The morning broke sunny and calm and from our outpost we looked down on clouds ferrying across the Gulf. We resumed our bearing towards Mt. Cavern picking a line close to the ridge, over less challenging terrain. Wider, and much less rocky with patches of bright green ground cover and wildflowers this country was a delight to pass through and we suspected was rarely, if ever, visited by people. Only a prone, rusted wire boundary fence indicated humans were once here.
A brief push uphill and we were finally on Mt. Cavern’s sunlit summit its air humming with the hover of native bees. In form, at least from certain angles, this mount appears cone shaped and therefore quite different from the elongated ranges that form the sides to the pound. From time to time as our walk progressed, we would catch glimpses of it, and in doing so, we could track our changing relationship to it. This came as no surprise when we learned that in the late 19th century it had been used as a navigational aid during the charting of Spenser Gulf.
Once again on a marked trail we quickly descended a steep 550m over rock-loose country to the soft green gully below. A cheerful Mambray Creek bubbled through the green blanketed gully and here we quenched our thirst and rested. This place seemed to offer a perpetual invite to linger. Indeed, the sheltered gorge was a place for longevity, a place where generations could settle. Here, a nursery of young creek fed saplings played in the retirement home garden of geriatric eucalypts. Even in death the grey fallen corpses of these grand elders sprouted bright-leaved hopefuls. Rocks, wild and loose on Caverns steep sides, were here tamed and settled under ground cover and moss.
We resisted the desire to stay and continued along the track occasionally heeling through shallow causeways until Mambray Campground where we re-fuelled under the watchful eyes of emus. The campground is well serviced and can be a busy place and though sparsely populated today we were not yet ready for bitumen and everything that comes with it . We escaped after lunch and charged up the spine of Battery Ridge and the western rim of the pound pushing hard, knowing once again that daylight was limited. From the ridge’s spine we could see how the land sloped quickly down to the flat agricultural land below and above it uninterrupted views across the Gulf.
After 4 km we turned to the east and headed down a narrow track towards Hidden Gorge. Earlier in the day from the summit of Mt. Cavern we had seen this gorge snaking its way up the side of the pound and our intrigue both at its form and name had enticed us to pursue it.
Now, in the fading light we were poised to enter the snakes gaping jaws. Inside the belly, wet river rocks, half-digested trees and impassable thickets were strewn about and between them the vein of a barely visible path slunk. As the path went deeper dark quickly descended and head-torches were turned on but though they shed light on the ground just before our feet it came at the expense of a wider vision of the gorges twisting passage. Frequently the person leading the way took a false path and the way finding defaulted to the next in line. When I led, my senses became heightened, and alertness urged me forwards as I tried to see (without head torch) how swiftly I could move through the dark, eyes flitting for signs of the sinewy track. Suddenly we entered a wider, flatter section where grass beds had taken hold and we knew instantly that this was where we would spend the night. And so, somewhere deep in the snakes belly we lit a fire, ate and chatted through the still evening and slept soundly under the crack of stars visible above the gorges rim. (Ewan)