It is not often that I'm in awe of the Australian landscape. Growing up in bushland and taken by mum on trail rides, the bush had become commonplace; inferior to more exotic scenery hiked overseas in my mind. However, that afternoon gazing across the Warrumbungles, drenched by the glow of a setting Australian sun proved to me that there was much beauty I had yet to discover in my own homeland.
The aptly named Warrumbungles is an Aboriginal word meaning 'crooked mountains'. Our hike goal was to reach one of these crooked summits known as The Grand High Tops via an ancient volcanic spire called The Breadknife. We imagined watching the sun set and gazing back over the darkened ridges we'd just climbed with stars twinkling overhead. Armed with these aspirations, two snack bars, a pear and not enough water; we commenced our summer afternoon hike to the roof of the Warrumbungles.
The initial scenery was a landscape scarred by the flames of the 2013 bushfires - where 90% of this national park was burnt to a crisp, including the park's visitor centre and sadly much of the local wildlife population which included koalas and endangered brush tailed rock wallabies. The park is steadily regenerating as the Australian bush does after millennia adapting to bushfires with wildlife (native and introduced) slowly making their way back.
The afternoon was sweaty and our hike became punctuated with wallabies, rest breaks and stops for feather collecting. Our first detour was caused by an over-sized kangaroo lazing across our path. We suspected that he often lay there with the deliberate intention to nudge wary-of-kangaroo hikers off-route as the way we took to skirt around him seemed to be becoming well trodden.
We continued as always, onwards and upwards, crossing over the bridges of dried creek beds, passing a herd of rogue goats and finding ourselves hiking alone without the pesky flies which usually accompany an Australian bush hike. The dirt track became a neatly paved path with stairs which soon disappeared into a rock scramble the higher we climbed. As we neared the peak of The Grand High Tops we discovered we were not the only hikers out that evening. The conversation floating down the ridge consisting of the intimate dissection of the past relationships of two girls. So it was to this failed romance commentary we made it round the last buff of summit to gaze in wonderment across the Warrumbungles.
We stayed awhile before becoming slightly irritated by our fellow hiker's conversation and sensibly predicting mid-return hike hunger we decided to head back early whilst there was partial light. Sharing sips from our one drink bottle, we rationed our water on the quickly darkening walk back to the car. We were shepherded by the constant thump thump of wallabies on the track beside us and the calls of night birds which we never could quite spot with our head torch that was running on weary batteries. As the bush got darker, we began to spot tiny little crystals scurrying along the side of the path which upon closer inspection would prove to be spiders.
So it was with a sky confettied heavily with stars and a path with glittering arachnids that we made it it back to the car, ready for a tired drive to our campsite. We drove past the glaring eyes of a large feral cat - it's back taller than our knees with large pads for feet. It resembled a mountain lion far more than a liberated house cat. After watching him stalk off into the bush, we continued on to settle in for the night and re-commence our star gazing wars.