The Source - Part 2

February 2022

In January 2020 I attempted to walk to the source on the river, and I know now that I fell 500 metres short. It was a wet day, and I was in cloud and there was thunder rolling around me, a little worrisome when you are in amongst tall trees. I gave up when the stream was in think bush and headed away, thinking I was close enough. But it has nagged at me.

This February, I had the opportunity to try again, with the knowledge of what it entailed and where to go. It had been clear and warm for weeks and the day I drive up to mountain the forecast was for rain for the next week. It turns out that this is the bottom edge of the catastrophic floods in Northern NSW and Queensland.

I’d had a hectic week trying to raise money for other projects, and my plan to go back to Natimuk was put on hold when another gig changed its date. So I thought I’d go up to the mountains. I drove up to Wantabadgery and across the low-level bridge that I had paddles under less than a month before. One of my funding applications hit a snag so I drove from Tumut to Talbingo trying to think of options, and sat at a table outside the Talbingo shops to send emails.  I was adept at remote working long before Covid hit.

Driving up the hill the rain started, really heavy rain. I had my wipers on full, particularly when the many Snowy 2.0 trucks past, throwing up heavy sprays. By the time I reached the Murrumbidgee River Picnic area on the Port Phillip Track. I had lunch and then proceeded to do some sound recordings in the river with a hydrophone. I had a long, interesting conversation with a guy called Graham who was unenthusiastically trying to fish. He was not much of a fisherman, he said, but one hell of a cyclist have crossed Australia from south to north and west to eat on a bike.

I then moved on to set up camp at Ghost Camp. It had been raining softly all afternoon but cleared in the evening and I hoped it might be fine enough the following day to find the source.

It was still grey and moist the next morning, but no storms. On the 20km drive to where I intended to park, I saw over a hundred brumbies, and a wild dog. Last year, camped at Bullock Hill what I would have said was a dingo wandered through the campsite, but this dog looked more like a cross between a dingo and a German Shepherd. Starting the walk, there was a sign warning of 1080 poison baits.

Knowing the walk’s path this time I quickly climbed up through the forest to my previous high point, still revelling in the tall eucalypts that had survived the 2020 fires. I ran into a couple of brumbies on the track and there was horse shit all the way up to and at the source.

From the point where the stream crosses the track, and the track has collapsed in, I walked up towards the ridge. I could see that they had sprayed for blackberries since I was previously here. At the very top of the climb I thought I could walk left below the ridge into the gully and when I started this, I picked up a faint path. This led me to a boggy clearing just below the ridge, with a few shallow puddles. This was the source of the Marrimbidya Bila.

There was evidence of horses and blackberries that had not been sprayed. It was a fairly ignoble beginning of what becomes a great river.

Dr Greg Pritchard