Posted by: Paul Sheringhams blog: a place of running dreams come true | September 13, 2016

Gibraltar House

Back to the Gibraltar Range House for the first time since 1999. The first time from before the fall. 16 tumultuous years. Having survived. Having not only survived, but having risen again, to run again, to run marathons and ultra marathons. To have found happiness as a feeling not a word; even for such a fleetingly short while.

And each of those springs marked by the wildflowers in this magnificent park. I greet the flowers each spring like familiar friends. I understand flowers, birds ,the change of light  better than people. How many springs do I have left? 16? I hope they are more peaceful.

I retreat to the edge as far from the human world as possible. At the lip of a waterfall or on the edge of an ocean my mind becomes free in moments, and I lose the crushing weight of identity and become an open soul delighting in experience; the sight of long diagonal crimson rays filling a distant sunset valley, the echoing call of a lyrebird mimicking a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, the sense of cold, clear mountain air filling my lungs.

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The Granites Lookout

It is a paradox that I have achieved more in this 15 years with a mental illness than at any time in my life. I have experienced life, really experienced life, the absolute despairing lows and the unbelievable magnificent highs.

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Hakea macrorryncha

Arrival

I parked my car alongside the house under the wattle dropping flowers on my car like confetti, and became overwhelmed by memory, and I had to sit on the steps to recompose myself. A life lived poorly it seems to me, opportunities I didn’t make the most of.

Howver, opportunity is never completely lost, it can be recovered, or reborn as a new opportunity.

Alarmed

The house has an alarm and you need an access number to get inside. The house is quite isolated and a bit of a lonely place to be all on my own.

There was the occasion when a man who had stolen a car approached me near the generator out the back of the house. He had a crazed look in his eyes and the back window of the Red Commodore was smashed in.

“I’ll be seeing you layer.” He said. He tried to steal stuff from some campers at Washpool National Park. They arrived at the house seeking  help, I tried to ring the Police but couldn’t contact them. Then they drove to Glenn Innes. Later the police arrived and had the man under arrest. A very interesting evening that one.

The furniture is modern and there are nice photos of tablelands country on the walls. In 1999 the house was  dusty and dirty.The house is more open plan than back then. The kitchen opens up onto the dining room. The house now runs on solar electricity. In 1999 it operated on a generator, which droned away into the night until such time as you went to bed and flicked the generator off switch. And slowly the lights would dim and silence descended except for the occasional roar of trucks on the Gwydir Highway.

Vegetation Survey

I remember  the German work experience student, my assistant on the vegetation survey  who beat me at Scrabble. She hated leeches. Good company, good memories.

Once I hid out in a cave under a granite tor, as a thunder and hail storm rolled over, before emerging to continue my ascent of Waratah Trig. I watched lighting strike nearby granite outcrops. On the drive down the sweeping bends of the Gwydir Highway hail had piled up to about 2 metres in depth

Full circle. Perhaps this is the time to end this long  nightmare and try to get back to the person I was before the fall. I can live a much better life. The potential is there.

Lost

I remember the night I became lost ascending the Junction Spur. I wandered off the trail into the darkness, couldn’t see the hand in front of my face. I’ve always felt like an outsider in this life, but that night in the dark I have never so alone. I stumbled around being strangled by vines and scratched by spines. By some miracle I stumbleb onto another path, and felt my way along like a blind feeling the tracks with my hand. In the distance I saw glow worms marking the embankment at the track intersection. I saw them and felt wonder, and didn’t feel so alone. They helped me guide me back to my car at 2:00am in the morning.

Day 1

A poor night sleep I was itchy all over perhaps my hair needs a wash. Really worried, I seem to be living a nightmare again, and I am not sure what to do. I am thinking of trying pills. An overcast morning I hope I can enjoy my day in the bush, my worries won’t leave me, and the closer I get to work the more worried I become.

It is overcast outside, or perhaps it is a fog. I will get going soon, I plan to walk up to Waratah Trig. I was over at the Granites Lookout for sunset. The needle hakea was flowering.  The sunset was a dramatic one with heavy clouds above a small amount of reds and pinks filtering through a distant Valley.

Next morning  I travelled back over to the Granites Lookout  because I lost my glasses. I found the other pair which had fallen from my bag. While there I took photos of the Needle Hakea which was in flower. The clouds were beginning to lift and some sun was breaking through. Then I drove back to the highway and began looking for the walking track to Waratah Trig. I drove back and forwards on the highway trying to find it. The track has been closed to the public as Waratah Trig is a significant site to Aboriginals. The track is on longer maintained.

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The granites storms lifting.

After about half an hour I found the old service trail. I slipped on some trousers, as the regrowth  vegetation on the trail is sharp and scratchy. Two years ago I walked part of the trail in shorts and my legs were scratched badly. After about a kilometre the trail turns left onto a T-intersection.  This trail heads towards the start of the ascent to Waratah Trig. You need to cross a small creek through very tall Gahnias and some Coral fern.

Then it is uphill through the increasingly rocky terrain. Over rock slabs and around tors. The way is marked by rock cairns and reflective colour markers. There are also blobs of yellow paint from old track markings. I was happy to see some wax flower Eriostemon australasius in flower. There was also some Lacy Wedge Fern Lindsaea microphylla. The trail emerged on the exposed rock platform. Here there was Phebalium woombye beginning to flower, and also lots of Boronia anethifolia. Dillwynia rupestris was also in flower.

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Eriostemon australasius

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Phebalium Woombye

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Brachyscome stuartii

The trail took a turn down into a gully. A bright yellow Pomaderris was flowering here. The climb up to the top was really steep on an exposed rock slabs.  Most of the flowering plants here I already had photos of. Leionema denatum, Acacia brunioides.  I did get a photo of Eucalyptus codonocarpa and on the way back down I managed to spot one flower of Brachyscome stuartii. The red-flowered Callistemon flavovirens was not flowering. And some of the individuals had dead branches. For quite a long walk the return was very average only 5 species.

Flying high above a Peregrine Falcon emitted an alarm call.

I considered walking to a more distant outcrop but the going was too steep. So I headed back down on the southern fall of the rock outcrop. It was hard going I needed to bum slide and push through shrub, and work my way around precipitous slopes. At one stage I put my weight down on a thick patch of Coral fern in a rock crevice and finished up to my neck. I was unable to reach my camera tripod. I dragged myself out straight onto a nest of ants, and a few bit me. It is hard going getting through scrubby vegetation like this and I cursed and swore quite a lot.

I made it back to the bottom of the rock platform. It took a while for me to find the cairn marking the continuation of the indistinct track. I disturbed a roosting Boobook Owl into a short flight. I made it back to the small creek. I was quite tired, it was nearly 2:00pm. I was relieved to get back to my car on the highway and take a drink of water.

After that I drove into Glen Innes for some supplies, and ate lunch. I returned to Gibraltar House after dusk.

Day 2

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Lyrebird Falls

Next morning was overcast, it wasn’t as cold as the previous night. I drove to Boundary Falls and walked to Lyrebird Falls. A narrow ribbon of white water falling over a sheer rock face into a deep forested gorge. On the steep slope above the falls was a dead tree lying on the edge it crown hanging down into the air. The roots of the trees near edge clung desperately for a hold in the shallow soil. The way out to the falls was a forest road that went through tall grassy wet sclerophyll forest. The small tree layer was filled with colour of flowering wattle. I heard a lyrebird imitating other bird species. There wasn’t much else in flower some White beard and Hardenbergia. A few light rain drops had started to fall.

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Leucopogon lanceolatus

I headed over to Raspberry Lookout. I wanted to walk down a ridge to see if I could find some dry rainforest. At first I tried the wrong ridge. I’d done this walk 20 years ago, but I couldn’t remember which way I’d gone down. I parked at the lookout itself and realised I’d walked down the ridge through the cleared area of vegetation immediately below the lookout. I managed to get mobile reception at the lookout and was writing some observations down. A guy came over to my car to see if I was OK. Apparently I had my head down. I told him I was alright, about how I had walked down to the bottom of the hill. I guess the guy was being kind, but in some ways I resented the intrusion. Maybe my anxiety bugged him, because he kept on talking once he got back in his car. Wasn’t sure if he was talking to himself or someone else in the car. I was glad when he drove off.

Then I walked down the ridge through the regrowth vegetation they chop down to maintain the view from the lookout. The ridge headed down steeply it was a very dry ridge, and there was little in flower. I saw Cangai wattle and Podolobium aestivum, not in flower. I got a photo of some Glycine in flower. Then the macro lens gave an error message and wouldn’t take photos. I felt like getting back in the car and driving home. What good would it be to see plants in flower and not be able to get photos of them.

I walked further down the ridge, my mobile still had reception and I could use Google maps to locate myself in proximity to the dry rainforest I wanted to find. The way down into the rainforest was extremely steep and on sparse slidey soil. I gave up and turned back, my joggers were giving me much purchase on the soil at all.

So some long hours in the bush and I only had 9 species of plant photographed. I headed back into Glen Innes for lunch and more food and something to drink. I’d gone nearly 2 days without Pepsi Max. My thoughts were a little bit lighter. On the first day I had a few bleak moments, feelings of deep  despair about my life and who I am, anger and hopelessness about some situations I find myself in back in Coffs, and also grief for my friend Lenny and a desire to leave the present and to go to some place like home.

Today the same thoughts were there but lighter with the edge taken off them. I was going to go for a bushwalk when I returned to Gibraltar House but it was raining. So I lay down to rest and slept for much of the night. I woke at 3:30am and started writing this diary. It has rained overnight and I am not sure if I will get more photos for my book tomorrow. I think I will do the Needles track.

Day 3

It rained overnight, but cleared in the early morning, so I was able to do a bushwalk to the needles. The Needles Lookout itself was obsucured by mist. I did get a photo of the species I was after Ricinocarpos specious, there was also a Pomaderris in flower too, which I photographed not sure if I had photographed this species before. There are dendrobium orchids on the rocks, but they were starting to come in bud, not flowering.

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Ricinocarpos speciosus

On the way back to Mulligans Hut the rain started to set in. I walked over to Barra Nula cascades, there is a population of Leionema ambiens nearby. I thought I could see a plant on the other side of the fast flowing Dandahra Creek. It was not possible to cross at that location.

So I walked back to the metal bridge over Dandahra Creek and walked though the bush on the other side of the creek bank. The going wasn’t too bad, the understory of Lomandra, with the ocassional tea tree to walk around. The rocky granite country came down towards the creek and the vegetation became more dense. I dragged myself through the scrub, the camera tripod dragging behind and getting caught on branches.

It took me twenty minutes to find the plant I was looking for. Leionema ambiens. The plant is very impressive with its stem-clasping leaves and white flowers. This is the only place in the park where it known to grow, and the population consists of only about 30 plants. It was growing in the shelter of a granite tor, perhaps protected by fire?

A soft rain was falling on me and my camera as I took photos. For me, I was happier than a pig in mud, it might’ve been raining, but for me seeing this plant was like the sun coming out. It made my day, it made three days up in the Gibraltar Range.

After the long trudge back through the bush I was drenched. But man, how I was enjoying myself. I got back in my car, and drove back to Coffs, with a newly renovated unit to enjoy.

A happy ever now.

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Leionema ambiens

 


Responses

  1. I love your work, the photographs and information. I also enjoyed reading about your memories and triumphs over adversities.

  2. Thanks Sherry, where I was staying I had plenty of time to write my thoughts down.


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