Almanac Hikes (and Pubs): Climb Mount Remarkable, collapse in the North Star pub

Farewelling our car at the North Star Hotel, we march off past the tennis courts and dissect the caravan park with all those swarming bikes.


Claire and I confess later to each other that we both instantly and secretly anticipated our return in several hours and couldn’t wait to plonk ourselves down in the pub. Is this wrong, we asked ourselves? No, we agree, it is not.


The sign at the trail head suggests four hours return for the 13.5k, ascending on the North trail and descending along the South. With some experience in traipsing about, we declare brazenly that we’ll be back in three. Fonzie couldn’t say it, but we can: we were wrong, and the official hiking information was correctamundo.


Trudging off with a vague sense of excitement but also looming doom, our hike quickly became demanding with wide sweeps of scree falls and narrow paths from which a tumble would send one cartwheeling down the slope a hundred feet. That’d be a messy opening to our weekend.


However, we enjoy views over the neat town and east to dehydrated Booleroo Centre (no Word, not Bolero).


After an hour, Claire proposes a mandarin stop to rejuvenate us. We later have a lollipop intermission and to the dismay of my wife, mine’s gone in less than a minute. I nibble at lollipops like a rabbit.


As we see yet another long stretch of path ahead, dispiriting moments occur. These weren’t helped by signposts marking the distance to go with my inner voice – or maybe it was my spoken one – saying things like, ‘How the actual fuck can it still be three kilometers to the top?’ Tantrums were close, I think.


We arrive at the summit. We rest a moment and take photos, wanting evidence of this for any legal action.


There’s a sturdy historical monument. It notes that Edward John Eyre announced, ‘I name this Mount Remarkable’ to which I’m confident his colleague replied, ‘Mate, I’m guessing you’ve not been to the Himalayas? El Capitan in Yosemite? Or as American band Toto will sing in a century or so, Kilimanjaro (which) rises like Olympus above the Serengeti?’ Still, good on you, EJE.


Beginning our descent of 7.5 kilometres at 3:45pm, we reward ourselves with scroggin, which I scoop into my noggin. Thank you, Claire although I prefer the chocolate over the fruity bits.


We’re booked for the early dining session (5:30pm sharp) in the North Star pub. But we’re now in our very own reality TV show, competing against a cruel countdown clock. Will our heroes make it to the pub on time? Will they run out of scroggin? Will the guttural yelps of an industrial-sized sulk (me) wail out across the twilight?


To lighten our exertions, Claire sings a few kids camping songs and I say to her, ‘You should’ve hosted Play School.’ And, of course, I’m right, for she combines many showbiz talents and a fetching on-screen presence (as is already known). It’s a lovely interlude.


During the final two kilometres, our knees and hips and backs become personified and they’re not at all happy with us.


In the rising gloom and scrubby murk, I ring the pub to let them know we’ll be late. Louise says that’ll be fine. We later learn from the innkeeper, the abrupt and matronly, Jude/Rhonda/Gladys (Glad) that this is not the case.




Following our four-hour exercise episode, we swap our running shoes for boots (I have a sensible and incurable fear of sneans) and with unprecedented relief, lean on the front door.


It’s immediately engaging with a long bar, roaring fire, and rustic décor. Wool bales draped from the ceiling. Lots of iron. Floorboards, not sticky carpet. Bursting with folk from the Fat Tyre Festival. Are they cyclists or are they bikers? Invariably with beanies atop their crania, there’s a communal buzz. By the door someone’s selling raffle tickets.


We’re at table 2 and have never been so excited by the unpretentious, restorative joy of chairs. Easing into one is a Buddhist moment. For our knees, hips and (lower) backs we take hors d’oeuvres of anti-inflammatories and painkillers.


Refreshments. Pale Ale for self and Claire requests a sauvignon blanc, served in a 1970s wine glass- the kind you might’ve received as a bonus with a (K-Tel) fondue set.


We evaluate our Mount Remarkable experience and finally, here’s the joy: the retrospective fun, the shared enterprise and how (as Clint Eastwood says) we’ve kept out the old man and old woman, at least for another day. Did I mention how after fifteen taxing kilometers we’re enjoying the chairs? Profoundly?


Having placed our order of chickpea curry and a burger with the aforementioned Jude/Rhonda/Gladys (Glad) she made it clear we need to vacate our table by 7pm, for the next session of diners. The subtext is gruff (like the ascent of Mount Remarkable) but the food’s good.


It’s been an afternoon.




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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Barry Nicholls says

    The adventures continue! Always good to get a Clint Eastwood quote in Mickey. A fine descriptive piece laced with humour.

  2. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Barry. Of course, Clint recently turned 94 and is still working. We recently saw The Great Escaper starring Michael Caine. He was nearly ninety when he made it but apparently, he’s now officially retired. Good work those two!

    As Dylan Thomas urged, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

  3. Rulebook says

    Brilliant Mickey and I’m jealous the knees are long gone re anything like that hike !

  4. Roger Lowrey says

    Look Mickey, with all due respect to Claire, I reckon it’s you who would be the great Play School host.

    You would absolutely star at story time and I’m sure you could hold a tune singing “aint it great to be crazy, boom boom, aint it great to be crazy, silly as a sausage the whole day long, boom boom, aint it great to be crazy?”

    And of course, then there’s “standing on one leg is quite tricky…etc…”

    Mind you, I go back to the days of Simon Burke and John Hamblin but I’m sure you could bandage up Big Ted better than they could in keeping with the theme of the day “through the windows”. Besides, even you couldn’t cock up the time on the rocket clock!

    Go on mate, give it a crack!


  5. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Rulebook. Sitting in the pub an hour after we finished, I reckon my body was giving me serious insights into my future and how I’d likely feel in a decade!

    RDL- what a cultural icon is Play School. it began when I was a month old. I remember Jemima and Lorraine Bayly as a host. I love the footage of John Hamblin doing something active on the show, when his packet of B&H darts nearly jumps out of his top pocket. Thanks for that!

  6. An enjoyable read, Mickey.

    Not a comment on Glad – or maybe it is – but I am continually baffled by people working in the industry who do not understand the meaning of the word ‘hospitality’.

  7. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Smokie. Hospitality seems to be in crisis and I’m unsure how it can be fixed. There’s gruff publicans and there’s grumpy publicans. Glad appeared to be the latter!

  8. Peter Crossing says

    Great part of the country. For many years I spent a week per year back-packing with Year 9 students in the Melrose, Mt Remarkable (great views from the summit), Spring Creek, Alligator Gorge area. The locals, well most of them, loved us as it seemed we always brought the rain. The nature of the excursion meant no visit to the top or bottom pub but we did manage a small smidge of something from a pannikin on the last night. Camp fire stories abound.

  9. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks PC. Lovely stuff. I reckon there’d be a great anthology of stories set at school camps. You’d change the names, but it’d be terrific. Really enjoyed Alligator Gorge but Wilmington seemed past its glory days although the cafe was pretty good. We drove past the golf club around 5pm on Saturday and there was nobody around. A bit sad.

  10. Peter Fuller says

    Your penultimate paragraph with the post-exertion reflection/satisfaction reminded me of the Frost Report (when David Frost was funny). The observation was made (wtte) Holidays are for the looking forward to, or the looking back on, but never for enjoying (rather enduring).
    Congrats to you both for a notable achievement.

  11. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Peter. Excellent observations. How much of life’s only enjoyable retrospectively? Not too much, I hope!

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