubby riding clothes and messy hair. Heather and I made a pact not to shower the whole time we are here, only swim in the creeks and streams to wash. We all lay on the floor of the scout hall – the highest building in Cooma – and fell asleep.
Everyone woke up disorientated in the big hall. Heather and Allan were fine, but the rest of us had the worst nightmares. John, our cameraman, vowed never to sleep in a building again when he had the option to camp outside. The outdoors are much more safe. I dreamt about my parents. We ate breakfast in bed and packed up all ready to move on. We didn’t have to be at Cooma high School for our presentation until 10.00am, so we played basketball with a flat ball and entertained ourselves with an old hula-hoop. The bikes needed some last minute fixes, and when we rode away I was pretty glad, I didn’t really like that place. We got to the high school and realised we didn’t have our sea to snow movie to show. Dean, as always, didn’t stress and it all worked out. We split the group of year ten and elevens into groups and played some meaningful environmental games with them, and they all watched our movie. At the end of it, we felt like we had some enthusiastic kids who might apply for the journey, but on the whole it was hard to get though to all these groups. After tea with Real milk, we put our aching legs back onto the pedals. Dough Reckod from Bournda EEC was keen to come along for the ride and he journeyed with us until lunchtime. The wind was extreme, it made us so much slower and worn out then it would if it was going with us. Some of the group suffered from dry lips and faces, but I got a sore, bleeding nose. We were riding out of Cooma on stretching tar roads. We stopped for lunch in the shade of one of the only trees and tried to shield our bodies from the roaring wind. We watched a kangaroo struggle and jump over a fence. The raincoats came out and we continued on until we got to the turnoff for Murlingbung. We were grateful because we were going with the wind on this little section of road. The land was slowly acquiring a greener tinge, and more stock were in paddocks. We rode past lots of farmhouses, until we came to our destination. We stayed in Stewart Reids woolshed. All of us were ecstatic to be there, even Dean. We pretended to shear each other, and we tried to classify the different types of wool in the shed. Caroline and I went for a walk around the farm, and the first thing we noticed was the plague amounts of grasshoppers everywhere. We walked up onto a hill, to check out the view. It was serene. Everything looked smooth and green thanks to recent rain and good farming practises by Stewart Reid. He came into the woolshed later on to give us a detailed overview of his property. He was fifth generation from this farm, of 5000 acres. In 1994 he adopted environmentally sounds stock management practises, which he is still working on incorporating into his massive piece of land. He uses cell grazing instead of set stock. He allows his paddocks enough time to replenish themselves and minimise damage to vegetation. He was such a nice man – more like a scientist than a farmer. He was disappointed since none of his four children wants to take over the farm, and he’s already 60. We had nice hot rice pudding for dessert, and Stewart gave us two-dozen eggs to enjoy. We slept with our food bags next to our heads after warnings about killer rats.
As usual, I woke up first too early. I wandered around the paddock and tried to touch a sheep. We made a movie the day before on us trying to touch a sheep, and it was hilarious. We couldn’t get near them. I lay on a rock in the morning sun and tried to catch up on my diary. Me cold was getting pretty painful, so I went inside and Dean gave me some natural medicine for it. It worked within ten minutes, and my head cleared up. We had a big conversation about natural remedies, and I think he made me a convert. We had a radio interview with ABC, that I did. It was short and I’m not sure I said enough, but everyone was pleased. The interviewer was in a rush. We ate those delicious farm eggs for breaky and set off to the even higher country. We got our first glimpses of snow along the way and I pretty much went berserk. We were riding along and stopped for a morning tea break next to a little dirt road. Without consulting with the map, us sea to snowers continued along the tar. We didn’t realise Dean and Kim weren’t following us. We rode so fast down the biggest hill so far and got an awesome view of lake Eucambene. We got to the bottom of the hill and were faced with a barge gate. We went into the little mini mar/ petrol station / office and spoke to the lovely lady. I concocted this little idea in her head that we were authorised and we were allowed though the gate because we’d spoken to all of the property owners on the other side and they were going to let us through their farms. She opened the gate then told us John’s car wouldn’t be able to cross the river that was coming up. We were all thinking this was a little strange. We told her our co-ordinator Dean would come and clear things up, but when he didn’t arrive we bought some food and faced the fact we’d made a wrong turn. We began walking back up the huge hill. Dean and Kim were waiting at the top. We went in a completely different direction over steep hills and impressive views since there were no fences, we were riding past some cows – my worst fear. Heather and Allan went on either die of me and I pretty much closed my eyes to go though them. When I came down a hill and saw cows running towards me, I skidded to a stop. The crash happened so quickly, Allan ran into the back of my bike and I fell forward. He sprawled across the road. Tom came flying down and thought he could dodge us, but hit Allan’s bike and literally flew through the air and did a front flip. He landed on his back. Heather crashed into Tom and came off as well. I didn’t even get a scratch. I stood up and put my hands to my head. I thought Allan had broken his hip from the way he was holding it and the look on his face. Heather had a bleeding finger and thought it might be broken. Tom was okay. I’d caused a four-bike pile up just because of my fear of cows. I felt awful. We assessed the damage and Allan’s bike (borrowed from Heather’s Dad) was broken, the derailer is bent. He had massive cuts on his elbow, and immediate bruising and cuts on his hip. We patched him up and he had to use the spare bike. Our next challenge was to get to Nimmo Hill. It was never-ending and I began wheezing on the way up. Dean gave me the remedy for whooping cough. I was a bit worried. The downhill was extreme and we came to Gunghalin River where we met a group of old men fishing. They were so amazed by what we are doing. It was really nice to see them there. We had the option to camp at the Rive, but the wind was incredibly strong, so we pushed on for about another hour to arrive at Bulls peak Creek. It was my favourite campsite. We were at 1510 metres. Granite rocks piled up on the hill behind us. We put up our tents on soft grass and had a wash in the freezing creek. Kim taught us a game called giggle belly. We lay in a circle with our head on someone’s belly, and laughed our heads off. It was an eventful day.
Heather and I got up really quickly and packed up – it was the day we were going to reach the summit. Heather and I wanted peple to get up, so we cooked ham and eggs and they were up in a flash. Everyone was pretty exhausted. We continued on, again in the wind. It was slow going, but we got to Snowyale and hung our bikes up on the trailer, ready to hike up Jajungal. We had some serious talks about how lost we could get out here in the wilderness. We needed to use careful navigation. We started up, and went though scattered trees, then lots of bare patches. The vegetation was hardy and had adapted to live in these extreme conditions. The tussocks were windswept and snow gums littered the land. We stopped at many of the countless streams to refill waterbottles. We continually turned around to look how far we had come. There were huge patches of colourful wildflowers, and it just makes me happy to be here. We got to Cesjacks Hut and left a comment in the guest book. We had a nice lunch out of the wind in the basic little hut, open to all hikers and cross-country skiers. We navigated our way down to Doubtful Creek, and we thought we could see the summit. We aimed for Farm Ridge, aiming to take the easiest route. When we got to Farm Ridge we once again thought we saw the real summit. We zigzagged around soggy marshes and groups of granite boulders. We stopped occasionally to sit on our packs and soak in where we are and what we are doing. We have all worked so hard to get here, and we were so close to reaching our goal. At the beginning of the first journey, Dean told us we would all have to learn the art of plodding. All of us had, we continued up. Jajungal looked huge, and we were so small. Walking through impenetrable Heather, we fell over and couldn’t get back up it was so thick. We could see a huge patch of snow, and that was my new aim. It was so exciting to get there; we slid down the drift on our backs and on our fronts. We ate snow and threw it at each other. We poured tang powder on the snow and licked it off. We filled our drink bottles with snow and took a million pictures then continued on. We thought the summit was just above us, but it was much higher up. We were all getting incredibly exhausted after 15 kilometres of walking uphill. We ended up setting up camp about 200 metres from the summit, and walked up to the top to see the sunset. It was the best feeling ever to get up there. We all touched the concrete cairn at the same time. We all stood up on the cairn one at a time, and we all felt like we were higher than anything. The view was breathtaking. A full view in every direction, out to all horizons. It felt special to finish this huge journey. We jumped around and screamed and stood close to every edge. All of us sat in a circle and ate celebration food. We shared our favourite moments and a few phone calls were made. Landmarks were pointed out, and we ended our summit visit by doing the Shay Shay dance in memory of Ashley, who was part of our crew, but didn’t make it to the top due to illness. A few of us left shells and bits from our first day on the beach. We climbed back down to our campsite and we were all buzzing with excitement. We slept with smiles on our faces.
Tom woke us all up at 4:30 to walk up to the summit to watch the sun rise. It was so cold and so hard to get up, but we all got up there, sleepy eyed and shivering. Sitting up on the cairn, we took more pictures and just waited. The tang on top of the cairn had turned to orange glue. It was spectacular looking down at the clouds, which formed a blanket over everything below us. it felt like we were as high as a plane. The wind got stronger and the sun poked its head up. We went back down to make breakfast and realised all of our water had turned to ice. We packed little day bags and set off down the other side of the summit to O’Keefe’s hut. It was a steep walk down, through ridges and over the rocky terrain. The ground was wet when we got to flatter grounds. All of us helped t construct Keefe’s Hut. There were national Parks men already working there. We all moved big rocks and helped make the right shaped stones for the fireplace. It was such a hot day and we nearly fell asleep on the ground lying under the sun. I was feeling sick again, so I went down and washed my hair and body in the icy cold creek. It was nice to be alone and I enjoyed the peace and quiet. I really appreciated having gators, they stopped all the plants from hurting my skin. I’ve only had one scratch on my knee so far, and some of the others look like they’ve just been to war. We said goodbye to O’Keefe’s hut, which is the replacement for the last hut, which was burnt in the 2003 bushfires. In the scolding heat, we all zoomed back up the mountain to our campsite and were impressed by our fitness. We packed up camp, and ate some lunch, and looked forward to the downhill walk back to Cesjacks Hut. We did lots of contouring to get over to that snowdrift again. We filled our drink bottles with snow and I learnt how fun it is to forward flip over the snow. We hiked down to Doubtful Creek, making a new track, and we had lots of good, long stops along the way. We laughed about memories and everyone was in good spirits. We ended up following Doubtful Creek and walking through mushy tussocks of grass that seem to suck your foot in with every step. It felt like a sponge. We saw bad weather coming in from over Jajungal. All of us except Allan decided to have a wash in the Doubtful. Heather just wallowed around and swam under water, but the rest of us were out of there so quickly. Heather and I left our wet swimmers on and just put on our boots and compasses then hiked back up to Cesjacks, about a kilometre up the hill. We stood around the fire and warmed our chilled insides and clothes. We drank some celebratory shiraz that was left in the hut, and all of us felt like we had succeeded in something amazing. We reflected on what we have learnt throughout this crossing and shared funy stories. I slept better than ever inside Cesjacks Hut.
I woke up to a white mist all around us, gale force winds, and heavy rain. Dean had stoked up the fire and I felt safe in the warm room. We took our time to get out of bed, which was a large raised platform in the little hut. The fireplace was on the other side, and there are some shelves and chairs in the spare space. John had written a thoughtful poem in the logbook about our journey. We had hot porridge for breakfast and put on our best wet weather gear. John filmed us walking out into the white fog that appeared to engulf us. We followed a light four wheel drive track and came to what Annette had dubbed the ‘mother nature tree’. It was a massive snowygum that Dean assumed was 500 years old. We went off track to Top hut and continued down to Snowyvale. Our boots and socks were drenched, but we all felt like we were finished our hard work. Snowyvale is owned by NSW Huts Association, which Dean is a part of. Since Snowyvale is for members only, we were allowed in because of Dean. We sat in a very lavish room and drank green tea and put together a puzzle. We were warmly welcomed by four members of the Association, and more arrived later in the day. In the comfortable chairs, we soaked up the warm fire, and the change – from camping to this – was significant. After lunch we set off with hoes to pull out thistles in the surrounding area. It was an addictive job, it was really fun to go around and destroy things. We walked down to Wallaces Hut where the car was parked, then went back up to Snowyvale. All of us spent the afternoon up in the loft we were sleeping in. We gave each other foot massages because we were still had sore muscles from all the exercise. The men put on the outdoor fire and put on a big roast. It was delicious. We sat around the dinner table and the men told us all about their high country adventures. They were incredible, and we found these people very inspiring. We stayed up late and laughed and talked our way through the last night of the journey.
I woke up first this morning and tried to put together more pieces of the puzzle. Dean got up and made bubble and squeak out of the leftover roasted vegetables. Everyone enjoyed a leisurely morning, except Kim has a shocking headache. We decided to ride out from Snowyvale to Gunghalin River to finish our journey. We said our goodbyes to the kind men and walked with our packs down to the car. We unloaded the bikes and I realised some sort of animal had eaten part of my seat- most likely evil possums. Dean and us kids set off rising down the steep hills. The plan was for John and Liz to follow us in their cars and pick us up at the river. We went over some awesomely steep downhills and the wind was going our way. We felt pretty lucky until the vehicles never showed up when we got to the river. It was a long, hard ride back and Dean was contemplating riding it to find out why they hadn’t followed us. By chance, some old friends of Deans’ drove past and he got a lift with them to Snowyvale. We had to wait around for about an hour and a half for the support vehicles to come and pick us up. Heather and I sat heads down, bums up on a big rock, and tried to drink from the River. We counted the slats on the bridge and walked around in the water. It was a pretty peaceful way to finish the journey, and we all laughed and chatted and decided we were only just getting to really know each other. They came and picked us up at 1pm and told us about all the car problems. Allan, Caroline, Kim, Liz and I are sitting in the car and just arrived in Cooma. We’re stopping to get a new battery for Dean’s car, then it’s on our way back to Cobargo, and ordinary life. I’m looking forward to seeing my parents, but I don’t really want to go back to the usual flow of society. I’ve come to understand a lot more about myself and the way I deal with things. I have made decisions on what should really matter in life, and how absorbed most of us are in this consumerism way of life. I feel like I’m more connected with my spiritual side, and I’ve become more open minded. I’ve gathered so much knowledge and taken in so many different opinions. Most of all I have become more aware and appreciative of my surroundings. We have learnt vast amounts of information about how to manage the environment sustainably. Now I know no goal is too high, and the world really is my oyster.