Tuesday 26 October 2010

Hike Day 6 - Gungarlin River to Island Bend

After the dark and stormy night, I woke at dawn and unzipped the side of my tent that faced east: no rain, just a little mist and the promise of a brighter day. I got up, put on my boots and went to the creek to splash my face and fill the kettle.

E appeared and said she thought she could see a brumby in the distance. I grabbed my camera and set off in pursuit. I walked along a track by the river, jumped over a marsh and, as I got to the clearing E had pointed out, realised there was not one, but three horses – two adults and a baby. Closer still and the leader of the pack (all he needed was a black leather jacket) put up his head and looked at me. No point trying to hide: I was wearing a red jacket. And even if I hadn’t been, I’m sure I was pretty fragrant after two non-showering days. Leader of the Pack called to the others and they started to run.

As well as the original three, six or seven others appeared out of the bush, mostly dark brown but there were a couple of bays too. With the mist and the still-dim sky, there was something dreamlike about the scene. Completely magical. The brumbies weren’t scared, just demonstrating that they didn’t find human company to their taste.

Back to camp and breakfast of porridge and tea. The sun was up by now and as we packed our bags and struck our tents it shone in earnest.

Once we’d set off, the group broke into little clusters. With hurt knees and sore feet, people walked at their own pace. We’d been told this was a short day (only 14km) and enjoyed walking along the forest track, smelling the great scent of gum trees. We had one mishap though, where we turned left where we should have turned right. The path came to an abrupt halt so we had to backtrack through Snake Gully (christened because of several sightings. One I saw with my own eyes – a big black snake slithering beside us. Urgh.)

We walked quickly back to the junction and then turned downhill, crossing the Snowy River (I hoped we might see the Man from Snowy River swooping down on his horse, but sadly no.) Up, up, up one last pesky hill and then, just after 2, we reached Island Bend where the Bushpigs’ (local rugby team) bus was waiting to collect us.

The driver generously detoured via Jindabyne and SHOPS. Almost overcome at the sight of civilisation, I bought paw paw ointment (more on this wonder-unguent anon), blister plasters and COFFEE. Also Grazia because it’s important to be well-informed.

We were staying at the ALI lodge on the outskirts of Jindabyne: comfortable dorms, lovely bathrooms (clean and warm, lots of hot water) and a train in the yard that doubled as a living room.

Dinner and bed at 9. A mattress never felt so good.

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