Sunday, 19 February 2017

Anne Frank's diary

Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl whose family went into hiding during the second world war. She was one of the most famous victims of the holocaust because of the fact that she kept a diary during her time in hiding and documented every detail of their time there.

Anne was born in June 1929. She lived in Germany until 1934, when Hitler took control of Germany and the Frank family was forced to flee to the Netherlands. They took residence in Amsterdam.

After the Netherlands surrendered to Germany in 1940, the Franks, being Jewish, started being restricted by many rules and regulations that the Germans had made. Among these were, that Jewish people could not use public transport, Jewish people had to wear a star of David, Jewish people had to go to certain stores and had to send their children to Jewish schools, and many, many more. These rules had started accumulating in Germany over a long period since years before the war, but as they kept getting added, the Jews got more and more restricted. Soon they weren't allowed to have bikes, and they had to walk everywhere.

In June 1942, Anne got a notebook for her thirteenth birthday. She decided to use it as a diary, and started writing in it. On the fifth of July, her family received a call-up from the Nazis and had to move their plan to go into hiding ten days forward. They took their possessions and moved to a section in the back of the factory where Anne's father had worked. They started staying there with another Jewish family.

Anne was the youngest of the people in hiding. She was with her mother and father, Edith and Otto Frank, and her older sister Margot. They were hiding with the Van Pels family, who Anne called the Van Daan family in her diary. The Van Pels family included Auguste and Hermann Van Pels, and their 16-year-old son Peter. In November, since both families had agreed that their hiding place could fit another resident, they were joined by Fritz Pfeffer, a German dentist who wanted to hide from the Nazis but unlike the Franks, who had become fluent at Dutch, Pfeffer spoke a mix of Dutch and German. He was referred to as Albert Dussel in Anne's diary.

In her diary, Anne called their place of hiding the "Achterhuis", translated into English as "secret annex". It was a three-storey area at the back of the factory. The people who worked there brought them food and told them what was happening in the outside world. They also designed and built a bookshelf to conceal the door to the Achterhuis. The bookshelf was on hinges, so that the helpers could easily get in and out.

The residents had to be extremely quiet during the day, to avoid being heard by the people in neighboring buildings. They had to tiptoe around the house, and whisper to each other. Being seen on the street was too risky, and they had to stay in the building for all of the two years they lived there. Everyone there knew, that at any minute they could get arrested by the Germans, and this caused a lot of stress and tension among them. Despite all this, Anne kept a lot of hope and optimism.

During March 1944, Anne Frank heard on the radio that manuscripts such as diaries written during the war would have a chance of being published after the war. Anne, with a view of becoming the author of a published novel, started writing a second edition of her diary, excluding some parts, rewriting others, adding new text, and giving all of the helpers and all of the residents of the Achterhuis pseudonyms.

In the October of 1944, Anne Frank and the other Jews in hiding were found and arrested by German troops. Anne and her sister Margot were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died of typhus in February 1945, only two months before the camp was liberated by English soldiers.

Right after the families' arrest, one of the helpers, Miep Gies, found the diary that Anne Frank had left behind. She hoped to return it to Anne after the war. She did not want to read it, because she knew that if she did, she would want to burn it, due to the fact that it contained the names of all of the people who were helping the Franks.

After the war, Anne's father Otto Frank, who, out of the eight Jews that had lived behind the factory, was the only one that survived the war, came back to the place where they had lived for two years. Once Anne's death was announced, Miep gave him the diary, along with the other notebooks and papers that the second edition was written on. Otto used both the original manuscript and the extra notes to construct a version of Anne's diary that got published in Dutch in 1947. The diary was titled "Het Achterhuis" and had five printings by 1950. Otto also assisted in rescuing the building from demolition and turning it into a museum. The museum is known as the "Anne Frankhuis" in the Netherlands and is still accessible today.

Today, Anne Frank's diary is well known and has been translated into 67 languages with over 30 million copies sold. Anne is seen as a symbol of the persecution of Jews during the second world war.

The Budawangs

Introduction

This is an account of a Scout hike I did, which is a variation of the Wog Wog to The Castle hike. I organised the hike myself, with my old Scout group.

I had trouble finding a hike route, or even an area, so I turned to a hiking guidebook (Bushwalking in Australia) for guidance. I immediately found the Corang Peak to The Castle walk, nestled in the Budawang Ranges east of Canberra. The organisation of the hike was not that complicated; I quickly got in touch with my old Scout leader, who agreed to be supervisor for the hike. After getting some advice from leaders near The Budawangs, I changed our planned route, but nothing else really happened otherwise.

Transportation

Since our Scout leaders were hiking with us, they were the ones who transported us to Wog Wog by way of Goulburn from Woy Woy. As we passed over creeks and rivers on the four hour drive I guessed, correctly, that we would have no problem finding water. The final access was by way of an unexpected dirt road, but we had no problem finding Wog Wog Campsite and the trailhead. The way back was the same.


The Hike

Day 1 -- Thursday 12 January 2017



We had all had a good night’s sleep at Skip’s house; everybody but Annabell elected to stay there for the night. It was at around 7:30 when we picked up Annabell at her house and left as a contingent toward Wog Wog. After an exhausting four hour drive to the Upper Shoalhaven, we unpacked our bags and started to hike. In about ten minutes we crossed a creek named Wog Wog Creek then climbed back out of the gully and ten minutes later we were on a scrubby path with loads of cobwebs. There were no landmarks and the path was hard, so it was really tiring. We eventually passed an old fence walking along the ridgeline.
The warning sign at Wog Wog

To the right of the path, we saw an outcrop that turned out to be Tinderry Rocks. This was one of our checkpoints, so we waited until we had radio contact before going further. While waiting, we had a good lunch and I checked my SPOT tracker which I was also carrying (the SPOT tracker relayed our location to friends and family, ensuring that they knew more about where we were than we did). The view was of some farmlands down south, not amazing. After the rocks, we continued into a small saddle and started looking for a faint trail to the left. We found several which turned out to be false leads, then continued to the other side of the saddle and found one immediately. This was the Corang Lagoon Track and we would follow it for the next four K’s. The track crossed four creeks, including the big Goodsell Creek, all of which were flowing well which surprised me. We also passed through a lot of scrub where we had to duck and I had to constantly disentangle my bag. But we made it to the campsite easily with plenty of time, and set up our tents.


After setting up tents, we realised it was 4:00 PM and still full daylight so we went rock hopping. I have seen pictures of the Corang Lagoon right next to camp, and it really looked like a great swimming spot, but the one we found was even better. We rockhopped down the Corang River, with was flowing over its banks, and got to a spectacularly big lagoon that already looked great. We then swam across and found another, much bigger lagoon below! We returned here again and again, high diving from cliffs on the side. The water was perfect and felt great.

We went to sleep around this time as this was when it got dark. The leaders arrived late, around 7: 00 PM, mainly because Skip was walking slow. Corang Lagoon was a great camp and I would not mind returning.


Day 2 -- Friday 13 January 2017



We woke up at 7:30. I was cooking pancakes, sharing them with people because I had too many, and we decided to leave around 10:00 to allow for them to finish cooking. Our original route followed the river, but I and Matt decided it would be much easier to cut across a bend in the river by way of a faint trail. We found it fairly quickly and set off into the bush.

Once again our leaders were far behind, and we all had to wait to make contact again after crossing Broula Brook. Then we climbed a small ridge and it was like we were stepping into an ad. There was a gigantic, circular lagoon surrounded by rock walls with a waterfall streaming down the rocks on the opposite side. This was the beginning of the Corang Cascades and as we dropped our packs on a rock shelf to go swimming, I saw more similar pools upriver.

Corang Cascades
Our plan allowed for two hours stay at the cascades, but we ended up staying until 3:00 to escape the summer heat. Still this gave me, Cameron and Skip time to look around for the route we would follow. We finally located it on top of the ridgeline on the south side of the river, and once we were ready we followed it. The footpad, undoubtedly created by hikers like us, went up Canowie Brook. We decided to follow this rather than going up Burrumbeet Brook, because the distance was the same anyway, and Canowie was easier.

We walked up the creek easily, through long grass, with blank rock walls towering on both sides. We got to the main track and turned left. The track was well graded but not as well graded as the first day. We climbed to the top of a rise and descended into Burrumbeet Valley, with monoliths towering on both sides. Strong rain and wind was now present, although I liked it as it gave me a break from the heat. When in the valley we saw a sign pointing to a toilet. I thought it was a joke, but a minute later we saw it, just sitting out there in the bush! A moment later we passed a father/son group, hiking out to Wog Wog despite the late hour. We rested at some spiky rocks, where we joked about calling an Uber, and hiked on to Bibbenluke Mountain.

The view from our campsite!
The trail to Bibbenluke was good and despite the late time we got to bed early. (Except for the leaders, who came at around 9.) In preparation for our day hike on the next day, I packed by day bag full of the stuff I needed. The trail had been very faint and scratchy, and my legs were bleeding from the scratches. Still we were good to do the day hike the following day, and I had a good night’s sleep.




Day 3 — Saturday 14 January 2017



A sign of civilisation...stone axe grooves
Near Seven Gods
After a fairly late start to the day, we walked, for about an hour, to the camping caves on Mount Cole. The caves were gigantic and one of them had a stream pouring from the high cliffs above, so we had a nice shower there before continuing. Now our group was split into two, with the back group walking just in front of the leaders. It was great country, so when we arrived at a sign announcing our arrival in Monolith Valley, we stopped for lunch.


The Seven Gods
We scrambled to the top of a rock pinnacle next to the saddle, which had an amazing view; I mean, I could see the surrounding area laid out like a map in front of me — Donjon Mountain, which looked mostly made of gigantic, beehive-like pillars. Then we waited for the back group. After one and a half hours without radio contact, we decided to backtrack and see if everything was right. It turned out it was fine and they were simply stopping for lunch, so we met them around the cave with the shower.

Since some of the Scouts were walking behind, I had the choice of walking with them or the others. I walked with them so I could oversee the hike more easily. Monolith Valley was amazing. Normally creeks carve gorges, but here I felt like the gorges were already there and the creeks had the option to follow them. Above the gorges were massive monoliths like the Seven Gods Pinnacle above. There was row upon row of slot canyons, and we hiked down one of them to reach a waterhole.

The descent slope into the valley
The waterhole. We called it 'the Japanese garden' owed to the pagoda-like rocks,
others call it the Green Room.
It was now that we reached a footbridge at the base of the valley, where there was an intersection and the turnoff for Mount Owen. We would normally have turned back because not doing so would mean a night hike, but we had phones and bright head torches so we continued. The track, rather than following a creek, went up a small gap between two rocks and back down the other side. We then crossed a bouldery creek. As we were climbing among the boulders, I remembered thinking: it would be very hard to backtrack in the dark if we had to turn back.

The awesome view we came for
We climbed up a section of tree roots to follow a faint trail into a maze of gigantic rock pillars. We scrambled up different ones, had snacks and generally used the time we had. Us and the leaders (we were all walking together now as they did not know the route, either) located a route, steeply up a small gully. It was now very faint and I don’t think many people got this far without turning back. We stopped at a massive outlook, admiring the view, and embarked on a route to the other side.

After making an uneventful traverse of Mount Owen, we viewed our options. Our initial plan was to walk to the South side of the plateau, but this was so optional I never even mentioned it on briefing that morning. So we started to descend the Western side. The track was extremely hard to find, and we tried many routes to finally get to the descent gully. We got there, eventually, by giving up on the routes and bushbashing into the gully.

The guidebook mentioned a steep climb down a slab, then a Monolith Valley sign. We found the slab, and a possible trail below, but the time was late and we unanimously decided to return by the route we came on, no matter how long it would take. The route back (which was surprisingly easy to follow, compared to what we had descended) took us very quickly across the plateau and down the ascent gully. Then we reached the roots and this was when it got tricky.

It was pitch dark in the gully, even though it was still light above. We passed an impressive cairn Will made, then descended from a ledge into the boulder field. I thought we might get lost here and I was right. For forty minutes, we stumbled around in the dark, trying to locate a trail. The leaders were joining us, less because they were helping us and more because they were lost themselves. We repeatedly returned to a small cairn, the last point we all remembered. While having a rest here, somebody — Will I think — flashed a really bright head torch on a gully right next to us and we saw three cairns, in a row, leading up! We immediately got to our feet as we all recognised the route, and were at the footbridge in five minutes. It was good we got out when we did as one of the leaders had almost been in panic (which got us all nervous) and we were all out of water. Amazingly, Matt stayed cool through it all and really helped calm people down which was great.

As we were filling our water bottles and bladders up, I noticed something interesting: glow worms. The Monolith Valley glow worms were brighter than anything I had seen before and they were covering the sides of the gorge at places, their lights reflecting off the water. They were not mentioned in blogs or even the official national park report, but this was not surprising as camping is not allowed in Monolith Valley. We sleepwalked the 3k back to camp. The walk back was slow but very easy and we arrived at Bibbenluke at midnight.



Day 4 — Sunday 15 January 2017


It was perfect hiking weather when we got up at 9: foggy and cool. Since the earlier day’s night hike had been so tough, I think we all hoped this day would be easy on us. I cooked a dehydrated meal — my last food left, not counting some mints and lollies — and we were on the track by 11:00. I would have been concerned about the late time, but last light was at 9:00 PM and I had learnt not to think about it much.


We hiked the 6k distance to Canowie Brook in an extraordinary two hours, battling the scrub. We had a good long stay at Burrumbeet Brook en route, and Will summoned up the energy to take out the Jetboil and make a cappuccino. Eventually we had to go again though, so we made it back on the trail just after the leaders arrived.


Near Burrumbeet Brook
Just after Canowie brook we climbed up a slope. The trail was definitely better than it was that morning, and I saw what some bloggers meant about the trail getting easier the closer to Wog Wog it was. After climbing up a conglomerate ramp (conglomerate is sandstone with pebbles in it), we saw the Corang Arch; the Arch was something the leaders were really looking forward to seeing.
From near the Arch

We had a long lunch during which we climbed up the Arch to see it from various angles. Skip got a good shot of me standing on top. Unfortunately there were no great views from the Arch; the fog had still not disappeared. We continued. The track went up Corang Peak, but we bypassed it because it was hard and there would be no views from the top anyway.

The path was really, really easy and followed metal boardwalks. My mostly empty bag was not dragging on my shoulders and no plants were scratching my legs so for once in the hike I felt good. I stopped to take photos but there was still little to take photos of. The ridgeline was boring and people were complaining about the lack of scenery. We were hungry and exhausted and all wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I had no food left save a couple mints. The leaders were hours behind so we waited to contact them on radio again.

Barkers Pass is a scramble over and between two outcrops. Just past it the trail became clearer and was descending down an open ridge. Ten minutes after the pass we were back at the intersection near Wog Wog. The leaders came in sight and we started zombie walking the last three K’s to Wog Wog. I don’t remember anything about the walk, except that we separated at one point (no need to stay together on a clear track with radios) and I was walking with Annabell and Cameron in the back.


The Summary

Route: The route was much tougher than expected, mainly because most of the tracks were overgrown; it was, after all, a wilderness. Some route changes were made on hike and these included: Going up Broula rather than Burrumbeet (because the river was impassable) on Day 2, not walking South on Mount Owen Day 3 because of lack of time, and hiking back the way we came on Day 3 because of lack of light. 

Navigation: The hike required all kinds of complicated navigation, in what would have been just the right amount if I wasn’t leader of the group. I constantly had to make checks, remember to make checks, think about which trail led where, and be constantly aware of exactly where we were at any moment. It was exhausting. Most of this led to the fact that this literally was a wilderness we were hiking in. But navigationally the hike was a success. We never strayed more than 30m off a track and always knew exactly where we were, which must have been a milestone of some kind. There was only confusion about where the track led twice, both times on an offtrack section with no clear tracks anyway.

Pacing: We really had to pace ourselves because of the summer heat, so we were setting no time records. But we did not have to anyway because the sun stayed up as late as we did. Still, the summer heat meant we had to take unneeded, prolonged stops on both the second and third days. This severely impacted the time we got back and, in the case of Day 3, it may have prevented us from circumnavigating Mount Cole.

Summary Summary: Overall the hike was a great success. All of us were looking forward to going back, even if only to swim on the Corang River again. Water access was great, the creeks flowed all year round and both campsites were very, very good for the wilderness. Selkie was talking about going back to find the rest of the route on Mount Owen. I even recall Lissette being disappointed that she couldn’t do her Green Cord hike here as well. Although it was hard at times, we got through everything. And Monolith Valley was better than anything I had ever expected, being comparable to Uluru but better because it had glow worms.




Special Assignments

Since nobody from the Scout group had been hiking in the ranges east of Canberra since the group was revived in 2012, the assignment automatically given to us was to determine the suitability of The Budawangs as a hiking area. Basically the assignments we were given were as follows:

- Determine and document the sustainability and quality of all water sources.
- Determine and document the suitability of all campsites.
- Pioneer hiking trails, determine their quality and hardness and document any attractions not in published information if found.

List of Water Sources
Since there had been a lot of rain over the weeks before the hike and it was drizzling a lot during the hike, every creek we passed was flowing. The water we found is as follows:
- Wog Wog Creek, which we had to rock hop over, was large and flowing well.
- Goodsell Creek was even bigger than Wog Wog Creek. There were four creeks we crossed near it but they were really intermittent.
- Long explanation short, the Corang River will never dry out.
- Canowie Brook was flowing so well we needed a bridge to cross it.
- Burrumbeet Brook was flowing really well, and so was a side creek we had to cross on our way into the valley.
- There was a small creek we walked by near Bibbenluke Mountain, and the creek at the Camp itself was small but reliable (maybe it was fed by a spring?).
- There is a large creek crossing on the way to Mount Cole (Flying Fox Creek?), but it’s really close to Bibbenluke so I wouldn’t bother.
- Flowing down from Nibelung Pass is a small creek. But it needs to be treated because it flows too slow. Also the shower at the second camping cave doesn’t just feel good to be in but is drinkable.
- In Monolith Valley is a large creek, which was flowing when we were there.
- There is no water between Canowie Brook and Wog Wog on the Scenic trail. Luckily this doesn’t take long to walk.
- In conclusion the best water sources are Wog Wog, Goodsell, Corang, Canowie, Burrumbeet, Flying Fox, and Monolith creeks with some trickles at Bibbenluke Mountain and the Mount Cole camping caves.

List of Campsites
- Wog Wog itself is a big campsite with water from the nearby creek.
- Since the forest between Wog Wog and Tinderry Rocks is so flat and open, it’s possible to camp anywhere there. It wouldn’t be nice, though.
- There are some clearings around the Scenic Rim - Corang Lagoon intersection where you could fit one or two tents.
- A large (space for about 3 tents) campsite is on the side of one of the creeks near Goodsell Creek. It has good water access but is rocky and exposed.
- Corang Lagoon Camp has two fireplaces, is really big and could fit about 5 three-man tents. Great shady campsite, looking toward coming back.
- There is a clearing/campsite on top of the ridge above Broula Brook. It’s pretty big and would be the best spot to camp for touring the cascades both upriver and downriver. It could fit one patrol on uneven ground.
- There are a couple of small, swampy camping spots on the way up Canowie Brook. Sad looking really.
- There are a bunch of big flat camping areas around Canowie Brook that could fit a patrol or two.
- You could fit a whole Jamboree troop in the walls and campsites of Burrumbeet Brook. You wouldn’t even need tents for most of them. Great big collection of camping sites and caves, a big reliable creek and even a drop toilet.
- We only just barely squeezed into Bibbenluke Camp; if it didn’t have water it would have been unremarkable. It’s not the best campsite in terms of parasites but has a good view and some okay satellite campsites.
- The camping caves on the side of Cole are really good. Since camping is forbidden in Monolith Valley, if I came back to explore this would probably be my basecamp. The second one is sloped but has the added bonus of a shower.
- No good campsites around Corang Peak. If you had lots of water you could use a small campsite near Korra Hill.
- The list of campsites usable by a Patrol are as follows: Wog Wog, Corang Lagoon, Broula Brook, Canowie Brook, Burrumbeet Brook, Bibbenluke Camp and the Owen Camping caves (possibly).

Pioneering

Hiking in The Budawangs during Summer has a good side and a bad side. The good side is the swimming; we saw more of Corang River that way than most people ever see. The bad side is that the sun made us stop hiking during midday which slowed us down a lot. But there was even a good side to that; without the slower pace, we would not have been one of few groups ever to see the glow worms in Monolith Valley. As for the trails, they were bad and hard to follow and we often wasted time debating which track to follow. If we had somebody with us who had already done the hike, the traveling would have been much faster.

Friday, 30 December 2016

My entry for the Dear Friends letter 2016

2016 was a good year for me. One of the many highlights for me this year was Geocaching. Geocaching is an international sport which consists mainly of finding hidden boxes in the woods with a GPS(Co-ordinates are posted online). I found out about the game in April this year, and since then I have found 51 geocaches with my phone. I got to most of them on my bike and some of them on family trips and vacations, including trips to the Netherlands and Singapore.

Sailing season is around Summer(October-March in Australia), so this year had parts of two sailing seasons. The first, when I went to the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly, QLD, started in late 2015. During that term I completed the Tackers course, which teaches basic knowledge of sailing for children. I needed the certificate from Tackers to get into Green Fleet(higher level teaching, including the rules of racing). I sailed in Green fleet through the beginning of 2016 and up until March. By then, the sailing season had ended, and I finished Green Fleet and was allowed to sail in a higher level group, Intermediate Fleet(also called Blue Squadron) during the next season. Unfortunately, sailing in Intermediate Fleet required owning a Laser at the sailing club, which are very expensive. Because of this, I had to start sailing at another club the next season.

Starting at October, I sailed at the Humpybong sailing club at Redcliffe. Since I had completed Tackers, I was able to get straight into Green Fleet. Because there are no higher-level courses at Humpybong, the next step was to become a Tackers assistant instructor. I enrolled in a two-day course back at Manly and got an AI certificate. The course I will be helping with will be in early January.

Meanwhile, I had been reading many books with Steve every evening. This year we finished The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, we read Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare, which we watched with my grandmother, and we read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

I have also been practicing clarinet regularly and have passed the grade 3 music examination for clarinet. I am now working on some pieces of music for two auditions which are both scheduled mid-January.

One of the biggest highlights for the year was the trip to the Netherlands. As it started, eight time zones of air travel made August literally the longest month of my life(and September the shortest). We switched to a connecting flight in Dubai on the way and saw some of the airport. A few days after we got to Leeuwarden, capital of Friesland, we took a ferry to Terschelling, our favourite island. It is a small island, only 30km long, and I had a lot of fun biking around the island and seeing the nature, the towns, the farmland, and the ruins of German WWII bunkers. After staying there for 3 weeks, we went south to the city of Nijmegen, stayed there for a few days and went around to an amusement park and the German border. Then we went back to Schiphol and flew to Singapore. We stayed there for 3 days and then returned to Australia. It was the best trip I had in 4 years.

Lost World

The Gold Coast is a weird place. Lots of beaches, lots of sunlight lots of high rises, no hills. It's kind of well known in Australia for being the Australian equivalent of Miami -- lots of high rises against the beach, inhabited by both rich and poor. People go there for vacations, or just to say they've been there. Like I said it's a weird place. On the Southern end of the Coast rises a series of low hills. These hills, which are low and fairly unpromising, rise quickly into a landscape which bears no resemblance to the strip malls and big houses below. Protected by the Lamington and Springbrook national parks, the landscape traces the border and is called the McPherson Range.

Many explorers have tried hard to map the area, but the McPherson Range is the size of Rhode Island and much, much more impenetrable. Even now, there are many valleys no European has ever set foot in within the range. Who knows; there might be undiscovered plants and animals in the area. The first road to lead into the area led to O'Reily's, a rainforest guesthouse that still stands today. Nowadays, many tracks and roads cross the range and we went on one of them to reach Green Mountains.

Green Mountains is the part of Lamington National Park that surrounds O'Reilly's. It contains some of the most mountainous, inaccessible rainforest in the entire park. The road to O'Reilly's, which has not changed route or width since it was built, is a one-lane road with many blind curves which looks like spaghetti on a road map. On the way there, the road even leads through a long, squiggly one-way cutout to get past a series of cliffs! We spent a very brief time in the Mountains -- two days. But during that time we saw a lot of the park, and really got a feel for what the mountains were like.

The morning after arriving, I and my dad and my brother set off for an extended hike: the Albert River Circuit, a seven hour hike that did most of the walking far away from the Green Mountains campground. We got up early to do the hike. There was no trail that led from the campground, so we walked along the road and past a parking lot to get to O'Reilly's. The O'Reilly's lodge has changed a lot since it was built, and it is now the centre of a large clump of hotel buildings, a cafe' and a souvenir shop. The O'Reillys still own it, though.

Across the road was the main trackhead, at a sign declaring that we had just arrived at the Border Track, a long trail connecting Green Mountains to a distant trailhead, Binna Burra. The Border Track is very well maintained for being the starting point of most day hikes in Green Mountains. We walked easily along the hard clay path before seeing a land mullet. Land mullets are a very large species of skink. This one was so big, I could have mistaken it for a baby crocodile if it had spikes on its back.

We continued to walk past intersection after intersection, always going straight ahead. The trees are gigantic in Lamington. Giant figs coated with vines and epiphytes loomed out of the green haze of the tree ferns. Vines were everywhere, and wherever there weren't vines there were cliffs. No small wonder explorers took so long to get this far. As the downhill slope on our left got steeper, I could sense a gigantic chasm to our left side, much deeper than it was wide. Both up and down, the slope went on and on without end. It was like we had shrunk to the size of insects, or like a small valley had grown to the scale of the Grand Canyon. Everything was much, much bigger than it should have been.

After an hour and a half of walking, we passed a gigantic Antarctic Beech -- so named for the place it was first identified, as a fossil -- and reached the beginning of the Albert River Circuit. We left the main trail on the right and followed an overgrown track, dodging fallen trees as the track narrowed. The Albert River flows on the next valley over from the Border Track, so I had expected to top out onto the ridge top between the two valleys. We never did. Instead, we contoured across the slope as it got steeper and and the path got surrounded by cliffs. For the whole time the track was doing this, I never suspected that we were slowly turning to the right, slowly winding around a mountain peak. Until the track switchbacked and it was obvious we were in a different valley than we started in.

The walking book we had (which was fairly outdated and may not have taken into account a track closure) told us we would reach the first waterfall of the track, Jimboomba Falls, about half an hour after turning off the Border Track. It was full hour and we had not even seen a creek yet. Then suddenly, we turned a corner and crossed a dry creek bed. Stupidly thinking this was Jimboomba Falls, we kept walking and then saw something totally weird. It was a lobster. Except it was crawling along dry ground far from a flowing creek. And it was blue and white. I don't know why -- I mean, it was just a lobster -- but it weirded me out. I learned later that this was a Lamington Spiny Crayfish, a freshwater yabby endemic to the Mcpherson Range between Tamborine and the Main Range.

Excited about the find of the crayfish, we walked easily to what was actually Jimboomba Falls to have a snack. The falls were just a small cascade, but they were interesting to see partly because thick moss growing on the sides made them look otherworldly. After checking for leeches we continued on a steep zigzag downward, sometimes clinging onto cliffs to avoid slipping and falling. Often we would have glimpses of the creek, which was always pouring over a high waterfall. At the end of the zigzag, we crossed the creek with glimpses of Lightning Falls -- a very high, free falling waterfall.

Earlier we had not been following the Albert River, but an offshoot called Lightning Creek. Just after Lightning Falls, we descended to the river itself. It was big, about five times as big as Lightning Creek. The first waterfall we discovered on the river was Mirror Falls. Mirror Falls was the most beautiful, mainly because of the mossy walls on either side of it. We passed four other, not very impressive falls in quick succession, before arriving at Echo Point Lookout which altered my view of the place completely.

Descending down to the creek was steep, but climbing back up was along more or less flat ground. Then we headed along a sidetrack to the lookout. Before I even arrived I could sense a void ahead of us, like we were standing at the edge of the Earth. In another minute we practically were. The Escarpment, which traces the New South Wales-QLD border, is a massive crescent shaped cliff that drops steeply and almost vertically about a kilometre into the plains below. We were standing on its edge, from which we could see the hulking ramparts of Mount Warning, the Border and Nightcap Ranges and even Byron Bay and the entire Gold Coast. It was the best view I have ever seen in SEQ, hands down.

We zombie walked for two hours back out along the Border Track, collapsing at what I hoped was a cafe'. It was the start of a treetop walk. Normally I don't like treetop walks -- I mean, they seem to be everywhere and I'm sick of them -- but this walk was pleasantly rickety and seemed like it would fall apart at any moment. I really liked it. We spent some time there, then walked back to the tents and collapsed.

If you are interested in walking the Albert River Circuit, or just want to know more, someone made an interesting video about it. A link is provided here.

The walks of the following day were done with another family who were friends of us. Since we had little time and energy left, we chose short walks around the area. The first one, to Python Rock, gave us a spectacular view over the mountains and really revealed how deep the gorges went. I would say they were about as big as Grose Gorge in the Blue Mountains, possibly bigger. Then we went on another walk, to the top of Morans Falls. But as we were arriving at the top of the waterfall, the sky broke apart and a torrential downpour began. Using any convenient track to get us back to safety, we ran up a muddy track labelled "O'Reilly's".

Suddenly, we emerged on an old gravel road. Not knowing where to go we just went right and found an old wooden shack. We raced to get under the eaves. Suddenly, Dad called to tell us the door was unlocked and we scrambled in. An information board revealed it to be an old slaughterhouse. My dad, I and my little brother were here, but no one else was, so we just sat inside and waited.

After twenty minutes the rain stopped. Noting that nobody had arrived yet, we just got out and walked along the track ourselves. Leaving the road to follow a promising looking track, we walked through a picturesque rainforest on a windy path that went through several large gum trees. Finally, we emerged at O'Reilly's where we met the others, sitting at a cafe'. They told us they had taken a different track, and had been waiting for us for half an hour.

Lamington is not the most amazing place in the world, or even Australia. But it is a great place and a must visit for anyone living in or visiting South East Queensland.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Switzerland -- Into The Sky

In the late evening of Sunday 26 June, two hundred Australian Scouts quietly filed into Singapore's Changi Airport. They had all paid in excess of four thousand dollars to go where they were going now. And they would soon get paid back.

Our group wasn't a great representation of Australia or even Scouts. To start with, very few Scouts there came from the city. Furthermore, 130 of the Scouts there were from Victoria. Only twelve Scouts there came from Brisbane. However it didn't matter because we were the first ever Australian Scouts to visit, in a contingent, Kandersteg -- the spiritual home of Scouting worldwide.

After spending about three hours in the gigantic Changi Airport, we left on a long-haul flight to Zurich. I drifted off once on the plane, only waking up when we were flying over Turkey. When I woke up, clouds were obscuring the view, but I did see a pretty impressive mountain range to the South. An hour later we were flying over Romania, and in another hour we had arrived in Switzerland.
Romania

Zurich Airport is great. Most airports look exactly the same as each other, but the Zurich airport is a very cultural place, with pictures and Swiss flags and local shops everywhere. There were two things I saw being sold everywhere: Insanely expensive Swiss watches and chocolate truffles, also ludicrously overpriced. I would find these things being sold all over the country in the coming weeks.

From the airport we took a train to Bern, the Swiss capital. The countryside was indistinguishable from, say, Belgium, unless you look at the large paddocks and strangely shaped houses. From Bern we took another train to Kandersteg, and the countryside slowly changed. In ten minutes, mountains appeared in the distance. These mountains got higher and higher, and by the time we passed the provincial capital, Thun, we could see snow on the top of most of them. Soon after passing through the town of Adelboden, the train zigzagged up a glacial slope and suddenly, we were in the slotlike gorge of the river Kander. An entire valley, complete with waterfalls and houses perched on cliffs, unfolded in front of us.

Our grand arrival
It was noon as we lined up outside the train station and began a sleepwalk toward the Scout centre. I forgot the details of the walk, but I know I took some interesting pictures before setting up the tent and promptly collapsing inside. After I regained consciousness the morning afterward, I remembered it was a free day and I started sleeping again.


First Day

At long last, I finally woke up and had some breakfast. Meanwhile, I had a walk around the campsite to see who else was around. It turned out to be mostly Europeans: a German patrol camping next to us, a couple of Danish troops on summer camp, a group of Norwegians who turned out to be great at soccer, and some Swedish I barely saw. Other than the Australians the campsite was almost empty. After breakfast I met another group: Two or three patrols of American Boy Scouts and some Venturers, all from Houston, Texas. Not knowing what to expect, I walked over to talk to them. They turned out to be quite friendly.

After locating some friends from Woy Woy, we went to the pool. The pool at Kandersteg was great with a really high diving board (I only went on it once because my ears were bleeding afterward). We then looked around the shops. There was a souvenir shop which sold some really cool Swiss army knives, a couple of cheese shops, a shoe shop (Why?) and about a dozen hotels. I learned later that the hotels got most of their revenue from Scouts coming to and from the Centre.
Every town in the Alps has a church like this.

We walked to the tents to get some rest, and I set off for the main chalet. The main chalet of the Scout centre was a nice old building, originally built to house workers who built the Lotchenberg tunnel in the 1890s. Now it is a large bunkhouse built just for Scouts. Each room in the bunkhouse was paid for and maintained by a different Scout movement; we quickly found the Australian room. The centre also has more rooms, including the recreation rooms and even a computer room.

We ate dinner outside that night. The Pinkies -- the Scout centre staff, so named because of their pink uniforms -- set up a speaker outside the chalet so we could listen to music.

High Ropes and Thun

Central Thun
The first day was a lot of fun, but we would get no rest on the second day, because we were going to Thun. Thun is the provincial capital of the area around Kandersteg, and it was located on both sides of the fast-flowing Aare river. Before going there, we went to Interlaken for high ropes. The high ropes courses, of which there were nine, were fun and exciting. I even completed the hardest course the park had on offer. Interestingly, many of the adventure park staff were Australian.

Then we arrived at Thun. Thun has the same kind of neatness and age that I like about European cities. It even had a thousand year old castle and an equally old bridge. There were public drinking fountains around the old city.

Italy

If the second day went by in a blur, the third certainly didn't. The third day was, like the second day, one of our 'core' days -- in which we travelled as a troop to different locations. We were going to do a service project for the Centre, like chopping firewood, but during an assembly on the first day we received news that we were going to Italy! The Italy trip, which was already an optional free day activity, was a great trip and the cultural highlight of my time in Kandersteg.

I slept in that day because my alarm wasn't working. Luckily one of the Scout leaders rushed to my tent, woke me up, and we made the bus in time for the bus to enter a train, and go through the Lotchenberg tunnel to the village of Goppenstein. From here, the bus winded down into the Valias valley, home of the highest peaks in Europe.

We stopped for a rest break on a high mountain pass called Simplonpass, which was guarded by a pair of massive stone lions (erected in the the name of some general or other). In the Australian fashion, we raced to the top, but got strangely tired halfway and had to walk the rest of the way. I do not know how high the pass was -- possibly around 2100 metres -- but this was the first time the altitude struck me as existing.

We continued through an excitingly narrow chasm with sheer walls. The road had to veer left and right to avoid sharing the space with the river. Suddenly, the valley opened up and we found ourselves in Italy. Northern Italy is hard to describe. It is a very beautiful, hilly place with lots of vineyards. Our destination was the town of Stresa, a tourist hotspot. Over the two hours we spent there, I had by far the best ice cream and the best pizza I have ever tasted.

The architecture is also very interesting. Rather than the crumbly pillars many people imagine being there, Stresa is a town that looks like it was put together in a big hurry, by people who had no idea how to work with bricks. It probably was. We also found a shop that was selling authentic swords and machine guns! Off-the-beaten-road Italy struck me as a very strange place.

Of course, Italy also has a dark side. Burglary and theft is common, and over the fourteen days a lot of stories came out about near escapes from thieves. There was at least one confirmed thief roaming around while our troop was there. Luckily we didn't have any encounters with them. After a great trip, we began the drive back out.

Jacobs Ladder

In the morning, we walked back to the shops. I bought some cheese that turned out to be really good, and we visited a cafe for lunch. I also took some more pictures.

More Scouts were streaming into the Centre now. As we were playing soccer with the Norwegians, an entire new troop of Danish Scouts arrived. Scouts from Scotland had arrived the day before. There was talk of three hundred American Boy Scouts coming on Sunday. The Germans, meanwhile, had quietly left.

Since the Kandersteg Scout centre operates as a 'permanent mini jamboree', there were lots of activities that involved learning about different cultures. One was International Night. International Night, which happens every Tuesday, is a gathering of Scouts in which each Troop or contingent sets up their own table, so that other Scouts can learn about the other countries. We had two tables, which we filled with boomerangs, lamingtons, flags, postcards, and other Australian kind of stuff. A group of Scouts was trying to trick the Europeans into eating Vegemite. None of them liked it, and it was funny seeing their expressions. Surprisingly, the Americans did like it.

I choose this moment to mention that night because it was on this day that I taught some Danish Scouts how to throw a boomerang. I was practicing my throwing skills when they walked down the road and saw me.

That afternoon, we climbed Jacobs Ladder under threat of rain. Jacobs Ladder, located just behind the campsite, is a gigantic ladder with wooden rungs that get farther and farther apart. With another person, using teamwork, we had to climb the ladder. I and a Rover made it to the top, where we briefly stood on the top rung. While waiting for other teams to finish up, a Pinkie told us that this area used to be part of the campground, but was vacated due to a landslide that had buried two campsites.

Free Day

Very little happened on Free Day. I mainly rested, but in the afternoon we walked to the village and bought some souvenirs. I could have gone swimming, but my swimming gear wasn't with me. So I walked around until I found some friends, and then we went to a cafe. It was very cheap, and extremely good. I bought some bars of chocolate, which turned out to be some of the best chocolate I had ever tasted. Afterward we returned to the Chalet, and received the news that tonight would be campfire night.

We Australians arrived in a stony amphitheater to be greeted by all the Scouts from the other campsites. I scanned the steps: There were three troops of Danish, one troop of Norwegians, some Swedish, a group of Finnish, a Patrol of Spanish Scouts, the Americans, the Pinkies (which came from everywhere) and of course the Australians. The Australians,  comprising of over half the population of the camp, dominated the campfire. We heard songs, saw some funny skits, and then crawled into our tents for another night of sleep.

Lotchenpass

Gastern Valley from the top of Gallihorn
Lotchenpass was absolutely spectacular. I have never been to Nepal, but Lotchenpass reminded me of pictures of the Annapurna Circut. We got up early (except for me, I slept in again), and made a windy bus drive into the Gastern valley. All but hidden behind a waterfall, the Gastern valley took the appearance of a gorge. Once again, world-class peaks towered around us.

Our guide, whom I have forgotten the name of, was a woman -- a Pinkie, of course -- from Denmark. She led us slowly up the steep slope, passing waterfalls. It began to rain. We took refuge from the rain under the eaves of a hut, but eventually we had to move again.

The terminal moraine
The trail quickly flattened out and led along a U-shaped valley, blocked at the top end by a massive black wall. Above this, our guide told us, was a glacier. The path steeply zigzagged up goat pastures to the right before arriving at a fin of rock. Beyond this was a path of slippery ice that would only be navigable if an ice axe were to be used. She gave us a brief demonstration of how to use it, and  then we set off to cross the glacial moraine.

Glacier travel was slow and horrible. Rain started falling again, and it felt like liquid ice. Cold and shivering, we slowly pulled ourselves toward the lateral moraine of the glacier. Visibility was reduced to little more than nothing. Then suddenly, the clouds parted. There was a sudden drop. I felt like we had reached the end of the world. But nestled in this horrible place was a hut. We raced toward it.

Lotchenpass
The hut turned out to be a restaurant and lodge, crowded with hikers who had the nerve to get this far. After a brief rest we walked outside where it had cleared up. We could see the mountains on both sides of the pass, including a forbidding-looking one called Hockenhorn. I could even see -- or maybe I imagined it -- the tip of the Matterhorn, all but hidden by lesser peaks. What was more amazing though, was the perfection of the mountains. The vegetated areas ended on an exact line and so did the trees.

Our guide led us to a snow slope. It was too steep to walk down, so we slid down to the track. The track led us on a zigzag down the snowfields, and often there was a scarily steep stretch of ice to cross. On one of these places, a Rover Scout slipped and barely managed to arrest herself with her ice axe. She could easily have broken her leg.

Eventually, we got to the base of the snowfields and began walking down in a switchback. The trail led us past cow pastures and into a forest of pine trees. Finally, we reached the base of the mountain at a remote outpost called Lotchen. The houses here were mostly converted grain storages. We got on the bus and took the train back to Kandersteg.

The Kandersteg Experience

The shoulder of Doldenhorn
On Sunday, we were staying in the village to properly see Kandersteg itself. Our first stop was the Rhodelbahn -- the metal toboggan, which we had five turns on each. Then we walked up to the Oechinensee, a very beautiful mountain lake surrounded by waterfalls. Around us were the Swiss Alps: Doldenhorn, Bluemlisalphorn, Dundenhorn, Wildi Frau. We stayed at the lake for some time, walking to waterfalls and swimming in the lake, and resumed down a steep trail back down the valley. When we arrived, we walked to a restaurant -- Des Alpes -- to have dinner.

I only found out later that my family was going to a restaurant in Brisbane, also called Des Alpes, which reportedly served authentic Swiss food. Ironically, the Des Alpes in Switzerland only served pizza and hamburgers. But they were pretty good and the gelato was great.

After dinner, I and a few other Scouts crossed a farming field to get to a waterfall on the side of the valley. After this we climbed steeply up scree slopes and reached the base of the falls. They were much better than anything in Australia. We watched the sun set over the Doldenhorn, and walked back to the campsite.


The Two-Day Hike: Gallihorn and Bunderspitz

Bunderspitz is a large, fairly flat mountain to the West of Kandersteg. Due to the shape of the valley we were in, I never saw its summit. However, after catching a cable car to the top of the gorge, I did.

Our guide this time was Emil, another Danish pinkie. Emil was fairly quiet but he was a great guide. Zigzagging up the cow pastures high on the mountain, the track, a farm road, was marked by red and white lines. Emil told us that military service was mandatory in Switzerland, and that a division of the military blazed trails and painted these lines.

Those bells were taller than me.
Soon we passed a farm called Obere Allme, which had great views of the Kandersteg valley.  A lot of really big bells were lined up under the eaves. Apparently the biggest bell was given to the cow with the most milk. With the size and weight of those bells, they must be more like torture than reward.

The steep side of the cauldron
After we passed the farm, we left the farming road and followed a trail that zigzagged into the heights. The small valley we were in was shaped like a cauldron, with the sides getting steeper and steeper. Eventually we got to the top, only a hundred metres from the summit of the Bunderspitz.

Aand the view from the top!
The view from the top was great. As with all Swiss mountains, there was a cross at the summit. We ate lunch and walked back to the pass we were at earlier to descend a scree slope. Suddenly, a massive spire of rock -- Clyne Lohner -- blocked our path forcing us to hug the wall while climbing straight down the scree slope. Triggering small landslides, we slipped down the slope.
Clyne Lohner

The mountain pass.
After an hour we reached the base. From here, a small trail traversed the slope to a pass. From here, Emil helpfully told us, we would be descending to the Oechinenhutte, a Scout Centre owned hut we would be spending the night at. Immediately, the track made a long traverse of the scree slope. Some people had trouble getting across, so Emil had to help them while we were waiting at the base. The valley floor seemed forever below. The remaining hours went by in a blur: we slowly zigzagged down the almost sheer cliff. Eventually, we reached a road. We finally got to the hut as the sun was setting.
Tschingellochtighorn on the Three Valleys circut

The bunks of the hut were more comfortable than our beds down in camp. I laid my head down and almost instantly fell in sleep.

The second day was shorter than the first. This time there were two other groups from the Australian contingent joining us for the hike to Gallihorn, but we were the fittest and most well prepared of the groups. From the hut, we climbed forever up toward the top of the mountain, resting occasionally and watching the other groups below us. We made good time, and reached the top at noon.

The view from the top was even better than the Bunderspitz. Separated from us by a slot canyon was a much larger mountain -- Atels -- with a completely flat west face. Emil told us that the mountain was flat due to a gigantic avalanche a few decades ago. We could also see our campsite and I could just barely make out my tent.

The alpine lake
From the summit, we walked easily to a cable car station. Here, Emil told us we had made such good time, we would delay going down into the valley to see some alpine lakes. We spent a while skipping stones by the lakes and ran to the cable car station. We were just in time to catch a large cable car back into the valley. Only half an hour later, I was having dinner at the chalet.

Free Day Two

On the second free day, I was contemplating spending the time at Kandersteg but made a last minute decision to go to Blausee. The trip was worth it. Accompanied by a Leader, we walked to Adelboden where there was this interesting lake resort. We bought ice cream, walked around the lake, and took a boat ride onto the lake. There were thousands of fish in there. We eventually took a bus back to Kandersteg, which one of the Leaders paid for.

Blausee, German for 'blue lake'.
On this day I began to realize how dependent Kandersteg was on its Scout centre. The economy of the town completely relied on it -- the hotels, cafe's, rhodelbahn, and definitely the souvenir shop. At this free day I also met Hari. Hari basically owns all the local shops and cheeseries. He also supplies the Scout centre with yogurt, and that's where I saw him. Hari, like all the local business owners, wholly relies on the Scout centre.

The Aare River Float and Bern

The Aare River begins at Thun and winds through Switzerland's capital, Bern. We got on big inflatable rafts and paddled down the river from Thun, passing under bridges and past islands. We played games on the raft and bumped into bridge pillars on purpose. It was fun.

We unloaded at the leafy northern suburbs of Bern, where I dried off. We then walked to the train station past houses that reminded me of the Netherlands. Next to the Bern train station I saw something amazing: Row after row of completely unlocked bikes. It was amazing that this existed, just next door to Italy.

We walked around a mall for a while, buying souvenirs. We also bought ice cream; the ice cream man showed us the way to the ATM. I was very conscious that this would be my second last day in Switzerland, so I savored it.

Packup Day

Since we spent all day packing up, we had little time for shopping. I still did it, though, and bought about three or four chocolate bars. Then we packed up completely and went to the Campfire night one last time. The skits and songs were the same but the atmosphere was different.

The rumored three hundred American Scouts had come. They had celebrated their arrival and the Fourth of July by setting off fireworks late in the night, breaking just about every village rule and waking me up as I was trying to rest for Lotchenpass. That kind of set the tone for the following week. The Americans, I found out, were not from America but from army bases around Europe. They isolated themselves from everyone else as much as possible and barely attended the campfire. Their leaders were nice, though, and I talked to them a lot.

The other Americans had departed. So had the three Danish troops, but that didn't matter because they were replaced by hundreds of other Danish Scouts. More Scottish arrived at camp. Last campfire, there were only three hundred and fifty Scouts. Now that number had doubled. There would only be more Scouts at camp in the coming months, as Europe went on summer break.

After two weeks, I knew the campsite and the chalet like the back of my hand. We had found a world war two bunker in the outskirts of the campsites, big enough to accommodate several cars if the entrance didn't collapse. We also found a window in the cliff face which could have been part of the nearby military barracks.

Singapore, on the way back
We had an uncomfortable night's sleep on the floor of an assembly hall. At four in the morning, we left the campsite to make a two-day journey back home. As I was riding in the train I knew, for certain, I would be back.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Girraween

In this article I am going to relate to my experiences in the Girraween area -- both on the most recent trip and on one I did, a year back, with Scouts.

The Girraween is by any measure an amazing place. While its largest granite outcrop -- Bald Rock -- is a fraction of the size of Uluru, the Girraween area gives you a sense of beauty that Uluru and the nearby Kata Tjuta lacks. Furthermore it is much closer to Australia's cities, being a mere three hours drive from Brisbane in Queensland's Granite Belt.

What does the place look like? The Girraween is located on top of a high plateau. A visitor to the valley below would never suspect it was there, if the signs were taken away. The top of the plateau is a large, undulating landscape, unremarkable except in one way: the rocks. They puncture through vast ribbons of eucalypt forest like needles, standing high above everything else but each other.

My first summit of such an outcrop was the climbing of South Bald Rock, a dome of granite that looks vaguely like a bald man's head. It happened on a Scout hike a year back. South Bald Rock is no moderate peak, approaching a height of 150 metres relative to surrounding plains. From the top we could see all the other peaks from a 360 degree view. To the immediate West lay the West and Centre bald rocks, then the rocky rise of Mount Norman that all but obscured Turtle and Castle Rocks, the Sphinx, and the Pyramids. To the East the view was more breathtaking: we could see Bald Rock, but behind it was a continuous ribbon of undisturbed forest that culminated in the gray spire of Mount Barney -- which was 90 kilometres away and should have been out of sight. Due to the curvature of the Earth, Mount Barney looked lower than us.

After that initial trip to the Girraween I vowed to return, and I finally did in October of this year. Not with Scouts this time, but in a family trip with friends. In Scouts, we completed the Eastern Peaks Circut: a lengthy hike involving climbs on the eastern (New South Wales border) side of Girraween National park. This time, we would visit the more built-up, western side of Plateau. Here was a visitor's centre and even a campground.

We were fairly ambitious on the first day, making a visit to the First Pyramid. The name of the Pyramid was inspired by its shape: a three or four cornered dome, tapering slightly at the top. To get to the summit we ascended a granite surface sloped at fifty degrees and smooth as glass. When we got to the top of this slope, we turned the corner and found the trail following a natural catwalk. Although the surface of rock was only tilted at thirty degrees or so, it tilted sharply toward a void I did not want to end up slipping into. My hands became shaky as I began the traverse, and I collapsed when I got to the other side.

The base is smaller than it seems.
We continued to the summit. The true summit was inaccessible as it was on top of a boulder, so we continued to a natural rock platform, from which we could see the climb route. Rather than sweeping 360 views we were promised by faraway views of the mountain, the view was dull and obscured by boulders. Still a good view, though. Then we scrambled to a viewpoint on the other side of the summit, which looked down upon another mountain: the Second Pyramid. It was weird, like a gigantic pudding dropped in the middle of the forest, and was completely devoid of trees or even subsidiary boulders. On the way back, we passed a boulder three times the size of a house yet balanced on a base the size of a dinner plate.

It was getting dark so we returned to the campsite.

The second day was much better. After some decision, we decided to walk to Turtle Rock.

Turtle Rock is a low dome of granite we saw from the Pyramid. It looks just like a sleeping turtle. Next to it is the Sphinx, a needle-like finger of rock poking out of a boulder field. The walk was supposed to take four hours, but we took five because we were exploring so much.

The walk began by climbing up through open eucalypt forest and scattered boulders. At long last, we got to the top of a ridge and followed it to the Sphinx. The Sphinx itself was not very impressive, but we spent an hour exploring the massive boulder field on all sides of it. A short walk brought us to the base of Turtle Rock. To get to the top, we scrambled up through a narrow gully. Then, just above a ledge with good views of The Sphinx, we were blocked from going further by a 5m cliff.
The turtle

The Sphinx and Turtle Rock from Castle Rock
I thought it was impossible to go further, but after some searching I found a slot crammed with boulders. If I scrambled along the boulders and chimney climbed through the slot, I could just make it. I did so. The going was hard though, and I almost got stuck twice. But I got to the top of Turtle Rock and was rewarded by 360 degree views.

On the return trip we climbed Castle Rock. It was much less exposed than The Pyramid and had much better views. After having climbed the mountain, we called it a day and retreated back into our tents.

Note: None of these pictures are ours.
Our final objective was Underground Creek. A short walk from the car park, Underground Creek was a creek that carved an overhang, which promptly buried the creek when it collapsed. Brave souls still venture into the cave below the overhang, to find the creek and more.

After thoroughly exploring Underground Creek, we set off for an offtrack adventure to find the fabled Aztec Temple (it's actually a jumble of boulders). We tried, and got as far as the ridge it sits on before turning back due to casualties.

The failed Aztec Temple expedition reminded us of how much we had not seen in the park. We will need to go back here sometime. As we drove home through the Main Range, I was reminded of how much there is to see in the world, and how we can only hope to see a fraction of it in our lifetimes.

The fabled Aztec Temple.