2004-07 (JULY, 2004)

Bushcraft Weekend - NSW, Australia

My mate Dave and I both own a copy of the superb 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves. For a good, long time now we have been on a promise to disappear into Dave's block of bush for a weekend armed with nothing more than the book and a machete. This weekend we (almost) did just that.

I headed up to Dogwood on the Friday evening train and was on the deck with a beer in my hand by 22:30. Plans for our weekend shelter were drawn up based on a hybrid of two structures from the book. The adding of a second storey indicated that the beer was kicking in. We went to bed all keen for our Bush Bash Mission.

Saturday dawned grey and drear. Enthusiasm for our mission leaked away as the rain rolled in. The final nail in the coffin was the arrival of Trev - he was at a loose end and was all keen to finish erecting the poles for Dave's Ubershed. Bush Bash plans were abandoned in favour of helping Trev. By the end of the day three blokes and one beat-up Suzuki had erected all the remaining poles (which were all over 7 metres long and bloody heavy). We also managed to plumb and ram about half of the, now standing, poles. The evening was spent cuddling beer.

On Sunday we thought we'd better try something from our Bushcraft book so off we trotted to build one of the least credible structures - a one-person camp bed suspended above the ground on a cantilevered arm. Neither Dave nor I believed that this would work, but we were pleasantly surprised (although we did cheat and use shop-bought rope instead of weaving our own from grass). We also constructed a home-made ladder to work on the cantilevered arm and this worked a treat too. Trev returned to finish ramming the shed poles and wasn't the least impressed with our project. By the end of his toiling the shed site had been transformed - the building is really underway now (only a year after we began it) and a major milestone had been reached. Enthusiasm for the next phase (horizontal beams and rafters) is now running high.

I pootled home on the Sunday afternoon train, tired, happy, and covered in mud.

Hiking In The Blue Mountains - NSW, Australia

Andy & I went hiking in the Blue Mountains (2 hours west of Sydney) this weekend. We selected a track that had been described to me as an enjoyable-but-hard day walk and elected to split it over two days. The event was also the inaugural outing for my new GPS (a Garmin eTrex Summit) into which I had loaded the waypoints on our walk.

We got underway early on Saturday morning and caught the train to the town of Katoomba (tourist hub of the Blue Mountains). From there we caught a taxi down to the beginning of our walk. We were on the trail much later than expected (thanks to a typically-late Sydney train service and some hassle obtaining fresh supplies in Katoomba) so our first day was always going to be ambitious (being mid-winter we only had sunlight until 17:00). Unfortunately it turned out to be too ambitious and we had to turn around before summitting Mount Solitary (the goal of our walk). In all honesty, we would probably have done better had we done the route as a day walk as our overnight packs made climbing the mountain slower and more cumbersome than was ideal. We camped beside the track and were treated to a spectacular full moon. Our dinner was a bit of a disaster, too - mince and vegetables, burnt on the bottom and cold on top (my camp cookwear is better suited to boiling water for instant noodles).

After a better-than-average sleep we arose and took a slightly longer route home. We detoured past the Ruined Castle (a prominent rock formation), over the Landslide Gully and round to the Blue Mountains Sceneascender (which we caught back up to the beginning of the walk instead of braving the Furber Stairs). Without too much delay at the tourist-jammed lookout we were back on a bus to Katoomba and thence on a train home. A splendid walk that we'll definitely try again soon (once we learn to walk again).