06-Oct-2003 -- My mate Rob and I decided that we'd make good of the long weekend and try to hit three confluences (in a row) in three days.
On the third day we packed the tent up at Texas and made our way to Atholwood. After hitting dirt road not long after leaving Texas, we were still a fair hike from the confluence itself.
Atholwood on the 1972 topographical map I downloaded from www.ga.gov.au (a half decent Aussie map site), is listed as "Building 566" so we weren't expecting that much of place.
It turned out to be two houses, a barn with a silo, and an old church the size of a single car garage.
We drove around to each house, but we seemed to still be a fair way away from the confluence, so we stopped at one of the houses to ask about the land. Nobody was home, so we decided to go through a shut but not locked gate, the paddock behind moving up to a hill.
Driving over rocks as big as your fist and some dead trees, we drove around for a couple minutes until we realised that we wouldn't be getting any further in the car. Forgetting that 1.8mins on the GPS was a fair distance, we thought we weren't too far away as we got our packs and headed off down the hill towards bush.
On the initial downhill walk it occured to me that this wasn't going to be an easy confluence to hit, especially with the wet weather making a crossing of a moss covered stream hard going.
We came across old 4WD tracks that were obviously not in use any more but still provided a nice change from walking through the bush. It was only about thirty minutes since we'd left the car, and we hadn't covered much ground. Even worse, the weather was starting to close in.
Raincoats on, we entered thick bush, Rob in the lead breaking branches so we could make our way through. The picture taken of the bush on the last visit to this confluence wasn't really indicative of how it was when we were there - a great deal more growth everywhere was present. When you weren't standing on moss covered rock (the area is full of slate) you were crunching through dead branches. Add uneven ground and hills, and it's not the easiest terrain to move across.
More streams and 4WD tracks appeared which were a nice break, but rarely headed in the right direction for us to follow.
The bush actually got thicker, and even though we were essentially walking the same path, I now too had to break branches and clear my path as well as Rob ahead of me. You couldn't help but be scratched by the branches you missed, and the local population of flies had found us (which was more funny than anything).
As we were either climbing or descending, we took frequent breaks but even then we had to avoid all the giant ants and keep our eyes on snake-like sticks. Surprisingly we never actually saw a single snake, but I'm guessing you should expect some if the weather was warmer and drier.
We came across a clearing with a fairly large dam, but no animals or tracks to get to it in sight. As I wasn't sure of my camera batteries we marked the dam on the GPS for a return photo and moved on.
For the next three hours, we continued in thick bush, scaled two electric fences, and crossed a few more streams. Rob then gave me the best news I'd heard all day; we were 30 clicks (Ed: metres, not kilometres I think!) from the confluence!
Needless to say, we both found sudden energy and the last stretch didn't take us long at all. We'd made it!
Planning to have a nice break, I worked out that if we spent even 10mins at the confluence then left straight after, we'd get back to the car at around 5:30pm, which was just before dark according to the GPS. Not good.
Rob started trying to line up the zeros as I shadowed him around with the camera, and the three times I took a photo and it switched away from zeros. Then my camera turned off. Not good either.
I said to Rob to keep trying to line up the zeros, and I used my compass to find north. With the quickest motion I could do I turned my camera on and took a photo of north, the camera shutting itself off mid-flash.
I tried turning on the camera again, and nothing happened. The battery was dead.
I told Rob, who'd since lined up the zeros about three times. No sooner had I said that and the rain started coming down. We hunkered down under trees to wait, figuring that the batteries would charge up enough for at least one photo.
We waited five minutes and tried with no success. We waited a further twenty minutes and tried again with no success. Swearing we'd never trudge our ways through this level of torture again, we decided to set off back to beat sunset.
Not much was said on the way back; I only spoke to tell Rob (a lot more fit than I) to wait up for me, or when either of us (mainly me) cursing as we fell over something.
An absolute eternity passed, and I could no longer hold back the question of "are we there yet?", figuring we were at least half way, possibly only an hour from the car. Rob shattered that illusion telling me that we had only travelled about one third of the way, but we were making good time.
For the next two hours we travelled on auto-pilot through what seemed like thicker bush than we had travelled on the way to the confluence. After going back over the electric fences we made it to the first stream we'd gone over. The way we'd got over before wasn't really an option, but we found a convienient boulder downstream to jump over.
The ground was much easier after that, mainly sand which gave way to dirt and minimal bush, with (of all things) the car sitting at the top of the hill.
We were soon heading off on the long drive home.
If you are going to try this confluence, be very prepared, and don't try it alone unless you are very capable and fit. And worst-case scenario; if you break a leg (which wouldn't be too hard to do) you'll really need some help getting out of there. Saying that, it's a great confluence to look back on, hopefully whoever visits next is a little more prepared in the camera department than we were =)
More pictures (from all three days) are available at my photo site, under the 4th, 5th, and 6th of October 2003.