Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 56: Detour!

January 9, 2011

I’m just finishing up what is meant to be our last blog entry when Johan points to the southern horizon. ‘Look, how pretty.”

I look. It is pretty! “Must be the Stirling Ranges,” I muse.

“No, probably the range in the Franklin River National Park,” he counters.

“Huh, uh,” I say, pulling out the map. “We’re past that park. See…” I point to the map for him to look at while he’s driving. “We’re right over the top of the Stirlings.”

There’s some mystical pull these ranges have on Johan. Me too maybe. We both lived in Albany many years back, but in his youth Johan had a tendency to disappear to the mountains on occasion, and then on up the mountains. He climbed Bluff Knoll, its tallest peak, four, maybe five times. He can’t remember exactly.

“Maybe we should take an extra night,” one of us quips, can’t remember which. But it’s on both of our minds. We resolve to spend the next 23kms thinking about it. That’s when we’ll hit the turn-off to go south.

When we arrive at the turn-off to Borden, it doesn’t take much debate. We fill up with fuel and head down Chester Pass Road, straight into the heart of the Stirlings. Australia doesn’t have many mountains so when it does produce some, they’re quite awe-inspiring. The Stirlings are no exception. They remind me of pointy-capped hills I saw in China once, draped with a carpet of green and exuding some other-worldly quality that makes you want to linger a bit.

The one and only campground in the park is a short ring around half a dozen campsites, all pretty rustic but pleasantly groomed and a terrific view of the ranges. There are a few campers milling about and only one site available that would fit our camper trailer. “Perhaps we should...” I suggest. A truck-size 4WD with a hooted-up version of our camper trailer has pulled up behind us, seems to want us to move on. Johan looks in his rear-view mirror and puts it in reverse, deftly backing the trailer into position in the one available site. The rearview campers throw up their hands as they drive by, half in jest, half in disgust that we’ve taken the one spot they had their eye on.

It must be fate. Or maybe just good luck. It’s a wonderful spot and a nice place to do what we never got around to doing the last days of our trip: chill out for a bit. We eat lunch at our picnic table then drive up to the nearby trail head at Mt Toolbrunup. This is the second tallest peak in the park (1052 meters) and rated a Level 5 classification – pretty strenuous.

And it is. A week of sitting in the car with little hiking activity has softened me somewhat and it takes all I’ve got to get up that mountain, especially the last hundred meters which require some near vertical rock-scrambling. But the view is dizzying – all the way around the park to the farmlands and empty salt lakes beyond. The summit is nothing more than a few square meters of giant rubble and my stomach does flip-flops taking in this birds-eye view.

Coming down the mountain doesn’t work the lungs as much, but my legs are shaking and my toes smarting as they’re rammed up against the tips of my shoes. I’m glad to walk the near-level 4kms dirt road back to camp to sort out my quivering legs.

Mt Toolbrunup (the pointy peak on the left)

Views from the top

Windy at the top - hold on!

Exotic wildflowers; they felt like paper

Stirling Range campground

No comments:

Post a Comment