Compiled by Barry Kenny
Excerpt from Bernard O’Reilly’s book “Green Mountains”.
Used with permission from Rhelma Kenny (O’Reilly)
From Bernard and Viola’s home, ‘Goblin Wood’, there was a riding track to Mt Bithongabel on the Queensland – NSW border, Bernard planned to ride there on a chestnut mare ‘The Great Unknown’.
Arriving at Bithongabel he tied the reins to the stirrups, pointed the horse towards home and shooed her on her way.
From here he intended to follow the McPherson Range west to the first high point of the four where the aircraft could have crashed.
The first two miles was along the track to the Valley of Echoes (Echo Point), opened up by his brothers in 1912.
From Echo Point it was trackless lawyer vine, jungle trees growing so closely together their tops inter-laced in one continuous canopy, and on the ground visibility limited to ten yards by a tangle of tough green vine as dense as wire netting and covered in murderous thorns.
How do you keep a straight course?
No course can be exactly straight as you track about for the easiest way, but the big lateral ranges run south to north and if you cut them at right angles you must be going west.
Also the southern side of a tree is heavily covered with lichen and moss while the north side shows a smooth bole, in that area.
With good local knowledge it is possible to estimate your altitude which is on the map, and important.
Late that afternoon Bernard located a charred log from the camp of 1918 when he and brother Herb had accompanied Archibald Meston, affectionaly known as “The Father of Queensland”, on a planned walk to Lamington Plateau by way of the Border Ranges.
That camp was still a vivid memory, a high wind roared in the jungle blowing the smoky fire about them, when Herb got up about 2am to rebuild the fire a big yellow Dingo was standing in the dying embers.
They started for home the next morning without covering a third of the distance (such was the lawyer vine).
About sunset Bernard was dropping down to the head of a gorge for water, the green twilight of the rainforest had deepened to blackness by the time it was secured.
From moss banks and damp hillsides shone out thousands of points of green light from glow worms and luminous fungi.
What with wet wood, damp ground, and no blankets sleep was just about impossible, but nature spread itself to keep him entertained.
Later as the moon struggled out of a cloud mass a large pack of dingoes howled way down in the gorge. The wind freshened and light rain fell at intervals.
(Breakfast before dawn and away!)
Half an hour later Bernard came across a most glorious Cascade, by 8am he was on the summit of the southern extremity of Mt Throakban, the first of the high points.
To be continued.