Some of our participants in the Gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award completed a 4 day hike at the start of the April holidays. The Conondale Range Great Walk provided some great waterfalls with pools to swim in and a variety of environments to walk through. We were grateful for the rain that had fallen prior to the trip - which provided much needed water in the creeks and campsite water tanks. The damp conditions however, did mean that we encountered a large number of leeches. Please read on for a participant's description of the walk.
On the 6th of April, our group embarked on the Conondale Great Walk, which spans over approximately 60km. The hike would take 4 days, and would go through 3 campsites (those being the Wongai, Tallowwood and Summer’s Fall’s walkers campsites). On the first day, the weather was drizzly with rain coming down occasionally in between the cloud cover. On that day, we headed relatively south and passed by the gold mine, a rock egg formation and the Booloumba Falls, where we swam collectively as a group. Also on the way was the Artist’s Cascades, which were extremely slippery. This was discovered by two of our group members, who unfortunately quickly found themselves sliding a short distance down the mossy rocks into the creek below them. However, apart from that, the hiking on the first day was mostly uneventful. After arriving at Wongai Walkers Camp and setting up, I myself cooked for the first time in many moons , and we enjoyed an environment based game of Pictionary. Sadly, in this game, I discovered how hard it was to get my teammates to guess the word “Gorge”, despite my best efforts of drawing one.
After a nights sleep, we woke up, packed up, and started on the longest day of the walk towards Tallowwood camp. The previous day, we had seen one singular leech. All I can say is that we saw more than one singular leech on the 7th of April. Although it may not have been raining anymore, the leeches were out, and the mud made the trek all the more difficult. Because of this, we made one navigational error, where we missed a track turnoff and continued downhill on a fire trail, before realising our mistake within 400m and retracing back to the missed turnoff. On this day, the environment was mostly rainforest, and as we went past the mountains of Gerald, Ramsdem and Langley, we started to think we were on the wrong track due to the amount of fallen trees, before then finding a great walk sign which reaffirmed our position on the map. After this and a few pig and snake sightings, we continued north and eventually arrived at Tallowwood camp where we met a group coming in the opposite direction. Here, we met some rascals in the form of brush tailed possums who endeavoured to break into our supplies throughout the night and steal our chocolate. However, before we went to bed, we had dinner, and I led the group in a reasonably lame game of Hang”leechman”, where all the words were in the native language (Murri language), or were guessed instantly due to their clues. The group had fun though and went to bed to fight off the possums that night.
On the 8th of April, we woke up, packed up, cleaned up the drop dunny, and continued north once more on our endeavour to Summer’s Fall’s Camp. This was the day where we crossed many creeks, and slowly started to see less and less of the leeches that were inducing: bleeding, random sleep talking and the ever constant fear of finding one on the side of your leg, arm, or in my case your gluteus maximus. That day, the weather also continued to dry up, we saw a snake and a few goanna’s, and we crossed a few more creeks. The environment also started to switch to a more bushland scape, rather than the rainforest we had been previously walking through. After crossing 10 dry creek beds compared to the map's 5, we arrived at Summer’s Fall’s Walkers camp and enjoyed a swim in the very mossy and cold rock pools, which were still fun to swim in anyway. That night we cooked dinner and played a game of guess what first aid situation this is charades, where we finally realised that snake venom travels in the lymph system, and not the bloodstream. After having a relatively animal free sleep, we got up in the morning of April the 9th, enjoyed the view and continued walking along a track eastward to the Mt Allen lookout. On the way, we continued to see the occasional stowaway leech, with one exploding in someone’s hiking boots. The environment was now going from bush back to rainforest, so the environment cooled down a bit as well. After waving at a few motorbike riders, we walked and dropped our packs at the bottom of Mt Allen, which we climbed despite knowing that the fire tower was closed due to instability. After enjoying the top of Mt Allen, we descended from it, put our packs back on and walked back to the entrance of the great walk. From there we took a shortcut through the day camp area and crossed two creeks before meeting up with our parents and heading back home.