There’s a gate across one of my favourite Blue Mountains walks. With signs: DANGER. UNAUTHORISED PERSONS KEEP OUT. On the spot PENALTY $300!!!
The trouble is the warning only appears when we’re three quarters of the way along the route, in thick mist, with evening approaching. Do we go back the way we came, make a five hour detour…or climb the fence?
‘Prisoner at the bar, do you have anything to say in your defence before I pass sentence?’
‘Well, you see, Your Honour, it was like this…
‘I’m out for a walk with my mate Shifty…well, when I say ‘mate’, I don’t mean like we’re friends or anything.
No, your Worship, I don’t know Shifty’s real name. He’s just some geezer I bumped into in a pub in 1989 at a children’s literature function and we occasionally meet up a few times a year for a coffee, a meal, a whinge about publishers or a bushwalk.
I’ve written books about two bananas and he writes about a girl who spies on people with an eye on the end of her finger, so as you’d understand we keep a respectful distance between us.
Anyways, this walk. Shifty parks the getaway vehicle at Neates’ Glen. It’s registered and all, Your Highness. Shifty’s got receipts for it, he’ll tell you.
There’s this sign saying it’s OK to walk to Evans Lookout through the Grand Canyon, like we’ve done heaps of times before. It’s all legal, like.
There’s this gate, but it was open when we found it, I swear. I even got a photo of it with my camera. Yes, it is my camera, I got receipts and manuals and a lens that fits and stuff.
‘An unlocked gate’s an invitation,’ says Shifty, and for once I agree. So through the gate we go, down the steps into the Grand Canyon.
I’ve got this awkward, heavy tripod to carry (got receipts for it and all) so as I can hold the camera steady to get those shots of silky water coming out of waterfalls. This proves it.
We stops to eat some sandwiches, but other than that, that Grand Canyon aint no picnic. The path goes steep up and down, you have to hop across streams on stepping stones and Shifty’s got his dicky knee from his old days as a cat gurgler. I don’t know what it is either, Your Honour, but that’s what I think he said. I don’t ask questions. It’s between Shifty and his consenting adult pet in the privacy of his office, I reckon.
Did I mention the books he writes about a talking dog? Weird!
Anyway, as I was saying, the Grand Canyon closes in above and you sometimes wonder whether you’re going to get out of it alive.
We’re getting tired by now, and we starts climbing uphill, knowing it’s only about forty minutes or so to the top again. So imagine our surprise to find another gate, locked this time.
Shifty is all for climbing around this one, even though I try to reason with him, telling him the sign is probably there for a very good reason.
Construction work on Blue Mountains tracks means helicopters dropping loads of rocks into the area for builders to assemble into a pathway. If you happen to be underneath, they’ll never see you in the fog and then, splatto!
Shifty says it’ll take us hours to walk back through the canyon, and last time I went further, along Rodriguez Pass and up Govett’s Leap, it was a seven-hour round trip.
So a decision is made. Turns out there’s no choppers, no workers, no rangers and no dangerous cliffs (so Shifty told me later. You can’t prove I was there, so how would I know?) Half an hour later, we’re at the top. And blow me down, there’s another gate.
Last I saw of Shifty, Your Imperial Excellence, he was disappearing into the fog.