I was back – swishing through long grass along a barbed wire fence, crawling beneath tunnels of lantana, dodging stinging nettle and wild shrubs. This time, however, it was a brilliantly sunny day and the meadows, which were broken by woodland, glowed emerald green. Forested mountains flanked the valley far into the distance and butterflies danced along the fence. I was back in Queensland’s Numinbah Valley in the Gold Coast hinterland, climbing Mt Wagawn.
The track to Bushrangers Cave, which I’d trekked a couple of weeks earlier, felt a little more onerous this time around. It was as if I’d been treated like a guest on my maiden voyage, while now the stinging nettles – which seemed greater in numbers – dug deeper and held on tighter. Although today I could see farther and I knew what the trip to the cave was like.
Walking beneath the cave overhangs where Aborigines danced 6,000 years past and outlaws once slept fearfully, I enjoyed the dappled light falling through the forest canopy. I stopped and marvelled again at the tree living on an island clifftop, before continuing further than last time and discovering another small section of the cave. I trekked onwards through the forest, following ribbon markers which were my only guide to the top of Mt Wagawn.
From here the walk got interesting, as the track melted into the steep, forested hill and the markers often disappeared. Pretty soon I was bush-bashing through sections of Lamington National Park, while rocks slid beneath my feet and wallabies bounded through the forest ahead. It was hard going and it took some time before I untangled myself from a jungle of lantana, found the markers and continued up the steep incline.
I reached a sheer wall where I could go either left or right. I explored the right-hand side for about 15 minutes, leaping up the cliff face, grabbing onto precariously placed trees while the earth beneath me crumbled away in chunks. I looked up and saw dense forest. This couldn’t be it I thought and I continued back to the fork and tried the left. Here there was no path, just dense lantana, although I spied a black snake snoozing in the cliff face.
I was about 10 metres from the top of Mt Wagawn and had to pull the pin. I’d given myself four hours to reach the summit and return, which I now realised was a little ambitious. I had to pick Olin up from preschool. Responsibility! Disheartened, I returned down the mountain and just as I was reentering Bushrangers Cave an innocuous tree snake reared up in fright, forcing me to emit a baritone yelp, before it slithered through the forest.
I had seen two snakes, cool, I thought, although my back was now truly sore. It had been an arduous climb and I’d had a sore back for a week or so. Now it was killing me. My agility was gone and I more or less stumbled my way down the mountain, through the forest, the wild meadows and back to the car. Butterflies followed me for a little way again and I limped into the car and returned home.
I’m currently out of action as I type. I’m doing lots of stretches, resting and a bit more marketing than usual (which I’ve needed to do). I’m missing my morning walks around Byron Bay’s lighthouse although I’ll soon be on the trails again.
Mt Wagawn, I’ll be back.
Facts and tips
• You can reach Mt Wagawn on a more conventional, although longer route from Binna Burra. The walk from Binna Burra to Mt Wagawn takes eight hours.
• If you’re driving towards Numinbah Valley from Byron Bay, take a detour along Chilcotts Road just before you reach the pretty little town of Chillingham. It’s a winding route that passes through haunting forest and a water crossing. It’s both scenic and adventurous.
• Read my post on how to reach Bushrangers Cave if you’re planning this walk. Be warned, as to reach Mt Wagawn via the cave you should have a decent level of fitness and be prepared to navigate.
Have you ever failed to reach your destination? How did you deal with it?