After my trip to Eugene (was it really only a week ago that I got back?), I wanted badly to have stayed there. Work had become something I dread, I felt I was coasting in Australia rather than doing all the things I had planned, and all the people and places I knew and loved were once again some 8000 miles and 7 hours in time away. I felt like I’d worked myself into a dead end. While in Eugene I had been incredibly relaxed; visiting with people, going back to Smith, my original second home, and going to all my favorite haunts in town. Even 80s Night was a treat, with a significantly less pretentious crowd than any of the places I’d been to in Sydney. Everything was just EASIER. Being back in Sydney felt like swimming upriver; the best I was managing was staying in place.
This past weekend, I decided it was time to find a way to do what I was here to do, even just for a day, which sure as hell isn’t keeping a bunch of computers running. I needed to get the hell out of the city and see something new. I needed to wander. It was time to break in the Roo Disco on its first road trip.
One thing about Australia, it has a habit of giving its rural areas either intriguing or incomprehensible names. Mingled among the “Burragorang”s and “Wollangambe”s are places with excitingly adventurous names like “Gardens of Stone”, “Wild Dog Mountains”, and “The Devils Wilderness”. That first one was my designated destination for the this trip, prompted by the description of the unusual sandstone “pagoda” formations that give the place its name. Breaking free of the grip of the city took a while, but after nearly an hour, I was on winding, two-lane highway headed into the mountains. I was immediately happier.
As I climbed, the mountains were firmly socked in by low clouds, and driving through the dense, wet fog, I was a little apprehensive about seeing much of anything on this trip, but thankfully, the terminal dryness of the Australian interior stood firm, and the western side was overcast but quite dry. As it turns out, the entrance to many, possibly most parks Australia are not the formal, gated affairs that they are in the US. As it turns out, the entrance to the Gardens of Stone park is little more than a faded green wooden sign next to a dirt road, which at first glance looks like nothing more than a highway pullout or a service road. But the immediate surroundings spoke of no bizarre, majestic rock formations, so I decided instead to take a side road circumnavigating the park and visit Glen Davis, one of the many rural Australian towns only accessible by a lengthy, unpaved road.
This one in particular piqued my interest because it was the very end of the road, and as I found out, is actually tucked away in a dead end of nearly sheer sandstone cliffs rising hundreds of feet overhead. Even more, it turns out this valley is listed as the second largest canyon in the world, second only to the Grand Canyon, however given its open entrance, it’s considerably more populated. Stopping at the local campground office/visitor center/snack bar, manned by two old women settled in for a quiet day of discussing their knitting but were happy to have some company, I chatted with them for a while about the history of the town and the area over a meat pie and a ginger beer. As is usually the story of remote towns, it had once been a thriving shale oil town with thousands of people, now all but abandoned since the mine’s shutdown in 1952. The original master plan of the town layout, a finely crafted affair on paper that would’ve made Walt Disney proud, was actually later used by the same designer to create the city of Canberra. Now, only the odd derelict building and the still-operational original hotel remained of what was once a staple industry town.
From a map I collected at the visitor center, I found the forest to the south had a network of backroads and 4WD tracks, so in the spirit of adventure and further testing the Roo Disco, which was so far performing perfectly, I decided to venture a little deeper. And in this way I found myself at the edge of Wolgan Valley, a staggering remote valley closed on all sides by more towering cliffs. For the life of me I fully expected to find dinosaurs living in it. Instead I found a handful of farms, and at the end of the road, the remains of yet another forgotten mining town, this one long reclaimed by the forest since it was abandoned in 1911, except again for the still-functional hotel, persistently kept running by the few remaining residents of Newnes. The more I explored this forgotten valley, the more I resolved to come back and do some proper exploring. Even just in this brief visit I got to ford my first river in the Roo Disco and stumbled on my first wild wallabies just a few yards away in the forest. However as it was, the winter daylight was already fading, so I wound my way back out to the highway, reluctantly rejoined civilization, and fought Sunday evening traffic back home.
I was replenished. Not just in what I had done, but what I now have yet to do. I’m not stalling against the current anymore.
But I still didn’t want to come in to work today.