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Lower Portals bushwalk & swim

Mt Barney

Mt Barney

Mt Barney looms over the surrounding farmland like an ancient guardian. The multiple peaks and rocky outcrops warn of the dangers associated with climbing the mountain’s peaks. I’ve rarely explored the national park here because I’m not much of a climber and there’s something foreboding about the prospect of climbing her. I can’t explain it but something tells me that we’re not meant to be up there; at least not without permission. But I don’t feel the same sense of foreboding around the mountain’s base.

Starting out on the trail

Starting out on the trail

With a heatwave hitting Brisbane and temperatures forecast to be in the mid-40s centigrade (104F – 116F), the Audax ride I had planned to do overnight was cancelled. I decided to walk down to the Lower Portals on Barney Creek. No sooner did I mention my plans to Mum than she invited herself along. She picked me up at 6am and we were on the trail by 8am to get to the portals before the real heat hit.

Open trails through the gums

Open trails through the gums

The trail to the Lower Portals is exposed and rugged. At a little over 2 miles it’s deceptively challenging. The landscape is constantly undulating with washouts and dry creek beds more common than smooth walking. Mum and I both love this kind of country. It is reminiscent of the Outback Australia with scrawny trees, little shade, red dirt and ancient boulders. If ever you thought Australia was a young country, you only need to walk to the Lower Portals to get a sense of just how ancient it really is.

Sweaty fun

Sweaty fun

While the rugged slopes were dry, the deepest sections of the gullies offered some respite and grass even managed to grow there. Mum and I each carried 4L water to get us through the 8km return hike. On our return journey we came across a British family (two adults and two boys) who were carrying about 1.5L water between the four of them. They were extremely dehydrated with bright red faces and the mother was wavering all over the trail. We tried to tell them to turn back and that they were carrying insufficient water to be safe during the (by then) midday heat but the father gave us the “don’t tell me what to do” look. So we had no choice but to leave them to their wobbly shuffling and hope they refilled their bottles at the creek some 2km further along. The sweat on my shirt above was from the 8am heat. By midday it was 47’C in the shade (116F). If you come from overseas to walk in Australia, carry at least 2L (4 pints / half gallon) water per person even for a short 2 mile hike and more in summer. Dehydration is a killer.

After an hour of walking, including stops to take photos, look at a giant goanna, watch a native wasp try to carry a dragon fly into it’s nest and enjoy the couple of bubbling creeks along the way, we reached the Lower Portals. Over the course of two hours we were joined by others who were there to enjoy a swim. I took a short video because it shows the portals better than a photo can.

A hot barefoot scramble

A hot barefoot scramble

After two and a half hours picnicking and swimming at the Lower Portals, Mum and I scrambled back across the rocks to the end of the trail. We were in bare feet, having left our shoes with the others piled under a bush where the trail joined Barney Creek. It was only about 100m of scrambling but the rocks were like burning coals. Every time I dropped my feet into soothing cold water, I am sure they sizzled. Mum is smarter than me – she cooled the rocks with water from the creek before walking on them. That’s what she’s doing in the photo above.

We walked back to the car in the middle of the day. We’re experienced walkers and took things easy. We had plenty of water and stopped in the shade along the way to take rests and enjoy the landscape. At the final creek (about 1km from the cars), we stopped again to cool off. I took a short video of the running water to capture the music created by the water and cicadas. As you can probably hear, the cicadas were deafening.

It was a brilliant day and I can’t wait to come back to Mt Barney National Park to explore more of the creeks and also some of the campsites.

Total: 8km bushwalk

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5 comments on “Lower Portals bushwalk & swim

  1. 47 degrees?! I would have been in that water like a shot and probably stayed there until I went all wrinkly! That is, if I had ever started in that heat. I think I would melt.

    I did the etape du tour one year (it’s what started me cycling more seriously!) and it was 40 and just above. I finished, but I was put on 3 litres of saline drip in the medical tent because I was seriously dehydrated and my blood pressure had dropped. You’re right – it can be so serious, and the scary thing was that I was still carrying water at the end but was’t thinking straight enough to drink it. I’ve learnt to spot the earlier signs now!

    • Yeah – 47’C. We had a heat wave for about 2 days. It’s all back to normal now with daytime temps in the 29-33’C range. I stayed in the water as long as I could stand – about 2 hours. Haha. I figured that I could be bored and hot at home or I could go for a nice easy walk. The walk won 🙂

      Saline drip sounds serious and scary. I totally get what you say about not thinking straight enough to drink. I’ve heard of that happening to people. I drink a lot of water because I have false polycythemia (it’s a side effect of the testosterone medication I take). This means I have sticky blood and have to be careful not to get too dehydrated due to increased risk of stroke or heart attack. So on hot days I generally try to do things that don’t require too much exertion (like walking instead of cycling).

  2. Love the videos. I would have stayed in the water until you dragged me out. Are those temps common, or is it an unusually hot summer this year?

    • I am not much of a swimmer. 2 hours of swimming was enough for me. I love being near water and don’t mind dipping my feet and calves in or tipping handfuls over my head but that’s usually about it. I put it down to my astrology (Sun, Saturn, Venus & Mercury in Virgo, which is ruled by Mercury – 12th House, which is ruled by Neptune/Pisces) while my Moon is in Pisces, which is ruled by Neptune – 6th House, which is ruled by Mercury/Virgo). I’ve always been someone who loves being near water (on boats, in kayaks, on beaches, on river / lake banks) but who doesn’t like to swim. And then I learned about my astrology and it made total sense – I am an earth bound person with a strong (but not strong enough) water influence.

      No, these hot temps are not common for us in Brisbane. Our summer daytime temperatures are usually somewhere between 28’C (84F) and 35’C (95F). Summer starts in early October with a nice dry heat then around this time of year things start to get steamy as the summer storms start to hit us. Summer won’t leave until mid-March. February is our worst month because it’s sticky all day and night.

      In other parts of Australia, high 30s-low 40s (celcius) are normal. For example, Melbourne gets hot dry days in summer (but they can also have freezing cold wintery days in summer too – they literally get 4 seasons in a day). Up north of Brisbane it gets hot too (from about Bundaberg, which is 400km or 250 miles north of where I live) the weather is tropical – so hot, humid and disgusting. From about 250km (150 miles) west of where I live it is also hot hot hot. They get up to 50’C (122F) in the Outback regions (those areas that are about 150 miles or more inland from the coast).

      Brisbane is pretty good. We have quite manageable weather patterns. Our winter is mild by anyone’s standards (though we complain about it) and our summers, while warm, aren’t totally oppressive. We only get heat waves like last weekend maybe every 5-6 years and it only lasts a day or two.

      • I’m Pisces, so I love the water. Our summers can get that hot, but our winters are mostly mild. This has been the coldest winter I can ever remember here, but except for one ice storm, no snow.

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