Amphitheatre of Horrors
“The visceral nature of Ms6’s response was surprising, but on reflection, your first time can be daunting”
It started like many a horror movie, looking for a petrol station in a small country town. Google Maps told us that Bundanoon had a petrol station, so we stretched out and tried to make it. That feeling in the stomach when you are pushing the petrol light as far as you can ;-<
Now you have been warned that Bundanoon does have a petrol station, it just doesn’t open anymore – one thing that has been seemingly lost on Google…
Morton National Park has many a charm, and ‘pockets of rainforest that are full of wildlife’, were promised. As part of our pre-Christmas get-away we took on the Amphitheatre Track, which also promised windows into the forest community.The walk starts out very pleasantly, with a short stroll through some lovely sandstone woodland. We were a bit late for peak-flowering I suspect, but there was still enough to pique the interest.
Once we got to the lookout, not only was the view stunning (see below), but the vegetation changed rapidly to include a bunch of neat epiphytes and other cliff-hangers.
Taking Ms4 and Ms6 bushwalking has really been an incremental affair. A year ago we were pleased to just get them out and into a walk of hundreds of metres near home. But we were so proud of their efforts descending a stair-case that clings precariously to the cliff side, and in parts, has gaps big enough for them to slip through. Certainly big-enough to keep the adrenalin and anxiety levels of any parent elevated.Once we reached the bottom of the stair-case, it seemed the easiest of strolls to make the 1 km to the promised waterfalls – incentive enough for any kids. The path meanders along the cliff base, intersecting sclerophyll and rainforest patches as the relief and aspect dictated. Remember we were promised wildlife in pockets of rainforest…
So, young confident kids descend a hundred steps and stroll among the tree-ferns on the way to beautiful waterfalls. We thought we had finally made it in the “family bushwalking arena”. The beauty of walking amongst tree ferns on the edge of a sandstone valley cannot be over-stated, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is renowned for it. It makes for great opportunities to create tip-toe-through-the-tulips content…
Then Horror Strikes
Soon after disappearing into the fourth cavern of tree ferns and rainforest, horror struck in spades. After entering the real amphitheatre, Ms6 was grief-stricken and surrounded, hundreds of leeches were reaching, straining, trying, prying, swinging, for a latch-on. Clearly they were restricted to the wettest of wet patches during the dry season, and we had now found them. The visceral nature of the response by Ms6 was a little surprising, but on reflection, your first time can be a bit daunting (check the scream of Ms4 at the end of the vid – for which I am feeling a wee-bit guilty).
Suddenly there was no more strolling through the meadow, no more ‘family ready for bushwalking’. It was on-the-shoulders for ‘just try 100 more metres’ to the waterfalls. We were rock-hopping through the wet areas, and striding through the dry, taking every opportunity to check shoes and heels.
We didn’t make the waterfalls, but I reckon we got to within 100 m. Such was the commitment from the kids to not go further, although we had probably passed the danger-zone, we had to go back, and everyone knew that meant back through the ambush zone.
From there, the way home, was pretty much the best pre-Christmas work-out one could wish for. Incentive to move, beautiful scenery, and the lumpy moving weights (Ms’ 4 & 6) that make every move harder than they would otherwise be in the gym. Making us proud-again was that once we made the stair-case that “leeches don’t like galvanised steel, trust me”, both young ladies happily ascended without support. Characterstically, Ms4 was able to proudly carry a genuine leech sucking episode and drop-off with a ‘it didn’t hurt at all’ [because they don’t] – much to the chagrin of Ms6.
A final message from horror-land?
I didn’t notice the final typical horror movie symbology until drafting this post. As a supporter of Canberra Nature Map, a citizen science project for the community to help monitor rare plants (and other things), I had been a little annoyed to not find a Flying Duck Orchid yet. The Mulligans Flat Ecologist had recently highlighted her casual discovery of one from a local bushwalking trip – much to my chagrin.
As we approached the carpark on our return, almost on top of a location where I had taken an image on the way in, I found my first Flying Duck Orchid. Having not seen it on the way in, it highlights the need for repeated, often, frequent and recurrent observations – you don’t see everything on the first time.Of course the Flying Duck Orchid was pointing the way home – back to the carpark and back to a leech-free civilisation – like the beacon of hope at the end of most horror movies.
Now on every walk we provide a preamble on the expectation of leeches and the precautionary measures we can take to protect ourselves…
An infrastructure improvement?
It seems a simple thing, but couldn’t the sign at the entrance to the walk, warn intrepid walkers of the impending challenges? We could have whipped the Aeroguard out of the car and solved the problem at the outset of the walk at the carpark.
As a Year 12 student I requested, for work experience, to be a Park Ranger in NSW National Parks. I was subsequently appointed to a Works Crew in Blue Mountains National Park. I had an amazing time carrying cement and building walking tracks in rainforest gullies at Leura, and now, I was able to use my skills gained there to fix the sign on the way back out, to make sure it is more useful for everyone…