One rare sunny day amidst a rather rainy Australian July, I decided to go on a bit of a romp. As I reminisced about my stomping grounds by collecting screenshots for that week’s rural-themed anime 3×3 Thursday, I hungered for my long lost rolling plains and dense bushlands. No longer a student in the hills I never really had a need or convenient means to return, and to walk back isn’t a simple feat. Yet I yearned to step foot there once more. And realistically, since it was easy for me to be picked up at the other end there was no reason not to capitalise on that motivation by setting aside a day to venture back there.
So off I went on my 14 kilometre journey, which was mostly cruisy for the first nine or so. I was so overwhelmingly ecstatic to be breathing bush air and flanked by large gum trees again. It was only around the ten kilometre mark that I had started to become tired, and my pace slowed immensely. Once I finally reached the bush reserve I went and had my lunch on one of the boulders like I had planned, and following this began slowly scouring the hillside. This bushland was the cradle that nurtured me in my youth, and it felt right to return home. I had gone simply to sate my rural cravings, but as a nonspecific goal I was also vaguely keeping an eye out to either collect kangaroo skulls or photograph the black-shouldered kite that will sometimes hang out on a certain dead tree. Though as it goes I was fruitless on both fronts.
Around an hour later I noticed the sun beginning to set, so I texted those who would be picking me up from the reserve’s carpark. I had intended just to ask when they were planning to arrive, but my overeager mother told me she could be there in five minutes. This was problematic considering at that point I estimated I was about 20 minutes out. I sent an apology and explained that I’d be late, then set off towards the carpark. It took a brief hesitation to try and sort it out in my head, but at the time it seemed like the quickest route would be to cut across the plain, climb over the hill, and then descend to easily reach the edge of the park. But that was probably a misguided judgement. Having not been to the area in many years I had underestimated how far away I was. 20 minutes passed and the only thing I had to say for it was “Sorry, maybe another 20 minutes. I’m further than I thought.”
By this point it had been roughly four hours since I left home and began trekking through bush terrain. Add in the fact that I’m unfit as all heck, and you better believe that I was ready to collapse by this point. Struggling my way up the incline, I finally felt relief that I was back on track. The map was all laid out in my head: I was heading north over the hill, I recognised the tree at the edge where the ground leveled out, and…I came out in a place I didn’t expect. Of course. At first I had no clue where I was. “Where am I? Do I go straight over this to reach the carpark? Turn left? Right? Does me being lost mean that I have to turn back and take the other path after all this effort?” The stress of inconveniencing those waiting for me combined with the confusion, and it almost made me panic. However I avoided panicking, because I was lucky in that I’d been spat out right at the intersection of two different trails. I recognised one of them as the way out, which is quite fortunate considering my first thought was to keep pushing in a straight line. I had arrived on a back path, significantly southeast of where I’d anticipated.
Slowly chugging along on my sore legs, I continued on my way. Weary and soaked in sweat, it was all I could do just to keep my head down and try to distract myself by making dumb songs in my head. Because the path was in the shade and we were in the middle of a very rainy week, the soil was fairly soft, as evidenced by me almost slipping in a patch of mud further back. And as I finally began reaching the end of the bush corridor, I noticed two indentations ahead of me. Doing a double take after walking by them, I noticed what could have easily been interpreted as toe marks. “Is that yowie?” I asked myself mockingly. The reason for this self-deprecation being that during my schooling years I had in fact been interested in the idea of yowies, and all of my expeditions had centred on this bushland to varying degrees of success. But at the end of those efforts I reached the point where I could not longer kid myself, having to admit that I was simply chasing shadows and seeing what I wanted to see. During that time things were coloured in my own bias rather than taken as they truly were. The first few footprints I’d found were, plain and simple, nothing; The night-time encounter with a fleet-footed dooligahl I’d had was nothing more than my eyes playing tricks on me in the midnight. Yet here were these two new footprints lying in wait to try and pique my interest once more.
And while I obviously still do not believe that these truly belong to a yowie, it at least makes for yet another fun campfire story.