Tag Archives: Unmarked Trail

Volcán Concepción, Nicaragua

The towering cone of Volcán Concepción on Isla Ometepe looks imposing when crossing Lake Nicaragua towards it. The closer the perspective, the more intimidating the peak, which usually has a cap of cloud atop it…

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But on the rare occasion when the clouds do disappear the full cone is visible in all it’s splendour. This was how it was the day before we were due to climb it.

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When looking to climb one of the two volcanos on Isla de Ometepe, I’d decided on Volcán Maderas, Volcán Concepción’s little sister. I was told that both volcanoes take the same amount of time to climb, but Volcán Maderas was muddier and less fun. So, eight of us from the hostel booked Volcán Concepción instead. We hoped for another beautifully clear day but we were to have no such luck.

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We met our guide during breakfast in the town of Moyogalpa and caught a chicken bus for 20 minutes to the trailhead where we began walking along the trail strewn with rocks and sand.

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We followed the track for 30 minutes, stopping to peer up at a group of Howler Monkey’s in the trees. It’s amazing how much noise these small monkeys actually make.

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The trail abruptly became steeper and our climb began. The trail began fairly steeply through the trees on roots and dirt steps. While the climb wasn’t overly hard, it seemed harder because of the humidity. We stopped regularly for 5-minute breaks, although there were no views available through the trees.

The only forewarning we had of coming to the tree line was the cool wind, a godsend in the humidity. When we did break the tree line we emerged into the clouds which again obscured our view. We stopped in a windy spot to decide our next course of action and managed to get a cloudy shot of the island below us.

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Then came the difficult decision: continue climbing to the top covered in cloud the entire time with no visibility or head down to a more scenic viewpoint. We decided to climb a little further but after ten minutes and being battered by cold winds in the dense clouds we turned back, deciding to take the scenic path instead. This upset two of the climbers, both of whom wanted to get to the top no matter what.

We followed a thin trail around the side of the volcano and dropped below the cloud line to a point where we could finally get some decent photographs of the island below and the lake around it.

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We continued climbing around to a large crack running down the volcano where lava had flowed years earlier. We took a break on the hardened lava.

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The lower we climbed, the more the mainland of Nicaragua could be seen on the other side of the lake and beyond that in the distance, the Pacific Ocean.

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As we neared the bottom, we looked back up the great crack in the side of the mountain.

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And because we hadn’t come back down the same way we’d climbed, we had to walk ninety minutes back across the island to Moyogalpa.

Overall, the hike was not as difficult as expected, although it may have grown more so had we pushed on through the clouds to the top. I’m not unhappy to not have made it to the top, as without pictures it would have been an empty victory.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Looking Back, Part 1 – Patagonia, South America

Patagonia is at the southern end of South America and is an area that is jointly owned by both Chile and Argentina. Patagonia contains the tail end of the Andes mountains, the second largest ice field in the world and is predominantly set up for tourism with is brilliant mountains, amazing lakes and so many hikes you could walk around it forever. Thankfully, that was the primary reason I came to Patagonia.

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I arrived in Usuhaia, Argentina in the last days of summer and was stunned by the beauty of the mountains and the seas near the most southern city in the world.

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With Autumn came low season and a slowing down of the tourism industry. This didn’t mean there was a lack of people, just not as many. And, if anything, it was a good thing because the numbers in high season can be overbearing. In Ushuaia, as I waited for a boat to Antarctica I did several hikes in and around the Martial Mountains.

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After a 12 day trip to the White Continent…

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I left Ushuaia for a 12 hour bus trip to Punta Arena, the southern most city in Chile, for a two day stop of before heading to Puerto Natales, another 5 hour bus ride north.

Puerto Natales has a large tourism industry set around two places, the southern fiords of Chile and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile’s most popular and most expensive national park. I spent a couple of days in Puerto Natales preparing for my hike before heading to the national park where I spent 9 days hiking around the Torres del Paine Massif. A fantastic hike.

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Back in Puerto Natales, I made the decision to catch the Navimag Ferry though the patagonian fiords, but I also wanted to head into Argentina to hike around Mt Fitz Roy. So I decided to do both. I booked the five day ferry trip and with several days before it departed, I caught a 5 hour bus across the border to El Calafate in Argentina.

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There is a famous glacier near El Calafate in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares called Perito Merino. But after coming back from 9 days hiking, and having seen plentiful glaciers in Antarctica, I decided to just rest in El Calafate for 3 days before heading north to El Chaltén. In El Calafate I had, perhaps, the best Asado – BBQ – I’ve had in South America.

El Chaltén is 3 hours by bus from El Calafate and is set at the north end of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The town principally supports hiking around Mt Fitz Roy, which is another name for Chaltén. For three days, I walked what I call the Fitz Roy Triangle around the mountains to see some wondrous peaks and lakes.

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Then I was back on a bus to El Calafate for the night before then heading back to Puerto Natales once more.

The following night I was on the Navimag Ferry and was preparing for the trip. The ferry left Puerto Natales at 4am the following morning and wended its way south west to pass through a thin gap before heading north. That was when the rain started and it stayed with us for the rest of the trip. It was a shame because we missed a lot of the mountain views due to the low clouds. So the only thing to do was to stay inside and get to know some of the travellers.

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I arrived in Puerto Montt at the end of the journey and made my way to my Hospedaje, a home stay style hostel. Compared to the small relaxed towns of lower Patagonia, Puerto Montt felt like a bustling atrocity set beneath a might volcano.

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I guess it was just the more people all in one place. After a couple of days around town, I headed 2 hours north by bus to Osorno with the intention of hiking the Puyehue National Park and climbing a small volcano. I hitch-hiked out to the parque to find it had been closed because of a missing hiker. So I stayed the night in a cabin before flagging down a bus heading to Osorno.

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Three hours north of Osorno, again by bus, is the town of Pucón. Pucón is a beautiful little town on a lake and below a large active volcano. Every tourist seems to climb the volcano, so instead I’d planned a 6 day hike around the base of both it and the one behind it. All I needed was a nice space of fine weather, but after a fortnight the break in the weather never come. The time wasn’t wasted, I spent much of the time writing. Before leaving Pucón, I caved and climbed the volcano…

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A day or so later, I said a final goodbye to Chile as I crossed the border back into Argentina to the city of Bariloche in the Lakes Region. In Bariloche, I decided to take a 2 week Spanish course,  But on the weekend prior I climbed to Refugio Lopez near the top of Cerro Lopez to look down upon the lakes that give this region its name.

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A week later, during my weekend off study, I climbed Cerro Catedral and stayed at Refugio Frey next to a frozen mountain lake.

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After my second week of study, I travelled a 100km south to the small not very hippie-like, hippie town of El Bolson. It would have been nice to have hiked in the mountains there, but due to the time of year, it turned out to be a rather uninspiring visit.

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After two nights, I was back to Bariloche for my final days in Patagonia before heading north by bus for 19.5 hours to the warmer wine regions of Argentina – Mendoza.

My trip to Patagonia was wondrous trip through the southern portion of South America, reminding me very much of the South Island of my home country, New Zealand. And being such a vast place, you just can’t see all of it. Perhaps one day I will come back and explore more of it…

Next, I head around northern Argentina and then through Central South America…

The World Wanderer

El Altar, Sanjay National Park, Ecuador

Nearly two years ago, the government of Ecuador changed the laws regarding multi-day hikes. Because so many people were getting lost or dying, all hikes in the national parks now require a certified guide. Peru has a similar law, although it doesn’t police it as stringently as Ecuador does. And at US$50-80 a day for a guide, my dreams of doing a multi-day hike in Ecuador came to a screaming holt.

My companion and I caught a bus to Riobamba, a city six hours south of Quito and set about finding a hike we could do without a guide. After some investigation we found one – El Altar – an overnight hike into an area of mountains only policed one day a week.

Day 1
We were up early and waiting for the taxi. A crazy drive through the mountains followed to Hacienda Releche, the ‘trail head’ of the hike. We met the owners of the hacienda who quoted us 5-6 hours to their lodge in the mountains and at $12 per person per night it’s far cheaper than a guide.

We began climbing along a dirt track following a gully. On either side was a thin line of trees and beyond were fields; one containing rows of flowers, the other grazing cows.

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For the first two hours of the walk the trail climbed steeply up the side of the hill with the occasional short area of boggy mud. While the skies were cloudy there was no rain. A look back along the valley gave great views of the surrounding hills. By the deep green of the hills, I’d suggest it rains here fairly regularly.

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As we continued climbing, the trail grew less steep, but the mud increased dramatically. As the easiest way to get to the lodge is by horseback, this churns up the mud. In many places, it was difficult to pass without squelching our way through. Luckily, waterproof leather hiking boots have no issues with mud and we waded our way through, trying to fall over as little as possible. This is only a problem if the mud is soggy and wet, which for the most part it wasn’t.

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We stopped for a late lunch with a view of a road across the valley, before marching on. As the afternoon wore on, the rain began, and we decided to rest out of the rain for a bit, so following a short path we found a pair of large pine trees as shelter.

While we were waiting, we heard hooves on the track. I went to have a look in the rain and discovered around ten large horned, cows trampling along the trail. When they saw me they stared for a few moments before bolting back up the trail. A few minutes later, we heard hooves again, this time it was a group of riders leading the cows. Two of the cows had climbed the bank and charged through the area where we were sheltering, scaring the wits out of my companion.

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By this stage, we’d already walked 5-6 hours with no sign of the lodge. We continued on, crossing through gullies and the occasional stream. As darkness began to fall, we still hadn’t found the lodge and my companion began making suggestions of roughing it, as we didn’t have a tent with us. So under the light of our head torches we kept an eye out for sheltered spots but continued walking.

An hour and a half after dark we rounded a hill and could just make out buildings ahead in the vague moonlight. We reached the buildings and found the first one open. It was a dorm room with bunk beds and a bathroom. We dropped our packs and investigated the other four buildings. Two were locked dorms while the others were dining areas with kitchens and fireplaces. We found a bunch of candles and set up our room, cooked some dinner and collapsed into our sleeping bags.

Day 2

The next day we were up and after breakfast, we cleaned up the room, packed our bags and stowed them away in a hidden room off one of the kitchens. We then headed out across a stretch of soggy, rocky ground towards The Altar, a collapsed volcano surrounded by peaks. The valley is at about 4000m above seas level, and even with a slight grade crossing it was a struggle because of the altitude.

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At the far side was a tough climb up the valley wall. While the sky was cloudy and mist covered many of the mountains, we could just make out a snowy peak above us as we climbed. My younger companion raced ahead while I struggled with the altitude, even without a pack. During one of our regular breaks, we discovered another pair of guys close behind us. This pushed us on and eventually we came over the ridge to see the large crater lake and the bottom of the mountains surrounding it. El Altar.

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We waited up there for almost two hours, watching as the clouds came and went. I noticed more than a dozen kinds of wild flowers growing in the area so set about taking photos of as many as I could.

At about 1pm, the sky began to clear and I was able to take a panoramic shot – something I’d not done before on my new camera.

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On the way back we passed two other groups of people totalling 10 between them, before arriving back at the lodge to meet the lodge owner’s father, who was also the caretaker. Unfortunately, he didn’t speak english and our spanish wasn’t enough to get across that we had already paid for the previous night. The message finally got across with the help of one of the other guys and we booked another night. This time, we had a more luxury room – one of the locked ones.

Day 3

After breakfast, we packed and headed down from the lodge.

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The climb down was fairly uneventful. There was the occasional rain, but nothing worrying. Most of the trail was dry mud but we also passed through several different levels soggy levels of it as we went: dirt, wet dirt, hard mud, soft mud, sludge and water pooled mud. For the most part, we found little of the last two and mainly plentiful soft mud. When climbing down a dirt or rocky trail, it can be hard on your knees, even with walking poles. But soft mud cushions your footsteps without swallowing your boots totally. As we walked, we saw more of the wild flowers…

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We finally reached the owner’s hacienda just as the rain began. After a lunch prepared by the owner’s mother, we waited for the bus that didn’t come before talking the park rangers into giving us a lift back to Riobamba. This was ironic because they would have stopped us from doing the trek if they had caught us at the beginning. We arrived back to the hotel we’d been staying at and the luxury of hot showers.

Summary
Overall, the trek was a lot longer than we expected, but we still had an awesome time and saw one of the few sights available without a guide in Ecuador. While the trail was muddy, it made the trek more of a technical challenge than an annoyance. For the views and the lodge, I would recommend this to anyone looking for an overnight and cheap hike in Ecuador.

Next we are off to Cuenca in Southern Ecuador to see Ingapirka, the most famous Inkan ruins in Ecuador.

The Trail Wanderer

Antarctic Voyage – The Journey Back to Civilisation.

Find Days 1 – 3 here: We’re Going South Baby, WAY South!
Days 4 – 5 here: Along The Great White Peninsula
Days 6 – 7 here: Next Stop, The Polar Circle

Day 8 – Returning Along The Peninsula

Last night the swell rocked the boat so madly many people were unable to sleep. While the seas weren’t often bad and many of us no longer show signs of sea sickness, some can barely get out of bed to attend meals.

On the morning of Day 8 we anchored off Verdnasky Island and were invited by the Ukrainian science team there to visit Verdnasky station.

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We broke into three groups: a third visited the station first, another third visited the abandoned Wordie station on the other side of the same island, and the remaining third were the kayakers and divers.  Each group eventually got a turn to visit the main research station.

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Wordie Station was the original research station and must have been built for short, thin people as it’s pretty cramped.  When researchers moved to the newly built Vernadsky station, Wordie station was converted into a museum.  To get between the two stations we had to cruise through sets of pure blue icebergs with amazing natural textures on them.

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Verdnasky Station is huge in comparison to Wordie with a pair of long sprawling corridors leading to many different science labs. Outside there are other rooms and silos for storage, additional labs and fuel. Upstairs there’s a relaxation room which holds the southernmost gift shop and the southernmost Post Office in the world, where we got our passports stamped and sent postcards (most took more than a year to arrive). Through an archway was the world’s southernmost bar where we could buy large shots of vodka for US$3.

After exiting the station and waiting for the Zodiacs to collect us, we gathered on the pier to watch a leopard seal torment a penguin. When it noticed it had an audience, it made a display of tearing its lunch to pieces before consuming it.  While macabre, it’s part of nature and we couldn’t take our eyes from it. Back on the ship we headed further north to Petermann Island for another short hike. The island itself has different colours of snow – green from algae and pink from penguin poo.

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The hike was a walk up a slippery mound to a cairn and down the other side. This island had some beautiful views, but was the smelliest island I’ve ever been to. While the old saying: ‘Don’t eat the yellow snow’ still stands, a new one came from this trip: Definitely don’t eat the pink snow.

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As we made our way back to the ship we spied another leopard seal enjoying a penguin. Penguins are considered the rabbits of the south, they breed like crazy and provide good food sources for the seals and larger sea birds.

Across the bay, we could see the base of several majestic looking spires their tops hidden behind the cover of clouds.  Thankfully the clouds began moving as we were leaving, giving us a partially better view.

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Day 9 – Final Landfall – Deception Island

The plan for the day was to make landfall in the morning and begin the journey back across the Drake Passage in the afternoon. This was not to be, however, as the wind and seas were too harsh. Instead we sailed back to the South Shetland Islands to attempt Deception Island again. When we arrived the wind was still strong, but thankfully in the right direction allowing us to enter the volcano via a stretch of water known as Neptune’s Bellows.

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We sailed through and even with the low clouds it was picturesque. The bay inside was huge and we anchored in a smaller bay just inside called Whalers Bay. On reaching land, we set foot on black volcanic pebbles and sand. There were a number of old broken down buildings which we were warned not to enter because they were unstable.

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Deception Island erupts every 40 years, the last time being 40 years earlier. We were prepared should it go up but it didn’t, obviously. On land there were few penguins and many fur seals. We walked along the beach for a while and climbed the semi-collapsed wall to Neptune’s window…

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…which provided great views both inside and out.

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We then followed a stream up the side of the volcano…

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…to a higher perch. With the clouds and the blue-green of the sea, the sight looked like a mystical world that photos just don’t do justice to.

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Back on board, we set sail for the Drake passage and as expected the seas were a little rough.

Day 10 and 11 – Back across the Drake Passage

For two days we sailed across the open and slightly choppy seas. It wasn’t as crazy as we’d expected, but after making landfall twice each day in the Antarctic, hanging about the ship sent many of us a little stir crazy. There were lectures to bide the time but I dove into a book and managed to finish the second of two novels I’d begun on the journey.

We arrived into the shelter of the Beagle Channel in the late afternoon of Day 11 and docked in the early morning at Ushuaia. We disembarked after breakfast.

Overall

My Antarctic trip will always be one of the most memorable experiences of my life and worth far more than I paid for it. The many places where we made landfall and the multitude of wildlife were unreal. People on board were friendly, although with 37 different nationalities it was sometimes difficult to communicate well. There were many new experiences and I’m glad I chose the Plansius from Oceanwide Expeditions, as I’ve heard some of the other cruises were not as well organised or the crews were not as interested in giving passengers the best experience.

Next, after a couple of days in Ushuaia, I began my long journey north along the Andes starting with Patagonia.

The Ocean Cruising Trail Wanderer

The Plan

At the end of this week I will be leaving Queensland and embarking on the beginning of a crazy adventure. This will see me walking around the southern states of Australia for 3 months before winging it to South America for more adventures. The initial plan was to take 12 months, but why set a timeframe on adventure?

What follows is a break down of my plan for the next 3 months including locations and the activities I’ve planned for in those locations.

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Nov 10-12
Brisbane to Adelaide – South Australia
Road Trip
2058km

Brisbane to Coonabarabran – 705km
Coonabarabran to Hay – 671km
Hay to Adelaide – 682km

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Nov 13-14
Explore Adelaide
Nov 15-17
Yurrebilla Trail – 3 day hike in Adelaide Hills
54Km

Nov 17 – Birthday
Nov 18-20
Kangaroo Island
Short hikes and Wildlife Sanctuary

Sunday November 18:

Drive: Adelaide to Cape Jervis 108km

Ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw

Penneshaw to Western Ki Caravan Park and Wildlife Reserve 138km

Nov 21 – 22
Drive: Cape Jervis to Naracoorte – 407km
Naracoorte Adventure Caving

Nov 22
Grampians Mountains Victoria
Naracoorte to Halls Gap – 218km
Stop off in Little Desert National Park

VICTORIA
Nov 23-28
Grampians National Park
Major Mitchell Plateau – 2 days
Mt Gar – Briggs Bluff Circuit – 2 days
Day walk – MacKenzie Falls section
Day walk – Halls Gap Section

Nov 29
Grampians National Park to Brisbane Ranges National Park – 196km
Road Trip
1 day

Nov 30-Dec 3
Brisbane Ranges National Park
Burchell Trail – 4 day hike

Dec 4
Brisbane Ranges to Melbourne – 62km
Road Trip
1 day

TASMANIA
Dec 7-8
Ferry to Tasmania and Drive to Cradle Mountain

Melbourne to Tasmania via ferry 459km
Devonport to Discovery Holiday Park – Cradle Mountain 80.5km

Dec 9
Bus from Cradle Mountain to Penguin the prepare for walk
1 day

Dec 10-18
Penguin Cradle trail
9 day hike

Dec 19-20
Rest days around Cradle Mountain with Numerous Day walks
Wild Cave Tours – Full Day Adventure Caving

Dec 21
Drop Vehicle off at Lake St Clair (214km) and bus back to Cradle Mountain

End Of Mayan Calendar

Dec 22-29
Overland Track: Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
8 day hike
Christmas on the trail

Dec 30
Drive from Lake St Clair car park to Devonport then Ferry to Melbourne
Lake St Clair car park to Devonport 247km Road Trip
Tasmania to Melbourne via ferry 459km

Dec 31
NEW YEARS EVE
Melbourne

VICTORIA
Jan 1
Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory Road trip (223km)
1 day

Jan 2-4
Wilsons Promontory South End Hike – 3 days

Jan 5
Wilsons Promontory to Mitchell River National Park 240km
1 day

Mitchell River National Park to Buchan Caves 128km
Caving

Jan 6
Buchan to Alpine National Park 216km
1 day

Jan 7-9
Alpine National Park
Big River, Mt Bogong Circuit – 3 day Hike

Jan 10-13
Drive to Kosciuzko National Park
4 days with stop offs:
Mt Buffulo National Park
Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park
Burrowa-Pine Mtn National Park

NEW SOUTH WALES
Jan 14-18
Mt Kosciuzko National Park
Yarrangobilly Caves
Bogong Wilderness – 2 day hike
Whites River Hut, Rolling Ground, Dicky Cooper Bogong– 2 day hike – modified
5 days

Jan 19-25
Jindabyne
On The Beach – Convention

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (ACT)
Jan 25-28
Canberra
Cancon – Convention

Return to Brisbane
Jan 28 – 30 Canberra to Sydney via Flinders 315km – Stay with Family
Jan 31 Syndey to Port MacQuarrie 379km
Feb 1 Port MacQuarrie to Ballina 364km
Feb 2 Ballina to Brisbane 177km

Feb 2-5
QUEENSLAND
Brisbane

Feb 6
NEW ZEALAND
Auckland

Feb 21
SOUTH AMERICA
Buenos Aires – Argentina
Ushuaia – Argentina

What am I going to do when I am there???

Have the time of my life!!!!

See you on the trails!

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Mt Barney – South-East Ridge to East Peak

Mt Barney is a pair of peaks on the border between Queensland and New South Wales. It’s the third tallest mountain in South-East Queensland. While it’s only 1354m above sea level – a molehill compared to many of the world’s mountains – it’s up there by Australia’s standards.

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For my last outing with my hiking group before I leave Queensland I arranged to climb the lesser known trail up Mt Barney’s South-East Ridge.  The South Ridge is the more common way up for this trip will be our descent.  The South-East Ridge is more difficult as it’s steeper and more exposed in several places.

Mt Barney – South East Ridge to South Ridge Circuit – 16.5km – 10 hours – difficulty: very hard.

The hike has an estimated 10-hour length, so I arranged for the group to meet at 6.30 a.m. outside the information booth in Rathdowney. With 7 of us in attendance, we drove to the car park at the base of the mountain. Thankfully the signs confirmed where we were supposed to be, as the mountain and most of the area was shrouded in low cloud. A bit of a contrast to the fact the temperature was supposed to rise to a muggy 30ºC today.

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The car park is about 3.5km from the beginning of the South-East Ridge trail, along a dirt road that works its way towards the mountain by crossing a couple of small hills. There is only one way to find the South-East trail, the letters SE carved into the trunk of a tree beneath a cross. What the cross means I’m not sure, perhaps an ominous message left by previous climbers?

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The thin dirt track began at a gentle slope but grew steadily steeper as it worked its way towards a rocky spire.

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At our backs as we climbed, the wedding cake topped Mt Lindsey and for much of the morning, cool breezes flowed from the east.

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The climb was anything but easy, and the 7 of us stopped regularly, usually when the ridge came to a flat area every 100m or so. The trail changed constantly, moving between dirt and root steps, to rocky steps cut from sheer gullies with plentiful handholds to smooth rock scrambling.

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At the top of the short flat areas we often looked down on something different, a sheer cliff face here, a long rock gully there or down on top of a mini forest. Each time we’d scramble up to the top of a ridge we’d find the great spire of the next one staring down at us. This gave the sense that the mountain just keeps going, on and on.  But eventually we climbed over a ridge to find we’d run out of mountain.  The top of the Eastern Peak is an open rocky area giving us a total 360º view.

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Unfortunately, because of the early November heat the views from the mountain were hazy. The heat also brought out many bugs that seemed to dance in the air around us.  They seemed quite attracted to the smell of our sunscreen as we reapplied.

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We stopped for lunch before heading down a vague trail that led towards the saddle between East and West peaks.  We climbed down flat rocks with the rocky spire of the more difficult West Peak ahead of us.

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Thankfully for grippy hiking boots the decent wasn’t difficult and we arrived at the saddle in short order. The saddle is a small rainforest and has a space set aside for camping.

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The South Ridge trail, also known as Peasant’s Ridge, was more difficult than the ascent of the South-East ridge. While it wasn’t as arduous, it was far more humid, with the trees hiding not only the sun, but easterly breeze as well.  This meant our descent was in the full humidity, so it was hot and uncomfortable.

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Eventually, we made it to the bottom and headed towards the car park. This was perhaps the hardest part of the day. After climbing the mountain, we were hot, tired and sore.  The four kilometres of dirt road just seemed to go on forever and the two small hills we’d climbed at the beginning of the day seemed each as tall as Mt Barney itself.

Finally, eight hours after we began we made it back to the vehicles, then it was back to Rathdowney for a well-earned beer.  An excellent final hike in Queensland.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Lincoln Wreck and Mt Superbus – Main Range National Park

In 1955, an RAAF Lincoln bomber flying a sick baby from Townsville to Brisbane went down in bad weather, crashing 50m from the top of Mt Superbus. The sole survivor of the crash was a ginger Kelpie.

This week, I took a small team from my hiking group to climb Mt Superbus and find that Lincoln Wreck. This hike wasn’t going to be easy and it wouldn’t help that it was forecast to be 33ºC and muggy or that all we had was a sketchy set of instructions.

As the trip to the beginning of the hike was a long way from our meeting place, I camped out in my van the night before. It certainly made the early start the next day a little easier.

The meeting point is the usual spot, Aratula BP, an hour outside of Brisbane. The hike starts a further 80km into the Main Range along a dirt road with a couple of stream crossings, which could have been more of a hazard if it had actually rained in Queensland over the past months. At one slightly deeper crossing, we were forced to leave half of the cars behind and pile into my van for the last several kilometres to a pleasant looking farm.

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Through the gate, we headed along a dirt road which we believed was the beginning of the hike. But after following the dirt road a couple of kilometres we finally discovered a National Park sign and a thin trail that was the actual start point.

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We walked through overgrown rainforest for about two kilometres following the thin trail, slowly working our way uphill. Sometimes we taller walkers were forced to crawl to follow the trail.

At some points along the hike we followed pink ribbons attached to trees, but mostly we followed the vague trail. About an hour in, however, the trail petered out and we were left without markers in the overgrown rainforest. And being immersed in trees, there were no reference points, not even the mountain we knew was there. Our instructions directed us south east, so with compasses out, we headed off-trail in search of a more obvious trail.

As we walked we found a downed tree across the gully like a bridge.

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We then climbed a wet gully, continuing south east. At the top we located the trail we’d been looking for and followed it. While unsure exactly where we were, we stopped for lunch before continuing along the trail, following it deeper into the rainforest.

The trail ended abruptly at a rocky gully and we discussed our options. It was 1.30pm with sunset due at 5.45pm. We’d been walking nearly 3 hours, so we had to judge how long push on before turning back, allowing ourselves time to return to the vehicles before sunset. After a search around the bottom of the gully, we located a tin arrow nailed to a tree, a marker mentioned in the instructions! We decided to follow the arrow and it led us up the rocky gully.

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The rocky gully climbed upwards rather steeply, occasionally forcing us to climb short cliffs and avoid both stinging nettles and Gympie Gympie plants, touching either is not suggested.  We scaled a large fallen tree trunk, which posed more of an issue for the shorter legged members of the group. At the top of one short cliff we located the bomber’s engine block.

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This prompted us to continue climbing.  A little further up we were distracted by some pink markers that led us nowhere, so we returned to the gully and continued climbing.

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Eventually after a series of intense scrambles, we found the bomber’s fuselage wreckage, a solitary wing and a mess of other metal.

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We stopped for a short break before beginning the long journey back to the vehicles.  We would have liked to have continued to the top of Superbus, but with the short winter days, it was best not to.

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The climb down was fairly straightforward and on arriving back at the tin arrow, we again located the main trail. We followed it back and discovered where we had lost the trail.

We arrived back at the vehicles as the sun began to set and drove back to Aratula hotel for the obligatory post hike beer.

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Overall, while we started late and lost the trail going in, we found the wreck and got out before sunset. A great adventure and an intense hike with a good bunch of people.

The not so Lone Trail Wanderer

Mt Barney National Park – Mt Maroon

At nearly 1000m above sea level, Mt Maroon stands out because of its jagged rocky parapets.

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Today’s my second walk in the Mt Barney National Park, having walked to the Lower Portals yesterday. Similar to yesterday, I arranged to meet the group at the sleepy town of Rathdowney.

Once the small group had arrived we drove to the trailhead. The walk begins at a pond and as ducks frolicked in the water we headed along a grassy path. The path turned quickly to dirt and then to rock as it climbed, initially at a slight gradient before getting steeper.

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The four of us climbed slowly up the slope of the shorter rocky spire beside Mt Maroon. The dirt, rock and root steps led us steadily through the sparse tree-covered slope, giving the occasional peek at the surrounding land and the rocky parapet of the main mountain.

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Grass Trees began to appear as we climbed and the terrain turned more rocky. We climbed around it and over a small series of boulders.

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It was here that the trail changed.  We headed down across the top of a steep gully towards the main rock face. The trail became sand mixed with ash from a fire several years earlier and soon began to climb again. The trail turned quite steep and there were several places we had to scramble over rocks. This was the hardest part of the hike and we quickly made our way up through it, working our way along the rocky wall.

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Small bamboo-like trees began to grow in a grove as we climbed through more rocky out crops until we eventually arrived at the saddle where the trail flattened out.

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To our left, a short path led to a large flat rocky out crop.  We climbed it and at the top we had out first real taste of the views. We also discovered that the rocky parapet we’d thought was the summit was only the middle peak of three.  The top peak beckoned us higher.

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The climb to the top peak was not hard compared with the rest of the climb. More of a scramble over large slabs of rock lying on top of each other. Following one of our racier companions, we quickly climbed the distance to the top and just stood in awe at the view around us. At the top of Mt Maroon, there are few trees, a large cairn…

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…and 360º views across the fantastic landscapes around us.

Just to the south on the state border the peaks of Mt Barney.

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To the side of Mt Barney and across the border is Mt Lindsey with its unique rocky spire.

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To the west we could see Mt Greville, Mt Edwards and Moogerah Lake.

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To the north, the parapet of Mt Maroon, the middle peak being part of a rocky crater.

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The only downside of the Mt Maroon climb was the number of people waiting for us at the top. Several groups had all decided to climb the mountain today and there was a veritable party going on up there.

The four of us kept to ourselves as we ate lunch. Then after 30 minutes of the glorious view the thought of a beer persuaded us to begin our descent. The steeper parts were trickier coming down but didn’t cause any problems.  After about 90 minutes we arrived back at the cars and headed back to Rathdowney for a well-earned beer.

The Trail Wanderer.

Moogerah Peaks National Park – Mt Greville

Today I arranged for my hiking group to join me to climb Mt Greville. Mt Greville is across the lake from Mt Edwards and has a harsh looking rocky side.

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The mountain is also known as kangaroo mountain, as from certain angles it looks like a grazing kangaroo.

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For my last group hike I ended up with nearly 45 walkers.  With Mt Greville being a more difficult climb, I decided to limit the numbers. This time 16 people registered and of those, 13 arrived at the usual meeting place in Aratula, where we drove as a convoy to the car park.

The initial part of the walk is a vehicle track heading across the grass at the base of the mountain. The vehicle track quickly turns into a rocky trail and cuts up a gently slope to a sign pointing us towards Palm Gorge. This would be the last sign we would see today. From here the track gets very rocky and steep. Thankfully most of us are in hiking boots.

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The slope intensifies and we begin to see a stone cliff wall ahead that looks to block our progress.  As we approach the wall, we notice a small channel of rock to the right leading to a rocky gorge.

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There are trees dotted around and dead palm fronds everywhere. We pick our way up through the gorge which at times is barely two metres across.

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There was a deep sense of beauty during our climb and a sense of being small. Before we even reached the top, this gorge helped to make Mt Greville one of my favourite hikes in South East Queensland.

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We emerged from the gorge covered in sweat and rested for a few minutes to let the stragglers catch up.

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When we set off again it felt like we were somewhere else. The rocky gorge gave way to a tree-lined dirt trail with grass along either side.  We could see the top of the mountain vaguely through the tree canopy to the north. The climb continued more steeply and we quickly arrived at a lookout giving views across to the ramparts of the Main Range.

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As we neared to summit, Grass Trees began to appear as they tend to do near the top of most peaks in this region. We pushed on and before we knew it we arrived at the large cairn at the top, where we shed out bags and rested.

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The views from the top were minimal, hidden behind the trees, but a couple of short tracks lead down to viewing points on either side. To the north, I got down to a rock slab that gave me good views along the Main Range and Mt Edwards beside Moogerah Lake.

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Along the short southern track I was awarded with views over the mountains to the south, including Mt Barney in the distance – the site of my next walk with the group.

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On the way down, we retraced out steps to the top of the Palm Gorge but took an alternate route. The South East track leads through some dense bush and open rocky slopes. It can be a little confusing going down, but with plenty of eyes, we easily spotted the trail of cairns and orange arrows. This slope proved more picturesque and allowed for a view to the south, west and occasionally to the north.

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We stopped here and there to look down a gorge or from the top of a cliff. The slope was sometimes steep, but you gotta love the grip of quality hiking boots. We soon dropped back into the forest and followed an easier track until we came to the previously mentioned sign. From there it was fairly flat and easy-going back to the car.

Mt Greville was a most enjoyable climb with a great group of people. I highly recommend this climb to anyone who is fit enough to climb it.

Afterwards the group stopped in to the Aratula Hotel for the obligatory post hike beer.

Next week, a bit of a rest and a couple of minor walks in D’Aguilar National Park.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

Moogerah Peaks National Park – Mt Edwards and Mt French

Happy first day of spring in Queensland! This weekend I’ve driven out to Moogerah Peaks National Park, about an hour south-west of Brisbane, to explore some of the vocalic peaks in the park.  Today I’ll be exploring two of the easier ones, while tomorrow I tackle the more challenging Mt Greville with my hiking group.

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Mt Edwards – 6.5km return
From Aratula, my usual starting point for walks in this region, Mt Edwards’ tree covered cone can’t be missed, it’s right there at the end of town.

To get to the trailhead, you drive about 10 km from town to the Lake Moogerah Picnic area overlooking the lake. The lake itself isn’t huge, but it’s larger than Lake Perseverance in the Crows Nest National Park, where I was last weekend. It’s beautiful although the noise pollution from jet boats can be heard for kilometres around. Mt Greville rises from the far side of the lake with the Main Range Ramparts behind it.

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At one end of the lake is a dam which must be crossed to get to the trailhead. The dam gives better views of the Main Range and Mt Greville, but also of Mt Edwards and it’s companion, Little Edward.

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The trail climbs at a fairly steep angle from the beginning, initially along a sealed path then up dirt steps with plentiful tree roots for stability. The trail cuts through the trees and gives a sprinkle of sun as you go. About a kilometre in, a family came back the other way, with two young boys and their father wearing sandals.

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The steep steps continue, weaving their way through the trees and up the side of the mountain. Other than the vista of Little Edward it’s difficult to get good views during the climb because of the tree cover, with the occasional view back at the lake.

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The trail pushes onwards without respite at the same steepness as it began. This constant climbing is the hardest thing about this walk, but it certainly gets the sweat flowing.

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Towards the top the trail changes, finally flattening out briefly…

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…before emerging at the summit.

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A trail leads along the top in both directions to different viewing points, all giving pretty much the same amazing views north. It’s a shame trees obscure views in all other direction as I would have liked to have seen better views of the lake or along the Main Range ramparts.

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I hung around at the top for half an hour to dry my shirt and have lunch before heading down again. On the way down, I heard a noise beside the path and stopped to watch a foot long grass snake slither past. It was the cutest thing and must have only been young for its size.

I was back at the van 2 hours after I’d started and after a quick stop at the cafe for an ice block, I was off to the next spot for the day.

Mt French Cliffs – 4km return 

Mount French is used by rock climbers as the cliff faces to the north are good for technical climbs.  The top of Mt French is long and flat with a car park at its summit.

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I walked to Logan Lookout and along the cliff tops for a few minutes admiring the views.

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I wandered back along the other side, where there is a short loop and some views of the Main Range.

20 minutes later I was back at the van and heading off again.

Main Range National Park – Palm Grove – 3.6km
With a couple of hours of sunlight to kill before I nestled down for the evening, I decided to head back out to the Main Range and do one of the short walks I hadn’t previously done. This one skirts the cliffs at the base of Mt Cordeaux.

From the beginning it’s easy to tell you are in the rain forest, as the heat of the day just disappears and it feels rather wintery.

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The walk wasn’t hard but to keep warm I had to walk fairly quickly. There were some short views west from the mountains but most of the walk is along the side of a fairly sheer tree-lined bank under the cover of trees. There are some large specimens here although many have been attacked by strangler figs.

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After an hour I arrived back at the van and headed off to the camping ground to get ready for Mt Greville tomorrow.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.