I have two consecutive days off work. I’ve been protecting these days from the extra shifts I get asked to take on. These days are ear marked for a night in the outdoors.
I am late arriving at the Delicia Road (M4) entrance to the Sunshine Coast Great Walk. Mostly because I was talking with Paul but also because I hadn’t packed last night. I’ve realised on my drive up that I don’t have a torch. But I have an iPhone so that will do the same trick. And I could do with an early night, which a lack of light will ensure.
It’s been a long time since I did any hiking with a full pack. Maybe it was as long ago as 2014. I’ve done some hikes since but I don’t think I carried much for those. It feels good to be back in the swing and my body remembers the weight of a pack easily.
Rainforest surrounds me as I hit the trail. Birds sing. Humidity shrouds me thanks largely to the dense forest blocking any breeze. Everything is lush and green despite the lack of rain.
After about 2.5km I find myself on a wide multi use trail with cleared undergrowth. Tall gums rise above me. I feel like I am a million miles from my daily life.
I reach Ubajee Walkers Camp and the nearby view point. From here I can see the valley into which I will descend and the high range where my campsite is waiting for me. It always looks daunting to see mountains rising from deep narrow valleys when I know I need to climb them. But I also know that I just need to put one for in front of the other.
The descent into Gheerulla Creek is a steeps switch back path. It’s narrow again after the wide multi use trails. I push the realisation out of my mind: tomorrow I will return this way. Instead I focus on the freedom of being out here hiking. The luxury of living in a place where bombs are not dropping and the economy is not totally destroyed. Not so fortunate are those for whom I am undertaking this challenge.
Gheerulla Creek and falls are dry but for some small water holes. It must be spectacular after a good solid wet season. I fear we may have missed our’s this year.
The climb is as long and arduous as I feared. Not many have come this way yet since last season and grass covers the trail with reckless abandon. Palm trees grow in the reentrant to my right while drier shrubs dominate to higher left side. I focus on getting up the mountain.
Once up I can relax. My late departure had left me with a time crunch. But with just 6.5km left to walk and 5 hours of daylight I feel more secure now. I once again start to stop to take in the landscape around me. Particularly the smaller things.
I pass the 12km mark. Lucky for me there’s a sign.
Not far from the sign is the Gheerulla Valley Viewpoint. It’s magnificent to look out over the lands north where I will walk tomorrow. But I hear thunder rumbling on the western side of the ridge. Dark clouds have rolled in. I press on the final 2.6km to camp.
Naturally these are also the longest 2.6km of the walk. How better to pass the time than to take some photos. I am feeling my general lack of endurance fitness. Sure, I’ve been doing lots of Creek walks but these have been short.
Thilba Thalba walkers camp sits at the edge of an escarpment looking north east. There’s a small viewpoint where I hope to watch the sunrise tomorrow. If I wake on time, that is. For I have no intention of setting an alarm. I pitch my tent for the first time since my cycle tour of Japan in May 2015 and settle in for the afternoon. I have a good book, a cup of tea and patchy wifi service. A fresh breeze is blowing, birds are twittering, the dark clouds have stayed to the west of the ridge so far though I anticipate overnight rain. What more could a man want? Well, I do have an inflatable pillow and sleeping mat that have failed. But given the nature of my challenge, those are luxury problems.
If you would like to support me in my challenge to raise money for The Australian Red Cross check out my profile at http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills