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MCG – SCG Yatra, Day 21

Khancoban - Geehi

It looked like a nice sunny morning in Khancoban. Just after 6:00 AM Rohan, Satyajit and I left the caravan park and drove to the Information Centre to obtain a 5-day pass to drive through the Kosciuszko National Park. The office was unattended as it was too early for anyone to be at the office. We used the machine to pay and print the pass. After that we drove to the restaurant where we had eaten the previous day because Cameron wanted to bring his children to meet me. I knew that being in the restaurant business, it would be late night closing and hence, hard to get up and more importantly get the children up that early in the morning. Anyway, we waited until 6:40 AM and then we decided to start the walk from the restaurant.

The landscape changed significantly as we entered the national park. The natural beauty was at its best and it was getting even better as we followed the Alpine Hwy and went deeper into the forest. Satyajit and Rohan switched between driving and walking at will. I began using the hiking poles as the steep climb became difficult to negotiate without the poles. Our first stop was the Murray1 Power Station Lookout. Built in the 1960s and 70s, this hydro electric project was considered to be one of the world's best man-made projects. While we were there, an official vehicle pulls up and a woman in the uniform steps out. I thought, here we go. What had we done or not done to upset the NSW authorities? Cheree Corliss worked for the council. She had stopped after spotting the van at the lookout because she wanted to make a donation to appreciate our walk to support the McGrath Foundation. We took a photo with her and thanked her for stopping by and contributing to our fundraising efforts. We all lived happily thereafter.

After having breakfast, I had a power nap that had become an essential part of the daily routine. As the day progressed, it was getting hot. I removed my jumper and started drinking a lot more water than I had been up until now. Rohan was carrying the water bottles for me as I was using my hands to walk hiking poles. In my own mind, I started thinking that Rohan and Satyajit would be going back to Melbourne the next day. Who then would carry the water bottle for me? I kept thinking and thinking. Finally, I remembered that in my childhood, when customers brought a bottle to get mustard or kerosene oil from our shop, my father would tie a string to the bottle, so that it can be carried with ease or it could hang on a hook. And that is exactly what I ended up doing and relieve Rohan from this rather uncomfortable task.

While walking along the railing, I noted the letters SKT cut in vertically near the end of railing buffers.. The letters SKT would be the abbreviation for our native place Shahkot back in India and I was happy to take a photo.

I was walking and walking but there was no sign of Geehi. The walk was getting longer and tougher with no end in sight. Finally, Satyajit and Rohan drove ahead to find the place we were supposed to stay the night. They were trying to contact me on the walkie talkie but we were out of range or no signal because of hills and tall trees. There was no coverage for mobile phone or internet. We were in the wilderness in a true sense. By the time, they found the right place and drove back, I still had about 4-5 Kms to go. But I finished the day’s walk as my body was getting tired and I didn’t want to start dragging my feet. I jumped into the van and we drove to the Geehi Rest Area with camping facilities, i.e. old fashioned septic toilet and the Swampy Plains River to wash yourself. We drove deeper into the camping area and settled for a secluded place to camp the night. I realised that during the planning, I made a mistake and somehow noted the distance between Khancoban and Geehi to be 24 Kms. In fact, the Geehi Rest area was 31 Kms away. Welcoming to the Geehi Rest area was a dead black snake near the entry into the park.

The walk to the toilet was fine as we had parked not too far from it. There was also a sign in the toilet trying to educate those who didn't know how to sit on the toilet properly. However, the walk to the river was scary because you had to walk through the long grass and being snake season, it was not without risk especially if you wore slippers or open shoes like sandals. I have to have a shower or wash a after completing the day’s walk because of excessive sweating. Thank God, we all returned safely. After seeing so many dead and some live snakes on this trip, I wasn’t keen on confronting one in the wilderness when there was no access to phone or internet or any other form of communication to call ambulance or call for help. Perhaps this is all part of the learning process during the long walk.

Rohan volunteered to organize food by heating up some leftovers from last night. We all ate well and slept well except Rohan, who again had to sleep in the not-so-comfortable front seats. I felt sorry for Rohan but couldn't help him with an alternative. I think, being a young man and a regular meditation practitioner, Rohan coped very well. He also knew that this would be his last night in the van. Satyajit and Rohan would be going back to Melbourne tomorrow and Shekhar would be taking over the pilot’s role.

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