It always feels incredible to be back on the trail again after time off- everyone is fresh and raring to go and you can just tell that the donkeys cant wait to eat up the kilometres. Much more pleasant to walk with than donkeys who are dragging their feet! Such was our first day’s ride after leaving Nullo mountain and before we knew it, we had covered a long stretch of shady gravel road and arrived at the Box Ridges deer gate.
Now I seem to have developed some peculiar symptoms of post-traumatic gate disorder… There is nothing quite like the open road stretching out before you, but that feeling of being free, unencumbered and blessed to be travelling the open road rapidly grinds to a halt upon seeing that all-too-familiar shiny square of metal barring the way… Oh sure, I have probably read that it is coming up. Been given the combination codes. Been assured that it will be unlocked. But nonetheless, my hands start sweating, heart thumping, metallic taste of adrenaline in my mouth as I rush towards the gate, eyeing the chain keenly for any unexpected padlocks.
Yep, padlock… ”Stay calm, Eliza”, I tell myself as I check my papers for’ combination codes. After dialing the four digits in, the suspense is unbearable as i push the lock together. Will it have me pulling down and rewiring fences, or asking Fly to perform miraculous feats of acrobatic prowess? Or will it miraculously click ope and allow us to continue on our journey unchecked?
Such was the case on this fine day, as we passed unhindered through the gate (thank you Box Ridges!) and re-entered Wollemi National Park, keen to see the famed Livery Stable Cave on our way to the next camp. The Livery stable is a cave which bushranger Captain Starlight’s gang reportedly used to hide a stolen prize thoroughbred. Apparently, the lady bushranger Jessie Hickman also used it as one of her many hideouts.
I was fascinated to read about Jessie Hickman during our stay at the Wilderness Bunkhouse. Apparently she was the victim of an abusive husband and eventually turned to a life of cattle duffing and other crimes. After spending her early years growing up in a travelling circus, she spent years on the run, hiding ut in the remote caves and canyons of the Wollemi National Park. Apparently a special task force was assembled solely for her capture, and even then she managed to escape several times. This is the kind of country you could really disappear into- it demands the utmost respect and anyone who can make it work for them has my total admiration. Go Jessie!
The BNT guidebook had warned us that the cave was coming up on the left side and was easy to miss, and Mollie and Cathy, our two hiking companions for the day were keen to go staggering off cliffs and gorges in search of the elusive cave- not hard to do in Wollemi National Park! But eventually we found it and could even see the black horse picture from the track itself. Very cool indeed. Next stop, Widden vallley!