Chaelundi Campground to Guy Fawkes River:
It is a long and bumpy drive out to Chaelundi Campground where there are two groups of campers sitting miserably around by smoky campfires when we arrive and quickly head off along the escarpment track.
Initially, it is flat and goes through open forest to a lookout near Chaelundi Falls - very broken falls that are barely visible from the viewing area. Ahead we can see Chaelundi Bluff. We pass by the side track to Chaelundi Bluff and continue on the escarpment track which offers scant views to Jordan's Track - a fire trail that runs steeply down ridges to Guy Fawkes River. There is one section of the fire track that is very steep and slippery on hard dirt with loose gravel over the top and we think it will be along way down if it is like this all the way. I pick up a stick to use as a walking stick.
However, it turns out the steep bit is over relatively quickly and the descent gets easier. I carry my stick all the way down but do not need to use it again. We have lunch part way down.
Looking down on Guy Fawkes River valley
At the river, it takes us a little while to find any tracks but eventually after walking about through horrible invasive weeds, we pick up a horse track heading downstream. It takes us a little while to "think like horses" and we don't really get good at it the first day so lose the track a few times. At some point, we cross the river and pick up a good horse track and follow it along to the Aberfoyle River junction. We take our shoes off and wade across the Aberfoyle River some point upstream from the junction with Guy Fawkes and have another snack. Doug has a swim but I am waiting for end of day to swim as I figure I will just get sweaty again.
We decide to walk on for another hour before finding a sandy bank to camp on by the river. It is pleasant walking along the river and there are some lovely big gum trees with wide spreading branches but the extent of the invasive spread is very disturbing. Pretty much the entire river valley is overgrown with blackberry, farmers friend (some friend!), nettles, and other invasive weeds, trees and shrubs.
Guy Fawkes River
Near a small cliff band by Combalo Spur we miss crossing the river and have to push our way down a thicket of nettles and other invasive plants to a steep spot on the river where we manage to wade across with pants off as the water is crotch deep. Once across this I walk past a human shit with toilet paper right on the river gravel!
Nearby is a nice sandy bench to camp on by the river but we deem the sandy spot too close to the excrement so we move along a little to a finger of pebbles that sticks out into the river and camp there. I have a very quick dip as it is now cool and the sun has disappeared behind the ridge.
River valley walking
We have drinks and dinner and enjoy the moon rise over the river. It is not wilderness down here as the invasives have destroyed too much native vegetation but it is nice to think we are far away from other people and there are no roads!
View from camp
Guy Fawkes River to Combalo Track to Chaelundi Campground
I get into my sleeping bag overnight although Doug just lies underneath. It is not too cold but the tent gets quite dewy. We have breakfast and coffee by the river before packing up. We know we have to cross the river many times this morning before we reach the spur where we hope to find the track back up to the escarpment. The Combalo Track is not marked on the topographic map and is marked in two different places on the National Parks sketch maps so it is a little difficult to know where we will find it. Both Doug and I have marked the map where we think we will find it. Mine, about 1 to 1.5 klms further downstream than Doug's.
Now that we have got the hang of thinking like a horse, we follow the track easily. However, we do have to cross the river either 6 or 8 (we can't remember which) times before we start the climb up. The track is good all the way and again through pleasant territory except for the bloody invasives. We come across three large herds of horses which are quite a sight to see and hear as they thunder past us and snort a warning. They all look much fitter, healthier and with glossier coats than horses you see in paddocks.
Travel seems a bit slow as we only manage to walk 300 to 800 metres or so without taking shoes and socks off, crossing the river, and then putting shoes and socks on again. None of the crossings are over knee deep. We pass by Doug's spot to find the track and continue along the river eventually crossing back to the east bank for the last time and thinking that we either find the track or go up anyway.
We have lunch by the river with horses nearby on the other bank and then, a mere minute up the track from the river, I find the trail marker sign. It is a steep grind up about 600 metres with barely a switchback all the way, but we plug away. Once away from the river the invasive weeds are gone and we can put shorts on. It takes about 2 hours to climb from the river to the Escarpment Track and then 10 minutes or so to saunter back to the car.
Flowers along the river