Straight off the back of hiking in Nepal, a booking is made to walk the Green Gully Track.
Nestled between Walcha and Kempsey, the Green Gully Track is a 65km loop trekked over four days in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. The track itself used to be a stockman’s cattle route and has old Stockman’s Huts along the way for hiker’s to hunker down in of an evening.
Green Gully Track is a hike for ‘experienced walkers only’ the guides state. Well yes, they were right about that!
Walking four days and nights means carrying food, sleeping gear and equipment to cover the time spent all alone in the Australian bush. Bookings are made in advance and only six people are allowed on the different legs of the track at any one time. Perfect!
We stayed overnight at the well equipped, Cedar Creek Cottage after arriving late in the afternoon so we could set off early, for our fist eighteen kilometres the next day. Here we were blessed with a beautiful sunset and many a passing kangaroo, a great place to relax at either end of the hike.
The first day is kind of like an acclimatisation for the rest of the hike. The walk is along a management trail of undulating hills and we were greeted with views across the Kunderang Brook Valley. We made a diversion at Colwell’s Stock Yards for a spot of bush tea and listened to the echoes in nature. The day was hot as we headed downward into the valley to our first destination point. The first sight of Birds Nest Hut was most certainly a welcome one. We had been walking, down, down, steeply down for quite some time and I always find the walking d-o-w-n, especially with a twenty-kilo pack on, is always much harder (on the knees) than walking up.
Birds Nest Hut has been left in the exact same way as when the Stockmen passed through all those years ago. Old calendars adorn the walls that are over fifty years old, empty cob-webbed bottles line the makeshift shelves. There’s a fire in there, perfect for the cold nights we are about to experience down in the valley and the hut comes equipped with a stove and gas. What more could a girl need?
Day two, we left at about seven am. We had another big day of hiking ahead of us, this time though, no management trail. We leave Birds Nest Hut to hike to Green Gully Hut and we walk up. And up. And up some more. There’s a sign saying it’s time to go off track, when you hit the highest peak, (1200 metres) just follow the ridge and head down again. Sounded easy, if not the slightest bit disconcerting, enough.
The views from the top down into Green Gully Creek are worth the up, up climb. No time to get comfortable though, time to head back down (800 metres). My quads and knees were shaking by the time I am almost at the bottom. My body was asking what the hell it had done to me to have it deserve this kind of self-inflicted torture.
The bottom of that damned big hill just never seemed to come. All that added to wondering if we were actually headed in the right direction with the sun beating down on my already sweat-soaked body did nothing to aid me in being a happy hiking camper. Green Gully Hut (which was exactly the same as Birds Nest Hut) couldn’t come quick enough.
The end of the walking day meant taking my hiking boots off for at least twelve hours. Oh man, that was like ‘hallelujah’ to my feet, they breathed the fresh bush air and refused to re-enter the darkness of the boot until it was absolutely the last second before we set off again.
Green Gully Hut came with one luxury. A shower!! An outdoor shower. Time to get naked, get under the water and stay there until I was kicked out.
Good morning day three. Different again to the first two days because it was going to be spent walking trough the Green Gully Creek. We were only walking fourteen kilometres on that day, and we all thought that was going to be a bit of a luxury, it did, however, prove to take much longer to hike that what any of us had anticipated. In and out of the water all day and the only instructions were to follow the creek. There are over twenty creek crossings, sometimes crotch deep offering a nice cooling effect in the heat of the day.
Stopping at the waterhole, we swam, only to realise afterwards that we were sharing the waterhole with a few red belly black snakes (yes! the Aussie bush). Other wildlife we saw that day were many snakes down by the creek, one of us was two inches from stepping on a log in the stream with a Python on it, thankfully he knew how to reverse the irreversible motion of stepping down. We had a great view of a Kookaburra swooping out of some scrub and up onto a branch with a mouse dangling from its beak. Then with one swinging circular movement, he downed that poor mouse in less than a second. This of course led to a philosophical talk on, ‘wow that mouse was here one minute going about his merry way, then, GULP, gone the next.’ I believe it was a great reminder to live each moment now because there are damn hungry metaphoric Kookaburra’s everywhere waiting to swoop. We also saw a giant goanna and also the very cute and diminishing in number rock wallaby, amongst other birds, lizards and Aussie bush life.
Cowell’s Hut was day three’s destination and even though we all thought we were in for a jolly nice stroll, when we arrived at the hut we were all once again buggered. Cowell’s hut was tiny, not sure how the heck they fit six people on there.
Day Four, final day, time to summon up the energy reserves for our ascent out. Now I thought the day two ascent was hard – nope! We literally walk out of Cowell’s Hut and start the five hundred metre, almost vertical, ascent up. It was like my body continually walked at a thirty-five degree angle to the scrambling track surface. Man it was steep! I really need you to understand the steep in the steepness of it all.
When I thought we were up as high as this vertical torment could go, we rounded a corner and continued the up. (Expletives!) At least, my pack was lighter by now. I did notice at some point, that if I just kept moving, talk to no-one and put one foot in front of the other (yeah keep it real simple), it became more of a meditative experience and I was able to appreciate the everything all around me everywhen once more. Day four was a seventeen-kilometre jaunt once again and we made it back to Cedar Creek Cottage early afternoon. We stayed in the Cottage overnight, had an outdoor fire, kept our boots off permanently and headed off to the Coast again the next day.
Green Gully Track is a test of endurance, it’s not for the faint hearted, but as I remember the poor ‘One Gulp and He Was Gone Mouse’ – then I’d say it is a definite must for every avid nature-loving hiker. And if you are not one of these people – well gosh, darn do it anyway.