I thread my way through tea trees, gnarled and stunted from a life lived on the edge, exposed to the wild weather of this high place. Suddenly the earth falls away on three sides of a narrow spur. The sky opens up, layers of blue mountain ranges, the sun rising over a shimmering sea. We are silent, there are no words for a place like Darkies Point.
We began our walk yesterday, but the story begins long before that, when the Ebor volcano spewed out flows of lava to create the high cliffs above the green wilderness of New England National Park.
Aboriginal people have lived on this country for thousands of years. White man arrived in the early 19th century: conflict over land, aboriginal dispossession and violence followed. Major Edward Parke was an early settler, claiming the land around Ebor, naming it Guy Fawkes on 5 November 1845.
We park our cars on the edge of New England National Park, shoulder our packs and set off. Our first stop is Majors Point. The hard midday sun bounces off the bright white painted trig, a wind whips at our hats as we take in the wide view. We plan to follow the escarpment from here to Darkies Point and then Point Lookout, there is no path.
Gondwana World Heritage Rainforest
After crossing first the headwaters of the Guy Fawkes River, then Serpentine Creek, we climb into Gondwana World Heritage rainforest with carpets of lomandra, wraiths of old mans beard, lichens, bright red raspberry fungus. This is cloud forest, but we are here in early summer and its surprisingly warm for the 1540m elevation.
We lie on our backs, a bright green tree canopy above, with no desire to move after the sweaty slog up the hill, our packs heavy with extra water for our ridge top camp.
Later, on the edge of the escarpment, on soft ground under ancient Antarctic beech trees we set up our tents for the night. We are up early the next day and pack up camp in the dark to begin our walk to Darkies Point for breakfast.
Eldershaw was first to write of the dark secret of Darkies Point in his book Australia, as it really is published in 1854. He tells, in gory details in a chapter entitled “An adventure with the blacks”, of an attack in May 1841 on an out-station that left three shepherds dead and a flock of sheep carried off as spoils. A revenge party is assembled and the chase begins leading to a tremendous battle that takes place over a wild landscape, for a night and day, until their “butchered comrades blood was fearfully avenged” and the sheep recovered. At least 10 members of the Baanbay people died, driven off the cliffs by gunfire to fall to their death in a “horrid carnage”.
There is no memorial here, no sign. Rocks cold to the touch, a shifty early morning breeze. I eat my muesli, the trees watching over me, while I struggle to make sense of this traumascape. Walking is a way I understand place and come to belong, but there is nothing to help me here.
Others have written more eloquently of this tragic story. Australian poet Judith Wright was raised near here and published Niggers Leap, New England in 1946. Local poet Chris Armstrong published the beautiful poem The Watershed and a blog awildland about her walk along this escarpment. Callum Clayton-Dixon’s award winning 2020 book Surviving New England reclaims the story of settler violence as one of resistance and survival of the Anaiwan people of New England tablelands.
After Darkies Point, we cross a creek then climb into a forest of shining gums with an understorey of snow grass and bright orange bush peas. We stop for morning tea, looking back at Darkies Point where each rocky strata tells a violent story of place, of volcanic eruptions and clashes of culture.
Later we cross a grassy saddle where farmland pushes almost to the edge of the escarpment, squeeze our way through thickets of Dorrigo pepper bush, and climb the last hill to our cars near Point Lookout. Without a doubt, this is one of the best weekend walks in our area.
Access to Majors Point
Much of this route is off-track, our path is just an indication, you will need the skills to make your own way. Our group of women was ably led by an experienced walker from a local bushwalking club. Permission is needed to cross private farnland to access Majors Point, thanks to the gracious farmers who gave us access. We had clear, warm weather, but given the exposure and elevation, be prepared for wind, fog, snow.