Compiled by Barry Kenny
Excerpt from Bernard O’Reilly’s book “Green Mountains”.
Used with permission from Rhelma Kenny (O’Reilly)
On the summit of the southern extremity of Mt Throakban, the first of Bernard’s high points, he waited for the clouds to lift. For fifteen minutes he stood in cool moist wind looking into a grey blank. Suddenly the racing clouds split and a vast sea of ranges and gorges came into view to the West, including the remaining three high points on the plotted line of the airliners flight. Here and there were creamy white splashes which he knew to be trees in bloom, then suddenly Bernard saw something that made him jump. Eight miles away (12.8 km) according to the map, on the third Range, Lamington Plateau, where it swelled up to join the Border Ranges, was a tree top that was light brown.
In spring time when trees are getting fresh leaf growth, it is not uncommon to see a brownish tree top; this was late summer. The tree must be dying, what had caused it? Lightning perhaps, but there had been no storms, the spot was situated where his pencil line crossed his map. Fire? Too wet, but with a hundred gallons of petrol? The clouds swooped down again. Bernard put his head down and tore into the soaking green jungle, the going was all blind and he did not see that tree again until he was twenty yards from it eight hours later.
About noon with a need for water and hunger evident Bernard stopped to boil his billy, make toast and cook the last of his onions. Progress up the next Range was slow and at the top weariness was beginning to overtake him, the effect on his morale beginning to depress him as the seemingly hopelessness of his task became apparent. What should he do now?
QUOTE. “The answer was startling. From the direction of Lamington Plateau – about three miles away by the map – came a short, clear call, and then another. A human voice in that green wilderness – what could it mean, another search party? Not wanting to cause confusion my decision was to hold my tongue until I reached Lamington Plateau, then I would try and contact that mystery voice”.
Three hours later, about 4 pm he stood on the lip of what he believed to be Lamington Plateau and near the dead tree seen eight hours earlier. Just one big Coo-ee! When the answer came it was so clear and so close the effect was like a physical shock. It came from 200 yards away in the timber below him. What was this?
“A numbness shot through my limbs, a coldness worse than fear, worse than pain or shock. A feeling that has stayed with me, that is with me even as I write these words”.
To be continued.