Thursday, 9 August 2012

Hiking The Stirling Ranges

I stayed a few days in the Stirling Ranges, just to the north of Albany. The creased and folded mountains were easy on the eye after the continuous flat flat West Australian landscape.

One evening in the campsite I got chatting with a guy called Kurt. He asked what I was doing the next day and I told him I was going to climb up Toolbrunup, the second tallest but most difficult of the peaks. He asked if he could tag along and I said sure, some company would be good. He asked what time I normally got going and I said about eight would be good. Great he said.

When I wandered over to his site around eight in the morning his table was littered with cooking gear and food containers and bags of flour and jugs of water. He was busy chopping up an orange peel.

Hey Kurt how’re you going? I said.

Good he said and you?

Good. What are you up to?

Just making a cake. And some bread.

Right, cool. Um, you still want to come hiking this morning?

Yeah man yeah. This won’t take long. I make all my own stuff you know. I’m a vegan and you know the supermarkets don’t have much. You know. Plus it’s cheaper. One whole bag of flour only costs a dollar and you can make lots of cake with that you know. And bread. This won’t take long, you know. Forty five minutes.

Two and a half hours later he called over to me at my site – Hey Tim, you ready to go?

Me? I said. Yeah I’m ready.

We started walking, and after a couple of minutes he stopped dead in the middle of the track and started waving his arms round in slow whooshing movements. I stood watching. After about thirty seconds he said oh sorry I’m into tai chi you know, it helps you know keep the energy flowing.

Righto. Can I walk in front?

He stopped like that every few minutes, so I left him to it but waited at intervals for him to catch up. Approaching the top I nearly trod on an echidna sitting right in the path. I stayed still while it unfolded itself and waddled right past me, brushing against my foot before crashing off into the scrub.

When Kurt finally made it to the top I said great view hey. Did you see the echidna?

The what? Nah mate nah.  He admired the view and took a few photos. I offered to take one of him on his camera and he said yeah just wait a sec. He got down in the yoga guru position with legs crossed and hands upturned on knees and sat on a rock ledge. I took a few photos from different angles then put the camera down.

He sat with eyes closed for ages so I walked around the summit and noticed we were being circled by one two three wedge tailed eagles. Round and round they went, riding the air currents, flying so fast and with such ease. Like they’d been doing it all their lives. They came close – within thirty metres of where I stood – the sun glistening off their dark feathers, their strong legs hanging down and their big claws so prominent. Then they’d drift high up, before swopping down to my height again.

So close they came that I worried for Kurt’s safety – he was only a little guy so I reckon if one eagle had’ve grabbed him by each ear they could have carted him off.

Two of the eagles started putting on an aerobatic display, with some sort of mid-air clashing. One rolled onto its back midflight and the other would hurtle down and collide before making off again. They did this a few times when, following some unseen cue, one of them flew off. Just made a beeline for another peak to circle.

Kurt finally surfaced and I told him all about it, but my words didn’t even register. He just grabbed his camera and looked through the photos I’d taken of him, saying I thought you might have zoomed in on me a bit more to capture the serenity you know.


  1. Those mountains are spectacular. Smoothly folded over one another like slices of jarlsberg. And so green! Like ireland. Covered with moss. A little cheesey flavoured magic mossy paradise...with echidnas. Just for you. And at last, there you sit above it all, gazing out over your kingdom...

  2. Fabulous! Loved it. great stories, great writing. fabulous.