So this morning I went for a hike. This is one of several hikes I’ve been on since being back in Aus, but it was so full of Standard Disasters that I just had to write about it. You’d think I’d be over writing really, being as it’s half of my job, and that I finished the 80k words of my novel last weekend (first draft, anyhow). But apparently not.
Since being back, I’ve been trying to integrate my travelling life into my normal life, to try and be a bit happier for the year that I’m here. As such, I’ve been going on walks into the wilderness, partying with strangers, and just generally running amuck. I’ve been working through the hikes at bushwalkingnsw.com, and generally the directions have proven pretty good. Taking directions at all is kind of a big step in being grown-up for me: I have this stupid tendency to just arrive in the middle of nowhere and walk until I’m somewhere else. (Incidentally or otherwise, this also applies to nights out–if it gets to the point where I want to go home, then by goodness am I going home. 20km? No problems. I’m like a drunken homing pigeon.)
This actually all started after meeting a German lady hiking in Tassie when I was about 16. She was casually hiking around the country by herself, and suddenly it seemed to me that that was a totally doable thing. Preparation? Pah! I once nearly died of hypothermia on an impromptu hike however, so now I try and use my brain a little bit. Just a little bit.
Getting to today’s hike was pretty straight-forward. Isn’t it ridiculous that this is only an hour out of Sydney? Paradise! (The train station’s behind me in this photo–you can see both ends of a train at either side of the picture).
Most of the uphill was out of the way within the first ten minutes. From there, the trail was actually just an ant-hill, but we made a deal that I’d leave them alone, and they wouldn’t sting me. (I was stung on a hike a few weeks ago, resulting in an incredible amount of bad language and the inability to wear shoes for a week.)
Everything was going fairly jauntily, and I was even managing to follow the trail, which wasn’t that bad. I got the impression nobody had been there in a while, as the path was overgrown and full of spiders’ webs, so I spent the first couple of hours with my arms up in front of my face to avoid getting spider in my mouth. Of course, this limited my vision, which had its own particular consequences. Inevitably, my foot caught. I wasn’t quite down though, and was doing that awkward run forward where you’re trying to save yourself from falling for a full ten freaking metres before finally succumbing and supermanning it on the ground. So now I’m bleeding everywhere, and some kind of native wasps are following me and trying to lick the scrapes. Maybe they were the infamous Australian vampire wasps?!
At this point, with me trying to walk up the trail, keep web out of my face, and bat away wasps, the path degenerated once more and was now a veritable river of ants. I kept an eye on my socks, and when I saw that one was stuck, gently tried to flick it off. Best intentions! I mean, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in my sock. Bastard thing must have gone ahead and sprayed “aaaagh! attacker!!” hormones all over me though, because the next thing I knew, ants were swarming all over my feet–there must have been a good 50 of them.
As it turns out, trying to stand on one foot and remove ants from the other, then set that foot down and repeat the process, is completely ineffective when ants are swarming you. So I went ‘screw this’ and climbed up a tree. Where I was happily able to rid myself of ants, but not one particularly persistent wasp.
Glaagh, eventually I gave up on the monkey impression (though to be fair, monkeys would probably be eating the troublesome ants) and carried on until I reached Mount Pindar. I think it’s only called a mountain to spare its feelings to be honest, but there you have it.
The last step in this whole shebang was to make it to Pindar’s Cave, which was purportedly another 800m away. So really, not very far at all. But [deleted swearing] was it hard to find! I identified the most likely-looking trail and followed it. To a dead end. I then retraced my steps and tried again. Another dead end. I repeated this process mannnnny times, until I was in the middle of the freaking bush with absolutely no landmarks. Less than ideal. I somehow made my way to back near the mountain though, and tried it all over again. After about 50 minutes, I pulled out my phone–and magically (and confusingly), I had enough data access to use google maps. So I had a look, and sure enough, “Pindar’s Cave” was marked. No trail, however. I then had a look at satellite view, to see if I could make out a creek bed or something to walk down. Still no.
I returned to a rock on the mountain for a bit of a ponder. Yes, that’s right, a ponder over pindar. It was getting really hot, and I’d already been looking for this path for an hour. Happily, I’d not seen any evidence of people all day, so opted for almost-naked lunch while I cooled down. I then investigated whether there was some way I could track where I’d been using google maps, so that I could wander into what was fairly dense bush without getting lost. Not very well, as it turns out. I then downloaded another app (seriously wtf Virgin, why do I have 3g in the middle of nowhere when northern Northern Sydney is out of the question?) and saw that somebody had done this hike before and mapped it. I then just had to follow their trail. Could I?
(The ‘go’ point was where I kept returning to to try again, and the other marked points are where people had left cairns–so you’d think they’d indicate the track. The red dotted line ends up at my destination, but there was absolutely no path there, just solid bush:)
By now, I’d been searching for the path to this cave for an hour and a half or so, and the temperature was approximately a million fucking degrees (±10°C). I’d left my apartment just after dawn so that I could be done before the heat of the day melted me, but that was no longer going to happen (I am, in fact, now melted). So I gave up on reaching my destination (!!!) and headed back to the station. Fewer adventures on the way back, other than getting really sick from either exhaustion or heat stress. Fun for all the family!
Finally I was back at the station, and waited all of the twenty seconds it took to remove my shoes to jump into the river fully dressed. It was exquisite. I’m sitting here, rolling my eyes ecstatically, just remembering it! I had half an hour til the train, though I’d have stayed longer if I’d had company–it was magical. Haha again incidentally or otherwise, I decided to later swap my clothes for a sarong on the train, where I did my stretches–thus ensuring that I was wearing exactly the least appropriate clothing at every point today. Good job.