15 Apr 2021
“Let’s go! Right now.” I said peeling off my painting gloves. The cloud cover had cleared and the Great Western Tiers were framed by a clear blue sky. Finally, after a couple of days of waiting the conditions looked good to go go.
We were packed, and in the car in 15mins. “This might be my record” I said to Dave, quietly pleased with myself. Poor David, spends a large chunk of his life waiting for me when we need to leave the house.
The road to Devils Gullet Lookout wound through county towns and through lush farmland around the base of the Tiers. An hour later and we had commenced the winding gravel drive up to the plateau.
Suddenly the weather closed in. The sky darkened with fast moving clouds. We had our full winter, wet weather gear so we weren’t too concerned as long as the clouds stayed higher than the road.
Leaving the depths of the green forest our narrow dirt track wound up onto the plateau. We’re teased with glimpses of view across the valley as the track followed a steep ridge.
‘Road closed’ announced the sign on the chain slung across access to the lookout’s car park.
“Oh come on!” I cried.
“Where was the warning at the bottom of the mountain?” demanded Dave.
There was a 4WD Ute parked with it’s nose up to the closed road. We pulled over on the side of the dirt road and thought we’d take a closer look.
I pushed the car door open but the wind pushed it closed. I tried again. The wind pushed it back. I pushed harder and with both hands this time and managed to fight my way out. The wind was blisteringly cold. I was protected in my wind-proof gear and keen to do the short walk to the lookout.
While we were approaching the trailhead the couple from the ute walked out of the track, into the car park.
“Hi there” I smiled as we approached each other. They smiled at us in greeting.
“We ignored the sign” he said sheepishly
“We’re there any problems?” I asked him
“Nah, it’s fine apart from a bit of wash-out.” he said pointing further along the track. We’d come this far and decided to press on knowing it was a short walk to the lookout.
Skeletal remains of the alpine forest stretched out across the valley. Another devastating victim of the Black Summer ‘19 Bushfires.
It’s hard to imagine this placed as an inferno, especially today as we navigated around some flood damage. At least there were signs of re-growth, it should eventually recover.
Climbing a new and orderly stretch of stone steps we came out onto an open meadow, a patchwork of soaked grasses and lichen. Mirror flat puddles reflected the watery sky. It was raw, wild, and strangely beautiful.
My fingers burned in the sharp cold of the air, especially when taking photographs. We were protected from the force of the wind but it roared through the scorched branches overhead.
As we climbed a higher and neared the cliff edge, we passed through a new growth forest with fresh leaves, vibrant against the black and white skeletons.
Now the wind really picked up, biting through the layers of gear and setting to work on my soul. My fingers burned! I put away my phone, curled my gloved fingers into fists and jammed them into my jacket pockets and wondered how long frostbite takes to set in.
“I can’t remember the last time I was this cold?” I called out to David standing halfway along the metal viewing platform. He couldn’t hear me. The sound of the wind roared up the cliff-face with a force we didn’t trust. We didn’t dare walk to the end of the platform that jutted out beyond the edge over the valley. I love heights, but didn’t fancy flirting with hypothermia today.
Yes, the wind was ferociously cold, but it was also completely exhilarating.
And the staggering view laid out before us, held our attention through it all. Layers of jagged angular cliffs faces and mountain ridges. Under the heavy sky colour was washed out, faded indigo, deep olives and burnt umber. I resolved to pain this place one day. Magnificent.
I braced for the pain and pulled out my camera (iPhone).
On the return walk, I thought of the rest of my family on holiday at Burleigh Heads, on the Gold Coast, in the sun, and chuckled to myself. What different experiences we are having today.