Party: Annie McTigue, Sierra Classen, Aaron Nolan, Frank Torok
Leader: Sierra Classen
Trip report by: Annie McTigue
Date: 30/11 – 01/12/2013

The walk was from Katoomba to Wentworth Falls via Mount Solitary and the usual other places, with a notable addition of an aborted attempt at reaching Point Repulse.

Naked without a stick

The title of this trip report might suggest that I set off on my first bush walk with a sense of vulnerability. As I stood in the middle of Central station at 7 o’clock in the morning unsure of the physical appearance of a certain ‘Frank’ I was somehow supposed to identify, I felt slightly lost, slightly naked. Not only did I have to strip myself completely of preconceptions, but also the voice niggling in my ear, attempting to remind me that setting off into the wilderness with two unknown men was perhaps not the smartest idea.

I waited in the station, slowly sipping my soy latte – the last of my urban luxuries – hoping that my known travel companion, the fearless leader, Sierra, would arrive soon. Not long thereafter I spotted a young man with a large backpack. I was unsure of how to approach him, but I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a simple “Hi, are you Frank?”. Thankfully his large macpac allowed for a reasonably seamless identification and the stranger that stood before me, was in fact the young man that I was searching for. Not long thereafter we were joined by our fearless leader and headed off on the train towards Katoomba. At the station we met Aaron, the second of our mysteriously unfamiliar travel companions and set off on foot towards the entrance of the Golden Stairs that would lead us to the Ruined Castle and finally to Wentworth Falls via Mount Solitary.

United at last, our group consisted of two young women, a 20 year old man and the more experienced 40 year old Aaron. Walking along the track I wondered what the other walkers who crossed our path would think of us. A father and kids? Two couples? Given our ever more insouciant relations I find it hard to believe that they would have pictured us to be just four hikers who didn’t really know each other. It may have been a good question to ask the bright yellow SUBW t-shirt clad Johnno Downes, whose path we crossed along the way.

After a successful morning of walking and becoming acquainted with one another, we stopped for a quick lunch by the Ruined Castle. We climbed up a rocky ledge where we enjoyed wonderful views and the company of a small family of bold reptiles who did not seem to be disturbed by our presence. Having refueled we decided it was time to carry on to the foot of Mount Solitary where we refilled our bottles with fresh water and took a short break to explore the surrounding areas. Though we had originally thought of camping there, the site was already occupied and given that the day was still young we carried on to the campsite at Singa-Jingawell Creek.

We set up camp and decided to go ‘bush bashing’. Unaware of what this activity entailed, I ingenuously set off in a pair of bike shorts. Needless to say, I was completely unprepared and began to feel discouraged as the barbed branches scratched my bare legs. Though I wished to continue, I knew it would not be wise and encouraged my fellow walkers to carry on without me. Aware of the perils of solo bush walking, especially for a complete novice, they resisted the temptation to leave me behind. I felt terrible for letting them down, but it certainly served as a lesson for myself and reminded me of how imperative it is to ensure that you enter the bush not only with the necessary equipment, but also with a true sense of unity.

We returned to the campsite without further ado and our rumbling stomachs pointed us in the direction of a rocky viewpoint where we intended to stop for dinner. Whilst preparing for the trip with Sierra I had been worried about the food we were taking. My naïve mind thought that it be both too much and not enough at the same time. The thought of eating refined carbohydrates with every meal scared me. I had managed to avoid doing so for such a long time. Muesli, wraps, noodles. Muesli, wraps, noodles. The words played over in my mind repeatedly, but I refused to give in. I was adamant not to let this irrational fear stop me from enjoying some of the most idyllic landscapes Australia has to offer. I soon came to realise that after a long hike my body yearned for sustenance. As I nourished my body, I also nourished my soul and fuelled my desire to carry on exploring and discovering all the bush has to offer. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to do this without the unknowing support of my wonderful travel companions, for which I will always be grateful.

Upon returning to camp after dinner we managed to amass a reasonable pile of wood and the men took it upon themselves to start a fire. I could feel the warmth of the fire on my chest, each flicker of light relieving one of the many burdens I had carried with me throughout the year. I tried to concentrate on the art of knot tying that Frank and Sierra were so enthusiastically sharing with each other, but the smoky haze that filled the air left me feeling light headed and it was soon time to put my head down and rest for the night.

As I awoke the next morning I felt as though my worries had burnt alongside the tinder, leaving nothing but ashes from which a new spirit and zest for life had risen. I had been reborn and once again, I felt naked. However, this time, rather than a sense of vulnerability, I felt vigor, courage and disenthrallment. I was finally at one with nature, with myself, and also with my newfound family of travel companions. Encouraged by these feelings, I shared the story of my late Great Uncle Gerald’s love affair with the Blue Mountains.

After leaving his family behind in England, Gerald arrived in Australia at the young age of 16. One of the first places that he visited was Katoomba and according to him, it was love at first sight. He often returned to the mountains as he considered them to be the most beautiful place on earth. I cannot even begin to fathom what it must have been like for him, just a boy, without possessions, without survival training and without a support network of family in Australia to motivate him on his journey, who had to act like a man. The mountains seemed to offer him solace – a place both of opulence and simplicity.

I had known from a young age that he wished to have his ashes scattered in the Blue Mountains.  As a representation of his solidarity with the beautiful landscape, I hope to carry out this request, allowing him, once and for all to lay to rest in a place he imagined to be more beautiful than anything the deities of the hereafter could purvey. I couldn’t imagine a more picturesque spot to honour Gerald’s wish, than that of the rocky ledge where we had stopped for dinner the previous evening. The serene 360 degree panoramic view had offered me a sense of tranquility that I longed to share with as many people as possible. Eager to return with my Grandma, I asked Sierra for the name of this paradisiacal spot. Much to our surprise, it seems that the ledge is yet to be named. I would love nothing more than to refer to it from here on after by the name suggested by Sierra – Gerald’s Coup de Foudre – which is French for Gerald’s love at first sight.

Our photo archive from the trip can be accessed upon request.