Saturday, November 22, 2008
After the storm
The word DOC put out regarding “Keep out of the National Park, due to snow damaged tracks” etc... With hindsight was a good one, however, in defence of my actions I was waiting for a substantial break in the weather since early June. It was now late August. So when the forecast was for fine weather from Wednesday to possibly Sunday, I was already gone.
The first part of my virgin forage into this area of the park involved a pushbike. Now a pushbike with a man and a heavy pack including rifle, does not come under the heading “fun to be had”. It was quite obvious right from the start, when I proceeded to hit a large stationary object, i.e, a rock, with the front wheel and the handlebars ripped into my ribs, that this would be a trip of few laughs. Much of the three hour journey resulted in skirting around windfalls, over the top where possible, but I learned fairly quickly that to try and push straight through was a non starter. Leaves and twigs are hyper magnetic to the workings of chains and cogs. I would like to say that time passed quickly and in no time I was leaving my bike and starting my series of footfalls. Alas, the truth is it was a veritable eternity. However even eternity has an ending, or at least in this case it did...
No bike on this leg but the vein continued in as much as nothing had changed as respect to windfalls and vegetation obstructions. The track got vaguer and vaguer and the further in I progressed the worse it got. Then just by way of change, there was snow to contend with. Again the further I progressed the deeper it got. Then to further the change, the friendly little orange triangles started up the game of “Now you see me, now you don’t’” he he. Yes and you guessed it, the further I progressed the less of them there were.
Although I did not rest throughout my trek, I felt I was travelling at sloth speed .It was Ten hours from when I started from the road end that I found myself at river level, up to my knees in snow, and it was 6p.m. This special day was loosing daylight fast and there was no refuge in sight. I looked around for the friendly inn, but there was nothing with neon lights and certainly no vacancy signs. After much ado, I sought solace under an isolated patch of scrub, which was actually free of snow under its canopy. Wriggling under, I spread my bivvy and sleeping bags out, had a quick cheese sandwich, brewed up, and turned in.
No need for the alarm clock the next day, I was up and running at daybreak. Running not exactly being the most accurate adjective. The heartbreak was a ditto of the day before. It took me a further four hours to reach the opening stretch of what once was tussock leading up to the hut of my choice. Upon embarking on that long snowfield on my last leg, there was considerable movement a long way ahead. That movement turned out to be a chamois. It was eleven fifteen; the animal had just crossed the river, and was diagonally moving ahead and would likely converge on my heading just about where the hut was situated. My first instinct was to call out and say “put the kettle on mate”. There was no adrenalin left in the system, I was too tired for that, instead, I kept a wary eye and trudged on in the same manner. The chamois suddenly disappeared in a depression, I thought that likely it had seen or smelt me and made off, for there was a steady breeze at my back. A hundred or so yards further and I came to an abrupt halt. That is some tree stump I mused! I stood there looking at that stump for at least five minutes. I was just about to dismiss it and move on, when the stump moved. I slowly raised my scoped rifle and peered through the lens - a chamois neck and head, and looking this way. We admired one another for some time. Eventually it turned away. It was about now that I was beginning to take this seriously .I unbuckled my pack and let it slide to the ground. I then slipped into a dry creek bed and proceeded with much haste in its direction, upon raising my head out of the wash I was rewarded with a broadside view of the animal at around the 100yds range. On one knee I lined the target up. I was alarmed to see the duplex reticle dancing the cha cha. There was nothing I could do to dampen the movement, so with an ah well here goes…let rip… Kabalm. The Chamois about turns it’s body length and vaporises toward the river. Out of sight, I myself converge on the river in time to see it make it to the other side. The Sako ejaculates its deadly 150 grn round and slams the chamois into the ground.
Right at that moment, I did not have the gumption to cross the river and assess the animal. I turned my back and retraced my snow prints back to my backpack, picking up the empty .308 case en route. It was a long three hundred yard trudge to the hut. At the hut I did the usual chores, first being to take the empty water buckets down to the river to fill, I then unpacked my pack.
I noticed the heat in the sun all the while, which also registered to me the need to inspect the chamois and take any meat that I needed. So with daypack on, and always with rifle in hand, I plodded to where the chamois lay.
For the first time in my Meindl boots short life, water filled them to the brim, as I crossed over to the fallen one. On inspection, I deduced the first shot had been amidships. “It” could now be formerly referred to as a nanny, she had 8” horns and was negotiating her life and the country with one eye. So I had shot a one eyed nanny…not something to be remembered by I thought. I took her back steaks nonetheless.
The rest of that day was spent in glorious rest, copious amounts of coffee and tea and mounds of nuts, raisins and chocolates. Despite the rest or because of it my ribs began to get sorer. That thwack with the handle bars yesterday was beginning to make itself felt. The next day was Saturday and I could not move without severe pain, to go hunting was completely out of the question. I began to worry about the prospects of not being able to get myself out of there. The balloon would not go up until Wednesday at the earliest, and I fantasised how nice it would be to ride back in style in a helicopter. No windfalls or deep snow to contend with hmmm…..
The reality though was if a man can get himself in, he can damn well get himself out, so I resolved to see what Sunday would bring, hoping all the while that the weather would not pack in. I was up before the morning dawned, and although still in much pain, I was resolved to having a go. It was with much reluctance that I left my wilderness world and crunched over that now solid foundation of snow across the frozen open stretch towards the distant bush. The trip back was a little easier, for I now had my footprints to follow to negotiate the really bad parts, and also there was a decidedly downward gradient.
It was six o'clock Saturday night when I turned the key in the Nissan and pointed her for home. The weather packed in the next day. As a footnote the ribs eventually took over 6 weeks to heal.