Where was I? Oh yeah, I was too busy climbing, but finally you get the second part to this walk. Signal Peak, Grampians National Park. The descent. Initially, this was going to be the one post, but I got caught up talking crap and decided to split it.
Anyway, sorry for the tardy posting (as per usual), but this time I’ve got a perfectly valid reason for vanishing. Briefly, I was selling and buying a house. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it’s quite a stressful experience. I would have liked to share the pain with you, but to top off the moving angst, I haven’t had the internet for six weeks. How can this be? Well, I’ll tell you (as if you had a choice).
Six weeks to have the internet connected, sounds like something that could only happen in a remote country. On another planet. No, I’m in large town, full of people, yet somehow I couldn’t get online. As soon as you read the next sentence, all the Australian readers who were initially perplexed, will nod their heads and say, “Yeah, I get it”.
For the offshore followers, we have this thing called the NBN. It’s this great new fibre internet that should be amazing. Except it’s not so good. Oh, for my large fan base on Devon Island who’ve never heard of it. The initials NBN stand for,
N – National
B – Completely Fucked
N – Network.
Anyway, I’m back and if you’re wondering, I sold my house with the intention of downsizing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, because I suddenly realised ‘downsizing’ meant ‘smaller’. Who would have guessed? In looking at places, I found the rooms to be quite small. Sure this would suit the average gnome, but I’m built like a supertanker who needs a wide turning circle. At one place I did a lap of the loungeroom and found I needed to reverse in order to avoid walking into a wall.
Oh, not to mention the dodgy real estate advertising. One unit proclaimed to have a study. Here, I took a photo of it.
Do you see the problem on the lower left? Yes. They’re stairs. When I write, I tend to tap away on the computer, before taking a short break. To find some inspiration, I tend to lean back on my chair like a complete bastard. I’ve no doubt, that if I owned that place, the inevitable would occur. My leaning back process would continue down the staircase and I’d be continuing the blog from a wheelchair.
You see, I’ve got a track record of tumbling down stairs. I’m not sure why, but I need to concentrate, otherwise I overbalance and end up on my head. I’ve even got photographic evidence. Here’s a picture taken on a Phillip Island holiday. Yes, I fell down so many stairs the other occupant had time to get a camera and record the final impact.
Who knows why I’m so unbalanced? I could smugly blame it on enormous genitals (package), but more likely it’s my enlarged stomach (lard guts).
Anyway, I sold and moved to a place that’s sort of rural, but not. It probably won’t alter the places I’m walking much, as I’m still west of Melbourne. Oh, this does put me closer to the Grampians, so you might get more trips up there. As you can see, this is my perfect opportunity to move onto the second part of this post, which just happens to be below Signal Peak in the Grampians. Where was I?
Oh yeah, when I starting writing this last year (!) I realised I’d left out an event that should have been in the previous post. Now it’s in two parts, I might as well tell you. It might take a little explaining though.
When walking, it seems the base of my backpack always does the same thing. It pushes down on the waistband of my pants. It doesn’t sound like much of a drama, but it is when your strides begin loosening their grip on the hips. Most times it reaches a point where I enter extreme gangster mode. You know the look. In the end, essentially half my arse is hanging out. Hey, but it’s hiking and who cares about such things when puffing and panting up a hillside?
Oh, except this time the precarious system failed completely. There I was, mid-stride through a bunch of Grampians scrub, when suddenly my duds plummeted south. Hips one minute. Around the ankles the next. You should try walking uphill with your pants around your ankles. I can assure you, it alters your stride length. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but it just happened to occur on the first occasion Lady Smuffin had come on a walk. Being aware she might see me in a state of undress, I yelled out an old Naval warning,
It didn’t really help though, as she just happened to be about 10 feet behind me. I can assure you, none of this was done on purpose. Unlike an instructor during my days at a training establishment I won’t identify. Hey, just to diverge for a moment, how’s this for a story. It’s a good one, so sit back and picture this scene.
For reasons I never understood, there was a large swimming component in my previous job. Why, I don’t know, as I never used any of my swimming skills for the next 26 years. Anyway, just visualise about 40 recruits in the water. Swimming, diving and looking for bricks at the bottom of the pool for no apparent reason. Okay, no problem. This story isn’t about the recruits, but rather one of the instructors and all of the action was happening outside the pool.
After a work out, he’d shower and then dress himself in post-shower attire. No shirt and a towel around the waist. Then he’d saunter along the pool deck and without fail, when he reached the point where all the recruits could see him, he’d execute a classic manoeuvre. Yes, he was the master of the ‘Tactical Towel Drop’ (TTP). The ol’, ‘towel accidentally slipped off’ trick and before you knew it he was naked. Just to make sure no one missed the excitement, he’d announce, “Oh! I’m sorry! You can see my cock!” Yeah yeah, what else is new? You could set your watch by the ‘accidental’ exposure.
Okay, leaving that image aside, let’s get back to the walking. We’d finally summitted Signal Peak. Discarding our supplemental oxygen masks we hugged in delight. Actually, all we did was sit down and contemplate lunch. I did have a look around and I was a little confused. I was sure there was a cairn on top? No, there wasn’t. Mt Abrupt was on full display though. This is a view you don’t see too often.
Before the walk, I had a vision of lounging around on top for half hour or so, taking in the sights. Guess what? We didn’t and something was preventing that. I’ve no idea, but there were approximately one billion March/Horse flies buzzing around, right at the peak. I kid you not. We hadn’t seen any on the climb, yet it was mayhem up high in the one spot. Why is this? I considered a corpse of a long lost hiker must have been hidden under a bush somewhere. A cursory examination turned up nothing though. It was a scene straight out of Lord of the Flies. I must watch that movie one day. It’s about flies, isn’t it?
It was hard to capture the experience, but I gave it a go. I’ve cropped this photo and darkened it. Yes, all those black spots aren’t dust on my sensor, but individual March flies going berserk.
You know what this meant? Yep, we were moving again after about 10 minutes. Plenty of fanfare getting there, but it was all over so fast.
Anyway, this is where things get a little difficult. From the top to reaching the car, I took a total of eight photos. This can only mean one thing. I was knackered. I’m not sure why, but I thought descending the southern side of Signal Peak, Grampians National Park would be easier than the northern climb. This reasoning was based on scraps I’d read online before the trip. As most people head up from the south, I figured there might be a semblance of a track. Um… NO.
We were also going to use some guesswork. My lost map bag contained a route I’d come across online and my aim was to replicate it. Unfortunately the, ‘try and memorise a route I last looked at on a computer two weeks ago’ method was a bit dodgy. Clearly this was going to be problematic, especially as I had to explain this to the others. Looking ahead to a wall of bush,
Smuffin said, “Okay. How do we get down?”
I said, “I’ve no idea.”
Smuffin said, “Huh? Why not?”
I said, “Because the notes were in the bag.”
There was some more conversation, but it wasn’t PG rated. Anyway, the direction to travel wouldn’t be a drama. It was more about, is there an easier way?
A distinct lack of routes were visible…
…and the vegetation over distance is quite deceptive. The trees look small, but they’re not. As we began to descend the greenery enveloped us.
Skin was scratched and legs were being accosted. Especially at the ankles, causing us to stumble and check ourselves with every step. It was fun. After some awkward guessing of where to go, we suddenly came across pink tape markers again. Where did they come from?
It was quite exhausting stuff and I said something that Smuffin reminded me of the other night. He demanded its inclusion in this post. Half way down, I proclaimed.
“You know what? I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack and right now I wish it would happen.” As you can see, I wasn’t travelling to well.
Eventually a saddle was reached and there was a brief moment where the scrub was low and a perception things would get easier.
Guess what? NO IT DIDN’T. Out of the saddle, we were once more in vegetation over our heads. After another session of extended profanity, we came across a distinctive rough track, marked with pink tape. Finally things were easier. I’m not sure who’s marked it, but I’m assuming it’s the preliminary route for the Grampians Peak Trail. Maybe. Whatever the reason, it was certainly welcome.
During all of this, have you been wondering how the scrub was affecting my body? How much I was being torn to shreds? I alluded in the previous post how I’d brought some extra protection along. Sure, gaiters were standard, but on my legs there were another item. I have no idea why, but when walking through scrub, my knees get demolished. What confuses me is it doesn’t happen as badly to other people, so I’ve come to the conclusion I must have fat knees. You’ll have seen this picture before. It was taken after the northern tilt of Wilsons Promontory a few years back.
I’d thought of ways to avoid this, so I went for something a bit out there. A pair of standard knee guards from the tradie section at Bunnings. I was going to take a proper photo, but as you know, I was dying on the descent, so this is the best I’ve got. On full display as I clamber over a fallen tree.
Sure, they may look like something out of the Mardi Gras, but any doubts I had were soon dispelled. For off-track walking, I think they’re THE GREATEST THING I’VE EVER BOUGHT. Honestly, my knees were completely protected, so I no longer care how bizarre they look. Even better, on the climbing part, I could put my knee down on rocks to lift myself up and it was completely pain-free. Kneeling down, it felt like my knee joint was 12 years old.
Oh, I wore gloves as well, but I forgot to take a photo of those, so you’ll just have to believe me.
Anyway, heading down, we aimed for the beautiful, wide highway-style track that leads up Mt Abrupt. The ribbon kept coming, as we closed in on the track. Past these group of trees…
…voilà, the track was reached.
Now it was plain sailing, but not really. Sure, it was downhill, but I was officially rooted. In fact, there was section of track where it rose about three feet (I’m not even joking) and I had to have a rest afterwards. On the southern side, it was hot and the air was still. Clearly I hadn’t drunk enough water, so as I descended, I was a complete blubbering mess.
During my downhill shuffle, I was hoping the information boards on the way up to Abrupt would distract me from my upcoming death. Unfortunately, the boards were short on information, so I wasn’t able to think of anything other than my imploding lungs. And all major organs. Actually, I didn’t notice this at the time, but it looks like an owl. Wish I’d thought of that at the time.
You might think all this death talk is a bit of an overreaction. Ease up, the Mt Abrupt track is where John Clarke died, so it can be lethal. I guess he died on an aptly named place. Knowing my luck, I’ll die on Mt Buggery.
Anyway, before long the road was in sight and heaven was reached. A Mazda with air conditioning and leather seats. Signal Peak was done and after all of this surmising, I can categorically say, I’m never going back. It’s horrible. We were so spent that Smuffin hasn’t walked again.
You might be wondering, what about Lady Smuffin? Her first bushwalk foray? Out in the scrub with no protective clothing other than some denim jeans. Guess what? There was nothing wrong with her. She did it easily and was wondering what us blokes were whinging about. She didn’t even have any major cuts. How is this possible? I think I might be as soft as a tub of melted butter and upon sighting any scrub, as wobbly as a half-set jelly. I’ve no idea, as it’s one of the mysteries of life. Maybe I’m not cut out for hiking? I should be doing something else? You never know, there might be a new angle to blogging. ‘Knitting Fiasco’. Keep an eye out for that one.
So in the final wash up, how long did this all take? I might give the GPS track I uploaded to Garmin another go. Usually it doesn’t display properly, but we’ll see. If it starts acting up, I might delete it. Anyway, looking at the data, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed the time, but it took 7 hours to do 6 km. Impressive. Oh, plus I didn’t even burn one calorie.
There you have it! It appears you may have waited six months for bugger-all? Yeah, sorry about that, but it’s not my fault. Posts are coming and there will be a mix of stuff, which is a little bit obscure, amongst the bog standard. It’s quite hard to find walks that hardly anyone has heard of before. Except in the Grampians. I’ve got a stack of places I’d never heard of until a few months back.
Now I’m heading over to Twitter to post this. It’s yet another spot I’ve been slack with. I don’t know about you, but it’s as if that orange clown and his supporters have ruined the online world. It’s a pity all those years ago, his dad didn’t just pull out and shoot him out the window instead.
I was shocked to see the death of the wonderful John Clarke at the Grampians but I had no idea it was on the Mt Abrupt track. We can be very thankful we still have Big Greg’s exciting tales to read.
I’d never thought of wearing those knee protectors on walks before so thanks for the handy hint. I use them all the time for weeding in the garden and crawling under the house to check for termites but have been too stupid to think of trying them on walks. They would be perfect for the rocky climbs. Who cares if they look funny when they save the knees from agony.
That damaged sign does indeed look like an owl…quite artsy looking really. Owls are one of my favourite birds.
Wow, I thought the marsh flies were bad up in Queensland but I’ve never seen them in numbers like that before!!!
It was worth the wait. Thanks for the smiles and for putting us out of our misery. 🙂
I’ve often wondered about that pink marking tape; who puts it there, is it a trap line, is it still in use…?
While we’ve seen plenty of insects at the top of Abrupt and Sturgeon, I would never have guessed that Signal Peak would be home to hoards of March flies! Incredible!
Glad you got the internet finally sorted.
You passed. (Not everyone does.)
Yeah, I read somewhere it was on the Mt Abrupt track. Hopefully he at least made it to the top and got a view! If it was me, I’d keel over in the car park. The knee guards look insane, but they worked, so I don’t care how they look 🙂 Those flies on the top were weird. No idea why they were concentrated in the one spot, but unfortunately they were in the only place we wanted to stop for some time! All in all, none of this walk came easy 🙂
Oh yeah, the pink tape is always a mystery! Some of the stuff we found below Signal Peak seemed to be quite organised, so that’s why I wondered if it was a preliminary route for the Grampians Peak Trail. If so, there’s some work to be done! That track might open in 2050 🙂 The flies were insane and I have no idea why they’d congregate like that. I may have to do some fly Googling and see if I can come up with an answer 🙂
Thanks Greg, relieved to see you made it back.Once again a good story…..not good to see the damage to your person though. Walking with Lady Smuffin would be like drinking with someone who never gets a hangover….it just isn’t right.
As for moving…….shudder……….when we bought our first house the agent said “this will be a good first house”……guess what…it still is and that was in 1980. The pain and suffering back then has not been forgotten and that was just listening to the crap from the agent…….I reckon they’ll have to carry us out of here boots first……fortunately Mrs Neil is completely agreeable..
I like your knees ?
Yeah, it was a saga, but other than the skin we left behind, we managed to get down in one piece. It’s a concern when others walk through the same bush, but don’t get damaged. I guess it’s one of life’s mysteries!
Oh yeah, I knew moving house would be stressful, but I didn’t know it would be THAT stressful! If I’d found the ideal place in 1980, then I’d be still there also 🙂
I like them as well. When they’re not cut to pieces by off-track scrub though 🙂
Ah! At last. Like another Valium Hit. I can now relax, having read Part 2.
Good to read reports of peoples; walking in areas other than the Pinnacle track near Halls Gap. I think the original native custodians of this land, would have covered every nook and cranny of the Grampians in the preceding 60000 + years, so in fact we’re just retracing old timelines.
Loved your new ‘Worksafe approved’, kneepads and can someone tell me where you can buy that pink tapey stuff?! Every time I go to Bunnings, there’s all sorts of colored tape, except Pink!
Ah, that feels better, great to see you back.
I think your knee pads out do my industrial workwear Grampians gear, although my leather gimp mask might have you covered;)
Looking forward to some more Grampians posts now that your a local.
Like the adventures of Aeneas after the Trojan War – heroic, with some discomfort (pain etc etc) – and very welcome for being long-anticipated and with a drama all of its own.
You’ve moved further West but *without* a microscopic ‘staircase study area’ ? You’re not in Hoppers I hope. If you’ve moved to Steiglitz or Lal Lal I’m on my way over at once with a range of herbal teas & some rare and fascinating maps
Superbly fun !
Yeah, I’ve no doubt over 60000 years many a person has walked across that peak. I’m pretty confident though that of all those preceding people, no one complained as much me 🙂 It’s certainly one of those walks to say ‘I’ve done it’. Not for many other reasons!
From now on, I think Bunnings is the key to all my off-track walking clothing! I’ve even got some heavy duty pants that seem more suitable for chainsaw protection. I’d wear them all the time if they didn’t feel like cement on my legs 🙂 Definitely not summer-wear! I might wheel them out for the next Grampians tilt in a month or so.
You’re right, the pink tape is an eternal bushwalk mystery. Where does it come from and who puts it there? If I can find out the answer, I’ll do a post on it 🙂
Yeah, for all my whinging, other than the first few days, the NBN has been screaming along. I’m not sure if I’m lucky or it’s playing up, but it seems to be working okay. Clearly it won’t, now that I’ve written this glowing comment 🙂
I have clothing now that’s been selected for peak Grampians protection! Mind you, I almost bought chain-mail from a medieval store. Partly for comedy, but I’m confident it would work. Then again, it weighs about 25 kg and I wasn’t going to rest there, as a Knights Templar helmet also looked pretty cool 🙂
Oh yeah, this blog is like malaria. You just can’t get rid of it 🙂 I’ve got some more walks left in me yet!
Oh no, I’m not in Hoppers. It wouldn’t be a bad place though, as there appear to be no hills? Perfect! I can say I’m nearer to Lal Lal and I’ve actually got a Lal Lal post coming up. As per usual, it should be a simple one, but it’s not! 🙂
Leading from the knees, Greg – that well known hiking technique – seems you have mastered it! Hope the house hunt has been successful and you are not too traumatised by the parlous state of our NBN so that we hear from you again in less than 6 months! PS You have left me with no desire whatsoever to tackle Signal Peak – mention one march fly and I am out of there like a bird on the wing – but that plague looked like something out of a horror movie!
Yes, I seem to suffer from an affliction known as ‘knee fatness’. Not sure if there’s a cure?! Oh yeah, I’ve been slack here, but fully intend to return at some point sooner rather than later. That’s the nature of blogging I guess? It’s been seven years since I started this and it’s hard to maintain the mojo over time, but I will be back with some material in the next few months. Thankfully it won’t consist of a revisit to Signal Peak! You’re definitely not missing a thing by going there. I think the only interesting thing was to see Mt Abrupt from a different direction. Mm… that’s about it and really you can get the same view from the road in the car 🙂
Well good to see you finally made it Greg!
Oh yeah, we finally made it. Thanks for the pre-walk info! I’m glad to do it, but not so glad that I want to do it again 🙂 I’ll be in touch, as I think you’ve got the finer details for another Grampians walk I’d like to do!