An Unplanned Exploration.
By Dorothy Svenson (S.B.W.)
from The Bushwalker Annual 1942
We had no intention of roaming the Nattai Plateau, but it was one of those
walks which just take things into their own hands.
Instead of a leisurely ramble up to Couridjah, we climbed up from the
river by way of a nasty creek bed, growing nastier and drier all the way.
The foxes and the wallabies did what they could to tell us we were on the
wrong track. So did the great trees storms had thrown across the way. But
with grim determination we ignored the animals, clambered under trees and
scratched our way over fallen rocks.
At last we were on top. Here was a cairn of stones. Ha ! now for the road
and the railway. H'm ! In this wilderness ?
We studied our map. We must be there, or there—or, perhaps, there ! In any
case the railway was ahead, and the road. But in between and all around
were wild ranges. We walked along the rubble-strewn top of the ridge to
which we had climbed. Shadows were lengthening. We reached the end of a
spur. Where were we ? We turned back a little way. It was no use wandering
about in the dusk, so we pitched our tent on the top of some short bushes—
there was no clear space—and settled down among the stones. Our evening
meal consisted of two wheatmeal biscuits and half a small mug of soup.
We'd carried a container of water, thank goodness!
We dozed. The night was dark and still. Suddenly a shrill whistle pierced
the air—the whistle of a train! Then the railway was over there. At
regular intervals we heard this whistle, and comfortably told our hungry
selves that morning would show us our way. Perhaps the road lay quite
More dozing. A loud grunt rends the air ! A wild pig! I'd heard of them,
ferocious animals! We crouched among the bushes. Several more grunts and
scratching ! It couldn't see us, anyway. After hours of apprehension, we
heard it wandering off. A train whistled. We were re-assured.
Impatiently we waited for daylight. Then, breakfasting handsomely on
another wheatmeal biscuit and our last half cup of soup, we gathered
ourselves for serious thought. Wherever we were of all those likely
places, a south-easterly route would take us to the railway. All right.
Back to the edge of the spur and view our surroundings. Just ridges these
were, with deep creeks between; rough ridges by the look of them. But
there, stretching away in the distance, was a burnt ridge. Its blackened
tree-trunks went on and on in a beautiful curve—a south-easterly curve.
But between us was a deep creek. We noticed two great rocks at the base of
the ridge we wanted. We'd make for them and straight up. But oh! •where
was my breakfast!
Thanks To The Wild Pig!
The downward slope was covered with low-growing bushes. For a. while we
struggled through. Then a passage disclosed itself ! By bending double we
could practically run down the slope. Thank you, wild pig!—or were you
just a wombat ? And many, many more thanks when the track ended beside a
clear, cool spring! A sparkling spring where tender ferns grew and moss
covered the rocks with green. Were I a poet, I'd write an ode to that
spring! We drank and bathed, refilling our container, for we'd learned the
value of water. Then we went up from our two rocks.
I'll never forget that "up." At the top I sat on a rock with that deserted
feeling in my heart—or was it my stomach ?—while my companion went forward
along the ridge. The ridge was good. Then a train whistled cheerily. I
strode forward. It was a nice, even ridge—on and on it took us, always in
the right direction. It broadened. Ferns grew among the grasses. Here
trees had been felled. Here was an old cart track—a very old one, the
wheel marks just discernable, ferns and flowers overgrowing it. Here was a
very rusty spade. Oh, civilization, I never before realised your worth !
With light steps we walked the track, now broadening. Our ridge had gone.
And here was the road—the broad, red highway. Actually, we ran along it.
At a small farmhouse, where they wouldn't give us bread, we learned that
Hilltop was only a mile away. Hilltop! And a mile? We found a morsel of
cheese in one of our packs. Slowly we munched it. So we'd not come to
Couridjah or Picton, but back to Hilltop!
Where had we been? I dared not think of it! I'd heard about the Nattai
Plateau! Yes, I have to admit it.