Exploring the Kimberley Region of North West Australia

Out in the Back Country by Hugh Brown

Page 6/7
hugh brown
By six the following morning, I was sitting in the main gorge at the point of my second food drop waiting for help to arrive. My tripod was broken, my camera gear was stuck half way up the cliff and my legs had been chopped up with Pandanus leaves that were as sharp as razor blades. The night before had been horrific, the Spinifex at the top of the gorge, almost impenetrable.
kimberley australia
The Gorge
kimberley australia
Waiting in the Gorge
"Kanch may be dead! I'm now sitting at an elevated position in the gorge waiting for help that may or may not come. I have heard a rumour that EPIRB may not work so well in gorges due to their difficulties in transmitting to the satellites. Yesterday evening was horrendous. After the snake, we climbed out of the gorge to get around a sheer wall that made passage below impossible. The terrain at the top was even more unbearable. Neck high spinifex lining car-sized boulders made progress impossibly slow. It created much distress for us both".
"In three hours of hiking at the top of the gorge, we covered only half a mile. Dark was coming thick and fast. We had long since run out of water. I expected the traverse at the top of the gorge to be relatively quick. I was becoming very dehydrated. At that time, we came across a gully leading to a ravine. The walls of the ravine and the gully were sheer: 300 hundred feet. We reached a point where Kanch and I could go no further. Kanch was very distressed. For that, I will never forgive myself. Never!".
"I started to move Kanch back up the cliff. This was dangerously threatening for the safety of both of us. One slip and we would have fallen 150 feet to our deaths. We reached a point at which we could go no further without taking even more extreme risks. I managed to lift him into a small cave in the side of the cliff where I hoped he would stay overnight. I somehow managed to
climb down to get water after having been stuck on the side of the cliff for quite some time. I spent the night by the water. I have heard nothing from Kanch this morning. I suspect that he may be dead of exhaustion or fright".
"At 0530 this morning, I put on my boots and gear and hiked six hundred feet into the open gorge. I hope that this will increase the chances of the EPIRB working. The hike was through spider webs and Pandanus so thick that the Pandanus cut like razor blades. I am drenched from having crossed a pool at the end of the side gorge. I hope that help arrives soon".
By nine o'clock on the morning of our tenth day, I was trying to prepare myself mentally for perhaps another fourteen days alone in the Australian outback. As harsh as it might sound, my mind did not keep referring back to the events of the previous evening. If help did not arrive I would have another fourteen days to endure and it was critical that I remain mentally strong. The previous night's challenges had been totally unexpected but there was nothing that I could now do to reverse their having happened. All I could now do was manage the mental impact and prepare for the possibility that the helicopter would not arrive.
I am not sure what I was feeling immediately prior to the appearance of the chopper from around a bend in the gorge. In preparation for what lay ahead, I had cooked up a feed of porridge and digested copious quantities of water to alleviate the still present effects of dehydration. I immediately told the pilot about Kanch,. We boarded the chopper and headed for the top of the ravine to look for him. At this stage I was not sure whether he was still alive as I had not heard from him since the evening before. I prayed he was still okay.
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