The night before departing Wang, I couldn’t sleep.. I was both excited and terrified to be heading out on the trail again. I had heard the stretch through Gardens of Stone and Wollemi National Park was ‘stunning’ and ‘breathtaking’, as well as being ‘very wild country’.
To me, that sounded like lots of scope for things to go wrong. Really, at the end of the day I am just a big whoos!
Anyway, we couldn’t stay in Wang forever and despite being daunted by the next section of trail, we packed up and headed for Wollemi at 5am in the morning. The only thing worse than waking up at 3am in the morning to pack and saddle up is walking in the heat of the day. Ugh.
The traffic along Wolgan road was surprisingly busy for such a dark, early morning and we figured it must have been all the workers making their way to the Angus Place colliery. After making sure we were highly visible with fluro vests and headtorches flashing and strung backwards around our helmets, we trekked happily north and before we knew it had covered around 20 kilometers. Both the donkeys and Fly seemed surprisingly excited to be back on the trail again and I struggled to keep up with little Basil’s strapping pace (a rare occurrence indeed, believe me!)
Baal Bone Gap
The steep, rocky descent into Baal Bone camp was intense, and although mine and Z’s hearts were in our throats, Fly and the donkeys managed it with ease. We were intensely proud off them, and set up camp in record time.. What a beautiful and remote spot it was. We truly felt like we were on top off the world.
The next day’s ride was similarly unforgettable, and despite having to backtrack 2km up the mountain after leaving my map at the Baal Bone pressure tank, we had a lovely ride through the National Park with all gate combinations correct and working.
We saw a huge monitor lizard scrambling up a tree and after walking in the searing afternoon sun along the road, arrived at our camp near Glen Davis, tired but pleased with our efforts for the day. And what a treat to have a backup vehicle for tonight’s camp! Our lovely West Aussie friends soon arrived to join us-great company, cold cider and treats… What a luxury!
All was perfect until evening feed time, when I couldn’t find Fly’s nose bag. Neither of us remembered taking it off when we were unsaddling (It is usually clipped to Fly’s cantle bag). After fruitless searching around camp, we concluded that it must have come off somewhere along the trail. But where? We had traveled around 30km that day- it could be anywhere …
I would have just cut my losses and stitched up a new feed bag then and there, adding it to our Lost or Left Behind Items items swallowed up by the BNT (so far including my sprouting bag, trowel, jeans and portable solar panel), but rolled up inside was our invaluable canvas water bucket. And the fly veils. I would just have to backtrack the next day and find them.
Luckily I didn’t have far to go and walked less than a kilometre before letting out a little shriek of excitement at the sight off a nondescript black lump lying in the long grass. Lesson learned- from now on it would be clipped on with an extra carabiner. Or two!
The ride up through Glen Alice and the Nile was relentlessly hot and we decided to relax in the shade for a long, leisurely lunch before we tackled the steep climb up Grassy mountain. All was going well after puffing and sweating our way uphill for a few kilometres until we reached the NPWS gate. I dialed in the combination numbers I had been given, pushed the lock together and waiting for the familiar popping sound of the lock opening. But nothing it remained locked fast.
The First of the Gate Troubles…
I checked the numbers- perhaps I had entered something wrong. Nope, still no luck. Desperately, I tried every lock combination I had ever been given that was written down in my book. Still no luck. Close to tears, I weighed up our options. It was late afternoon, we had three tired animals and two humans who had just struggled their way half way up the mountain. There was no water and nowhere to camp nearby. I could backtrack 15km or so to Glen Alice, but we’d never get there by dark. There was a slight gap between the gate and rock face, so I decided to unsaddle the donkeys and remove most of Fly’s gear, and have them skirt around it.
The donkeys slipped through easily, but when it came to Fly’s turn, the poor boy slipped on the rock off to the side and lost his footing. But he made it to the other side of the gate. We were just about to exchange high fives in celebration of getting all five of us to the other side of the gate when we noticed drops of blood on the ground. My stomach lurched and I felt sick, already knowing it would be from Fly.
We checked him over and found the source of his bleeding (he’d scraped his lower leg on the gate) and promptly bandaged him up, with the first aid kit making an appearance for the first time on our trip. I felt angry and, frustrated that such a pointless injury need have occurred and ashamed at myself for asking Fly to do something that he obviously couldn’t. I’m still apologising to him for it a week later.. 🙁
We soon cheered up at the sight of Grassy Hut and the wonderful water tank (could there be a more beautiful sight for trekkers’ eyes than a full water tank? So grateful to the amazing volunteers who make this sort of thing happen).
The next morning we rang the NPWS office to get the correct codes in order to get through the gate on the other side and walked Fly downhill to recover at the amazing Wilderness Bunkhouse, where we would meet our friends. We had a great two nights off rest and recuperation and I manged to immerse myself in the rich local history by reading up on Jessie Hickman, the lady bushranger and the Wollemi Pine. What amazing stories these rocks and mountains must hold!!
Great Reads for Wollemi National Park Travelers…
Out of the Mists : The Hidden History of Elizabeth Jessie Hickman, by Di Moore
The Wollemi Pine : The Incredible Discovery of a Living Fossil from the Age of the Dinosaurs, by James Woodford
After the steep climb up Nullo Mountain, Fly’s leg swelled up again and we decided to stop at the ‘Above the Clouds’ cabins to wait until it heals completely. I would highly recommend this place to any trekkers passing through-the hosts are so friendly and welcoming and while the cabins are fairly basic, the gardens are beautiful and there is a secure paddock for animals. One of thee owners even made up a comfrey poultice for Fly’s leg. People are truly amazing… We have the vet coming out today so fingers crossed Fly gets the all clear!
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