The occasion to immerse oneself in a tiny section of highly endangered Illawarra rainforest provided a golden opportunity for a moment of soul-searching.
The reality was marginally different. For a start, I just headed upwards from the stinging nettle patch, through the wild brambles, lantana and bougainvillea. The goal was simple. Find the 60-year-old path that led to the spring that fed the dam below.
Forty-three leeches later, the unit of time in the rainforest, I stood surveying my partner blubbering like a baby in the stinging nettles below.
But let’s not dwell on those lacking stamina. It was upwards and onwards, with an over-the-shoulder “back in 10, the old track can’t be far”.
Huge basket ferns and palms graced the rockslide until it became a near-vertical hands and feet task to drag my carcass upwards. My care of the environment slipped faster than my feet for the next 30 leeches, until WOW, there it was, the ‘track’.
It may have been one 50 years ago, but in an area that changes faster than a gay fashion trend, the wombats and ’roos had a field day. Mounds where lyrebirds danced made the ground soft underfoot.
Did I mention being ill-prepared for this jaunt? Thongs and shorts are not at all suitable for rainforest strolling. Not to mention the quagmire underfoot from weeks of torrential rain, the 80degree ‘slope’ or the spikes, rocks and sucking, biting things who are at home here?.
So the feet and legs became a bloody mess, thanks to the passing of 12 leeches time, a spike from bougainvillea and several sharper-than-expected rocks.
From the top, the escarpment disappeared into the foliage. So did the view to the rolling hills below, and any thought of getting back on the path that had disappeared in a rainforest faster than Gillard’s commitment to same-sex marriage.
The way down was slow — painfully, frighteningly so. We often say, ‘Get lost,’ arriving there is not an ideal situation. Adrenaline keeps the legs heading downhill, around the shoulder, into the valley and back up again. The sweat builds up until the leeches begin to die of salt poisoning and every puff of wind chills me to the core.
Without any realistic measure of time, the minutes flee into the late afternoon. Never fear, Telstra covers 99.75 percent of this country’s 7,659,861,000 m2. Just not the 0.01 percent I’m in.
So please don’t tell me to get lost in the near future. I may just do that — not a pleasant experience, even if it is only for two hours.
There are great ways to enjoy our outdoors safely: join in the events of one of the member clubs. Find them online:
TEAM SYDNEY; www.teamsydney.org.au