Hiking in the alpine national park 2016-17.
December is always a crazy month, and the mountains are the perfect antidote to the festive season, all the noise and madness of boxing day sales, Christmas themed everything, too much pudding and the joys of extended family. One breath of the fresh mountain air sends all that back into the archives for next year as we stop off at the general store in Licola, and suddenly our only thoughts are of beers around the fire.
The climb to mcfarlane's
The excitement grows as we ascend through countless ecosystems punctuated by occasional vistas off to the side, where there is a break in the forest canopy. The fire ravaged dead trees as we hit the ridge line are a sobering reminder of how powerful nature can be as we emerge between layers of cloud and keep pushing on up the mountain.
Fifteen minutes after arriving, the tarps and tents are up, the fire is going and everyone has a beer. A quick explore of the immediate surrounds reveals ample stocks of standing deadwood for the fire and a local Copperhead snake basking on some exposed rock nearby.
A bit of drizzle picked up soon after we arrived, but I was eager to get the brushes out so I set up under the shelter and jumped right into painting this tree. Soon the light faded, the drizzle receded and we made the most of the cold beers while I contemplated just how heavy my pack was going to be tomorrow. This was my first time hiking with the added weight of paints, plywood, easel and brushes on-top of everything else for 3 nights and if nothing else it was going to be interesting.
Day 1 walking
After the usual groans and whimpers as everyone saddled, up the walking began and half an hour in we had our stride going and could look around and notice the diversity of imposing and rugged windswept landscapes around us.
A few kilometres into the hike and we have our second encounter with a snake friend. We think it was a copperhead like the first one, which we had already adopted as our crew name and mascot for the duration of the mission.
"Right boys, that was a copperhead""
"Its OK, I have a stick, we are safe"
It was only 8km of walking to base camp, but all the extra weight made de-packing at camp a buoyant and welcome experience.
It was now time to argue over knots we don't know how to tie while everyone else backseat drives the Tarp-op.
The next morning brings blue skies and while we contemplate the walk down to the lake I duck off for a quick paint of a field just near camp. With the warm sun hitting the damp knee high grasses and shrubs it was bug heaven. Bugs it seems cannot tell the difference between art and reality and unfortunately many died in the making of this painting.
Its easy to forget the altitude until we get the view off the edge as we start the descent to the lake. The view is short lived as we pass though numerous different ecosystems of dense undergrowth down the steep strack until we emerge at the shoreline, having descended roughly 700m from camp.
Lake Tali Karng is held as a sacred site to the Gunai Kurnai People who are the traditional owners of the land and in keeping with their law, they are forbidden from going to the lake. The Gunai Kurnai are tolerant of non indigenous people visiting, provided the area is treated with respect and there is no camping on the shore. Having done this previously in ignorance, we made sure to follow custom and only stay for a few hours. After relaxing at the lake for a few hours, knocking out a painting of the lake and having a peanut butter and salami based wrap (hiking staple) the weather looked like it was turning so we began the infamous climb back to camp. About 30 min into the climb it started raining and I realised lunch had been quite insufficient for the task at hand. This brought on an invigorating, monolithic and singular focus, with every step bringing us closer to food.
The rain continued and one by one people retired to their tents, but I was determined to get a fire going. 3 hours later it finally happened, and while it needed more maintenance than it was giving off in heat it was absolutely and totally worth it.
Today we decided to head out to the Sentinels. "Its only about 5km away and its pretty flat" said me based on foggy recollections from 7 years earlier. Based on this information we had a relaxed morning, I did a painting of this incredible tree at our campsite. We decided the sunset would look amazing from there so we left in the afternoon to get there for a few hours of watching the sun go down.
8-9km of pretty hilly climbing later we reached the sentinels as the sun was rapidly disappearing. Although more challenging than expected, it was probably the most stunning scenic walk I have ever been on, and my battery went flat in the morning so here are some pics that Luke Williams snapped of the walk.
The walk back to Mcfarlanes saddle the next day for a New Years eve fire and feast was all business. The beers and spag-bol we had left in the esky back at the cars motivated us like a carrot dangling for bugs bunny and before long we were warm by the fire with a cold one.
Before the sun went down I took the opportunity to paint a mountain view on the my last panel, which I had no time to paint the previous day. This view is looking out into an area of the national park I haven't been to yet, which is more remote and will require some serious planning and navigating to tackle.
The feast and bonfire was a jolly occasion as Alex and PK joined us on their motorbike tour through the countryside. Treking across hundreds of kilometres of unsealed mountain roads on their road bikes meant they were as relieved to get there and unwind as we were.
It was the earliest NYE I have had in many years, barely even making it for the countdown. 50km of mountain hiking turns even the thinnest camp mat into a wonderful bed of clouds. The next morning its all go-go-go as we head north over the mountains, straight to Bonniedoon for the next few days before we crawl back to civilisation.