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A walk in the Tinderry Mountains

By Helen Hunt

«£OME!" they said. "Mar

vellous views. Down

Michelago way. We'll intro duce you to scroggin".

i'T-ia hope he's worth meeting",

I said.

"Sure is", they said and laughed. "Pick you up on Sun day". •

So I went. Packed a haver sack with apples ~7»nd sand wiches,. .water and lip-screen; prised myself from the bed at 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning. The first thing that impressed me/aboiit bushwalkers was their sociability; they were talking to each "other at that hour of the morning!

•I gazed out of the car 'win dow. Sun persisted behind the clouds but the grass shone brilliantly green. Further on, spreading suburbia had forced bulldozers to reveal red earth,

unseemly red weals scarred nke' depths of green valleys. •

At Michelago we took to the paddock roads. We surfaced out

of the ruts and mud at last on

to the hard gravel of the foot hills. The road wound steeply upwards, one car wide.

On the saddle of the ridge we stopped, spilt out on to tussock land among high trees. Mist ' swept down with thin, diving

arms, curled, embraced then re coiled and fled octopus-like. The' sun still hid.

"Where's Scroggin?" I said. "I'm dying to see if he's hand

some".

"Plenty of time", they soothed. "Wait till we get going".

We followed the leaders (miles ahead; we caught a

glimpse - of them occasionally). Grevillea grew wild under Dal rympliana (someone knew their gums), shrubs, eggs-and-bacon, cloihcd lis arm-pit high. Moss covercd slopes led upward • into straight-edged chasms formed by perfect, vertical splitting of rocks. High above to the north, rocks clad the mountainside in a gargantuan suit of armour. The sun lifted the edge of the mist and the antique armour

sheened.

. Scrub swallowed us again; We twisted our way over dead branches and logs, through a forest of puny trees stunted by competition with each other for

life in the shallow soil.

"It must be time to stop", I pleaded.

"Not yet", they said, faces serious. "You have to walk three hours solid before you're allowed to stop".

"I think I'll go back. It's only down there and across there and . . .".

They laughed. "Come on! Have some scroggin!"

They thrust a plastic bag under my nose.

"Scroggin!" - I screamed. "That can't be scroggin. Where's my handsome he

male?"

They laughed. "Keep mov ing", they said, "that's the idea of scroggin. Eat it as you

walk".

"Nuts and dried fruit", I moaned. "And here I was ex pecting . . .".

"Have another handful", they

said.

"Scroggin. This is scroggin", I lamented. "How could you do such a thing to me?":

"Scroggin keeps you going", they laughed.

At lunch time they' told me, "Not much further. Just to that peak up there, then it's all downhill to the road";

"I'll never make it", I said. "My hopes have been dashed. Psychologically I'm unfit".

"You'll make it on scroggin", they said.

I lay on the hard rock until the wind moved rapidly' from the high peak to spatter cold rain over us. Then I crouched in the lee of a rock and studied the tower on Black Mountain far to the nor-nor-west. It rose like a cross on a hill; crucifi xion of the countryside by civ ilisation. When I pondered it through the glasses I could see the blue shroud on top.

On a walk you should keep

moving, (they, were; right).,Once you sit down the' muscles. lock and a huge lethargy, overtakes you. They did get me moving again with threats of. starvation and no scroggin. Prickles I re member, then 'barbed bushes waist high, grazed hands, deep clefts in rocks, hands stretched out to • help, a lizard ■ sheeny armoured like the slickenside.

When we reached the top of the peak, tfie sun came out in a gentle blue sky. It irradiated the tranquil green paddocks, the. clumps of trees, scattered houses, rows of pines and the hills beyond, across the ' valley. It was. a. marvellously gentle view. i "

When we started down they said, "Have some Scroggin to help you". " :

We did get" down. I can swear to that. How I am. not very sure.

Mostly I remember that voice, inside my own head that kept saying, "Keep "going! Keep up! You must not stop!"

Obstacles I remember: the si lent sphinx-shaped ' rocks that clad one hillside and tried to lure me' into their midst; the long arms of trailing trees and bushes waiting ' to enmesh me; logs that formed barriers too high . for me to -climb over;, stones that rose up out of the earth and tripped me; mountain streams that silently oozed over rooks trying to .make me slip..

"We're nearly to the road", they said.

Cockatoos somewhere above the tree tops harshly hammered gome forgotten theme into my .head. We waded through a swamp and" a cockatoo screamed at us.

I: stumble out on to the road. "Have a cup of tea Mrs Day. Have a cup of tea Mrs Day". Clearly I hear the cockatoo's screech; Here? Now? Or once? years ago? I suddenly see a • cockatoo chained to a front

gate and myself as a child rid ing past on a bike.

"Only a mile and a half to go", they say. "Beautiful day

now".

I see only the road. It is a brown gravel road with an occasional. puddle of water in a rut hole. I had to keep moving. If I once stopped I would seize up, never move again. One foot — keep going — the other foot.

"You made it!'.', they said. VHave some scroggin. Glorious day for bushwalking".

The top of my head was lift ing off, hovering over my inert body; They were too polite to tell me about it and I was too exhausted to apologise.

I didn't see much on the •drive back; I was too busy hanging on to the thread that was just and so keeping the top of my head floating away.

I was glad to find when I woke the next morning that it was.firmly clamped on again. It had'been a good walk after all.'

Anyone for some scroggin?

A bushwalker's view,of the Tinderry Range. ,:■**£

Digitisation generously supported by
Friends of the National Library of Australia
Digitisation generously supported by
Friends of the National Library of Australia

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