This week Summer gave way to autumn, and with the cooler temperatures the way opened up for day walks. For starters I headed down To Deep Creek Conservation Park to join Class 11 from the local school where I work, on the last leg of their three day hike.
Later in the year, class 11 from Willunga Waldorf School, are spending 8 days walking the Larapinta Trail in the Northern territory. For practice they do a 3 day hike in Deep Creek CP, a tucked away pocket of dense native scrub on the Southern Coast of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. I joined them for their last day from Trig Camp-site to Tappanappa where they were being met by a bus to take them back to school. I had driven down independently so I would need to leave them short of their destination to loop back to my car at Trig.
On the drive down I felt the internal drive of knowing I was getting out for my first day walk in a few months but also the anticipation of joining Class 11 as this was the class my son had been in from ages 6 to 13 until he went to another school. So I had known this group well, (though less so in the recent years) and I was keen to connect with them.
I caught up with them at Deep Creek waterfall where the cool water cascades over a climbable rock wall into a pool wide and deep enough for a cold dip. By this stage (first leg on day 3) of their walk, fatigue was being clearly felt by a few of the students, enough for the teachers to consider contingency plans should one or two not be able to complete the walk. Although once we were all on the track determination rose in the weary and I was impressed at their resolve to find their stride and push on with hardly a complaint.
The single file track means that conversations are passed back and forth and helped maintain momentum along the mostly gentle contours of this section of the walk. Either side the bush is dense and steep and where gaps in the spindly leafed trees occur, stunning views open up across the gullies and spurs of this timeless land. To me this land seems as though asleep, dreaming under its still native green blanket. We reached Tappanappa Look-Out, with its uninterrupted views not only of the park but also to Kangaroo Island and the twin Islands known as the Pages (white-fella name) or Metalong the name given by the Kaurna people. The islands also comprise part of the Tjilbruke myth.
We lunched soon after on a hillock close to the Tappanappa camp-ground. The views east from here were long and captivating stretching out over the parks boundary to the surf crashing into Tunkalilla Beach with the rocks of Tunk Head far in the distance. Depending on how you feel after 3 days walking with a pack a vista like this could either entice or dissuade you from going further. It seemed that some in the group would happily have continued, pushed a little further. But for most I think they had pushed enough and were glad that their trek was soon at an end. However, as I listened to their chatter going back and forth they sounded upbeat, optimistic. On this hillock, an hour from their walks end with its vantage point and its horizons, I like to think that the group had grasped a new perspective, one in which inner resolve and companionship had overcome the personal challenges this three day walk had thrown at them. An important perspective to have knowing they would be tackling eight days on the Larapinta later in the year.
Lunch done the group set off and not long after I took my leave of them and set out for my car. My time with them had been brief but enough to feel the connection I wanted. I had known some of this class since they were at kindergarten and now they were fast approaching the last year of school and beyond it adulthood and possibly one of the biggest horizons they will face in life. My son, soon to be 17 was keen to leave school,hungry to work and discover more of the world, and himself. He has unrolled a map of uncharted territory, spread it out and surveyed where he would like to go. For people who use maps to navigate you will no doubt know that reality on the ground looks different to the contoured lines and symbols of maps. The only way to really know is to get amongst it. I learnt by doing and I’m sure my son will too. He certainly wants to.
I have, for a while now, had an image of childhood as being set in the protective shelter of a valley. As the child grows in years they venture further from home and its familial protections seeking out new experiences, increasingly insisting on finding their own way. They explore the gaps and climb the hillsides of the valley ever higher only to be drawn back in by those who protect them. Eventually in one way or another they reach the cusp of the hills that have sheltered them and Inevitably at one time or another they leave the valley and venture into the wider world. What way to go? Which map to use?
I left the fire track I was on and pushed my way through thick scrub. I wanted a challenge, wanted to see if I could leave the well marked track and make my own way under, over, around and through the bush, find a way that was my own, one that was never walked before. I saw how with the rise and fall and orientation of land and the ways of water different plants thrived or diminished. A canvas of subtle, nuanced changes. At one point I found myself hemmed in on three sides by thick, tall growing bracken. I pushed into it but to no avail. I retreated skirting the mass until on slightly higher, drier ground a way became available and before long I broke out onto the wide accommodating track. Gradually I have come to value each track and whatever comes with it, but most of all I love the ones that are less travelled. In a similar way I’ve come to appreciate these paths in my own life too.