AAWT Stage 15 – Kiandra to Ghost Gully (Port Phillip Trail)
On Christmas Eve, Mark, Lucie, Lorelei, Jacob and Kat left Melbourne at lunch time. Well, that was the plan. But they were a bit behind time, maps were left at Punt Road and keys were momentarily misplaced. However, they got on the road soon enough and started the long and extremely hot drive north – the Camry’s air conditioning wasn’t really up to much and the ladies were slowly melting in the back, although the invention of an elaborate towel sun shade across the back window and maps and P plates in the door windows helped. The group stopped for a Christmas Eve picnic dinner at a rest area, with Grace said in Czech, and finally made it to Kosciuszko National Park, where they stopped at Tom Groggins camp site.
December 25th – Kiandra to the Murrumbidgee River
In the morning, after saying hello to several ‘roo friends, the team set off at about 8am and dropped off Team Steamroller at the start of their hike at Dead Horse Gap. It was cold and windy. Mark and Lucie then drove to Kiandra (via Thredbo and Jinabyne to try to find out if we needed National Pass passes, unsurprisingly everything was closed).
Finally (at about 12:15pm), Mark and Lucie arrived at Kiandra, parked the car, immediately suffered the onslaught of march flies and started walking along the Kiandra Heritage Trail, which essentially is a few signs saying ‘a building used to be here. Look, there is a piece of twisted, rusty metal and a couple of old bricks.’ After the Heritage Trail there were a few hundred metres of road before the AAWT headed off to Nungar Creek Trail and into the bush.
The first section of trail forded the Eucumbene River and Head Creek. At this point Mark wished he was wearing his new leather boots and Lucie was feeling cocky about her leather boots and gaiters. Lucie sighted a shallow rocky crossing and started across, but alas, she was soon foiled by slippery surfaces and fast moving water and ended up nearly knee deep in the middle of the Eucumbene River with water quickly flooding in the top of her boots. Mark sucked it up and decided to just walk across the river and they both emerged on the other side feeling a bit soggy. Considering they were already wet they walked straight through Head Creek and started up the hill, making some squeaky, squelching noises.
The trail was easy to follow and somewhat undulating but nothing too hard, which was good because Mark and Lucie needed to keep moving to outrun the march flies. Fly city had already been founded and was thriving on the back packs but that was okay. In honour of the day the A-Z Christmas Sing-A-Long game was invented, starting with All I Want For Christmas. It was pretty hard to think of Christmas songs that started with some letters (‘X’ anybody?), but that was made up for by multiple songs for others, and a full, rousing rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. ‘Fiiiive, Gooooo-uuuuuuuuld Rrriiiiiiiiings!’
The A-Z Christmas Sing-A-Long took a long time and had to be halted a few times during the crossing of Wild Horse Plain so that brumbies (and brumby foals!) wouldn’t be scared away. A few teeny creeks were hopped over, a lizard was seen and in mid-afternoon Mark and Lucie came to Witzes Hut, which offered a welcome refuge from the sun and the flies. After having a short rest and finishing lunch (which had been started earlier but suffered a fly attack) they carried back along Nungar Creek Trail and then Bullocks Hill Trail to find more brumbies and a snake.
At about 6pm they spied Tantangara Creek – a potential campsite – but there was a group of people and a ute. Yuck. Also, for no obvious reason Lucie’s ankle started to hurt. The team dropped down to the creek, forded it (yay, wet feet!) and then moved up the hill, away from the ute people. At the top of the hill, Lucie undid her boot because it was hurting her ankle and they dropped down to Murrumbidgee River and an awesome, idyllic camping spot: soft, flat, grassy oval; a spot for a campfire; a cool river to wash in; and brumbies that came to visit.
After setting up camp and having a wash Christmas dinner was set on the stove: lamb with rosemary and thyme mashed potatoes for main, dark chocolate with nuts for dessert, and cheese. Mark’s dinner was probably a bit cold by the time he got around to eating it because he spent too long trying to kill every march fly in the vicinity. There was a beautiful sunset, turning the sky a mixture of oranges, pinks and purples, whilst the surrounding hillsides were glowing a bright yellowy green. Once the sun has dipped down below the horizon a tiny crescent moon appeared and the dark side of the moon was clearly visible in the darkening sky. The stars that followed were beautiful.
December 26th – Murrumbidgee River to Port Phillip Trail
Mark and Lucie woke up to the soothing sound of a crow pretending to die right outside their tent. It was a very windy morning, which was perfect for drying the dew off of the tent and the wet shoes and socks from the day before. It wasn’t cold and there was a very pretty sunrise.
After breaking camp the first task was to cross the Murumbigee River. Given the previous day’s success with river crossings this was done barefoot, although it was still tricky because the rocks of the river bed were very slippery and the water was fast moving, which was good at creating a sensation of vertigo.
Once on the opposite bank there was a small overgrown marshy section to traverse before there was an opportunity to sit down and put on boots. March flies were ready to strike. Lucie found putting on her boot extremely painful on the ankle, which by the morning was feeling very bruised and tender. ‘Never mind,’ she thought, ‘just suck it up and walk it off’. However, on taking that first step she pretty much screamed bloody murder and the next few were the same. She tried loosening her boot but it didn’t help and also tried strapping and padding the ankle but all to no avail. That first 100 metres took about 30 minutes. Eventually it seemed that the best option was to take off the boot completely and hobble on that way. That was bearable, mostly.
The track was completely unmarked and non-existent so it was time to crack out the compasses. The first section involved following a creek bed north. The ground was quite marshy and uneven so it was slow (and painful) going for Lucie. There were more kangaroos to make friends with. Eventually the creek turned off to the east and, after climbing up to a small saddle, it was time to set the compasses to 328°. This bearing took the pair across bushy meadows, covered in yellows and oranges, blues and purples, pinks and the occasional reds. It was a bit easier on the ankle than the creek bed but it wasn’t amazing, and there were several tiny creeks to drop down to and then rise up again from. Lucie was a bit worried that she might encounter a snake with her un-booted foot, or maybe a spider or something, but fortunately she only met with scratchy grass, prickles and thistles and ‘roo poo. Mark was busy battling with march flies.
Heading northwest across those plains seemed to take forever. On each crest Lucie hoped to see the old telephone line that would signal the next stage of the trail, but it remained elusive. Eventually however the line was reached and the route turned northeast, although this involved scrambling through and over dead tree branches, bushes and more creeks. Then, a beautiful sight appeared in the near distance – a dirt road! Turning due north the pair staggered to the road (well, Mark walked like a normal person) and landed right on the AAWT marker. They collapsed to the ground, had lunch and snoozed for a while as they waited for their compadres to arrive in the car.
An hour or so later the others arrived (after a spontaneous shopping trip or two) and Lucie and Mark, grudgingly, took the car (after a short rest Lucie was trying to convince herself and Mark that she could continue hiking but that would have been very stupid) and left the others to continue the hike. Sad times.
Total Ascending (TA): 705m
Total Descending (TD): 740m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 31.4km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 4.54 points