For the ABW beholder, splendour might well hide in a sunset or beam from a face, be held in hand or stir in a heart, be borne by the light of a campfire or be seen on the hues of a vast mountain vista. Whatever one’s persuasion might be, I suspect that splendour is a state best shared. And perhaps July’s 2017 ‘Flinders Spectacular’ event would be the event to find this out?!
On the Thursday night, sixteen keen ABW trekkers led by Sammi Lanyon rendezvoused at Mambray Creek’s gum studded campground, coming together around the light of a campfire. The fire was stoked into being by David’s early arrival, and his ‘let there be more light’ sunset mantra.
Pam set the chef’s bar high by roasting a whole chicken & veggies to perfection in the fire’s coals; a dish not even eclipsed by Quorn’s Local Hotel on the forthcoming Saturday night. I should know I think, cos I tried the chicken dishes at both outlets.
As chairs encircled and conversations spilled, splendour took the form of ABW faces flickering by the light of the campfire; as human foils against the enshrouding dark of night; eating, greeting, and asking, ‘Would you like more wine comrade?’ Conversations ranged from Karen moving to Melbourne where family-ties were calling, to George’s ‘The Tuscan Shiraz’, which arrived all the way from Italy. In both cases, distance with its tyranny, was there for a challenge.
Beyond 10pm the lessor pursuits of tented sleep away, one by one. I thought that my liking for interactions up late had been sunk, until a fellow night owl, in that of Martin remained native to the cause. I don’t remember everything that we talked about thereafter, but the fire had us warm and the wine had our tongues; until we too succumb about midnight.
On the Friday morning 9:00am, we began our 18km day trek, by ascending to ‘The Battery’, taking in the sapphire blues of Spencer Gulf in the west, before descending into the fiery ochres of ‘Hidden Gorge’ to the east. The gorge greeted with towering rock faces set ablaze in the sun, yet the gorge had its other dark side too. Shadowy rock faces, un-loved and orphaned by a sun otherwise careless, where green mosses of symbiotic pity mattered not … Ohh!
Down at our feet, smooth stones and brazen boulders lay strewn along the creek bed, having been released from the cliffs ages ago. In stark contrast to those rocks recently fallen, laying awkward and out of place, jagged and jutting up; displeased, as late arrivals on their character rounding journey across geological eons towards a recipient sea … Ooo!
Eventually Sammi’s clockwork and clockwise circuit brought us out into the wider abutments of Mambray creek, where a courteous 7km walk had us back to our campsite by late afternoon. The campground’s glorious showers became an ABW centre point, as personal pursuits for best lather ensued; warm soapy water washing down wanton bushwalker bodies … Ahhh!
Fireside that night, Stephanie skilfully captured our ears by delivering a couple of her favourite pieces of literature. One being a poem called ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’; whose two shady characters walked us down an oyster beach of gluttony and poetic deceit.
Sammi too intrigued us with two poignant readings; the latter being Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Wear Sunscreen’; which took us on a life lamenting journey of introspection and poetic advice. In turn we all waxed and flossed lyrical, late into the night.
Tai meanwhile shared her splendorous cooking treats, one having a nice spicy zing, enough to get my taste buds partying for some time. Then, like the night before, we human creatures of routine migrated back to our tents one by one.
At 8:30 on Saturday morning Sammi’s well managed schedule had us packed up, and keenly on the road to our next exuberance in that of Mt Brown. The namesake of naturalist Robert Brown, who was part of the Mathew Flinders crew aboard the ship ‘Investigator’ back in 1802. We parked in the trailhead carpark, where Robyn’s orange cake made its daylight debut. Tongues of sweet anticipation licked our 21st century lips, as pieces of cake were kindly cut and handed to us each. If only Flinders and Brown could have been back there dining with us; to know that any feelings that they might have had of being imperial bitches to a cruel sea and scurvy, could so easily have been diluted amongst we land loving commoners, now blessed with tasty cake!
A north westerly breeze began to cuss and stiffen as we set off on the summit’s 15km loop. At the pointy end of our crew strode Zack, un-phased and dashing in his all season’s black T-shirt; as if possessing the cardio vascular credentials of a polar mountaineer; and so giving our own hearts cool cause to aspire.
The summit gave us a tower of stairs to ascend, a visitor’s book to sign, and a wind protected rock ledge upon which to munch on a mandarin or two. Mt Remarkable loomed in the distant south, as did the Dutchman’s Stern and thoughts of tomorrow to the north.
On the way down bull ant mounds owned the path at frequent intervals; emboldened civilisations not unlike our own, except I don’t think that their busyness left them any capacity to look up; to sense the impending crush of bushwalker boot. Alas, many little bodies lay strewn trailside after our passing.
But then Bec had cause to dance a quick trick, as one of the little blighters uncharacteristically latched onto her boot then sock then bare skin. But despite the little guy’s pincer prowess, it too ended up trailside, hardly a match for the pinching fingers of human defensiveness. And whilst it was sad to see such hallowed genetics of earthy adventure dashed, there was crude comfort in knowing that mankind’s boot-print on this planet remained dominant and absolute!
After the walk our intended destination became the Quorn caravan park campground, then onto one of its local pubs for a local’s dinner. We did our best to fit into the local scene, knowing that town locals can readily pick a stranger, can easily pick city mannerisms, and can pick those without sheep knowledge. No matter though, cos a few of us had known a sheep or two over the years, had been trained in the perils of sticky pub carpet, and took to country-style cooking like cockies to the sky. Dare I say it then, that those sheep assured locals were actually in our element!!
Even the tatty pool table at the next pub with its torn felt top and boat deck roll, was to be well within our accomplished ABW skill set; as ‘Echo Beach’ and ‘Hall of Fame’ pumped from the time honoured jukebox at a dollar a pop. Bruce partnered by Mal appeared to have the final pool game won, until foiled by George and Kerry, who’s well calculated mind game, did them in, producing an ‘in-off’ win.
We returned to the campground, where the bulk of the group bedded down for the night, except Martin, myself, and a further night owl recruit in that of Bruce. We sat by the camp’s communal fire assessing the day’s events, sharing common experiences, and learned the humble risks of almost being electrocuted aboard an immobilised train locomotive. Eventually we too surrendered to sweet tiredness just on the toll of midnight.
Sunday Morning, 9:00am, we arrived at the Dutchman’s Stern trail carpark on the slope of a hill. Clutch problems meant that Mal needed to leave his vehicle out of gear while parked. So in order to reduce the risk of roll away, Mal’s free-mason like improvisation saw him place a well selected rock behind the vehicle’s rear wheel. You’ve no doubt heard the term ‘Rock ‘n Roll’, well in this instance it was ‘Rock ‘n Chock’. And for those of you who remember the movie ‘The Wanderers’, please be assured that I have not misspelled the word ‘chock’…!
We then set off on the 11km loop to the top, pausing a couple of times to feed our hungry phones with megabytes of panoramic splendour. At the top, Tracy’s eyes became mesmerized by a peak on the far flung northern horizon, to which she emotively voiced the name, ‘Cone Hill’!! Immediately my ears pricked and my eyes panned, as hallucinations of a misspent youth wafted into my mind. Fortunately the peak’s lucid silhouette identified it as being so named by geometric shape, rather than by place of participation. And I’m sure that Tracy surmised similarly too.
At our final hillside break, we got on board Bec’s keen vision and salute-able imagination for items multi-use when out bush. By sharing her notion of riding down one of the opposing hillside screeds on an empty pizza-box, after feeding on its contents, and then later using the box to start the campfire; Carpe diem camping, indeed!
The walk finished at the old homestead and shearers quarters, where an unmoving bearded dragon lizard gave us the ‘nose- up’, to signify who was the real-reallocal in these parts – a likeable dude … without question.
Finally, we did a dirt road drive to Quorn’s bustling Quandong Café for a quick lunch of jams, fritters and green things. Then disbanded and found our own ways back to Adelaide, where the throws and throngs of brick, letterbox and lawn awaited. A big thankyou to Sammi from all of us, for leading such a well-organised event over three days; an event of Splendour indeed!