01 Mar 2021
Clinging to the side of the mountain, the narrow Great Alpine Road wound through the forest and climbed 1500m in altitude over 40km. Steep and winding. Cut into formidable slopes, the edge of the road dropped away at an alarming rate, often without a guardrail: not for the faint-hearted.
We were on route to the Razorback Hike, a bushwalking icon along a wind-swept ridge to Mount Feathertop. We planned to run much of it, but were not committed to the full 22 kilometres, our aim was to run about 12 or 14km.
The road climbed above the tree line and opened up to reveal spectacular views across the high country. Layers of blue mountains as far as the eye can see.
“This is the most mountainous view I’ve seen in Australia!” I breathed to Dave trying not to distract his attention from navigating this precarious road.
“More than Tasmania?”
“Yes! There’s so many mountains into the distance – but don’t look!” I joked. “Pull into the next lookout we find.”
“There it is!” I pointed to a pale line etched into the ridge and disappearing behind a mound. Dave pulled over and parked the car.
Under a clear blue sky we headed north from the trailhead, out along the grassy ridge following the edge of the tree line. The ridge narrowed and quickly started climbing, with the views into the distance distracting our attention.
“There’s a little snakey-thing just there” said Dave pointing, thinking it might be a legless skink, or trying not to spook me?
“Oh hello, little guy!” I said reaching for my phone. I was a reasonable distance from him, and gave him a wide berth. I’ve read that if you leave them alone, they shouldn’t be aggressive. But if that’s a baby snake, where the heck is it’s mother? Eyes on a swivel.
Paying more attention to foot placement, we picked up our pace and started jogging, stopping when we reached Bon Accord Spur to take in the view of mountains in every direction.
*After a bit of research, we think the snake was an Eastern Brown Snake, the second most venomous snake in Australia.
“And what did I do? I poked it.” Admitted Dave the next day.
“WHAT?! With your finger?!” I demanded. He started chuckling.
“Yeah. I poked an Eastern Brown snake with my finger. I thought it was a dead Skink. It was just lying there. I poked it and then it’s tongue moved and I thought: oh no, not dead.”
“WHAT?! You don’t poke Australian wildlife, with your finger!!” I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. “What would you have done if it had bitten you?!” Oh my God.
“Well I know that, now…” he said sheepishly. “And don’t put this in the blog- our parents will never let us leave the house again.”
Back to the story:
Continuing down the steep rocky spur and along the grassy ridge sprinkled with wildflowers, the trail crossed into the Big Dipper saddle before contouring around the east side of the next hill. I stopped to stretch out my legs before knuckling down into a comfortable pace along the ridge. We passed a handful of hikers ladened down with overnight pack packs and were grateful for our light and agile hydration packs.
The trail entered a sparse forest of stunted dead snow gums with flourishing waist high heather. We needed to push through the heather, I slowed down and took my sunglasses off to keep a careful eye out for snakes. .
Climbing steeply out of the trees to the head of Campion Spur we looked down into the into eastern valley and across to the Twin Knobs.
“This looks like a good spot for lunch” On top of Twin Knobs with a 360 degree view and Mount Feathertop looking proud on the ridge. We tried to get comfortable on the sharp scree to eat. I was a little shaky from the excursion of running at altitude and devoured an apple, a muesli bar and a couple of dates. No stale peanut butter sandwiches today.
Dave sifted through the sharp stones around us picking up an opaque snow-white stone “This could be Calcite or… no it’s Quartz, for sure.”
A couple of girls walked past with a friendly greeting. They’d been trailing behind us, their chatter and laughter occasionally on the wind. As they passed we realised they were sisters, twins in fact.
“No wonder they didn’t stop talking the whole time” chuckled Dave.
Looking around at the view we noticed a patch of soft grass just behind us so moved to get more comfortable and to take in the view to the south.
“Look at that perfect cloud, all on it’s own.” I said pulling out my phone in the warm breeze.
After a rest we were ready to retrace our steps, at a slower pace this time.
“Let’s walk for 20 mins while we digest” I suggested my legs feeling heavy.
Back in the woodland we took time to stop and photograph and look more closely at the dead snow gums. It’s so sad to see so much dead forest.
“ I guess trees don’t live forever,” wondered Dave “but for so many to die at the same time is strange.”
As far as we can tell it’s a combination of drought conditions drying out the trees so that they become susceptible to a wood boring insect; and bushfire damage. There are a number of studies going on to learn more.
The trail itself was ground into an incredibly fine dust in places. It glowed in the sunlight, it was so fine. Our shoes and legs were covered in a silky smooth layer of dust. In other places it was small, sharp layers of slate.
“I’m glad we’re walking, we zoomed along before, now we can enjoy the scenery” said Dave negotiating down a patch of steep sharp rocks, not far from the end of the walk.
“Yeah, I think around the 14km is the longest enjoyable distance to walk, for us, isn’t it?” We were feeling tired but rewarded after a good day in the mountains.
By the time we arrived back at our farm cottage we were exhausted and getting stiff after an hour in the car. We stretched and used the foam roller on our weary muscles before devouring dinner.
Later, Dave was in bed trying to read his book “Will you please be quite, please” through droopy eyelids. It took some effort to dig myself off the couch to come to bed. I padded into the bedroom moving in slow motion, climbed out of my tracksuit pants and draped them over the back of a chair. A movement on the rug caught my attention. I shrieked!
“What?!” Asked Dave, immediately awake and a bit annoyed.
“A HUGE spider!” I was already moving, I leaped to David’s side of the bed and up onto his pillows, standing behind my half naked husband for protection.
“Oh, I thought you’d seen a rat.” He chuckled sitting up in bed, me trampling his pillows behind him.
“Where is it?” He asked climbing out of bed
“It was running right towards me, and under the bed” I stamped over to my side, back against the wall.
“I can’t see it” he scanned the floor. He disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a can of Mortine.
I jumped down from the bed, tiptoed out of the bedroom and found myself standing on a dining chair, in my underpants, listening to the sound of chemical warfare in the bedroom.
“Did you get it?” I demanded from the safety of the dining chair.
Oh no, he can’t find it!
I could hear him searching through our bags and clothes. Everything is in that room, it’s the perfect place for a huntsman to hide. He came out with an armload of things he’s checked: Bike helmets, trail shoes, running packs and headed back in. More fossicking around, more spraying, and other armload of our belongings brought out: knee pads, thermals, a sock.
“He’s gone.” Announced Dave.
“Oh, no. I need to see a body!” I called from high on my chair.
I love my husband. We have been together for 29 years, and he knew what it would take to coax me back to bed. Try as he might, he just could not find the damn spider.
Eventually fatigue got the better of me. I couldn’t stand on the chair all night.
“How can I sleep knowing there is a spider in the room?” I genuinely wanted to know.
“He’ll be dead now. He’s been gassed.” I looked at him sceptically.
“They generally go high when they’re scared, don’t they” he said looking around the walls.
“Did you spray under the dresser and wardrobe?”
“What about behind them?” I said pressing my head against the wall trying to see behind the antique wardrobe. He came over and aimed a spritz through the crack.
“What about behind the bed head?” We pulled the bed out and he spritzed a few more times before pushing the bed back into place.
Houdini. The spider had vanished.
I looked at my husband standing there in his pants, spray in hand, wondering where the heck that damn spider has gone, and how would he convince me to get into bed. I started to giggle.
“So turns out, I’m still arachnophobic..” I said sheepishly climbing into bed and curling into a tight ball, admitting defeat. “I can step around a venomous snake, no problem, but spiders still rob me of my chi.”
“He’ll be dead now” His words would have been comforting if his eyes weren’t still scanning the room.
By now bone numbing fatigue had set in and I promptly fell asleep believing there was a monster under the bed.
The next morning I was wound up and jumpy. The ceiling fan reflection set my heart racing. A wayward lock of hair, made me jump. I carefully inspected anything before picking it up.
I joined Dave in the garden with my coffee to watch him watercolour, to calm down.
“I’m so jumpy.” I said sipping my coffee.
“Just relax now, babe.” He said in a soothing voice, looking up between brushstrokes.
It was getting cold so got up to get my jumper and walked face first into a spiderweb. I yelled! This time more in frustration. This is ridiculous!
“Come on let’s go out” he said coming to my rescue. He took me for beer and burgers at the local microbrewery. It was a perfect and delicious distraction.
Pulling into the shed back at the cottage I said “We’ll bust him sitting on the couch, watching Netflix”.
And find him we did! Hiding in plain sight above the bathroom door. I climbed back onto my chair and listened to Dave get down to business.