I’ve driven past cars parked on the side of the road from Samsonvale to Mt Glorious many times but have never stopped there myself. I’ve always been coming from or going to some place else. I knew there was a creek in the gully next to the road but didn’t know it’s name or qualities. That’s all changed now that I’ve walked the South Pine River at Mt Glorious. For that’s the name of what I thought was a creek.
There are barely any track notes available for walking the river here at it’s head. A river that feeds into the mighty Pine River that I have paddled so often. Perhaps the lack of track notes is reflective of the commonality of people just stopping their cars and scrambling down the embankment to swim in the waterholes along the river. Or maybe it’s just that this isn’t a place people think of to hike. Either way, I didn’t really need notes because the river is easy to follow. I parked just after the D’Aguilar National Park sign on the river side of the road and follows a short steep path to the river.
Despite the title “river”, the waterway is barely a creek here. The rainy season hasn’t really begun here yet. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because walking in the creek bed is easy and there’s no need to worry about flash flooding. A curse because the water levels are low. There are plenty of cobbler’s pegs about and my clothes are quickly covered in these annoying prickles. And the river could do with a flush because there’s plenty of green algae. But that’s just the cycles of nature; it’s nothing to complain about.
I have only been walking for about fifteen minutes when I come to the first water hole of any significance. I’ve set off late and the midday heat is already beating down on me so I don’t even waste time taking off my shoes. Lazing in the cool water I feel free and relaxed. What a blessing to be healthy and free to explore places like this.
I don’t waste energy keeping my feet dry. It’s summer and about 35’C today so walking in the water is refreshingly cool. My old worn out joggers have good grip thanks to the lack of tread. It’s a perfect combination. Besides, there’s fewer cobblers pegs in the creek itself. Though it is better to walk in the water where there is gravel, rather than large rocks. Large rocks are slippery and I do have a couple of moments where I think I’m going to fall flat on my face.
About half an hour later I reach a large rock pool at the top of what would be a small waterfall if the water levels were higher. There’s a couple hanging out here with beer and cigarettes. I’m more curious about what’s up ahead so I close my dry bag and swim across the rock pool to continue my adventures. I could have scrambled around the rock pool up a small cliff section that locals use as access to save them a walk but the water is too inviting and there’s an easy exit on the other side of the pool. I will come back here for a longer swim on my return leg.
Despite the proximity to the road, there’s still a sense of wilderness here in the creek. Strangler figs crush their hosts and even try to crush rocks. Tall palm trees rise from seeds dropped by birds. It’s just cool enough for small birds to twitter among the trees and for bell birds to chime away like church bells at a wedding.
There’s the perfect combination of flat open creek and deep rocky pools. Some look like they go right through to the centre of the earth, so black is the water.
I reach a large wall of rock. In the wet this would be an amazing waterfall. I climb slowly up the rock wall. The sun has been beating down here and my hands feel like they are holding hot coals. I stop frequently to sip water from my hydro pack and then spit it out onto my hands in the hope of easing the pain. I do not recommend this climb in the heat of the day because it’s almost torturous.
The views down into the waterholes are spectacular though. There’s three or four water holes that have formed in the rock wall at various levels. I’ve seen photos of people swimming here but I don’t feel confident that I’ll be able to get back out given the low water levels. And the last thing I want is to be stuck here. Especially given that my mother is doing this same hike with a bushwalking club tomorrow and it probably wouldn’t be so nice for her to have to rescue me after a night in the rock pool.
The terrain flattens out above the rock wall and there are sections of river bed with no water. I reach a small weir and follow the river for about ten more minutes but I’m hot and longing for a swim. This area of the river isn’t as pretty and there’s more rubbish (plastic food wrappers and bottles) here. It’s time to turn around.
I retrace my steps to the weir before walking up a well worn path to the road. The road is perched above the river most of the way but I barely notice it. I am grateful for its presence because it saves me having to burn my hands again on the down climb from the top of the rock wall. If the road wasn’t here I’d climb a ridge and drop back down afterwards but why trash the bush when I can just as easily walk a few hundred meters along the road.
I descend back into the river not far downstream from the rock wall. There’s a small path to a water hole where I stop for lunch. I laze on the rocks (the ones that are shaded) and watch dragon flies, other water insects and an eel going about their usual water hole business. The flying insects make small rings of tiny waves as they touch down on the water surface and their shadows are fascinatingly large compared with their sizes. The eel just swims around, hiding behind the green moss.
The walk downstream is faster than the way up because I stop for fewer photos and am keen on a swim in the big waterhole. I reach it just before 3:00pm and join local families who have stopped in for an afternoon dip. They’ve all parked their cars just above the water hole so that they only have a two or three minute walk in. I can’t help but wonder at this freedom I have to be here today. It was only four months ago that I was going through my five month long lawyer phase with little free time, even when I wasn’t at work. Now I have the time again to relax when I’m not at work without any take home work responsibilities. (And I have a job that I actually love too).
To find the car again I walk almost to the road bridge and then back track about 50m to the pathway that takes me to the car. I’m glad to have discovered for myself the secret joys of this river and I will probably park my car here more often for a summer swim.