Sunrise at Sundown National Park – Exploring Time

Who would be mad enough to go solo bushwalking and camping during heatwave conditions in a rugged wilderness area with little or no phone signal? Me, of course.

Believe it or not, there was some logic in this decision. I was guaranteed peace and quiet as most walkers would be (sensibly) holed up in air-conditioning, and the chance of spotting wildlife at creeks and waterholes was dramatically increased.  I was also more confident after finally buying an emergency personal locator beacon (PLB). Of course, it’s quite possible this new purchase gave me a false sense of security…

I planned to stay at the Broadwater camping ground on the southern end of Sundown National Park.  The Queensland National Parks website describes it as a rugged wilderness area of spectacular sharp ridges and steep-sided gorges. Peaks of over 1000 metres rise above the Severn River. Vegetation varies from pockets of dry vine scrub in sheltered gorges, yellow box and stringybark in high eastern areas, and box, ironbark, cypress, river red oaks and river red gums along the river.

The area was once used for sheep grazing and fine wool production, as well as for tin, copper and arsenic mining.  Some relics of these activities remain and grazing properties still border parts of the national park.

The Broadwater Camping Ground is accessible to conventional vehicles via a gravel road whereas the other camping grounds are 4WD access only. I have to warn you though that the final kilometres of gravel road to Broadwater had accumulated piles of large rocks so care may be needed if you have a vehicle with low ground clearance.

Sundown National Park Road

I did intend arriving at Sundown National Park early, but as usual, things didn’t quite go to plan. Xena, a furry escape-artist belonging to a neighbour, slipped into my car unnoticed while I was packing.  Unlike most cats I’ve known, Xena is extremely fond of travelling. It wasn’t until I was well into my trip that she popped out from her hiding spot under the seat to grin and purr at me.

The sudden appearance of a whiskered spotty beast on the passenger seat isn’t really what you expect while travelling at 100 kilometres per hour. After driving home and extracting Xena from the vehicle (not an easy task, I can assure you),  I was once again on my way.

The Travelling Cat

Closer to the national park, I needed to keep watch for unfenced cattle, sheep and wildlife. I spied a pale headed rosella when I stopped to avoid squashing this suicidal ewe and her lamb.

Sundown National Park Sheep

Pale headed Rosella Sundown National Park

The scenery was certainly a contrast to the rainforests of Lamington National Park and Main Range, and reminded me of my previous homes in western Queensland and New South Wales.

On the way to Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park Road

During my camping trip,  maximum temperatures in my home suburb near Brisbane ranged from 38 – 41C, breaking records for September. At Sundown, the maximums were slightly milder, but hot dry gusty winds stripped my skin and hair of moisture. Although preferable to the oppressive humidity of the east, the dry conditions meant I consumed vast quantities of water. This led to an inconvenient consequence which I’ll mention later.

Apart from a few curious kangaroos, the camping ground was deserted on my arrival, enabling me unrestricted use of the luxurious pit toilets and bucket shower.

Kangaroo and joey Sundown National Park

Kangaroo Sundown

Sundown National Park Bucket shower

Leaving all my gear in the car, I decided to head off immediately for Permanent Waterhole, the home of platypus. This class 3, 1 kilometre path down into the gorge and the class 3, 4.5 kilometre Western Circuit are the only marked trails at the Broadwater end. For this reason Sundown National Park offers an authentic wilderness walking experience.

Sundown National Park trail

Sundown National Park Permanent Waterhole Trail

The Permanent Waterhole trail is narrow, runs along the top of the gorge, and then drops steeply down to the Severn River, which after a dry winter was reduced to a string of waterholes.

Sundown National Park Permanent Waterhole trail

Permanent Waterhole Sundown

I may not have seen platypus but dozens of eastern water skinks made their appearance, with one individual nodding territorially at me, demanding I vacate his/her favourite rock.

eastern water skink

Eastern Water skink

An azure kingfisher added  colour to the scene

Kingfisher Sundown National Park.

I didn’t linger at the waterhole as I planned to return at sunrise for a greater chance of sighting the elusive platypus.

Next, I explored the dry Ooline Creek bed, which branches off the Severn River. Ooline Creek is named after the vulnerable ooline tree, Cadellia pentastylis. From this sign, I’d gleaned that when the creek isn’t flowing there is still a leech inhabited permanent waterhole about 1.5 kilometre upstream.

Ooline Creek sign

Off I ventured, confident I would easily recognise the waterhole and know how far I had gone. However, the boulders and ankle-breaking rocks of the dry creek bed hampered my pace. I should have expected this as it is rated a class 5 walk.

Ooline Creek Sundown National Park

Without a GPS I couldn’t be sure how far I’d covered. Luckily, I had a brilliant strategy, or so I thought. If I just kept walking I would surely find the waterhole.

Ooline Creek Sundown National Park

I did, indeed, come across a waterhole, but it didn’t look very impressive.

Ooline Creek waterhole

Surely this wasn’t the right one? I kept going. There was another, and another. Which one was it meant to be? I blundered on until I made it to the end of the gorge and turned back. I have no idea how far I walked, but I assume one of the puddles must have been THE waterhole in question. Here’s another contender.

Ooline Creek waterhole

I had another brilliant idea. On my return, I would dip my leg into promising waterholes to attract leeches so I would know exactly which waterhole was described on the national parks sign. I don’t usually mind finding leeches on me, but there is something about using one’s leg as bait that just wasn’t very appealing in the end. I do apologise. Obviously, I’m not as devoted to my blog as I should be.

Ooline Creek Ridge

Very little wildlife was obvious along the way, apart from a grasshopper, more eastern water skinks,  and a half-dead moth. It seemed, like all sensible hikers in my region, the wild creatures were hiding from the heat.

Grasshopper Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park moth

After the hot, tiring rocky walk of unknown length, I was relieved to be back at the campsite before dark. It had been a long time since I’d pitched a tent, especially in gusty winds, but eventually it seemed to stay up.

Tent Sundown National Park

I threw in the thin yoga mat and a pillow, and sat down to enjoy a gourmet dinner of banana, pistachios, cheese, olives, chocolate biscuits and thermos coffee.  In the blustery conditions a campfire would have been irresponsible and I didn’t have a gas camping stove, so of course I was forced  to eat the entire packet of chocolate biscuits.

After a quick bucket shower, I was ready for bed, or was I? Suddenly, I had the clever idea of venturing back down to the first permanent waterhole to spy platypus. After all, I had a headlamp and torch so why not? I think by now you can guess I was slightly obsessed with sighting this monotreme.

Night walks are always an interesting affair and this one was no exception. Crunchy dried leaves underfoot and loose clinking river rocks meant my arrival was far from stealthy, leaving me with only mosquitoes for company. Occasionally, I heard the splash of something mysterious in the distance. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

I tentatively walked back along the narrow path which drops sharply down on one side into the gorge. My over-active imagination turned the numerous branches along the path into venomous snakes and hundreds of moths were attracted to my headlamp. For a while I was re-enacting a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds until I remembered to change the headlamp to a different colour.

Strange rustlings, the branch “snakes” and hundreds of glowing eyes on the ground turned the 1 kilometre path back to camp into something much longer. Every square metre of ground seemed to have one of these “cute” furry critters.

Spider Sundown National Park

Back at the tent, there wasn’t much else to do but lie back on my yoga mat and take pleasure in the sounds of nature and the sight of millions of stars through the mesh of my tent. I felt gloriously alive and alone. This was the life! No ambulance sirens, arguing neighbours, dogs barking or phones beeping. “Why don’t I do this more often?” I thought. I may have even shed a few tears of joy. I imagined waking more refreshed than I’d felt in years.

Eventually, my hyper-alert state mellowed and I drifted off to sleep.  I was woken soon after by my screaming hip. Yes, it was yelling all sorts of profanities at me for dragging it away from a plush mattress to tortuous hard ground.

“But I have a yoga mat,” I countered, “And I used to be able to sleep anywhere – on the floor, sitting up in the car, even standing up at the kitchen sink!”

“You were younger then, MUCH younger, and you were sleep deprived from newborn babies!” screeched my hip.

I tried to appease it by rolling over, only to be abused by my other hip. Then my shoulders and neck joined in the onslaught. I grabbed some clothes and a towel to cushion the complainers. I don’t enjoy conflict which was very unfortunate in this case because my body parts were not interested in my attempts to make peace with them.

By this stage my bladder had woken up and demanded to be relieved. Fearing dehydration in the hot conditions, I’d guzzled over 5 litres of water that afternoon. It seemed I‘d vastly overestimated my body’s requirements.

Remembering the hundreds of glowing eyes from my night walk, I donned my boots and headlamp and ventured outside the tent, managing to terrify a mob of kangaroos grazing a few metres away. Their appearance startled me as well, which is a dangerous situation to be in when sporting a bulging bladder. I’d also forgotten about the moth attackers until one flew into my eye. Nature is so healing.

Kangaroos Sundown National Park at night

After my ablutions, I returned to my tent which now contained a mountain made of whatever soft material I could find in my belongings to appease the complaining hips, neck, back and shoulders.  I adopted the “controlled crying” approach used by some parents of babies. I hoped that by ignoring the groaning of my body parts, they would finally “self-soothe” off to sleep.

It may have worked if my bladder hadn’t woken up again. Waiting for a bladder to self-soothe is never recommended so up I got to frighten the kangaroos once more.

After ablution number three, I gave up and slept on the back car seat.

“Hang on,” you might be thinking. “Why didn’t she do that in the first place?”

Well, the short answer is because I am stubborn. I wanted the authentic camping experience. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to nod wisely, laugh and make judgements about my sanity if I got in the car straight away.

Unfortunately for me, I’d waited far too long to escape to the soft car seat, as even ten mattresses wouldn’t have stopped the complaints of my body parts by that stage.

According to my watch it was already 2am. My big plan for this trip was to get up before dawn and plant myself next to Permanent Waterhole to finally take my first pictures of the shy platypus. I’d forgotten one small detail. My watch is the old fashioned variety with no alarm. I didn’t want to use my phone alarm as I needed to keep it turned off to conserve the battery. If I eventually fell asleep, how was I going to wake up in time? This problem kept me awake for at least another hour until, completely exhausted, I finally succumbed to the Sandman.

I need not have worried about an alarm. The dawn chorus of birds, the light flickering through the trees and the resurgence of my body parts whining did the job. I threw on my walking clothes and shoes, guzzled the last of my lukewarm thermos coffee and grabbed my camera and backpack. After the anticipated platypus encounter, I planned to explore the Severn River for the rest of the day.

Permanent Waterhole at Dawn Sundown National Park

As the early morning mosquitoes buzzed around my face, I nibbled on snacks and scanned the still surface for swirls, bubbles, splashes and moving furry “logs.”

Permanent waterhole at dawn

Waterhole at dawn

Permanent waterhole at dawn

Eventually, I was rewarded with promising activity. The shy creatures seemed  aware of my presence though, and stayed on the other side of the waterhole. It was then I realised the limitations of my camera’s zoom in low light.

I don’t think Australian Geographic magazine will be requesting my shots any time soon. However, at least I was  finally able to view platypus in the wild.  I think.  Unless they were big fish?

Platypus bubbles Sundown

When the “platypus” activity disappeared, I began further explorations of the Severn River. With no marked trail, I found myself negotiating loose rocky beds, clambering up banks, and  making detours through thick scrub when I came to areas of deep water.

Severn River Sundown

Severn River Bushland Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park Gorge

Down in the gorge, the temperature was firing up. Reflected heat from the rocky gorge walls and the dry stony river bed fried my flesh. Once again, I was not sure how far I had gone, but relied on the sun and my watch for an indication when to turn back.

Severn River bed

Hours spent trudging in the heat sent me into an abnormally philosophical state. In particular, I pondered the nature of time. Down in the gorge there was no time besides nature’s time. There were no schedules. No human indicators. Time was no longer measured on a clock face in minutes and hours, but was indicated by the sun crossing the sky, the shadows, and the changing temperature.

Severn River

In some ways time stretched, almost standing still.  In others it seemed fleeting. The carving of the dense hard traprock by the Severn River had taken thousands of years, but the colours of the rocks, the shadows, and water reflections changed relatively quickly as the sun moved across the sky or behind clouds.

Severn River Reflections

Severn River refkections

Severn River Reflections

reflections in gorge

Birds flitted in and out of the foliage, snapping insects in mid-air. Life and death seemed but a flicker. A black snake slithered out from under a rock to pass directly in front of me, once again testing my long suffering bladder.

Bird Sundown National Park

dragonfly Sundown National Park

Butterfly Sundown National Park

Life felt  simple. I was thirsty. I drank. I was hot. I sought shade. I was hungry. I ate. But at the same time, without the Internet or other human contact, my thoughts became  more complex. Long buried memories surfaced. Being alone in a wilderness area like Sundown National Park reminds you of the simplicity of your needs and yet at the same time allows you to contemplate the deeper topics  usually hidden by the busyness of modern life.

Severn River Sundown National Park

At one point my watch band broke and the glass face cracked on a river rock. It somehow  seemed symbolic of the irrelevance of arbitrary human schedules and time devices in the wilderness – a place remote from consumerism, politics and wars. I recalled the thoughts of Robert MacFarlane  in The Wild Places.  He describes far more eloquently than me how a landscape such as Sundown National Park has its own time:

“In a valley of such age you feel compelled to relinquish your habitual methods of timekeeping, to abandon the grudging measures and audits that enable normal life. Time finds its forms minerally and aerially, rather than on a clock face or in a diary. Such human devices come to seem brittle and inconsequential.”

Spending even a short time in such a place reminded me of my own footprint on the world. Out there you’re totally responsible for your own waste. There are no flushing toilets or garbage collection. You’re more conscious of  water consumption as in the heat, every drop feels precious. You realise how much you depend on electricity in your everyday life to cook food, wash clothes, cool a room, and use a computer and phone.

There is also a sense of physical freedom and earthiness that the privacy of wilderness can provide. Resting under a tree, I removed most of my sweat soaked clothing and enjoyed the feeling of a slight breeze against my damp flesh. Like the breaking watch  seemed symbolic of the changing nature of time in the gorge, the shedding of my clothes seemed to symbolise the shedding of modern burdens. With only the kangaroos and birds as an audience, I no longer felt self conscious of my sags and bulges.

Kangaroo in shade Sundown National Park

In the end, it was only the lack of clean drinking water that had me turning around. I didn’t have a means of filtering/purifying water from the Severn’s puddles. Next time I’ll return with a filter and continue further upstream.  I was content to return to the campground, guzzle more water from my car and reflect on my short but  satisfying escape from city life.

Anticipating another night of complaints from my body parts, I made the decision to drive home, but not before removing a hitchhiker.

insect sundown

Within a week I’d ordered a luxurious inflatable mat for my next camping trip. I am, indeed, not as young as I used to be.

77 thoughts on “Sunrise at Sundown National Park – Exploring Time

  1. Thank you for sharing more amazing photos and hiking tales :-).
    I now want to go to Sundown National Park, too! Biscuits and beautiful views, yes please, but yoga mat be gone! (May I recommend a hand-inflated 2+” one, it is amazing and is inflated in no time (I used an Asivik one on Kilimanjaro and after a struggle on the first night, where I could not read instructions in the dark, all was well).

    • Thanks, Marina. The contrast between your country and the landscape of Sundown National Park would certainly make it an interesting walk for you. Given you have done Kilimanjaro, I don’t think you’d find it a challenge though. I didn’t need much of an excuse to eat the chocolate biscuits. 😉
      Yes, the thin yoga mat was not entirely satisfactory! It also takes up a lot of room should I want to do multi-day walks.I ended up buying a good quality, double layer inflatable mat soon after. It can be blown up by mouth, but knowing how puffed I get from walking I doubted whether I’d have the capacity to do it, so I bought a tiny 50g handpump that makes filling it a breeze. With the double layer, at least if one side deflates, I still have the other layer for support. I’ll let you know how it goes. Here’s hoping it is worth the money spent! 🙂

    • Thanks very much for your kind enthusiasm. I’m not blogging much these days but I hope you will still get some enjoyment from my old posts. It’s always nice to hear from another nature freak! Thanks for sending me a link to your lovely blog. I hope you continue to enjoy the many wonders of nature and sharing them with others. The Violet Snail is a wonderful name. Best wishes. 🙂

  2. Fun tale, Jane. I could empathize with your aching hips. My body has lost its sense of humor about sleeping on the ground but I have found that a self-inflating (plus a few puffs) Therm-a-rest meets my needs. I also know that my body tends to stop complaining after 2 or 3 days and gives up trying to persuade me back to a soft bed. I was out backpacking several times this summer (northern summer) and was actually getting descent sleep after 20 days on the trail. 🙂 Enjoyed your photos. –Curt

    • Thanks, Curt. I’m approaching a half-century and these days find I just have to try and laugh at my body’s downhill slide, hence the conversation with my body parts in the blog post. I used to say people don’t need a lot of expensive gear to go camping but after my Sundown trip, I must admit that I went on a bit of a buying spree and looked at gear reports that I usually ignore! I think that like you, my body will settle down after a week (or two?) of camping. Well, I hope so, anyway! I’ve bought a good quality, double layer inflatable mat. I plan on doing some long camping trips next year in between house sitting around Australia, so I’ll be able to let you know what feedback my hips give me. 🙂

      • I confess to spending a lot on equipment. At 74, Jane, I figure my body deserves every break I can give it. And it makes a significant difference. For example, in my 20s and 30s it wasn’t unusual for me to carry a 50-55 pound pack for a week trip. I now get away with a 35-40 pound pack with out sacrificing comfort. Light-weight gear is amazing— but expensive. 🙂 –Curt

        • I’m not sure I’ll still be hiking and camping at 74, Curt. I hope so! Any gear that helps us stay mentally and physically healthy is worth it in our more mature years, I say. Yes, I was looking at the cost of 1kg tents. The lightweight gear certainly isn’t cheap. 🙂

  3. I am so very glad you posted the story of your wild couple of days. Wonderful photography plus your interesting thoughts make this a ‘must read’. You are so brave and determined I admire your courage very much. I haven’t slept on the ground for 60 years but still remember waking up in the night to find a wombat having a meal close by.

    • Thanks very much, Susan. How wonderful that you have the camping wombat memory! Have I mentioned that I have never seen a wombat in the wild? Only in wildlife sanctuaries/zoos. Where were you camped? Victoria? That is very special. I’m not sure I am particularly brave, but I am rather stubborn at times. To be honest, going back there was like “going home.” The countryside is so familiar to me. I lived on a 70 000 hectare sheep property for a few years and loved the freedom. There are many city reserves and parklands that I would never consider walking alone in because you never know who is lurking. Sometimes I drive out of the city just to feel safe. Best wishes. 🙂

  4. I envy your intrepid adventures! I’m a bit more of a scairdy cat. I doubt I’d be venturing out in the wilderness without my dear Eric nearby. I suspect there’s a difference for us city bred folks. It takes awhile to adjust to being out there away from all the conveniences, though I have to add that I don’t miss the noise and the hustle and bustle.

    Loved the head shot of the kangaroo. For a moment I thought it was one of our deer. I don’t know if I could ever get as friendly with leeches as you seem to. I am adjusting to the rapid darting of our little lizards, but I suspect that snakes, even the harmless ones, will forever freak me out!

    Lovely post about your outing!

    • Thanks, Gunta. I think I’m a scaredy cat too, about the city! 🙂 The traffic terrifies me. The thought of driving to the Central Business District always makes me nervous. There are also many city reserves and parklands where I would never walk alone. I often find myself driving to a national park to feel safer. As you said, I think it can depend on what you grow up with. When I was a baby, my parents spent some time living on the banks of the Condamine River. Then we moved into a non-airconditioned caravan on a cattle property. I’ve mainly lived in rural and quiet coastal areas in my life and loved the space. I actually felt more “at home” in Sundown National Park than my city suburb. A more comfortable bed and clean drinking water on tap is always appreciated though. Did you know we now have wild deer in Australia? I think they’ve escaped from commercial deer farms, and are flourishing in some areas. It amazes me really. Much of my childhood literature contained deer in the US and the UK. Best wishes. 🙂

  5. Beautiful pictures and thoughts again, as always! I remember the screaming hips of camping, I sympathise. I would love to try this in a few years, my heart soared as I imagined the freedom you must have felt. Thank you for that!

    • Thank you! I’m trying to do a some travelling and camping before my joints finally fall apart. I’ll be half a century soon. 🙂 Now that my kids have grown up I have the opportunity to indulge in solo travelling. I must thank you for sharing your housesitting experiences in the past, as it motivated me to finally make a profile online this year. It’s really the only way I can see for me to be able to afford overseas and interstate travel. I’ll be loading up the car with camping gear and heading off next year. I wouldn’t have thought of it if you hadn’t tried it yourself. I hope you are well there? I’ve been a terribly slack correspondent but I still think of you regularly and hope all is well. 🙂

  6. One of your best adventures to read yet! I wish I had the guts to go out alone and camp, but I’m just too fearful. Thanks for sharing, and you are so lucky to see s platypus in the wild. So cool!

    • Thanks very much, Anna. Didn’t you hike in South America? Machu Picchu? That’s pretty challenging and brave! 🙂 I’ve never even been overseas (or to Perth!) As I replied to other people, I tend to feel safer on my own when I am in remote places like Sundown National Park. You wouldn’t see me walking alone in many of the reserves in Brisbane City. Also, I don’t have much choice about walking and camping alone. I suppose I also think about all the times I’ve been in danger in domestic situations, in the supposed “safety” of my own home when I was a child. It’s all relative I suppose. I’m probably more scared of people than the wilderness. I may be in Perth in the next couple of years as I am going on housesitting adventures. I’d love to do the WA Cape to Cape walk! 🙂

      • For me the hiking part and wilderness is easy, it’s the being alone at a campsite at night and worried about others that is my problem. I was meant to hik the cape to cape this September but my friend pulled out,,,, and I was too chicken to do it solo! If you do come to,Perth and want a hiking buddy to the c2c with let me know. I’ve got the books and maps, I’ve got the gear, now I just need to do it! I’ve been toying with solo but I’m just such a scaredy cat!

        • Ah, that would be awesome! Yeah, I don’t really want to do that one solo either. I’m a big fan of lighthouses, the sea and interesting geology so that walk really appeals. I have a hiking friend from Victoria who wants to do it as well. It’s really just a matter of getting over there. It’s a long drive, but there is plenty to see along the way. I’m hoping for a housesit in WA. I also have an old Uni friend in Perth who has kindly offered a room. Spring is usually better isn’t it, after the wet winter? Wildflowers and more drinking water available. I’ll certainly let you know. There’s also parts of the Bibbulmum Track too. 🙂

          • Yes, the best time is after winter, in sept/oct. for me personally the school holidays is ideal, as my daughter can stay with family while I do it. That’s last week of sept usually. It’s a fantastic walk, I’ve done day sections and the scenery is truly breathtaking! If you do come here with a friend or two let me know, I’d love to tag along and I promise I’m not a freak! Just a boring old housewife with a 5 year old and a need to get out and explore sometimes! Lol.

            • Haha, I’m sure you’re not a freak. You’ll find I am much quieter and more boring than my blog might indicate. I’m just a middle aged woman who has finally given up her child-rearing responsibilities. I’ll never stop worrying about them though. I certainly understand the need to escape parenting duties. 🙂

              • Well I do hope you get to Perth one day! Happy to meet up and show you around, and if you are up for the c2c that would be awesome! Can show you some cool local walks too, and sections of the Bib of course! Keep in touch! X

  7. I loved this post! I’ve always wanted to go solo camping but the idea terrifies me. You are so right though, being around other people makes spotting wildlife so difficult. It is soooooo cool that you got to see a platypus in the wild! Beautiful pictures as always too. I look forward to your next post 🙂 Mikki

    • Thanks very much, Mikki. I really hope you try solo camping one day as it is pretty special. If you choose the right location and prepare well, the risks are minimal. I can certainly understand your fears though. I think it can depend on what you are used to. Apart from the physical fears of nature, I think women are discouraged to do much alone. There is a lot of judgement, as though “we are asking for it” if we are attacked.I always hope for a world where women feel just as safe as men. I feel more scared walking around in the city alone than on my walks. It also depends on what we’ve grown up with. Bushland is home to me, the city is not. I just read that you will be heading overseas soon for some adventures. How exciting! Best wishes. 🙂

      • I totally agree with you, it isn’t that risky but if I were to tell most of my friends or family that I planned to do that I am certain I would get a negative reaction or someone would say “why don’t you just wait and go with someone”. I get told that about a lot of places I want to travel to because I travel alone. The only thing that scares me about hiking alone and camping alone is potentially being bitten by a snake/having some other medical emergency or coming across someone who wants to harm me (I guess that is when having things like the device you bought come in handy). Haha this topic of conversation makes me think of the philosophical conversation I had with myself walking in the bush the other day. ‘What do I fear more – animals/nature or humans’ – I think my answer is humans because animals and nature are somewhat more predictable. Now I am rambling haha. I am not sure if I will get the opportunity to camp alone before I leave but I might get outside my comfort zone and shoot at night in the middle of nowhere (to catch Aurora Australis). I look forward to sharing some more adventures and can’t wait to see/hear about more of yours!
        Mikki 🙂

        • Ah yes, I agree. The fears of family and friends certainly make us question whether we are doing the right thing. A PLB can help allay some of their fears. I wish I’d bought one years ago. Venomous snakes are certainly a legitimate concern in Australia when walking solo. I’m just glad we don’t have bears too! Heheh. Yes, in many ways I fear humans more though, especially as a solo woman walker. I hope you’re able to capture some Aurora Australis shots. That would be amazing. Greg’s New Year post on his blog has some lovely shots of it and a few suggestions.
          Best wishes. 🙂

          • PLB sounds like a very wise purchase, for sure! Haha that is what my brother said to me “at least you aren’t hiking in Canada – can you imagine being eaten by a bear?”. It was a very different and relaxing experience for me hiking in Austria in Spring (even when I was alone for some parts) I felt quite fearless because I knew there were no dangerous animals around. Thank you for the recommendation, I do follow Greg but I don’t think I’ve seen his posts relating to the Aurora Australis yet so I will check it out for sure. Fingers crossed that I have a post up about it before the year is finished (if not, I will hopefully be seeing/capturing the Aurora Borealis).
            Mikki 🙂

  8. Brilliant writing and sensational images, Jane.

    You really aught to write a book from the posts I’ve read since following your blog. There’s a real skill to writing in such a way to be informative, colourful and downright engaging. Not many people can keep me reading without my eyes glazing over and me losing the story – you win hands down.

    Sorry to hear about the aches and pains, but since I had them too, I know exactly how you were feeling. Just wish I had the ability to hike like you do.

    Good to hear a decent inflatable mattress went to the top of the shopping list. And some sort of filtering/purifying system second on the list.

    I love a good yarn about nature and the wilderness, so you’ve made my Sunday afternoon so much more enjoyable.

    Very brave of you to venture off trails in the wilderness.

    Superb photography 🙂

    • Thanks so much for those encouraging words, Vicki. You’re very kind. I have a strange relationship with writing. I’m more comfortable expressing myself with the written word than in person. I’m a very quiet person and really don’t socialise much. You’d probably find me a boring conversationalist. Writing has always been an emotional outlet. However, at the same time I am very critical of the writing I share publicly and there is a certain amount of vulnerability involved. I am a bit of a perfectionist. This can create some anxiety. I have been writing drafts and ideas for a few books and other writing projects over the years though, so perhaps I will produce something worth publishing one day. We’ll see. 😉 In the meantime, such lovely feedback such as you’ve given helps me fight the insecurities.
      I also wish you were able to go hiking, Vicki. I’m sorry you have to cope with chronic pain and illness. Next year is my first big travelling year and I have at least one long term housesitting job in Victoria. I would love to meet up and do whatever walking you are capable of in your area, or just enjoy a cuppa and a chat. I would also love to receive your expert help with my camera. There is much I still don’t understand about photography.
      Take good care of you. 🙂

      • The thing is I’m a very quiet shy person myself and used to escape in my writing too. I also am a perfectionist and I don’t socialise at all now. I find carrying on a conversation for hours extremely fatiguing as I forget what the other person is saying halfway through the conversation. When you’re in constant pain it is hard to be with healthy normal people because they only see your facade and quickly forget how taxing it is to move, listen and speak without getting restless and wanting to move. They forget that my reality is so far removed from theirs.

        My world is very small and very simple as I can’t multi-task at all.

        I’m only truly happy spending time in nature and taking photos of what I see to share online. To sit, walk or be in the natural world listening to the wind rustling the leaves and the bird song is my favourite state of being.

        I daresay we would be able to share our individual photography experiences and learn from each other. You definitely have steadier hands than me and get much sharper focus in your images, although when I’m not fatigued or breathing heavily from exertion, my focus is better for sure.

        Be sure to let me know when you’re down south so we can meet up next year.

        • I can certainly relate to much of what you’ve said about conversations being fatiguing. I think blog readers expect me to be quite talkative and outgoing in person, when I’m actually the opposite.
          Yes, it is very hard when a person is in chronic pain to be energetically involved in a conversation. You are silently coping with it and the other person is not aware. It must require a great deal of energy, Vicki. I am in awe of what you still manage to achieve.
          I think the camera I use has a lot to do with the quality of any shots I take. I am actually quite shaky but it has a much better stabiliser than the last one. I have no experience using a proper DSLR though.
          Yes, I will definitely let you know when I am down south. I understand that your health fluctuates a great deal though and you may not be well enough to do anything at all. Best wishes. 🙂

  9. What can I say Jane, but you are one amazingly intrepid woman who would show most of us up with your courageous exploration spirit. It was sad about not having enough drinking water, but like a true legend, you will return to complete the task another day. You caught some beautiful morning reflections on the creek/river banks. We have decided we are too old for camping like that also and have said we need comfort camping at our age. It is great to read another post of yours, I have wondered how you are going as it has been some time since your last amazing adventure. Have a wonderful week!

    • Thank you for those lovely words, Ashley. I was a little disappointed in my reflection shots to be honest, as they really don’t show just how beautiful the scenes were. I struggled with the glare in the gorge and the combination of bright light and shade. I have a polariser but forgot to take it. I’d love to return and try to capture the scenes better. Yes, I would have liked to be able to say I enjoyed “roughing it” on the ground, but my body did an awful lot of complaining! I think it’s best to be honest so others who aren’t as young as they used to be can relate. There is nothing wrong with needing some extra comfort. 😉
      I did a lot of walking over winter but just haven’t had much time to edit the photos and write some posts. They are coming though, eventually! I saw scarlet honeyeaters for the first time at Mt Cordeaux, when they were attracted to the flowering grass tree stalks. They are gorgeous birds and I was thrilled to grab a few shots.
      I hope you have a wonderful week also. 🙂

  10. I think this trip proves you are ready to tackle anything, including an intrepid cat who wanted to adventure with you! Love the photo of Xena. 2018 looks as though it will be a busy one for you but if you ever want to tackle NZ travelling, you would be welcome at my home.

    • Haha. Yes, Xena is a gorgeous cat. Unlike most felines, she is actually quite scared of birds so at least she does less harm to the environment. She adores human company. She looked so satisfied with herself when she sat on the front passenger seat that I felt a little cruel taking her back again.
      Yes, 2018 will be the beginning of many new things for me hopefully. I’ve never been to New Zealand but have been looking for some long term house-sits of 4-6 weeks. It’s such an amazing country – such diversity. I’d love to see the incredible scenery that appears in the Lord of the Rings movie. That’s very kind and generous (and trusting!) of you to invite me to your home. Thank you. I will certainly let you know if I am heading over there. It’s definitely high on my list. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Hi! It’s lovely to hear from you. Yes, it has been a while. I’ve almost dropped out of the blogging network completely these days! Life has been changing a lot this last year. Thanks very much for your continued interest. I’m so pleased I can still write something that appeals to you. I’m sorry I’m not up to date on what’s happening with your own blog. I miss the contact with everyone, but needed to focus on other areas of my life for a while. Yes, I am getting older. I can’t believe the places I used to be able to sleep. The thing is when I do need to stay awake, I can sometimes still fall to sleep in the strangest places surrounded by noise. However, when I need to actually fall to sleep, insomnia often pays a visit. That’s when I especially need a comfortable bed. Throw my aging joints into the mix, and sleeping can become a complicated process! I hope all is well with you? Best wishes. 🙂

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed accompanying you on your solo expedition! But, I was glad to be doing so from the comfort of home because I don’t know that I would be able to take your scorching heat. Even your photos made me long for a cool drink of water.
    I loved your yoga mat adventure. When I was 14, I was in an outdoor activities summer program and a local man gave us a presentation on backpacking. After hiking into the woods, he demonstrated how he set up his camp. He kept his pack light, but sheepishly pulled out his “new indulgence at my age,” a bulky inflatable mattress. I remember how we snickered in our youthful superiority–poor old man with creaky bones, who can’t sleep on the ground (I imagine he was in his 40s).
    I hiked for years with the thinnest of sleeping pads–used for insulation, not padding–and could sleep on roots, rocks–anything. Then, in my 40s, after more than a decade with no overnight camping, I spent a miserable, sleepless night with a thin pad on the ground. With a heartfelt apology for laughing at that long-ago man that introduced me to backpacking, I went out and bought the most luxurious air mattress that I could find. It’s a sure sign of age–that no-more-sleeping-on-bare-ground moment.
    I haven’t done any overnight hikes in a few years, and may be at my next hiking milestone, where I’m not sure how far I could comfortably carry a loaded pack. The heart’s willing, but the body–not so much.

    • Thanks very much, Brenda. Well, I loved your story about the poor “old” man in his 40s and his inflatable mattress and your experience in your 40s. It did make me laugh. I remember feeling so invincible in my youth. Just before I went to Sundown National Park, I confidently boasted to another hiking friend that I can sleep on any surface. How wrong I was! I hope he is amused by my experience. I am planning multi-day hikes but I confess I still haven’t tested my ability to carry a heavy pack. I’ve only carried day packs. Mind you, because I walk solo, I usually stuff it with a lot of emergency gear just in case so it’s quite heavy anyway. The challenge here is to carry enough water in hot dry conditions. It really adds to the weight. If a walk has water sources that can be filtered or purified that makes life much easier. It’s quite possible a future blog post will describe another body blunder when I carry a heavy pack for the first time! Thanks for reading and sharing your amusing tale. I feel better knowing I’m not the only one. Best wishes. 🙂

  12. Hi Jane! I really enjoyed reading this post and yet again, your photographs are beautiful! I haven’t camped in years and know I’d have to have an inflatable mattress or I’d never sleep at all. I’d also have trouble getting up off the floor and would have to bring a block and tackle and a strong friend with me too! How wonderful that you got to see platypus while you were there! It’s always a fantastic feeling when you actually find a creature you’ve always wanted to see. Best of luck in your travels next year!

    • Hi Clare! It’s always lovely to hear from you. You did make me laugh about needing the block and tackle and a strong friend! That could apply to me also. I remember the days when I used to sit on the hard floor for hours playing with my children. If I ever have grandchildren, those games will have be played at a table or on a bed or sofa. No hard floor sitting, unless I have a very fat cushion! You are right. It is a fantastic feeling seeing a creature that has eluded you for years. I hope all is well in your life, Clare. Thanks very much for your continued interest in my little stories. It motivates me to keep going. Best wishes. 🙂

      • I love your stories! You post them – I’ll read them!
        I’m fine, thanks. I’ve already had a couple of colds and I can’t get rid of a cough but basically there’s not much wrong with me that a lot more sleep and less worry about my daughters and elderly mother wouldn’t cure. I can’t believe it will be Christmas in four weeks! I have so much preparation to do and don’t really want to do it! Best wishes to you, dear Jane – take care of yourself xx 🙂

        • Thanks, Clare. I recently had a lingering cough for a couple of months but after checks, there seemed no reason for it apart from stress. I was also worried about some things in my children’s lives and my mother’s situation in a care home is not the best. I agree. I truly think that it does have an impact on our health. I do hope you can have more sleep and somehow have less worry. It often seems to be part of being a caring mother and daughter at our age, doesn’t it – the responsibility of an elderly parent/s and the concerns for our children’s futures. While I do have big plans next year, they are plans only, and contingent on what happens with my family. I’ve been trying to make plans for a number of years now. I am hopeful about my plans, but also mindful that it could change at any moment. Christmas is such a busy time. I find it exhausting. Sending you hugs and love. x

          • Thanks Jane! I make plans too but I know that really they are dreams. My mother is still in her own home but is losing her sight and at 87 years old gets tired very quickly. She is a very determined woman and refuses help from almost everyone. I help her with her shopping and any small jobs she lets me do and I take her to church once a fortnight. She refuses to have a personal alarm so I am constantly worried in case she has a fall and can’t get up again. She has no central heating in her house and goes out every day in the winter to fetch in coal and logs for her fire! Argh!
            Hugs and love to you too xx

  13. Glad you got to see a platypus or 2 Jane. Great photos and wonderful story. I was riveted until the end. I too would be a world class sleeper if it wasn’t for my arch enemy the bladder 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Brian. Always great to hear from you. I hope you’ve been getting lots of rain at your place like we have. After a dry winter the yard is a jungle again. It’s also been amazingly cool up here. Not typical November weather that’s for sure. Yeah, if it’s not aching joints, it’s a complaining bladder, hey? Next time I won’t drink so much water! Hope you have a lovely Christmas. Might see you in 2018 on my travels. 🙂

  14. Hi Jane! Terrific writing, as always. In fact, maybe you are even better since my last visit! I seem to have been struggling with time and of course blogging is the first thing to suffer! I love your platypus hunt! In my 3 years in Australia I didn’t pass over, or by a water body without searching for these elusive little guys. Finally I spotted one at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. It was a real thrill, but twilight, under tree cover, is certainly not conducive to photographing something that moves like a turbo charged wind-up bath toy. Loving your work, as always! David.

    • Thank you, David. I know exactly what you mean by blogging being the first thing to suffer. It’s been a very busy year for me and I’ve only pushed out a few posts. I’ve really missed reading the writing of other bloggers, but I’ve had to try to make some changes to other areas of my life and I’ve had to let some things slide. Next year may be different though. Yes, those platypus are tricky creatures! I’ve been on the hunt for them for years! Next year I hope to make it to Tasmania where I know I might have a better chance of spotting one and also wombats (which I have only ever seen in zoos.) I was thrilled to get a glimpse of platypus albeit from a distance at Sundown National Park, but as you can see from my photos, I’m not expecting to win any awards for the shots! I hope you and your family are well and still managing to find time to enjoy the wild. I guess it is pretty chilly where you are now, while I’m in the heat and humidity. I’m heading off on Thursday to caretake a health retreat near a rainforest national park and had hoped to share a Christmas blog post before I left. I’ll see. Thanks again for your kind feedback. Your fantastic nature shots and excellent information are a joy to all your readers. Wishing you and your family a joy-filled holiday time and new year. 🙂

      • It is great to come back to the blog and find that you’re getting back into it, too. It is easy to let it drop, but you’ve too much to share to give it up. If you get to Tasmania then Cradle Mountain was a festival of wombats! 😊 if I had been blogging back then I’d have a lot more photos! It is chilly here but I’m just back from a couple of steamy weeks in Panama with about 1000 photos to deal with 😳 enjoy your rainforest retreat, I look forward to your next post. All the best for the festive season to you and yours, and a happy, healthy 2018! David

        • Thanks, David. I’ve been wanting to visit Cradle Mountain for years so I do hope I make it there one day. Two weeks in the steamy Panama sounds exciting! Enjoy sorting out the photos. 🙂

  15. Thanks Jane for an entertaining read and brilliant photos. Robert McFarlane is a wonderful writer of landscape and walking. I enjoyed is book Old Ways. I’m glad you found the platypus and especially happy to read of the plump mattress purchase. Wishing you many inspiring adventures in 2018!

    • Thanks, Gail. I’m yet to read Old Ways. A tiny book of his called The Gifts of Reading is a lovely read also and I noticed he collaborated with the illustrator Jackie Morris to write a lovely picture book called The Lost Words this year. I’ve recently enjoyed The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and am trying to write a blog post with some of her thoughts and my own in relation to some winter walking I did. It’s lovely to hear from you. Sending you the same wishes for many inspiring adventures (on two wheels) next year and lots of writing! 🙂

  16. Hello Jane. First an acknowledgement to Bushboy who posted the link to your blog. You have such a spirit of adventure. I am truly inspired – though perhaps not so inspired as to go hiking in 38 degrees C heat. Wonderful photos. You must have felt like the only person alive. My grown-up son likes to go hiking on his own. It terrifies me so I bought him a personal locator beacon for Christmas last year. Intrepid travellers will be intrepid travellers I guess. I look forward to your next installment now that I’ve found you. Kind regards. Tracy.

    • Hi Tracy,
      Thank you for following my blog and taking the time to comment with kind words of encouragement. Brian has a lovely blog and is also a very supportive person of other bloggers. Thanks for letting me know he posted a link to my blog. I could have done without the high temperature at Sundown, but yes, it was wonderful to feel that sense of freedom. My preference is for cooler weather too. I feel better having a PLB now and so does my family. I probably should have bought one a long time ago really. I can understand your concern about your son. Even though I often hike alone, I would probably be worried if one of my kids did a remote one solo. I look forward to checking your blog also. Best wishes for 2018 and thanks again for your interest. Lovely to hear from you. 🙂

  17. I finally got to this post, on the last day of 2017. Lots of laughs reading about the stowaway cat!

    Sundown is one of my favourite places, it is indeed rough and wild, and is a place to grapple with nature and solitude. On one of my early multi-day expeditions there with some mega-walkers many years (decades, lol) ago, one of the party broke his leg negotiating a waterfall and we had a huge drama stretchering him out. I remember encountering a lone birdwatcher in the side-gorge on the start of that trip and, pausing in our fast-paced assault on the wild, I asked him what he was doing. “Just sitting, looking at birds,” he replied. We bustled on, shaking our heads at this strange layabout!

    Many years later I returned to the same spot with my young son and spent most of an entire day sitting in one of those waterholes watching dragonflies (and dodging tiger leeches) while my son just messed about. It was one of my favourite days ever. Which is a good thing about these national parks – they are for everyone to enjoy in their own way (within reason!).

    Now, in 2018, you must return and find that single, permanent waterhole! With the adventurous cat! Or maybe we in QPWS will get our acts together and improve that signage!

    May 2018 bring you many new adventures, and I look forward to some more wonderful blog posts.

    All the best, Rob.

    • Hi Rob,
      I’m glad the cat with a penchant for car travel gave you a giggle! She still tries to get in the boot or inside the passenger area now so I have to be careful every time I go anywhere. She’s so fast and quiet!

      One of the reasons I went to Sundown was because you had mentioned it to me. Wow! Having been there, I can imagine the difficult logistics of getting your mate with the broken leg out of that situation. It feels very far from civilisation and the terrain is difficult. As I was negotiating the rocky gorge sections, I was mindful that one slip could have me in serious trouble. Had to laugh at your comments about the birdwatching and how years later you exhibited the same slow-paced, patient behaviour. Haha. I know that in my younger, fitter days I may have had the same thoughts. 😉
      Hmm…tiger leeches? I must google why they are called tiger leeches. Ordinary leeches sound bloodthirsty enough.
      I definitely want to return to Sundown National Park. I am limited to the Broadwater entrance though due to my car, so it will be another exploration of the Severn River and perhaps a final discovery of which waterhole is the one on the information board. Not QPWS’s fault. Just my lack of GPS and distance sense really.
      Thanks very much for all the really helpful information, advice and friendship you’ve given to me and to many others over the years, Robert. It is very much appreciated. I am especially grateful for your enthusiastic encouragement of my foray into the blogging world.
      I hope 2018 brings you many adventures as well as periods of serenity. Peace and joy to you and your family.
      Best wishes. 🙂

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