Red Dust, Black Soot, Green Grass

While we munched on some delicious lunch in Dwellingup’s Blue Wren cafe we ordered some gear to protect us from the cold. It was already well in the afternoon by the time we got going so after a modest 13km we reached camp for the night at Swamp Oak. As the sky darkened in the glimmer of dusk it promised to be a cold night. We pitched our tent, hoping to trap some body heat in the bubble and prepared another cosy fire to keep warm until bedtime. 

Weather agencies have agreed in the mean time that an unusual cold spell is passing through this winter. Parts of Australia and New Zealand which rarely are covered in white have seen snowy days. Unusual wet spring in New Zealand, unusual dry summer, unusual early fall, unusual cold winter in Australia. Adventures down under 2014 – 2015 has seen quite the seasons.  

Out of the past five nights out I managed to sleep completely through one. We think the boogie man to blame is the humidity: those temperatures hanging around freezing point do not work well together with a 90 – 100% rate of air humidity. Gradually the days became warmer, so at least under daylight hours we could power up. The nights have improved too, fingers crossed it stays that way. 

After the Murray campsite – one of the prettiest ones we got to stay at so far – we reached the first major diversion after last summer’s vicious wildfires. From Dookanelly campsite on the track is closed after the Long Gully Bridge across the Murray River was wiped out. Because it was an additional 7km return trip to the camp site from the start of the diversion we decided to set up camp by the river. It would save us an hour of walking off the already 30km of the next day, and water was right there in the river. Brilliant.  

We had heard that the water in the river was clean so assumed that would be alright. The first taste however was awful. Yet our steripen blinked its smiley face and it was all we had so it would have to do. It wasn’t a pleasant 30 long, thirsty kilometers under the blazing sun to the improved campsite at Possum Springs (the shelter was destroyed in the fires). Balancing somewhere on the edge of decent dehydration we quickly introduced ourselves to our campsite companion before indulging on the water jerrycans. 

After she heard our story she explained that the water in the Murray River is salty. Now thát explained a lot. I hadn’t recognised the taste because I simply didn’t expect salt water in an inland river. PJ had stayed clear of it all day and made do with what he had left of the shelter the night before. The cause of the salt is deforestation in the wheat belt, the agricultural area where the Murray’s head waters are located. The trees no longer filter the salt from the ground so it simply runs off in the river. Of course, there was no water anywhere else to be found. Still getting used to the water situation here and still happy to be carrying dehydration salts at all times.  

The Bibbulmun Foundation makes a bit of drama about the bush fires and the Murray river crossing (which didn’t even get our feet wet) while it’s really fine. All in all only about four shelters are destroyed and even while we walked through black, sooty landscapes for 1.5 days, the rest of the tracks and the woods are fine. 

It’s pretty interesting too to see how resilient life here is to fire. Many plants store their seeds in the ground, creating a massive seed bank that will sprout up from the fertile ashes. Many trees keep seeds in sockets in the bark on their trunks and recover through them. So even though everything is black, the middle- and undergrowth are completely gone and the trees look as if they’ve been made pillars of charcoal, green is resprouting and regrowing everywhere. 

After two weeks of continuous red dust, soot and gravel PJ, I and everything we own looked like we were a pair of coal mine workers. It’s really interesting to be walking through such a different, arid landscape but by the end of this week I realised something. When we take a break, we sit on gravel. When we hang around the fire, we sit on gravel. When we pitch our tent, we pitch it on gravel. I miss grass. Sweet, soft, green, fluffy luxurious grass. Right before we entered Collie, the ground turned sandier and a bit of the green magic appeared. I am hopeful for a grassy future. 


3 thoughts on “Red Dust, Black Soot, Green Grass”

  1. We leren inderdaad wat bij door jullie! Australië heeft wat onverwachte en onvoorziene eigenschappen,maar jullie slaan er je blijkbaar vrij goed doorheen. Water blijkt een item waar dient op te worden gefocust,hou het in de gaten! En het gras,je mist het pas echt als het er effectief niet meer is… Succes verder,hou jullie taai en blijf voorzichtig! tot snel. P.


  2. Hi Eef and PJ,
    The magic of water….. The magic of the color green ….the magic of the sunrays warming up the body….. Very different stories today but the pictures are so beatiful!
    Het lijkt er op dat jullie weerom heel wat doorstaan en dat allemaal weerom glansrijk overwinnen…. Heeft jullie hoed nog plaats voor bijkomende pluimen, er moet alweer een hele grote bij…..😀!!
    Het overweldige van de natuur blijft onuitwisbare stempels drukken en een lesje natuurkunde hebben we via dit verhaal alweer op gedaan…..
    Heb de indruk dat deze trip meer bijsturing vraagt dan de NZ trip, klopt dat?
    Alleszins groot respect voor jullie prestatie en heerlijk jullie te kunnen volgen….
    In Lapland voelde ik dat die reis ons iets bijzonders zou nalaten, meer dan enkel de herinnering er geweest te zijn.Dat we jullie hicking mogen volgen , onvoorstelbaar gewoon, bedankt!
    Doe krachten op tijdens jullie rust want…….jullie staan wat scherp ????
    Ik kijk alvuist uit naar een volgend verhaal en intussen ….
    stay healthy, take care of each other and big big hughs


    1. Hey Nicky! Wel, voor Nieuw-Zeeland hadden we ons lang voorbereid en dit is meer een ‘toevallige passage’ om het zo te zeggen. We wisten ook niet exact wat te verwachten omdat de info over de bosbranden deze zomer niet heel duidelijk was, dus we passen ons aan en gaan ‘happy go lucky’ verder door naar het zuiden. Wat er op ons pad gegooid wordt zullen we dan wel oplossen!
      De hike zelf is veel gemakkelijker, al lijkt het misschien niet direct uit onze beschrijving. We moeten natuurlijk ergens over schrijven!
      Ik ga proberen je verslag nog te lezen voor het slapengaan hier, anders zet ik het zeker bovenaan mijn to do lijst voor volgende keer :).
      Knuffels uit Australië,
      Eef & PJ


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