Tuesday, November 22, 2011


A few posts back I wrote a few comments about spending time in wild nature. At the time I was thinking about my niece and her husband who live in Central Australia and enjoy the ruggedness of their part of the world. This post is by Jannah.

                                    Walking across the spinifex plain on Day 1.

In the last decade I have started hiking/camping and travel adventures with my husband Tim and some other friends in some remote areas of Australia. I initially found these adventures daunting and scary, but at the same time also found a great sense of enjoyment and achievement. 
Because of a really wet summer, we planned to make use of the extra surface water around to walk in some areas which would normally be fairly dry and inhospitable to bushwalkers. One of these hikes which had been on our list for years, was to climb Mt Zeil (the highest peak west of the Great Dividing Range). We decided to approach this climb from the south, a different route to the usual more worn track from the northwest. This involved navigating our way through undulating spinifex (a very spikey type of grass) country and winding creeks which would lead us to the base of Mt Zeil. We planned to do this with another friend over the space of about 4 days.
                      Looking towards Mt Zeil from the south (Looking for potential creeks)

Off we set with our packs, map and compass into the remote West Macdonnell Ranges. To start with the creeks we walked up were quite full and we even had a swim in a beautiful waterhole surrounded by River Red Gums at our first lunch spot. This filled us with confidence that water would be plentiful, so we didn't carry much to keep our pack weights down. By the first afternoon we crossed over a small saddle in a ridge and the landscape changed slightly, we didn't take too much notice until we started to run low on water and each creek bed we came across was dry. We needed to find a spot to camp for the night and to collect water to cook with and re-hydrate. The three of us began searching for water as the sun was setting. I began to feel a bit nervous but knew we could always walk back for a couple of hours to the last waterhole we'd passed. I also realised it was pointless getting worried as I didn't have time to waste, it was getting dark and we needed water and to set up camp. It was funny how quickly some adrenaline kicked in, the search became an adventure. We eventually found a small seepage of water coming out of a rock face just on dark. We each set to work syphoning each drip of water into our containers, eventually collecting about 7 litres. Once we thought we had enough to get us through the night and next morning we set off to find somewhere to set up camp in the dark.
                                   Climbing the southern face of Mt Zeil

Watching the water we had carefully collected boil on the flames, made me feel more grateful for water than I probably ever have previously. We set off the next morning, checking every gully along the way in the hope of finding a flowing creek. Unfortunately it seemed like the geology had changed from large rock slabs that water banked up on to form pools, to a more weathered cracked rock in which the water quickly soaked through leaving only dry creek beds.
By now, I did start to get worried as we were walking further and further from the last water point - albeit only a small seepage in a rock. The only thing that kept me from beginning to panic was the fact that I was hiking with two experienced bushwalkers and they didn't seem to panic yet! I voiced my concerns about walking further from the only known water, given that we hadn't found any new water by mid morning, and so we all decided to give it another hour of searching and then if we still hadn't come across water we would have to turn back.
We split up and each went looking along different creeks. Having made a plan together, helped me feel more hopeful and eased some of my anxiety. After a 10 minutes walk up a small rocky creek bed we noticed a small puddle of clear water, Tim and I began chasing the puddle up stream and found a lovely clear creek. The excitement grew as we saw the water growing eventually into some swimmable water holes.
                                         Camping by the water hole

In the end we climbed Mt Zeil and the view stretching for hundreds of kilometres was incredible. I was amazed at how I became much more in tune with and observant of the landscape. I took notice of what plants & birds were near water and the type of rock, so that I could use them for future reference. That hike ended up being one of the most memorable this year and so rewarding as I had to overcome obstacles, and control my mind and emotions from going into an unhelpful state of panic.
                                                Sunrise at the water hole

As I've often said, experiences that challenge and press us give rich rewards.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ spend some time googling an out-of-the-way location you would like to take your children to. It doesn't have to be a great distance away, or involve huge costs. Nor does the trip need to be a long length of time. You as a parent just need to be motivated to excite your kids curiosity, and bring them in on the planning. It probably will prove to be everyone's most memorable holiday.

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