4WD Touring Australia – June 2018

(Ben Green) #1
024 | 4WDTouringAustralia


or most people walking is a way to get
from one place to another place. But out
here, under the dense canopy of pines and
oaks, walking becomes something else altogeth-
er. You find in movement an end unto itself.
I cried going up one hill, and dad carried my
pack for me, against everything I imagine he’d
told himself about this inevitable moment.
We saw wild deer and chipmunks, watched

hawks land silently in the trees. We slept out in
the open air and awoke to skunks foraging around
our camp.
On some days I can still almost grasp the smell
of those woods, the scent of a waterfall running
through rotting brown leaves over mossy stones.
I went on many more hikes. We would spend
weeks in the woods, barely meeting another hu-
man, chasing dirt roads and trails wherever they led.

On a different continent, in a new land-
scape, my love for the mountains hasn’t
faded. There’s something about alpine air:
maybe you can see further in the thinner
air, maybe the lack of oxygen triggers some
kind of last moments religious zeal. I don’t
know...but up here in the blue beyond,
where the sky touches the earth, some-
thing touches us, or we touch something,
and nothing is ever the same after.

Australia’s Great Dividing Range stretches
from the tropical tip of Cape York all the
way down the eastern flank of the conti-
nent into Victoria’s west. Formed when
Australia bumped into New Zealand and
South America, the range has been wear-
ing itself away for over 300 million years.

Gone are the razorback heights of the
younger, taller ranges of the world. The
mountains here are like the slopes of pony
shoulders, eating in a green pasture.

My favourite part of the high country, at
least down south, is the Alpine Nation-
al Park. Here, rivers and creeks cut long
winding paths through the hills, running
cool and clear in the summer, when it’s hot
enough to want to swim in them, when
the bugs and the birds are humming so
loud it rings in your ears.
I love the bald peaks like Feathertop
and Blue Rag...the long dead fingers of
snow gums decimated by fires, the bun-
dles of spitfire caterpillars huddled and
flexing against the cold in the shade of

the young gums coming up to replace
their skeletal fathers.

And the driving. Automobiles have been
my freedom since I was sixteen years old.
Taking long road trips out to nowhere.
They are music and wind and anything
can happen. Strange souls on the road-
side. Weirdos on the road are somehow
temporal friends, multiple lives in a week.
You’re running through tall mountain ash,
bark hanging like dilapidated prayer flags
in the dim brown shade under the cano-
py, and then the snow gums appear, wan,
flagging, stunted against the elements
but pushing up nonetheless. Then a break
in the trees and you’re up high, in the blue
air, everything is washed out and yet clear.


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