A short meandering wollemi* from the soft sheltered woods of creek-land to the exposed stubbly hills of headland where throughout, the out of the way, the unseen and the hidden came into view.
We spent the night on a slight slope of land not far from a quiet creek on a friends property. This land was in the hands of someone who was investing time and resources into bringing under control invasive plants and re-establishing a dominance of native flora whilst opening the land for natural habitat as well as conscientious human use. As a result thickets of prickly Paradoxa had been gradually thinned, contained and through them paths made taking the walker along passages into open rooms of grassy ground, places to sleep or to have quiet conversations. They reminded me of the countless roo pads I see that run like irregular lattices through scrub and bush land, a world within a world, scaled to their size made to their purpose. These were made for the purpose of the mind that likes to explore.
In the morning we walked a loop, first along the slow moving reedy creek to the homestead and then up a steep gully via a narrow path (whose sides were strewn with grey limbs of felled paradoxa). At the top we took in a long view to the south over paddocks of curving rows of cut hay before ascending via a wood where green-gold grass carpeted the spaces between trunks. A week or so ago all would have been much greener, but warm, summery weather was muscling itself into what would usually be a cooler, damper time of the year. The withering effect of heat came in hues of gold which whilst complementary in colour was none the less a sign of decline and death. To me, nature’s process of death is no less beautiful as when full of vibrant life. However, I am less accepting and impartial when I think of it applied to my own life. I wonder if the life force in nature clings onto existence in the same way people do, or if our desire for life, or rather fear of death is present in plants and animals. I suspect not.
After a search we found a way back over the creek by means of an elusive old fallen tree and detoured briefly to camp to collect our packs before returning to the creek for our way onwards. We passed alongside then over pools of creek water of which I am told would endure the heat of summer. Before too long we were standing above a sharp turn in the creek from which point onwards the sides would steepen into gorge. This was not our way, as it was likely not even passable. From our vantage point the creek seemed to be an impenetrable mass of tangled vegetation. We chose to follow the sides of a tributary gradually climbing via one gully then another until we intersected the road.
In fact I was retracing, in reverse, a way that I had taken last year. As I did I found myself picking up memories from that previous time as though they had hung in the air for me to pass through. In this way dots were joined and a picture re-created, though this time it was filled in further with the experiences of this walk. I find this so with areas that I have walked in multiple times. Where I could think oh, I’ve been here already, actually I’m wondering what will it be like this time, what will be different, how will I be different from that last time? In a glance, landscape often appears to be the same as before but closer attention reveals greater levels of detail and a missed glance one way is claimed the next and by it a fuller picture, a better understanding, even deeper feeling is reached about a place.
It wasn’t long before we left the road and took an easterly track which after a short while ran out leaving us with dried grassy headland to either side that was broken at intervals by sea-bound gullies. Heading for one to our north we came across a clan of elders, a copse of Melaleuca Lanceolata trees, dried, twisted, wisened by wind and exposure.They embodied resistance, dogged endurance and I felt as though they would have much to say in few words could they speak.
We slipped down the side of a gully, prettied with flowers and white splatted rocks and lunched there. In the absence of the cool breeze the newly visible sun kept our at-rest bodies warm. I love little gullies like this, mostly because I suspect they are seldom visited and so have an undisturbed quality. Even in wind there is something still about them, perhaps because the energy of these places is not churned up by the regular presence of people. This place and the many like it along todays walk are so close to the arterial thoroughfares of human life, the traffic to and from work, but remain out of sight. And this particular stretch of the coastline is so close in proximity to where people congregate to play at the weekends and yet if feels unpeopled, remote and refreshingly quiet.
Time was running out for today’s walk and I estimated that we wouldn’t have time to reach and sufficiently explore the cove where we intended to go so instead we ambled back in the direction of the car. Along the way vistas onto rugged rock- guarded beaches opened up and I would pause taking them in before the veering track led my eyes in another direction. And then a cave came into sight. It is not uncommon to see a shallow cave like opening in rock, and even less uncommon to find that the mouth of a cave has a throat also. This one did. The floor of the cave was a collapse of smaller rock from the roof but still visible was a steep throat darkening quickly to the guts of this dark hole. More unusual still was to see in there things. One of us scrambled down into the interior and confirmed their identity; a bike helmet, some clothing, a doona and a John Le Carre book of cold war espionage which only intrigued us further.
We walked away from this mysterious hide-away-hole and rounded the last hill before the elevation returned to its starting point of the sea. Before we descended though we paused on the hillside to watch two birds of prey, possibly kites, deftly negating the winds to hover gracefully and with focussed intent over the dry golden ground. One of them plunged but it wasn’t possible to see if it had quarry in it’s talons. If it had, then death would have come at the hands of beauty, without sentiment and by no other desire than survival.This image,and that of the dying grass have stayed with me, they are simple images but seem to convey such depth of meaning and I am glad when nature leaves an imprint on me.
- The name Wollemi approximately means,to take a look around. Over time it has become the word my walking friends and I use to refer to our walks even our paddle trips. It is for us not just a physical activity but also a gesture of spirit, one in which we explore landscape and seascape in an attempt to understand them better.