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Day Eleven: Flat Rock to Barraba Campsite
Woke this morning to the most gorgeous dawn chorus: Currawongs and another bird that did short whistles (single note) then gurgles, and lots of others. The sun rise through the trees is just magnificent - big and orange on a blue sky!
It's very, very dry up on this ridge, don't know if the dust makes if feel more so, but the fire was almost too easy to light! Compared to the Basin where it took quite a bit of work to keep going. Glad we've got such a big BBQ as it offers lots of protection.
The batteries in the camera must be very low. The Duracels we bought at Brooklyn have done marvelously well, especially compared to the 8 photo non-name brand from Cowan!! I've had to ration them though and for the last half day it's told me to change them on the first attempt [which I ignored], then take the photo in the second attempt. We do have a spare set 'Super Heavy Duty', same as the Cowan description (so I'm not holding my breath).
Interesting waking up this morning and seeing the Camp Site again.
Boy, where do the days go? Flat Rock already in the past, a wee campsite clinging to the side of a narrow ridge. Lovely views out.
8:20am Leave Camp
Wandered down to the Lookout and checked it during daylight hours. Very nice indeed.
Launched off in good spirits once packed up. Few upward slopes, then a good size down, open wooded land. Quite tough on the knees and hips.
Realised somewhat ruefully that we were looking at the road we'd be walking on later that day... and the hill on the other side! We'd have to go all the way down into the Congewai Valley, and back up the other side! Oh well... the track started off very nicely here anyway.
I was starting to feel particularly sad that the walk was coming to an end and thought that doing it again would be nice, maybe the other way around?? Sandi was not interested!
Had to tell P this morning I didn't want to do the Great North Walk again, least of all North to South. He was surprised!
After a nice "stroll" along the road the track leaves the ridge and climbs down into the valley over some private land and farms.
10:15am Morning Tea
We thought we'd take morning tea at the road, and as we approached we noticed a "picnic shelter" just beside the track. Naturally we thought, "How wonderful! A place to sit and rest." But there was a sign nailed to the roof that said private use only, so we found some nice rocks to sit on and have morning tea. It was only afterwards talking with my sister, who knew the owner, and she said that he'd put the shelter there especially for the Great North Walkers. Oh well.
This is the end of the track for a time, as we walk along the road to the other Track Head. It's warm, we're hot and sweaty and smelly (don't think we ever got used to it), so we sat for a while and wondered what the end of the day would bring: it's another day like yesterday, a long way down and a long way back up again.
Congewai Valley is very pretty: we'd never seen it before.
We passed our first overnight walkers too! We crossed at the Congewai Valley Track Head. They were doing the exact opposite of us (and we met in the middle!). They gave us some good clues about water, especially some tank water at the Muir's farm (which is mentioned on the sign). How wonderful to fill our Camelbaks (which were empty) with lovely cool tank water. There were a lot of places we could have got dam or creek water though.
We stopped and chatted to the other couple for a time: it was amazing that they were doing the exact opposite of us, and we met in the middle. Made us feel we couldn't be too unfit, as they looked fit.
The walk along the bitumen road was hot, and not very nice, more to be endured than enjoyed in some ways. We tried to walk from the shade of one tree to another, but sometimes they were a distance apart.
Crossed Congewai Creek and took the opportunity to wet the head in cool water again: Looked clear enough and didn't smell too much. We could have filled our bottles here if we didn't know that tank water was provided just along the track.
The trudge along the road ended just in time! A kilometer before the end we took a quick rinse in the river under the bridge.
Quite quickly through to Congewai Trackhead. Hard push along the road observing creeks and dams. Met two other walkers who mentioned tank water at farm just as heading into bush. Very helpful. Stopped by farm for lunch, nice to have boots off for an hour and relax, though the flies drove me mad, plus ants!
After the creek it is just a shortish walk along to the Track Head, and sure enough there is a small sign that mentions that tank water is available at the farm. We left our packs at the track head and took our camelbaks along to the farm to fill at the tank (we'd decided to only fill the camel backs as we'd been told there was acceptable water on top, and if we didn't have to walk the water up we were happy).
The fellow who owned the farm was chatting to a friend outside in his drive when we wandered up. He said, "You after some water?" I guess it wasn't hard to guess: we must have looked a mess and we were carrying empty camelbaks.
He directed us to the tank, which was to one side of the house, and told us to drink as much as we wanted. We didn't need much encouragement. The water was lovely and cool, although it had an odd flavour, probably from the bush that was growing next to it which was drooping over the gutters.
We took our camelbaks back to the gear and re-packed the packs, then climbed the stile and looked for a nice place to have some lunch: the plan was the same as yesterday, to leave as late as possible to take advantage of the cooling day.
How luxurious is this, eh? Taking lunch beside a dam with your boots off (and feet cooled in the dam)??
After lunch and rest we have 300 odd metres to climb up to the campsite.
Took the opportunity to dry our socks that were sweat soaked. It did feel odd to feel so luxurious in such rough circumstances: tramping is such an odd affair.
2:10pm Leave lunch
The track was a little hard to find after lunch, because we didn't follow it to our lunch spot, eventually found another one though and faithfully followed that one until we found a track marker.
The track was hard to find after lunch, and in fact we didn't find it until it joined the secondary track we were on, which came past the farm with the water.
We got lost again a wee way up the hill: came to a junction that didn't seem to be on the map and took the most obvious, most distinct track, which was the wrong track. We walked maybe a kilometre before it was very obvious it was heading down hill (and there were no markers that had been fairly regular previously). So we U-Turned and headed back and took the other track, which was fairly quickly confirmed with a marker!
The climb in parts was very steep, but generally zig-zagged up the hill. We got to a flattish area with a sitting log and took our saturated shirts off and let the fickle breeze cool our backs. Looking at the map closely proved that we were very close to the top: which really encouraged us as I didn't think we were anywhere near finished the climb.
Putting the damp, stinking shirts back on was no fun: had to hold my breath, but as soon as you start walking you can't smell yourself anyway.
We'd never been in the Watagans before, but heard quite a bit about how beautiful and lush it was: we were looking forward to it, although we hadn't found that part just yet.
Hard pull up the hill, need to dig deep though easier on knees than going down. Made to the top very sweaty. All rather humid. Am surprised by the bush, not what I expected.
The 'lovely cool tank watter' has a really odd flavour. Not sure if we're just used to the milton flavour of the treated water or the bovine flavour of the farm dams, or what?? But it's clean (though not cold anymore). The lollies make a difference: I'm sucking a few as I only had 2 dry slices of bread for lunch (didn't want a repeat of the other day when a hard climb followed too closely on food).
Once we got to the top it was a short walk along the road. The other campers had said they found water in some dams up here and to look out for a good one on the way in near a burned out car, but there were others on the other side of the camping site.
We found a dam, and old rusty shed, the burned out car (with lots of bullet holes) and the campsite with the most gorgeous view. We dropped our packs and went in search of water - completely unsuccessfully! So we went back to the first dam we saw, which proved to contain a liquid of dark brown colour and the consistency of water with a lot of flora and fauna growing in it: that would have to do!
Filtered it through some muslin and into our bottles and treated it; whilst doing that we saw a couple of cars drive by! Odd! I hoped we hadn't taken their annual camping site (that was even fitted with a kitchen sink).
We'd dropped our gear at the Camp Site before looking for water. It was obviously a regular Camp Site for someone and I was concerned that we may have intruded into someone else's space; so we headed back to see what we'd see...
3:38pm Barraba Campsite
Got back to camp: no cars, so that was good. Stared collecting wood for the fire when one of them came back along the road. It looked like it was just going to drive past, but then stopped and an older fellow in an army camouflage cap stepped out and said, "Beautiful spot isn't it?"
We passed the time for a while on many subjects, mostly about the area, the storm a couple of months back and how dry it is now and the lack of water on the track. He then offered us some water if we needed it - which we did, well sort of. We had stuff that resembled water, but compared to tank water!! He said he'd head back to his place and bring back a box of water and we could use what we wanted.
A box of water?? When Brian came back it was a carton of Spring Water!! Which we immediately offered to pay him for, but he declined.
Amazing: an angel called Brian!
So we used our funny tasting tank water for tea and dinner and the dark coloured dam water for washing and drank fresh pure spring water.
Brian said we can use and take as much as we like and leave the rest: he'd pick it up later. That greatly reduced the water worries of tomorrow, as the next campsite which on the map has water, has apparently been dry for years! It's odd that the Dept of Lands fellow didn't say anything when we rang him: it's actually very dangerous as many people would rely on marked water - we did!
Legs sure are sore tonight: feet, ankles and knees.
Barraba campsite delightful and small one with view our choice. Just picked up some dam water (very dark), but better than nothing when Brian (a local) came along and in the course of chatting said he'd drop off a box of water. True to his word, 8 litres in 350ml bottles. Sudden luxury. Thanks be to God! Porridge for morning now on!
News has it that Forest HQ doesn't have water. I feel pretty unimpressed, but now it won't matter so much. Would've been tough before.
The air is certainly much cooler up here at night. We've just brought enough clothes, during this cool weather we've got everything on!
Tomorrow is not going to be a very difficult day, so we'll probably leave late as this spot is so nice and we've got plenty of water for cups of tea. Sandi is hooked on the idea of porridge tomorrow morning!