There is nothing more certain in life than this: when you pack for a long walk you will forget something vital, you will carry something useless, and the walk will not turn out exactly as planned.
We discovered these fundamental laws whilst pursuing a happy, but slightly insane, project to map the Wet Tropics walking trails. During that eventful project I cannot remember a single long walk where we wanted for nothing or carried nothing unwanted, but we certainly achieved a noteworthy succession of blunders while mapping the trail from Davies Creek to Kahlpahlim Rock (Lamb’s Head).
The trail ends 1290 metres above sea level on the windy brow of Kahlpahlim Rock, a magnificent granite bluff that overlooks Trinity Inlet and Cape Grafton. This rock eyrie is so lofty and remote that even Cairns’ suburban sprawl looks orderly and enchanting. On the brow you can rest on a turf seat surrounded by orchids and contemplate a vast panorama. It is, however, far from easy to get there and walkers need to be well prepared.
It is a steep climb to the top and there is no water, so you need to carry a couple of litres of water at least. Some of the walk is in the open, so a hat is mandatory, and it gets cold up there, so a windproof jacket allows you to bide a while on the rock and absorb the vista without the wind turning your sweaty shirt to ice. The return walk takes sane people at least five hours, so hefty calorific food must be packed and, finally, the view is sublime, so a camera is essential. If your gear is primitive, like ours, you will be carrying several kilos up a vertical distance of approximately 600 metres over five kilometres. It’s a tough task.
The first time we mapped the trail we each carried a thoughtfully prepared backpack and a formidable quantity of camera gear. This view was to be the cover photograph for the Cairns and Kuranda book. The weather was perfect. The sandwiches were sublime. We had just the right amount of water and protective clothing, but both cameras were useless – no film.
We returned about a month later. The excellent sandwiches were accompanied by a well-judged water supply. We had protective garments and the cameras were loaded with film, but the cool breeze turned to a bleak howling gale as we stepped onto the rock. The wind whipped the clouds over Cape Grafton into long grey vortices that streamed across the bluff, enveloping all in mist. We shivered there for an hour, hoping for a break, then descended, defeated, without the photo.
We decided to forget the whole cover photo idea and just write up the walk. This involved transcribing information that we had recorded on a small tape recorder during the walk. We always log every move for later transcription but this time we struck a glitch. At one particular point on the walk there is a poorly marked junction which forms a loop in the trail that accesses a lookout. It is necessary to know exactly where this path leaves the main trail or the lookout is bypassed. The tape confidently reported (in a male voice) that the junction was on the left, 50 metres from the overhanging rock. Memory indicated that it was on the right and the ensuing lively discussion solved nothing.
We returned. The turnoff was on the right. The weather was bleak again. We sat on the bluff for an hour, hoping for a break, then descended without a photo. But we had an accurate map.
We never got that photo. The non-descript scene from a Barron Gorge National Park trail that was hastily pressed into service at the last moment will irritate us until the book is reprinted.
The cover photo for the north Queensland book was more carefully planned. The photo is of Lake Tinaroo. It was taken from a boulder on the Torpedo Bay walk about twenty minutes walk from Tinaroo Dam carpark. It would have been easy to go back if we’d had to, so nothing went wrong.
Kym Dungey and Jane Whytlaw
Kym and Jane are enthusiastic walkers and keen environmentalists. Their interest in the region and their passion for publishing led them to research and publish books on the walking trails of the region. They hope the books help promote awareness of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Kym and Jane received a Cassowary Award for Nature Based Tourism in 2007.
Born and raised in South Africa, John now lives in Kuranda with his artist wife, Fiona, and two girls, Ruby and Jorgie. His passions include bringing people together to progress conservation and sustainability, natural history, art, photography, music and his family. He has served on the WTMA board and was coordinator of Cairns and Far North Environment Centre for five years. He currently works for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
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