two yarns ......

A Long Walk To The Pub 2014

We went for a hike. Hell of a long walk just to get to the pub. There was a short cut, but …..

For sometime some of us have been talking about trying to find the bushwalkers memorial plaque near Mt Cook on Magnetic Island. Some have tried to find it in recent years without success.

The mission – find the plaque. It is on a rock. Yeah well, the island is full of rocks !

The plaque – in 1962, two members of Townsville NFC Bushwalkers (the first name for Townsville Bushwalking Club), also members of the RAAF, set out in a kayak from the Strand for Magnetic Island. They disappeared and were never found, despite an intensive search including two RAAF Neptune maritime patrol aircraft. Their kayak was located days later near Lucinda. The bushwalking club attached a memorial plaque to a rock near Mt Cook looking towards Pallarenda, the plaque facing the line of the airport runway. People including friends of the family have been trying to find the plaque for some time.

198*** club newsletter describes a walk to Mt Cook and the plaque, and includes a map with the plaque location marked. Nick W provides further information. He also mentions death adders nipping at your hills going up the ridgeline, and suggests ‘send Wilfred ahead to clear the way’. Armed with this information, we calculate grid reference and study topo map, we are confident of success.

Sunday 28th Sept, seven keen members assembled at Breakwater ferry terminal for the 0705 ferry. Plan was to ascend Mt Cook from Nelly Bay, find the plaque, descend to Five Beaches Bay (northern end of island), then around to Horseshoe Bay to complete the walk.

A pleasant morning ferry ride to Nelly Bay. Start walking at 0745. Wilfred leading, up the back of Nelly Bay onto the NP track to the water tower at the saddle, 40 minute gentle walk. Turn left and head up the ridgeline, faint track for a short while until that disappears. Steep morning climb, bit humid, mild bush bashing and rock clambering. After a steep initial climb, ridge flattens out a bit, then climbs steeply again. Higher up we enter grass trees. Several peaks are attained, then down gullies, and up the other side. There was four significant bits like this on the way to the summit. Along the way after a short one minute break at bottom of a hill, Wilfred says ‘give us a G’ – ‘G’ we respond. ‘Give us an O’ – “O’. ‘Give us a G’- ‘G’. ‘Give us an O’ – ‘O’. ‘GO GO’ Wilfred calls (memories of Kokoda track). So on upwards we GO GO.

At top of a hill, we have fine views to Horseshoe Bay –‘pub down there ya know Wilfred’ I say. ‘Ok, let’s take shortcut to the pub, direct line uh !’. Think about that for a minute, decide to get to the plaque first.

Nearing 1000, one member Suzanne asks about a smoko stop. Not yet. Later, this member calls ‘Give us an S’ – ‘S’ we respond. ‘Give us an M’ – ‘M’. I knew where this was going ! ‘Give us an O’- ‘O’. ‘Give us a K’ – ‘K’. ‘Give us an O’ – ‘O’. ‘SMOKO’ she calls. But our leader is mission focused – no smoko stop, yet.

We see Mt Cook and the navigation beacon in the distance,. A deep gully and large hill lay between. Down the gully into large grass trees, then another steep hill climb scrambling up large rocks, we stop for a short breather at 1100. ‘Is it smoko yet?’ she asks – ‘No – smoko will be at the summit’. Our ‘smoko’ member sneaks in a quick cuppa anyway and a snack. Five minutes further on, we find four blokes on top of a boulder. Quick chat to them. Another gully lies between us and Mt Cook, now 500 metres away. With warnings of stinging trees ahead, we descend the gully into a world of ferns, Cyprus palms, very green and different - ‘it has Jurassic park feel, dinosaurs next’. But we find stinging trees, lot of them. Wilfred carefully plots a route through the ferns and stinging trees. Climb the hill and before us is the beacon and summit, arrive 1140. Mt Cook at altitude 494 metres. We find a cleared area under the tree canopy adjacent to the beacon, and now have smoko. Try to find the book to sign, but can not find it. In the distance can see what we think is the knoll we seek.

At 1215 we move on. Follow a track for 300 metres, to arrive at a cleared area – this is the helipad for the beacon servicing. Great views to Pallarenda and the airport. Our target knoll lies about 250 metres ahead. Then bush bash, into tall grass tress, resplendent with long beards (no fires up here for a long time). We arrive at a two large rocks at 1250, and one of them has the plaque on it – well led Wilfred, straight to it. As reported, the plaque is in line with the runway, and overlooks the strait between Magnetic Island and Pallarenda. We hold a one minute silence memorial service.

At 1315 we move down off the knoll, plan is still to go to Five Beaches Bay. We expect to be able to follow ridgelines down. There is another hill ahead, groans from some ‘we are not going up that hill are we, had enough of hills?’. Around side of the hill, going down, bush bashing, above a dry creek bed. We then enter dry creek bed, fairly level ground, and turn north. This is headwaters of Duck Creek that flows west to West Point. Cross over the water shed, into headwaters of Endeavour Creek, which flows to Horseshoe Bay. Follows the creek line, bit of rock hopping, bit of bush bashing. But this creek will not take us to Five Beaches Bay. After one hour of walking stop at 1415 for a breather. I notice our leader has food out – ‘is this smoko?’ I ask. “no – it is lunch’. ‘Oh, ok – thought lunch would be at the pub’. Consult maps, GPS, compasses, and watches. To get to Five Beaches Bay we will need to cross over a ridgeline (and how many more hills and gullies), and we are still 1.75 km from the coast and at 305 metres altitude. Wilfred dismally says ‘you sure this is where we are?’. We decide to change plans due to time and terrain, and stay in the creek and make for the pub at Horseshoe Bay.

The terrain and walking must be easier now, because I now lead. Easy rock hopping down the dry creek, albeit that was tiring after a while. The creek flattens out into a sandy creek bed, lined by tea trees. Like, near the coast type creek now, swamp or coast ahead ? Group pace has picked up. Check the GPS, we are at 105 metres altitude, and still 1.5 km from coast ‘what the ..??’ I think – GPS must be wrong. I have been saying for a while ‘I expected to find a blockage in this creek. Dropping the height so much over shortish distance …….’. Well, our flat sandy creek, suddenly has dramatic large boulders ahead, and big drop off. Nik, Hans and Steve lead the way. A high cliff towers above on the left. We are blocked somewhat, but after searching find a way. Meant bottom sliding down smooth granite for a bit. After a while negotiating this area, we spot sandy creek bottom below. Finally we emerge onto the sandy creek bed, then walk along this to reach the coast. Some comment ‘this is an awfully long creek for an island’. Some stay inland in the creek line that runs parallel to the beach, two of us walk along the beach. Arrive at the Horseshoe Bay village at 1645. 13.9 km hike. Quick shower and change, some swim. Bus at 1725, or 1810 ? We decide 1810, that way no rush. Thus, we head for the pub – at last, took all day to get here! The ‘refreshments’ were very welcome. Nice sunset over the bay.

1810 bus, on to the ferry, for a nice ride home just after dusk. Looking back at the island, we see the Mt Cook beacon flashing red, and see the ridgeline we climbed up and the hills and gullies along the way – four significant hills and gullies. With the sky a hue of dusk colours, we enjoy the ferry ride home – a fantastic day in paradise. Back at the ferry terminal at 1905.

This was an excellent, successful walk and a great day - just a hell of a long and difficult way to get to the pub.


Mt Bowen

Mt Bowen, 1,121 metres, is the highest peak on Hinchinbrook Island, and is a bucket list item for many bushwalkers. It is an imposing looking mountain rising up sharply from the beaches, craggy ridgelines and rocky outcrops on the sides. Many try it, but not all succeed. A small group led by Graeme takes on the challenge.

Friday 8th September 2017

5:30 Graeme gets a phone call – ‘boat is ready to depart (Cardwell), where are you ?’. ‘Townsville’ is Graeme’s reply ‘thought boat time was 8:30’. Cranky boat skipper. Oops.

8:30 catch the boat from Cardwell to Hinchinbrook Island. Up the mangrove creek in Missionary Bay the imposing monsters of Mt Bowen, The Thumb and Pineapple Ridge dominate the awesome landscape. 9:30 arrive on the island, commence the 6.8 km walk to Little Ramsay Bay along the Thorsborne Trail, 1 hr 45 minute walk. Short lunch break at Little Ramsay. Looking up at our route, Warawilla Creek to the saddle, that looks very steep and jungle near the saddle, daunting. The Thumb and Mt Bowen (1,121 metres) soar above, monsters teasing us.

We start the walk up Warawilla Creek at 11:52, a long hot rock hop with heavy (four day) packs. We have no firm plan, see how far we get today. Finding a camp spot with water for six persons might be a challenge. Along the way we sight potential rocky camp spots, but decide to push in as far as we can today to reduce the adventure length tomorrow .After 3.9 km of rockhopping, at 3:17 pm, we find a suitable place to camp in rocks and boulders. Creek bank is thick gnarly vegetation, no hope of camping in there. 347 mr altitude. Base camp for two nights. The heavy packs made us work harder climbing up the creek. Earlier downstream, I outsmarted myself, thinking only one night camping in the creek, I offloaded some of my gear to reduce pack weight (food, cooking gear, etc), attaching to a tree in the creek. Now, later up the creek ‘Oh, two nights camp in creek now’ - damn (not enough food or gear now). Reasonable creek flow here. A few small pools below camp. Three had hammocks, the other three found ‘flattish’ rocks to make bed on, one fitted a tent, other two slept under the stars. Iron Man Chef made damper, very nice. At night a blood orange moon arose, awesome sight. Club rules, the 8 pm curfew (no sneaking off to bed before 8) was in place. Later, laying on my rock bed in sleeping bag (hoping I would not slide off the side into crevasses either side in the night), watching shooting stars and satellites.

Saturday 9th September 2017

Dawn, a bright red sun. What does that mean ? 7 am and the sun has bite in it already. Cardwell forecast today is 31 degrees. Getting ready, refill water bottle, a mossy rock results in a good slip and fall onto shin – ouch – nice immediate bruised leg.

Early start 7:12, with day packs only, carrying five litres of water each, the first hour was very humid, sweat pouring out of us, we climbed steeply up the boulder creek. We naturally split into two groups, the three greyhounds, and us three wiser ones. Wiser meaning older and slower, and smarter (you would think). Rock cairns are at regular intervals which provide confidence that we are on route - it is common to take creek branches to the left and end up blocked by cliff face. At one spot we caught up to the serenading greyhounds. But most of the time the greyhounds were well ahead out of sight. The creek gets steeper and steeper. Near the top of the creek, the creek is less distinguished, find pink tape and a jungle track is on left side which leads to the saddle arriving 9:17. A 1.7 km two hour, 458 metre ascent hike from camp, to 808 metres altitude. Saddle clearing is very small, 10 sq mr. Great views of Pineapple Ridge, Mt Bowen, the Thumb, and beaches below. We made very good time to here.

From the saddle onwards, the ridge and foreslopes of the mountain range were burnt off about eight weeks ago. The allowed easy walking up the ridge, through banksia and similar burnt native vegetation. Sometimes, bushwalkers are grateful for burnoffs. At a rock outcrop, we spy in the far distance a nudist colony on a higher rocky outcrop. Reach what we hope is the summit, but is a false summit. Ahead and above is the summit, twenty minute walk further on through light burnt scrub. We reach the summit (1,121 metres) at 11:18 am, a 353 metre ascent 1.6 km walk from the saddle, and 801 metres ascent 3.3 km hike from camp. We read old stories and notes in the log book container at summit cairn. The club evens gets a mention from back in the 70s or 80s. We write our names in the log notes. Views all around the island over rocky pinnacles, mangrove channels, beaches, the inland channel, and mainland, to the Palm Island group, and way up north. We stare at an imposing The Thumb not far away, daunting, a challenge for the keen on another day.

To be on the mountain ridgeline for sunset and dawn would be amazing.

After lunch, the descent starts at 12:24 pm. All downhill. Easy. Promise. Fair dinkum. Us three wiser bushwalkers, decide to try a shortcut off the mountain to avoid the rock hop down the creek and also beat the three greyhounds back to camp. WK reckons we can get down in two hours, nice burnt foreslopes, open cross country, cut half the distance out (from summit to camp straight line is only 1.3 km), albeit steep and friable surface, but all good. 'Easy shortcut'.

Now there are wisdom sayings in the club - 'what could possibly go wrong' and 'when the fun stops the adventure begins'. So after an easy 862 metre walk along the open ridge, at 12:58 pm, at 1066 metres elevation, us wise ones drop off the ridge line onto the easy looking shortcut. The greyhounds, well ahead, stick with the known and used ridge and creek boulder-hop route. If they only had the wisdom us wise ones have !

Down the mountain steep foreslopes, open burnt county, bit friable, but good going, easy. About one hundred and fifty metres descent run into a thicket gully, bash our way through, back in burnt open slope. Then run into more viney thicket, more tangled and bashing. Decide to keep pushing right as that is where the burnt open bit should be. Then at 2 pm, one hour walking, 700 metres elevation, after 700 metres walking, arrive at an open creek line, bit mushy underfoot, and this was start of water flow feeding this side creek. A terraced rock face creek blocked us going down. Looked pretty, but did not care about pretty right now. Going down this creek is not an option due to sheer wet cliff faces and drop offs in the creek, and thick vegetation on the sides.

Decide to keep going right, into greenery (it will not last long will it, be back in burnt country soon right ?). We were making slow progress bashing our way through thick vegetation for 380 metres, took 55 minutes for this short segment. Where is that damned burnt bit ? A clear area ahead, we are jubilant - to find we have arrived at top of a cliff face. We are blocked. Damn. Now at 633 metres elevation. Try left to get into the creek, bashing through gnarly tangled crap, to be blocked by cliff face again. Backtrack a bit, with scrubby saplings snagging and tearing at us, steep climb and loose underfoot back up making progress slow. Going back up sucked. Whoever said Hinchinbrook Island was beautiful, has not been in this part. Discuss options, there was talk of back up to the ridge line, but decided 'let's keep right again – find that burnt line down the mountain' (how did we lose it?). Going right is closer to camp. Bashing our way through tangled scrub, every time we tried to go down we found blockages. Tiring and getting frustrated, check GPSr, we are 720 metres from camp, at 3:25 pm. That lifted spirits – not far to go. Albeit, a 250 metre descent to camp site over the 720 metres – hhhmmm that might be interesting. Warawilla Creek was only 100 metres away too, but way below in thick green stuff. Along top of the scrubby cliff line to the right we head, after more scrub bashing, zig zagging, backtracking, probing, cursing, legs and hands getting shredded, we are 705 metres from camp and 80 metres from Warawilla. Thirty minutes to get 15 metres closer ? Next cliff at 560 metres elevation, a 387 metre bash from the last cliff, took 1 hr ten minutes, now 4:12 pm. The wisest and most elder, says 'next time I get an idea like this, please hit me on the head with a lump of timber!'. The fun must have stopped. Albeit, Joy was giggling a lot, having a ball. Keep pushing right along top of cliff line which we see extends for long way. Short time later after more bush bashing along cliff line, check GPSr again, we are now 700 metres from camp. Oh! Well, at least five metres closer to camp now. Finally find a cutting in the cliff we can scramble down, then we are able to zig zag down a granite slope, back into scrub. We were thankful to be in the mongrel rainforest scrub, even though that meant bashing our way through, tangled and caught up, tripping, at least we could make ‘some’ progress now. Sun is getting low and will drop behind the mountain ridgeline soon. Start having thoughts on what do we do when darkness arrives ? More bush bashing, then to top it off wait-a-while and vine jungle. Gotta love nature. 141 metres bush bash from the last cliff line finally we re-enter Warawilla Creek at 16:42 pm. That was a 1.7 km wandering zig zag 580 metre descent 3.5 hour ‘shortcut’ to Warawilla. Straight line would have been 950 metres – it really is a shortcut if in a straight line ! But, we were not closer to the camp as we short cut planned (kinda planned a direct line, but that was not the result by entering Warawilla here upstream).

Check distance, 685 metres to camp (so in one hour we had only come 35 metres closer to camp !!). But to placate our wisest elder I had to say 500 metres to camp - he threatened to destroy the GPSr if it said 700 metres again. Rockhopping down the creek in dying light, seemed forever (was really 800 metres creek walk with zig zagging), to stagger (no, we marched proudly) into camp at 5:30 pm, tired, dirty, scarred, cuts and scratches. The three unwise greyhounds at camp are relaxed, clean and calm. They served us fresh pikelets as a reward upon arrival. That shortcut, we travelled an extra 72 metres compared to the long route, and took an extra two hours. The greyhounds beat us by 2.5 hours (at least). It was a good adventure - we highly recommend Wilfred's Guided Easy Shortcut Tours. As we cleaned up, the greyhounds, with too much energy to spare, performed yoga on a boulder. Iron Man Chef starts preparing camp made strawberry yoghurt for breakfast tomorrow, needs overnight to cure. At night, a Melomys Cervinipes (?) native rat hangs around, and steals a tea bag.

Sunday 10th September 2017

Another nice sunrise. Breakfast, the strawberry yoghurt had not set and was more like strawberry milk. Break camp, 7:45 start the rock hop down the creek to Little Ramsay Bay. On arrival, use sat phone to check boat timing for departure tomorrow - 11:30 is depart time. We decide to overnight at Little Ramsay. Looking back at the mountain, we can see the burnt foreslopes almost all the way down with green strips intervening – oh, if we had just kept going right when higher…...

Chilled out for the afternoon. Some do yoga on the beach. A goanna investigates the camp site. We sat on the beach and compared our beaten bodies – the unwise greyhounds were unbeaten, scratch free and full of energy - us wiser older ones had scratched and cut legs, arms, face and hands, and no energy –– something to be said about being older and wiser ! Albeit, their clothes were tattered, and someone’s shoes need intense re-stitching. Being creative and energetic, they even made hats and grass skirts out of palm leaves. Later we sat on the beach for the evening and early night under the Milky Way, and a celebratory nip of port each.

Monday 1th September 2017

A nice dawn on a beautiful tropical island beach. Talk of lunch – ‘what are you having in Cardwell?’ Burgers, fish and chips, ice creams, icy cold drinks, great coffee, all good motivation to get going. We donate gas cylinders to a group doing the Thorsborne Trail who were having problems with their Jetboil stove. At 8:10 we depart on the 6.8 km morning hike back to Ramsay Bay for the boat. The greyhounds race off to climb Nina Peak on the way. Just before reaching Ramsay Bay beach, Wilfred spots what looks like a side track leading into scrub – ‘a short cut?’ – Joy and I stare – ‘No, no shortcut today !!’.Reach the boat, after a 6.8 km 210 mr ascent 202 mr descent nice easy track walk. Boat has icy cold soft drinks which were well appreciated. Sitting in the boat, our four day old clothes are well and truly rank. Back in Cardwell at 1240. Change clothes and feel like new people. Fish and chips for lunch, icy cold drinks, coffee – luxury. Driving home, talk of Mt Diamantina, Mt Straloch, Waterfall Creek, and other future adventures. Frosty Mango for ice creams on the way home to top off a great trip and celebrate another challenge ticked off the bucket list.

And seriously, Wilfred does offer guided easy tours in the Paluma / Mt Spec / Hidden Valley area if you want to make a booking for a very good guided ‘on track’ tour to special areas. Just be careful of the words ‘easy shortcut’.



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