Karen and I recently spent 18 days and 250km walking across the Chewings Range in the Northern Territory. Two old friends, Stuart Imer and Michael Hampton, joined us for what turned out to be one of the best long distance walks we have ever done. We started out of Alice Springs and followed the first seven days of the Larapinta Trail to Hugh Gorge. The next nine days were spent off-trail, weaving our way among the incredible gorges and mountains that stretched across the Chewings. We rejoined the Larapinta Trail at Ormiston Gorge and walked the final couple of days along to our finish at Redbank Gorge. It was an amazing experience. There are no worthwhile maps to the more remote sections of the Chewings and so we relied heavily on our Garmin GPS. Only a few of the gorges are named and there is no information as to the whereabouts of reliable drinking water. Karen and I have managed to notch up a fair few kilometres over the years walking in the Western MacDonnell’s (which is where the Chewings Range resides) and have become quite good at searching out water in the most unlikely of places. Here is a valuable tip for anyone considering an off-trail walk in Central Australia. Watch out for finches. These delicate little birds don’t venture far from water and as soon as you spot one, you can be sure that water is very close by.
I visited Werribee Gorge State Park on Wednesday. It turned out to be one of those perfect spring days that Melbourne is justifiably famous for. My friend, Ian, had never been to ‘the gorge’ before and I took the opportunity to show him around what I consider to be one of the most underrated parks near to Melbourne. It was also a good excuse to check out the new W. James Whyte Island Reserve (known simply as The Island). A new trail links the top carpark to The Island via some wonderful yellow box woodland. There are excellent views across Junction Pool and the trail allows walkers to experience a refreshingly new aspect of the park . It’s a steep climb to the top of The Island. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. It’s a BLOODY steep climb to the top. This massive basalt hill is part of the lava flow which originated from Mt Bullangarook near Gisborne. The views overlooking the gorge are arguably the best in the district.
The 204 hectare W. James Whyte Island Reserve was gifted to Conservation Volunteers in August 2006. There has been an enormous amount of work planting native trees and shrubs, as well as a concerted effort at controlling weeds. It really is an big task. If you are interested in donating a bit of your time to Conservation Volunteers in their revegetation of The Island, check out www.conservationvolunteers.com.au or contact 1800 032 501.