A weekend in the Gold Coast hinterland experienced by our store manager Chuck Gartrell
We awoke pre-dawn to an endless river of cloud migrating silently towards the sea. We gathered our gear, patiently wondering if the skys would favour or be confronted with the ever looming deluge as forecasted. Hoods were donned as we stepped into the day; our soggy suspensions were confirmed.
Continental breakfast and grande lattes were consumed before climbing into our trusty transport van. The drive was precarious as we navigated endless road works needed to rebuild the destruction left from last year’s cyclone. A sudden turn around and the crunch of gravel signaled our arrival at the drop off point. A wild walk it would be as our guide paced back and forth, peering ever deeper into the dense overgrowth looking for the faint route markers that would guide our path. With none in sight, we took a chance and entered blindly hoping to come across what could have been a casual decent to a remote creek bed. Normally the promise of a pool excites, but heavy rains and strong winds would not be tempting a cheeky swim today.
In the Aussie bush, one can literally sneeze and something grows. Allergy season was in full force as the forest was overrun with an endless collection of vines, prickled bushes and ancient trees. Reminiscent of grade school biology, we were constantly educated about the pleasures and dangers of our surrounding flora. No surprise that most things we learned about came with egregious after-effects, sharp stinks or poisonous outcomes. Ever weary of a stumble, we began to scan the forest with laser focus, narrowly passing the unforgiving friction of our pointy green surroundings.
Throughout the day, our guides never wavered from their relaxed yet confident leadership. It is easy to spot one in their natural element, and their passion and enjoyment of the trek shone through with every step and stumble. Getting the chance to explore rare wilderness is a delight to me and the harder the day became, the more I thrived. Our biggest obstacle from the start was navigation. The spur we were after continued to elude us as the hours went by. Heavy clouds hid any clear views needed to sight landmarks and catch our bearings. With the morning spent and still no sign of the creek, we gathered for a break to discuss the plan. The team held strong and followed confidently as we meandered back and forth, abseiling vines, sliding down gullies and boot skiing miniature mudslides. Then we heard it, the quiet hiss of rapids breaking through the canopy rain. With good news also came bad. The creek was in sight, but we gazed over impassible cliff lines and knew there was more to achieve. Emboldened by the chance for a proper lunch stop, we began the climb out and traverse that would ultimately find the elusive spur we had fought so hard to discover. Some expert rock hopping and soon our packs were dropped.
Four hours it took to find our first landmark and our backtracking efforts were beginning to take its toll on some of the team. Sandwiches, cookies and granola were consumed while Damo prepared hot drinks for the weary. The decision to press on was difficult. We were behind schedule and most certainly would have spent a good part of the last ridge in darkness. We were well prepared with gear, but food supplies were low. With a chance for further navigation challenges, we collectively decided to walk the 5k up to the start and shuttle back to base. It’s never easy making difficult decisions and I felt our guides were no stranger to them. Without reservation they could tell heading back was the correct choice and I respect their support of the team. With full bellies and smooth trail beneath our feet, we traveled the final two hours back to our waiting chariot to take us back to the warmth and comfort of Binna Burra’s finest accommodation.
Adventure is abound and more accessible than ever. Armchair explores and footpath photographers can only dream of capturing the true essence of what we discovered on our Wild Walk. In one rainy day we witnessed physical achievements, gained invaluable knowledge and experienced more nature than an army of leeches could suck out of us. Can someone please tell me why the ground keeps moving? Thank you to the dedicated staff of Binna Burra. Damien and Katie were a pleasure to follow and I guarantee you will see me soon for another go at the infamous Middle Ridge Traverse.
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