just returned back from a trip with Hitchiking and Dan, one of our ground dwelling friends.
We were treated to a fairly killer uphill section of firetrail straight off the bat, with rewards of spectacular views of the Nattai region from the top. I think at this stage we were all marveling at just how incredibly heavy 6L of water and 7 days of food can make a pack.
Next came the km or so of full on bushbashing to join the Nattai River. This was fairly slow going, but we found some interesting animal bones along the way and were treated to some beautiful terraced waterfalls.
After reaching the river, we sat down for lunch, where Dan found his girlfriend had hidden nearly half a kg of easter eggs in his pack. Happy to distribute the weight, he shared them out.
Our progress was slowed down to about 1km/hr which was fairly dispiriting. We decided to make camp around 5pm and came to a nice spot with four good hammock trees and a flat spot for Dan's tent. He was feeling fairly crook, probably the combination of smoking nearly a pack of smokes on the walk (after having given up) and the exertion coupled with a heavy pack.
Day 2: We continued slowly along the Nattai, but fortunately found some trail markers fixed to trees. No actual trail to speak of though. These were helpful and helped us find the easiest route along the river. Dan jumped off a long onto rocks below and rolled his ankle, probably due to the 21kg on his back. Cursing, he hobbled on, refusing to allow anyone to help.
Shortly after, Hitchhiking also rolled his ankle, a result of his 27kg (!) pack, towering above his head.
That night our hammock trees, a little on the thin side, lowered us precariously close to the ground. I was toasty in my warbonnet, yeti and JRB stealth, though the bowing trees brought my maccat down onto the ridgeline of the hammock.
Hitch was using his warbonnet along with DIY sewn through top quilt and DIY karo step underquilt/ DIY tyvek tarp combo.
Early in the morning Dan got up for a toilet break. Not bothering to put on shoes, he trod barefoot on an animal bone, which sliced open his heel. Since his feet were already prune like from having to cross the river, the damage was fairly bad. It resulted in him limping, rolled ankle on one leg, sliced heel on the other.
We stared up the steep pass as the trail petered out to nothing. Every now and again we would catch a glimpse of a trail marker, but our route quickly turned into another all out bushbash. When we finally reached the top, a break in the cliffs, we were treated to breathtaking views of the Wollondilly river snaking out below us. Very nearly worth the climb! There was a log book on top which we signed.
We crossed the Wollondilly and marched the 13km to the boundary, which we reached around 7pm. It was all we could do to cross the fence and set up camp, exhausted after having covered 30+km, much of which was bushbashing.
Luckily we found a very pretty grassy meadow with perfect hammock trees and all slept like logs, except Dan, who found that he had injured his shoulders with his pack and couldn't raise his arms above a certain point.
Day 4: The 7km hike into Yerranderie, an old silver mining ghost town was slow, due to one of our party being crippled in numerous ways. When we arrived, we found a family that was willing to take him out of the bush so he could get his feet sorted out. I was feeling fairly daunted about the 60+km of unbroken firetrail that lay before us, but Hitchhiking's enthusiasm talked me into continuing. We offloaded unneeded gear onto Dan and continued on our way.
We met another walker coming the opposite direction with a massive pack. He had sticks strapped to the side and I asked him if he was going to try fire by friction. He stated that he was and had planned to give the hand drill a go tonight. The walker (Peter) had sewn a silnylon tipi and was testing it out on this trip. He was interested in the camping hammock concept and said that he might try one next. Dan hadn't packed the last two maps needed to complete the walk, so Peter allowed us to take a photo of the relevant sections.
Hitchhiking and I continued to march until dark, when we cooked dinner and walked on into the night. We camped in the rain ontop of Bran Jan Hill, having covered another 30+km today.
Day 5: After a quick 5km hike, we arrived at a Catholic Bushwalkers Club hut, which they permanently leave open incase of lost walkers. Sodden and stinky, we walked to the door and were greeted by an elderly walker with "G'day, come inside for a cuppa tea". They were very friendly and helpful. The hut itself was amazing. Wood floorboards and walls with cast iron urn, kettle and dutch over over a wood stove.
After chatting for about half an hour over a cup, the rain eased and we continued on our way to Mt Cookem. We took the steep footpad down to the Coxs River, the start of which was fortunately marked with a rock cairn.
Eventually we continued the 10km to the carpark, having rung Annette to pick us up. after at least 40km covered today, including two offtrack ridge climbs, we were beyond spent.
Overall a tough walk, but having completed a 7 day walk in 5 days certainly left us with a sense of pride.