White-winged choughs in the pines
Choughs, who build mud nests and are easily confused for crows, have the odd tendency of their eyeballs swelling and becoming brighter when the bird is agitated. For a startling example of this, check out: http://amatteroflight.com/gallery2/d/1167-4/White-winged-Chough_4502v1.jpg
Yesterday I was having a bad day; today it passed back to Ryan. ^_^ Without not too many delays we packed the bikes in the car and headed out to Kinross State Forest, outside Orange. The day was hot and cloudless, the air humid and thick with dust – a mud bath of a summer’s day. Kinross, largely pine plantations of varying age built on a low double-peaked mountain, is riddled with 4WD tracks, bike paths and hiking tracks. There is a notable population of wild dogs in the area, and it’s not uncommon to find disembowelled rabbits, dogs, and sizeable partial skeletons. It’s one of the most disconcerting experiences of walking through a forest, particularly a lonely, almost soundless pine forest, and be greeted with mounds of white bones. Combined with the occasional overturned, burnt-out vehicle and the ubiquitous sense of desolation of the place, and I was more than happy to focus on the rocks, rather than the bones.
But for all its sinister aspects, Kinross is a tranquil and eerily pretty forest. We saw no one as we rode up the first of the day’s trails. The silence remained as we cruised around Kinross’s easiest trail, through the ranks of softly swaying pines. It’s a dry place, but unlike most local forests, it retains that strong pine tree smell. Like Christmas.
Well, one of the few things I dislike about riding is going downhill at speed. Yeah, I know, right. The best part. Ryan adores it, and adores technical trails, and jumps and rock gardens and mountains and … I’d rather hike. We reached the trackhead of the trail where on our last visit to Kinross, I’d come off the bike six times. I stopped the bike dead. I was nearly in tears. It’s stupid, it really is, and I wish I enjoyed downhill trails. But I don’t. And just the thought of having to ride that trail again was enough to stop me.
Ryan cottoned on pretty quickly, and suggested we take the fire road, 4WD trails, back to the parking lot. I could put my bike in the car and hike while he rode. We did that, and by time we got to the bottom of the hill (he about two minutes ahead of me), I was feeling much recovered. I take solace in being the stronger hiker of us 😉
Bike in car, Ryan farewelled, that left me to hike the afternoon away. I started by walking up the long, steep hill extending along one side of the forest. This was when my warnings to Ryan, who sometimes visits Kinross by himself, came to mind. There are wild dogs. I’m one female walking through pack territory. Now from what I know of wild dogs, they would be more likely to attack another dog than a human, but that doesn’t put me at my ease. I took the stumpy, blunt pocket knife from my bag and slipped it into my pocket. After a hundred metres more or so it occurred that with the knife in its sheath, it would be very hard to extract if I was ambushed. I returned the knife to its sheath, and let the folding knife weigh my shorts down. I saw no one and nothing alive. I took a right turn where it became available, hoping to link around with the set of trails Ryan and I had first visited.
Note I was keeping firmly on the fire roads, rather than the trails, as I was without a map of the area and haven’t explored it thoroughly before. Once upon a time I was an exchange student in Belgium, and with my host family visited a country house close to the French border for Easter. Of course the ground was thick with snow, and the small town, really just two long perpendicular streets, was surrounded with pine forest. Upset at something that had happened, I went out early one afternoon for a walk. I walked across a snow field, and into a forest. I did the geometry in my head and walked three sides of a square, and ended up out of the forest in a town that I did not recognise. It occurred to me then, as I was completing the fourth side of the square, that as we had arrived at the town the night before, I had never even seen the front of the house, nor did I know the name of the street. Which doesn’t matter at all when you don’t know what town you’re in.
I continued walking, and when I saw the forest, I re-entered it in what now seems like madness. Obviously I was panicking a little. I cut down a very steep hill and found two roads, one a high road, the other a low road, both leading north deeper into the forest. I followed the high road. Eventually I came across a sheltered picnic area. The sun was getting low and I had not seen anyone for hours. Singing out for help, and sometimes just singing to keep my spirits raised, I climbed a hill to lookout, but the hills were densely forested and I couldn’t see further than the next identical hill. It started to snow. It was growing dark. I knew that my clothing was inadequate and if I stayed outside that night I would freeze to death. I panicked again. My chances were higher if I could find the picnic site again, as I would have shelter and there were stoves, although I would need some means of building a fire. I turned downhill for the picnic area, and slipped in the snow. I don’t know how far I fell, but I rolled the whole way, and came to a stop by catching a tree around my midriff.
Finally, though, as it was nearing dark, I made it to the picnic area. And I knew I couldn’t stay there. Perhaps it would have been wiser, but at that stage it seemed unthinkable not to keep going. I turned back down the road I’d come in on. I didn’t know which hill I’d picked to climb down originally, or the town beyond it, so I continued along the dirt track until I reached a tarred road. There were a few cars, most of them headed east. I decided east was where the action was at, and wandered down that way, frantically signalling any car which passed. None did. At last I threw myself in front of a sedan, which, thankfully, stopped. A middle-aged couple occupied the driver and passenger seats. I told them in poor French through many tears that I was lost. Please take me to the police station, I’m ridiculously stupid and I don’t know where I’m from.
Luckily I had my book of contacts. The police were quite amused. This often seems to be the case in small towns when tourists are lost; it’s all pretty funny unless you happen to tbe the one who is lost. I had the number not for my host family’s country house, but for another representative in Belgium. An hour of calls later and my host father arrived to collect me. On the way back to the country house, I realised I’d been headed east towards the next town, where the police station was. If I’d gone west, I was only four or five kilometres from the house. Not that I would have picked it.
Being lost like that was a frightening experience, one that I’ve never repeated to that scale. Whatever I did to my hip in the fall has stuck with me, and funnily enough, it only pains me in cold weather, usually after a brisk walk. Since then, I have come to trust my geometric reasoning; i.e. if you turn ninety degrees four times then you will cross the path you started with. I also make sure to do research on the places I go before I go there. That’s not to say I haven’t been lost (Fukuoka thank you) but it has always been in less dire circumstances than that evening facing death in the cold.
Why are we even talking about Belgium? In Kinross, I made a triangle out of trails to avoid being carried too far into the forest, and very nicely wound up at the junction of trackheads Ryan and I had visited earlier. I’d been walking for forty minutes or so, so I figured to take a leisurely walk down the track I refused to ride, probably meet up with Ryan along the way, and start fresh at the parking lot.
So it happened. The walk downhill was beautiful, peaceful and nicely familiar. So close to the parking lot, in what was a relatively high traffic area, I didn’t worry much about wild dogs. A third of the way down the trail, who should roll along a built-up bank but Ryan, heartily cursing the whole day. He’d cut open his neck on a branch whilst avoiding kissing a tree, was having trouble riding up the hills, and had hurt his hip somehow. He rode away promising to meet me in the parking lot. I met him here:
Being very unamused at the others in the shot, who were both on dirt bikes. Although he felt poorly about complaining later, Ryan was very unimpressed at the dirt bikes riding the wrong way up the trail, loosing big stones and digging ruts into the dirt. He skipped the jump and roared off again.
I reached the parking lot feeling very refreshed. Ryan not so much. He was done for the day. Usually he stays on the trails for two or three hours at a time, but today proved too fickle even for him. We loaded up the bikes, said farewell to Kinross, and introduced our dusty selves back into the car. I entirely enjoyed his new tyres as I sped off up the dirt road towards Orange. 😀
Tonight, again, we’re relaxing. Vodkas/ pineapple juice and Batman Begins last night, Subway and Batman the Dark Knight Returns Again Forever tonight. Or whatever it’s called. I didn’t mind it. Seemed to be quite politically steeped in the 99% argument, and I can’t help but think that Christopher Judge would make a way better Batman, but it actually was a very good movie. The only part I risked falling asleep through was the big finale action scene, which always seem pointless. There to make it look cool. Men love it and I go to sleep -_- z Z
Tomorrow! We’re introducing a touch of class into our daily grind. I will be visiting Bathurst’s Art Gallery and perhaps the Mineral and Fossil Museum again, which has a T-rex skeleton. Not a real one, but a fairly sizeable imitation. Friday I’ll be off to my hometown for Christmas and time with my absolute best friend in the world, my dog, Sax. See you then!