The Waterfall – Part 3

Random information about my weekend. I went to the movies this afternoon … saw ‘The Avengers’.

My brain ‘sploded!

*

The Waterfall – Part 1 … and Part 2 … 

… the saga concludes …

The thunderous ovation from the floodwaters surrounded me. I couldn’t hear or see anything else. The tiny trickle of water cascading down the cliff-face exploded into a vicious muddy torrent that pulled me to the edge of the cliff. For some reason I tried to reach my backpack that I’d left beside the little pool. I think I had some strange idea that I’d need it. Like it could save me if I went over the edge.

The oddest things go through our minds when we’re operating in crisis mode don’t they? When I had the motorcycle accident all I could think of was holding onto my helmet (it almost certainly saved my life) and finding my bike keys, in case somebody tried to steal my bike while I wasn’t there to safeguard it. No matter that I was bleeding out, and had bits of my leg scattered all over the place, and bits of my bike were also scattered all over the place.

As the waters of that flash flood threatened to hurtle me a couple of hundred meters down the side of a cliff, all I focused on was that backpack and how it might save me.

Maybe it did.

The ledge that the little glade had hitched itself to gave way under the pressure of the floodwater. The ferns vanished in an instant. I thought I saw the backpack follow after them and leaned out to grab it. I overbalanced and fell toward the torrent.

In two staggering steps I made it through the water to the other side where the ledge continued on past the waterfall. If I’d stumbled I would’ve fallen into the water and that would’ve been the end of me.

With one secure handhold and one foot on solid rock, I waited out the flood. It felt like forever, and the strangest thing was, I looked around and saw the sun still shining in that clear blue sky, as though nothing untoward had happened.

I laughed. Not hysterically, though I was sorely tempted. Just the kind of laugh that says, ‘I’m alive.’

I waited for an hour or so until the flood passed. The rock had been scoured bare, of ferns, of the dappled pool, of the trail back.

I looked in the other direction. That’s all there was between me and a very uncomfortable set of choices. A bit past where I was standing the ledge widened out to what could properly be called a trail. I had enough adrenaline in me to cross those few short meters and step onto it before my legs gave way.

I collapsed onto the ground and shook, and cried, and laughed, probably hysterically, until a late afternoon breeze offered up the smell of a B-B-Q to remind me that all the best adventures end with a well earned feast. (I wasn’t all that far from ’civilisation’. It just felt like a long, long way away)

*

After the bike accident, after six surgeries had attempted to put the jig-saw pieces of my leg together in the right order, I finally made it back to coherence, all bandaged up in a hospital bed, and not knowing if I’d ever properly walk on two legs again. I found the keys to my motorbike, (which was also in pieces) on the chest of drawers next to my bed. It took me the longest time to finally let go of them … but that’s another story.

*

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows” Doug Larson

The Waterfall – Part 2

Here is Part 1 of ‘The Waterfall’

… and so … the adventure continues …

The sun shone so bright it hurt. I should’ve stopped a while back to drink some water from my canteen, but that pesky urge to ‘know what’s around the next corner’ kept me going until I had nowhere to stop and haul it out of my backpack. ‘Note to self; hang the water on the front of my backpack from now on’

I gingerly inched my way round yet another gnarl of sandstone that my ever-dwindling track remained determined to hug with limpet-like persistence. Shuffling sideways, my face pressed against the rockface, I tested another handhold and stepped over a crumbling bit of sandstone.

Suddenly everything around me turned dark. I just about fell off the side of the mountain right then and there!

That’s the difference between being in the sunlight on the side of a cliff and stepping into the shade … on the side of a cliff.

I unpuckered certain orifices and blinked ferociously until I could see into the shadows.

A tiny rill of water had found its way down from the Escarpment cutting a deep cleft into the soft sandstone. The cleft widened out somewhere above my head, due perhaps, to a fault in the sandstone striations, and formed a waystation for slightly foolish humans, and other slightly less insane forms of life. It penetrated deep enough into the cliff-face that it created its own micro-environment. Deep enough that I could actually sit down. Deep enough so that it formed a tiny pool of the clearest coldest water I’d ever tasted. Giant ferns draped themselves overhead and nodded in the slight updraft funneled from the valley below.

Have you ever sat beside a tiny waterfall and listened to the sound? It’s a balm to the spirit and you can’t help but smile at all the stresses and stressors you were somehow so concerned about just a short while earlier.

I sat there until the sun shifted further west and bathed my little hidden glade in golden light. It was time to return. I slowly stood up and heard a sound in the distance, like the rumble of thunder. All the sky I could see from my admittedly limited vantage point glowed a serene and cloudless blue.

The ferns shivered and a sudden hard cold wind flattened them, bustled its way down the cleft and spattered me with flecks of muddy water.

*

“I beg your pardon, Owl, but I th-th-th-think we’re coming to a fatterfall … a flutterfal … a very big waterfall”Piglet (from ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day’)

 

The Waterfall

Earlier today Mrs Widds, the Widder cat, and I, were hanging out in our back yard in the sunshine, and watching the antics of the bluejays and robins. The warmer weather had prompted a nest of carpenter ants (Mrs Widds thinks) to swarm. They’d hatched a bunch of flying queens who were going about their business of flying and being queens. The birds were having a field day. All that protein on the wing.

All in all an aerial ballet that was a joy to behold. Although, I’m guessing the ant queens weren’t too pleased about being the main course.

*

Being in a storytelling mood I decided to relate the story of my encounter with a rather magical waterfall, many a long year ago.

*

In order for me to tell this story we have to travel to the other side of the planet, dip down into another hemisphere, and do a little time travelling … to Australia – specifically the East coast –  about 20 years ago.

If you drive west from Sydney for about 2 hours you’ll reach the heart of the Blue Mountains. I grew up in the eastern shadow of these mountains and vowed that one day I would live on the highest peak I could find … and I  did. (it wasn’t all that high compared to the mountains I have in my back yard these days, but as with all things it’s a matter of perspective)

It was a rather magical time in my life when, by inclination and finances, I was living by myself … with three cats and a puppy who thought she was a cat.

In a bygone era, in the first decades of the beginning of the 20th Century, gentlefolk would motor up from Sydney and the surrounding lowlands to escape the brutal heat of Summer.

The area was also renowned for its healing waters, and many a struggling author or consumptive heiress would take the ‘cure’ offered at the palatial hotels that perched on the edge of Megalong Valley.

Walking trails were hewn into the steep valleys and for a time it was possible for those gentlefolk  to walk from Mt Victoria (where I lived) to Blackheath, to Katoomba without ever descending to the valley floor or resorting to the roads on the plateau above.

Over time most of these trails fell into disuse, and the ancient mountain range reclaimed her own.

*
This is where my part in the story begins.
Sunny day? … check. Feeling restless? … check. Always wanting to know what was around the next corner? … check. Unexplored trail beckoning? … check. Small backpack with essential survival gear? … check. Knowing that after my motorcycle accident I could survive just about anything? … priceless.
I’d explored parts of this particular trail before. It sloped down from the carpark towards the edge of the escarpment, and wandered through gullys where huge ferns created tunnels of greenness. It led under sandstone overhangs where flash floods carved out caves deep enough for the first peoples who migrated to this land to live in, and leave their marks on the walls with red ochre and pointed sticks. A tiny rill of water always burbled alongside the track, no matter how dry the rest of the bush was. And that summer had been a particularly long and brutal one.
I followed the trail until it opened out onto the edge of the cliff. I stood on the precipice and breathed in the scent of sun-parched sandstone. The blue haze from the eucalyptus trees that gave these mountains their name hung thick across the valley below. A hint of bushfire (wildfire) smoke rose against the far horizon.
I sat on the warm rock and dangled my feet into the abyss while I decided if I would turn back, or not. I felt hot and sweaty and the thought of returning to the cool path was truly tempting. Just a little bit more tempting was the unexplored path that clung to the side of the cliff and wound out of sight.
As I headed off I took note of the clouds gathering to the north-west. I rightly judged they would pass me by.
The track soon deteriorated into a ledge that hung off the side of the nearly perpendicular cliff. Even with my bum leg I was sure-footed enough not too be concerned, even though there was no place to turn around. What would I do if the track petered out completely? I’d deal with it if the time came.
The time came, right about the same time that those clouds dumped a load of rain into the watershed of a tiny creek that cascaded down the cliff-face a couple of meters from where I’d paused in my adventure to admire the view!
… to be continued …
*
“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands”Zora Neale Hurston, 1891 – 1960  … American folklorist, anthropologist and author.