Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wed 17 Oct - Mutawintji National Park NSW

Strange place this.
We had the alarm set for 6am so that we could do a hike before the sun really starts pounding the area. At 6am, it was positively cold out there. Hans had to use his Wolfskin jacket to keep warm and Di was using layers of clothing too. A nice cup of hot tea went down very nicely indeed.

We had breakfast and were out for an 8am start of our hike (or hikes for today as there were several short ones around Homestead Creek, each one an extension of the previous "walk")

We crossed the camping ground to reach the start of walk number 1 that they call "Thaaklatijka Mingkana Walk" (correct that one, predictive spelling!), which is... drumroll.. wheelchair friendly. Well, it may have been wheelchair friendly once, but that must have been before this years floods had taken out big chunks of the path. The latter end of the path may have worked with a wheelchair, but there was no way, bar lifting the wheelchair and the occupant, that you would be able to get to the start of it in a wheelchair.

Anyway, we followed the published white markers and criss-crossed the very dry and very sandy Homestead Creek towards walk number 2, extending from walk number 1. We encountered some quite interesting aboriginal rock art.

After that, the path started to become very hard to distinguish from its surroundings. The white markers were very ad-hoc in position and anything but clear. The map didn't help as it showed the path to only go parallel and to the west of the creek, when clearly the path zigzagged the creek in many places.

We improvised for a while and admired the sandstone landscape as it is truly stunning (the park used to be the bottom of a large lake once upon a time), before we decided to scramble up on a peak to get better views.

The views were very good from the top, although you could tell that the next peak would give even better views. Hans decided that there would be a great photo opportunity if he climbed the next peak, while Di stayed and took photos from the first one. So he did...

From peak number 2, you had some fantastic 360 degrees views of the red sandstone and rocky sparse landscape. You feel like you are on top of the world.

And nobody else is in sight (the Indians were hiding well against the background, and Clint Eastwood must have been elsewhere).

After our peak-bashing, we made our way back to the camping ground, only to find that a bunch of birdwatchers had parked a van next to ours. So, 8 or so of these guys were all around what we thought was our personal little backyard, yapping and taking photos of anything that flew. Anyway, after an hour or so, the birdwatchers were gone (to pester somebody else?). Phew.

A couple of "seagulls of the west" thought that our used dishwater was perfectly adequate for drinking. A magpie thought likewise until he was chased away by the SOTW (safety in numbers).

As we sat and enjoyed our cuppa, we spoke to a hiking couple who came by. They had just done the other hike that we would like to do, the Western Ridge Walk. They recommended it, said it took them 2 hours (the official NPWS documentation says different things depending of where you read), and that they walked and recommended it anti-clockwise. So we will do that.

They also recommended a town called Burra (not Alice) in South Australia that they had just been to. They had picked up a key at the Information Centre for a $5 deposit that unlocked doors to the old jail, old hospital and a number of old buildings in that town. In addition, they said that the camping ground was very nice. Burra is now on our roadmap.

In the afternoon, Di wanted a break to read a book so Hans decided to do the Western Ridge Walk by himself.

It was a truly stunning walk. Map said 5 to 6 km, 6 km felt about right as Hans did it in 1.5 hours.
You start from the foot of the range and ascend gradually until you feel that you are on top of the world (again).

Music was required as company, and what better than Oz rock and pop and of course, Solid Rock by Goanna. This was, in fact, a very emotional experience, looking out from the ridge in both direction with this strange emptiness and listening to this classic Oz track.

As this is now late afternoon, 4.30pm-5pm, the kangaroos were out and so were the emus. At one point, Hans was "chasing" a kangaroo and an emu up the hill at the same time (they were on the walking track). Interesting experience on this vast plain back towards the camping ground where he found Di still reading!

Back at the ranch, Eric and Erica (which is what we named our local Emus loitering around the campground e) were out scavenging for food, while our dinner will the penne pasta cooked on the camp kitchen with a glass of wine after a most satisfying day... again :-)

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