Mt Imlay is just over the border and into New South Wales, our pre-reading indicated that it was a hard walk, but the reward was stunning views of the coast and mountains. The day was postcard perfect, bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky and the forecast for about 20°C
All properly prepared, we jumped in the car and headed off.
It’s a quick drive up the highway from Mallacoota to the turn off at Burrawang Forest Rd. As we drive through the East Boyd State Forest it’s clear that this whole area has at one time or other being logged. Just to confirm this government has provided us with nice signs that tell us when it was logged, 1977 and 1978. The natural bush land is growing back, but it’s a slow process and will take many years. The road is gravel it’s evident that its made for log trucks to thunder along. Michael’s little Golf manages to weave it’s way over large rocks, deep pot holes and the odd branch.
After 10 kilometres on the beaten track, we arrive at the picnic ground, consisting of one picnic table, a display board and a toilet. There’s a tank off in one corner for those that forgot to bring water and a little boot cleaning station.
The information board gave us some additional information about the park, we’re warned to wear good boots, not take children, and be prepared for cold wet conditions on the mountain, even if the weather is fine down here. It tells us that the lower slopes are 450-500 million years old and was once the ocean floor, the mountain top is much younger, only 350-400 million years, and it is made of much harder stuff. Not surprisingly the area was (and probably is) also sacred to the local indigenous population, we are asked to treat it like a church, and to respect and protect the whole area.
We’re looking forward to this walk, even though all the research we’ve done says that it’s a steep and difficult walk. There are a number of rare things to see here, foremost in our minds is the endemic Mount Imlay Boronia (Boronia imlayensis). It only grows near the top of the ridge, and it’s just into spring, with a bit of luck we’ll see it flowering.
There’s two other cars in the car park, but nobody else to be seen. We don our walking boots, pack our lunches and water, Michael readies his camera, I’ve got my binoculars and bird book and plenty of water.
First stop is the boot cleaning station. The National Parks are trying to stop the fungus phytophthora cinnamomi from getting into the forest. The fungus gets into the roots and causes them to rot. The little boot station is a steel construction with three brushes to scrub your boots, two on the side and one for the sole. Then a chemical solution wash for the soles, just to make sure you kill the little buggers.
We can see Mt Imlay in the distance, it really does loom above everything else in the area. The first part of the track is wide and scattered with plenty of dead wood, it looks like it was a road once upon a time. It’s steep, and long, within moments of putting one foot in front of the other my calves are screaming at me, my pulse is thundering making my teeth shake and sweat is pouring out of every pore. Bent over, with my little back pack on, I manage to tilt my head upwards and can see the track continues to steeply rise in front of us. We made slow progress. Really slow.
The track evened out slightly and we found ourselves standing between some Austral Grass Trees, each tree was between one and two metres tall, and they were in the way! We had to push our way through their long narrow and somewhat pointy shoots. For a few minutes it felt like we were in the middle of some African jungle and needed a machete to punch our way through. A small sign board said that the local aborigines used these trees in many ways, the long stalks made ideal spears after being harden in a fire, the sap was a glue for adhering shell blades to the end of the spears and the dried flower pods were an excellent burning material. There weren’t any flower stalks visible, I’m guessing that no fires has been through this part of the forest in many years, and the trees need a decent fire to flower.
We now found ourselves in a small saddle that linked the small (but very steep) hill we’d just climbed to the base of Mt Imlay. We skirted around the edge of the saddle, not dropping to far into the valley. At times the track became nothing but rocks as we wound our way around, there was a clear drop to the valley floor, and I had the distinct impression that one foot in the wrong place would see me tumble towards the trees far below. I’m sure it would be a spectacular fall. The reality really being a knock on the head on some loose rocks that would stop me tumbling in such a spectacular fashion. Still, the trail headed around the top of this impressive natural amphitheatre, and shortly we found ourselves at the base of the mountain. The relatively flat track around the edge had allowed us to recuperate, which was just as well as now the track began it’s slow climb up to the summit. We could see it, along with the ridge that would get us there and the steep incline that we now had to tackle.
The forest was now mostly tall Silvertop Ash trees, these magnificent gum trees are covered in dark bark around their lower half, and the top half silver, crowned with a bush of leaves, up to about 30 metres tall, waving in the wind. It’s quite an impressive sight to look up see a forest of these trees. Silver ash also makes great timber, the trees grow tall and straight. We started scrambling over rocks as we headed towards the peak. It wasn’t too long before we got to the top of the ridge, the hard work was now mostly over.
The tall trees had given way to much smaller trees and shrubs. The area abounds with a variety of wildflowers, so many colours, purples, blue, red, pink and yellow.
We were now on the razorback ridge. I’ve seen worse! The sides did drop away quickly to the valley far far below, but the ridge was quite wide. I can only imagine that the razorback it was named after was quite fat. To the west was mountain after mountain, tinged blue as they faded off into the distance, to the right was the Tasman Sea, tinged blue as it faded off to New Zealand. To the north was the peak.
There, 886 metres above sea level, was the peak. A trig point marked the spot. We had got there, the beauty was stunning, if you ignored the huge Telstra installation sitting right there behind you.
At the beginning of the walk we are reminded to treat this area with respect as the local aboriginal population regard it as sacred. Bit hard to do with the solar panels, security fence, tin shack and multiple antennae belonging to Telstra, but clearly it’s treated just like a church that also has Telstra installations on the top. I think the final disrespect is the dire warnings not to cross the fence line, dangerous radiation inside! The communications array is of course very important. It forms the last link to ensure continuous sea communication between Melbourne and Sydney for the ships out there on the water.
The view is simply breathtaking, the waters of the ocean are beautiful as they meet the wonderfully blue sky. We can see as far south as Mallacoota, just making out the inlet, in front of us is Wonboyn and further north Eden. The coast gives way to the rolling hills full of their magnificent trees. It’s easy to see why this part of the world has been slow to be ‘developed’ for pastoral needs, it’s remote and wild! Not to mention hilly.
We eat our prepared lunches, drink some water and take some time to soak up the glorious sunlight, the superb views. It’s now about 2 in the afternoon as we turn around and head back the way we came.
This time the haste to arrive has gone, so we are able to take our time descending, this allows Michael time to snap the photos of the flowers we’d come to see. Probably not as many blooming as we’d like, another couple of weeks and the area will be alive with the scent and sights of spring time. The flowers are stunning. The boronia blooms are a wonder to gaze at and Michael spends a lot of time and clicks of the camera to get some amazing shots. Be sure to check out the Picasa Gallery.
The sounds of the forest are stunning. All around us a cacophony of birds sing their tunes to themselves and each other. We can make them out flying between the trees, but never still enough or close enough for us to recognise. One call that we did stop to listen to is that of the lyrebird. What starts out as the shrill call of a forest bird quickly changes to the raucous cry of a galah to a currawong. A stunning repertoire. I delight in it’s on-going call and the versatility of it’s voice. All around us we can see the scratchings of the lyrebird, nothing fresh. It’s ever elusive. Lyrebird scratchings are accompanied by wombat poo. We’ve noticed that the wombats like to poo on top of things. So you’ll find a nice little pile on top of a log or a rock. Very neat.
While the walk up the steep incline had tried our legs, the walk down now tries our balance. The rocky areas are fine, as we grapple with lowering ourselves down, but the woodland path is downright dangerous. Many years of leaf litter, twigs and shale make the downward journey very slippery, it’d be even harder if there was any rain! We stagger our way down, trying to keep our balance, and some how manage to get to the picnic ground without falling all the way over.
Our legs are worn out and aching as we quickly take our hiking boots off, change into a dry shirt. For all our hard work, we enjoy a really good cup of coffee and a mixed berry muffin each.
As we drive away from the mountain, a cloud descends upon the top. There are no other clouds in the sky.
Michael takes great photos, the photos are all his work, check out the whole gallery.