Down into Jenolan Caves, then through the caves area as the rain cleared was very enjoyable. It's here that Craig, one of our party, turned around and headed back up to the Deviation. Across a pretty stream and into a charming field, then the person I was following said 'up there' and pointed up a steep bush section of a mountain. After I realised it wasn't a joke, off we went. There was no trail, just slowly picking my way up, trying not to slide back down. The views were awesome!
This lead out on to a fire trail, which we followed, before running on the road for while, then back on to another fire trail. After many kms had passed and it had become evident that we may have chosen an alternate route, I recall saying "I don't mind how much futher we've run, as long as we don't have to go back up THAT hill". Famous last words!!
We saw another runner at the water drop and double checked with him as to our whereabouts. He kept us company for a short while before shooting off into the distance, with our message of possibly being slightly longer than planned.
Time was made up for our detour as we picked up the pace a little in the section leading down into the Gorge. Apart from the 6 or 7 times I fell over down the slippery slopes... (I really need to get used to this shoe wearing concept), this was welcome relief from the uphills. Stopped once to remove a leech from inside my sock, who had sucked enough of my blood to nearly choke itself.
The view from the bottom of the gorge was frighteningly spectacular. I felt I was seeing something very special, seldom witnessed in this couch loving, relaxation seeking world.
Then came the understanding of why this place was named Hellgate. I think I could count about 15 times I wished to die on that climb back up. By now the 50k of last weekend and the extra kms earlier in the run were starting to bite me badly. My running partner encouraged me up that mountain, step by step at times. To see the gate at the top was magic.
But not quite as magical as seeing headlights in the distance on the Black Range Road and finding out it was a rescuer in the form of Gareth. My brain was set to finish the distance off if necessary, but my body was much keener on the ride.
Upon reaching the end and realising we had covered 50k in about 10 hours I felt quite satisfied. There are some experiences money can't buy. Many of these can be found running the trails. Knowing that there are others willing to drive 2-3 hours to stand in the rain for a photo before embarking on a 6-10 hour run. Seeing scenery that takes your breath away, realising only a relative few have also been here. Finding that extra bit inside yourself that you weren't sure was there, when the hill seems to go on endlessly upward. Feeling at one with the world when your body is at odds with its own pain.....
I did feel sorry for the people on the train who shared a carriage with me on my trip back down to Sydney. By this time of night most were youngsters dressed up and off for a night on the town in Sydney and here was I, filthy dirty, blood filled shoe, with my bags of gear beside me, dressed like a reject from a Paddy Pallin store, ravenously stuffing down vegemite sadwiches. Ahhh good times.
I can't wait to do it all again!