Author Archives: rachel

The (4-day) Whanganui Journey (26-30 Dec 2019)

In September the NSW National Parks started burning. Tom optimistically thought we might be able to go canyoning in Wollemi after Christmas. As the weeks passed the burning spread I became convinced that was not going to be an option. In fact I didn’t think anywhere in NSW was going to be an option. Finally Tom agreed that it might be more sensible to extend our trip in NZ, since it seemed NZ was unlikely to be on fire. It might be flooded… but at least we wouldn’t be facing hazardous air quality. So a week before we were due to leave we re-booked our flights and found something to do that we could access (relatively) easily from Wellington and didn’t require Tom’s feet to have survived the Wangapeka Track. With limited time and little arm muscle we settled on 4 days of the Whanganui Journey Great “Walk”.

Boxing Day was an early start on the Intercity bus from Wellington to Taumarunui. We then sat round in Taumaranui for longer than planned (our lift forgot us)… fortunately we both had fat books with us! Eventually we made it to the Taumarunui Canoe Hire property where we were promptly processed. It was a very busy day with 60 people going on to the river the following day.

DSC01781

Camp the night before we start

It was an early start, with the safety briefing at 6:45am. So in line with much of the trip we were up at 5:30am to get ready. Fortified by lattes we got through the safety briefing (“the canoe will never tip over, it’s always your fault”) and driven out to Ohinepane.

DSC01782

Beautiful views, with coffee, before the safety briefing

There were 8 others (another couple, and a group of 6) starting with us. We did our test paddle around and got the seal of approval so Tom & I were the first to leave. There was a reasonable rapid almost immediately and everyone else was watching… no pressure!

DSC01784

Ready to launch!

Successfully through the first (and probably most difficult one of the day) rapid we were carried down the river at a fair clip. Groups that had started the day before had been held back till 11am as the river was too high and we were still benefiting from some of that height.

DSC01785

On our way

While there are campsites every couple of hours along the route, which make convenient stops, we decided to have lunch at Ohura Falls. There were waterfalls the whole way down the river, but they were generally of a vertical skinny nature.

DSC01795

Lunch at Ohura Falls on Day 1

DSC01797

Working hard

The campsite at Whakahoro is a 400m walk, with 50m vertical, from the canoe tie-up area. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you have to lug 5 barrels up I assure you it’s not much fun. Not surprising then we were ready for a swim after that!

DSC01805

Swim below Whakahoro campsite at the end of Day 1

It was pretty windy at the campsite and our tent which had been saturated from condensation the night before was soon dry. There were a few Te Araroa walkers who were starting on the river the following day so we heard a bit about their experiences on the trail that evening.

DSC01808

Getting ready to go on Day 2

As we’d left our bookings till fairly late in the piece we hadn’t been able to stay at the ‘recommended’ campsite on night 2. Instead of John Coull we were headed for Ohaurora, two hours earlier. Subsequently we weren’t in any particular hurry on day 2. Unfortunately there was a bit of headwind and we had to work pretty hard rather than just drifting with the river. We had a stop early on to explore one of the many side creeks, which turned out to be a reasonable canyon.

DSC01812

Oh look we found a canyon!

DSC01815

The man in his element

DSC01820

Morning tea stop at Mangapapa Day 2

My willingness to stop for further canyon exploration was muted with the effort with the headwind. I was quite happy just to get to camp – the first there – at 2:30pm and not have to paddle any more. Since we were first we got the choice of the campsites – a lovely spot with river views slightly removed from the main grassy area. The next couple arrived about an hour later, as they were choosing their spot, I realised it was Bruce who I had played Ultimate with back in 2001. Small world indeed! Though I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t bumped into someone we knew on the trip – these sorts of things always seem to happen.

DSC01823

The prime site at Ohaurora Campsite night 2

With our early camp on day 2 we had a long day 3. We got up at 5:30am and were paddling by 7am. When we arrived at John Coull there were groups who hadn’t left yet – that was even with a couple of stops for canyon exploration.

DSC01829

Here we go again Day 3

DSC01830

Pull off for more canyon exploration

DSC01832

Canyon!

DSC01834

What is up here?

Unfortunately we left John Coull just ahead of the group we termed the “flotilla” since there were 16 of them (8 canoes). These arrived at Mangawaiiti just after we did for morning tea. We got away before them but felt compelled to paddle a bit harder than we might of (no wind today) to keep separated from them.

DSC01840

Morning tea at Mangawaiiti campsite Day 4

Fortunately I’d just managed to retrieve lunch from our barrel at Mangapurua before the canoe got bumped out of the way by the arrival of the flotilla. We headed up the hill on the 40 minute walk to the Bridge to Nowhere.

DSC01841

Peak hour at Mangapurua!!

We seemed to have timed things fairly well. Despite seeing hoards of people on the track by the time we got to the Bridge we had it almost to ourselves.

DSC01842

I’m on a bridge to nowhere….

We stopped for more canyon exploration – the wind and jet boats were causing a bit of chop so we decided the boat couldn’t be left by itself. Tom went off exploring. I wasn’t that keen but he insisted it was worth it. I got to a section where I needed both hands and was umming and aahing about pushing on, but Tom was waving at me to keep going. So abandoning the camera I did. Just as well – it was the most impressive canyon of the trip.

DSC01848

Best canyon of the trip… but I had to leave my camera here as I needed my hands

It had been a long day, with the canyon side-trips, the walk to the Bridge to Nowhere and several hours of paddling, we didn’t get to camp till 5pm (from a 7am start). The campsite at Ramanui was busy, and I was very glad to have the owner drive our barrels up to the site on his quad bike. The flotilla arrived not long afterwards and we ended up camped in the midst of them. However, despite the crowds it was a very scenic spot and I enjoyed sitting on the grass eating cheese and biccies and finishing our port.

DSC01849

Very scenic (if packed) campsite at Ramanui night 3

The forecast rain came overnight, but we got up at 5:30am again despite the drizzle. Thinking we’d drag our gear over to the camp kitchen to avoid disturbing others we were somewhat surprised to find bodies on the floor in the kitchen, and sleeping on the covered picnic tables! I felt less bad about disturbing them… Though turned out the people on the floor in the kitchen where there because the tent they’d hired had the wrong fly with it. It was substantially smaller than the tent which was obviously no good when the rain started. I think the company they hired from was going to be getting some frank feedback!

DSC01850

Slightly worse weather early on day 4

DSC01851

About to start off on our last day

DSC01853

Gloomy, wet start to the day

The wet weather burnt off after a couple of hours, in time for us to hit the trickiest rapids of our 4 days. The Autapu rapid is apparently known as “50/50″ – the odds of staying in your canoe. We took on a fair bit of water but stayed upright. Of course we don’t have any photos of the rapids since there was no time for waving a camera as we were going down them!

DSC01857

Te Araroa walkers at the end of one of the rapids

DSC01859

Side-creek exploration

DSC01861

Side-creek exploration

DSC01863

Tom off to see some caves

At the end at 12:30 it was time for action. Tent was set to dry, ate our emergency noodles for lunch, and a full re-pack from barrels into packs as we were getting dropped off in Raetihi to get the bus back to Wellington. A great 4 days – though my lazy left shoulder is still complaining about all the work it had to do several days later.

Wangapeka Track (16-21 Dec 2019)

It had been a while since we’d done a multi-day walk, but once you’ve done a few the food planning comes pretty naturally. NZ provides some challenge in that we couldn’t bring home-dehydrated meals which had any meat in them. Tom had whipped up a delicious Moroccan vegetable stew which Customs let in.

DSC01621

The usual preparation

We walked the Wangapeka Track from West to East. This meant we had a 4 hour drive to get dropped off at the Little Wanganui end of the track. We were somewhat nervous as there was a fair bit of rain forecast and there are a lot of creek and river crossings to be negotiated. We didn’t really want to walk back out to the West and have to repeat the 4 hour drive.

DSC01622

The unassuming Little Wanganui track end of the Wangapeka Track

Day 1 took us to Belltown-Mananui Hut.

DSC01623

A slip early on day 1

The track was pretty overgrown so we were wet by the time we got to the hut even though the rain wasn’t overly heavy.

DSC01625

A bit overgrown + rain = wet!

It was a warm night and I was unsure if I had brought the wrong sleeping bag. Unfortunately the hut had mossies in it, so I had a sweaty night hiding in my sleeping bag.

DSC01637

Climbing out of McHarries Creek on Day 2

The forecast had been for a clear morning with rain developing so we were walking by 7am (long days meant it was getting light at 5am). This was our longest day – getting to Taipo Hut around 3pm. While there was a reasonable climb up to Little Wanganui Saddle the most challenging part of the day was some of the terrain along the Little Wanganui River which was pretty slow going.

DSC01638

The saddle we’re aiming for. Probably the most visible it will be for us all trip!

 

DSC01639

Negotiating the slippery track

 

DSC01645

Tom & a South Island robin

The cloud descended suddenly while we were having morning tea at the Wangapeka Bivvy – unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the view on arrival, and there was nothing but cloud to see by the time we set off again.

DSC01647

Morning tea break on day 2

And so we arrived at the saddle (we thought) in thick cloud. I knew there was meant to be some tarns but we couldn’t see anything.

DSC01652

Climbing up to the saddle

 

DSC01659

I think we might be on the saddle. Can’t really see anything

Until suddenly the edge of a lake slowly appeared as I focussed on what I could see through the cloud.

DSC01660

Oh! There’s a lake there.

If Tom hadn’t been dawdling we probably would have missed any views, as suddenly the cloud started lifting.

DSC01675

And suddenly the cloud lifted!

For about 10 minutes we got some views, before abruptly being covered in cloud again.

DSC01676

We can see something

We pushed on to Stag Flat Bivvy for lunch. Glad to be able to get into a dry space to eat.

DSC01682

Stag Flat

Before arriving at Taipo Hut at 3pm – at exactly the same time as a Melbourne family walking the track in the opposite direction. The verandah was not very well designed for multiple people getting out of wet gear at the same time. This was the only night we shared a hut in the 5 nights we were out – it was also the largest hut so that was convenient timing.

DSC01687

Taipo Hut – very small verandah when it’s wet

We had hoped to get up onto the tops somewhere in the later part of the trip, but the weather wasn’t really conducive to a high camp. So we headed for Helicopter Flag Hut for night 3.

DSC01688

Walking on day 3

There were a few fixed chains along the track – some sections which would have been dodgy going without them.

DSC01701

Fixed chains

Tom convinced me we should take detour to see Saxon Falls. It seemed reasonable to expect the Saxon Falls Track might take one near Saxon Falls, but they were illusively out of sight. We settled with our only outdoor lunch of the trip on the river.

DSC01702

Our only lunch outside with some rare blue sky

 

DSC01708

The very cosy Helicopter Flat Hut. Sleeps 10 – glad it was only the 2 of us!

DSC01712

So where’s the track?

 

DSC01713

One of many side creek crossings

 

DSC01715

Purple fungus

 

DSC01717

Where’s the track?

 

DSC01720

Out of the bush briefly

We had morning tea next to the Karamea River where we got our first sightings of the rare Whio. There were 4 – seemed to be parents and 2 adolescents. We were privileged to watch them make their way up stream for about 15 minutes.

DSC01723

Whio (blue duck)

 

DSC01726

Whio (blue duck)

On our way up towards Wangapeka Saddle I spotted a deer and we followed foot prints along the track for quite a way. Wangapeka Saddle had no views and it was completely tree clad, which made it a pleasant enough lunch spot since there was some escape from the wind.

DSC01727

Beech forest growth

There was plenty of beech forest growth. Possibly a result of a masting event.

DSC01733

Stone Hut

That night it poured with rain. I woke to a large bang and wondered if half the hillside had fallen off. It was only when lighting lit up the hut a couple of seconds later I realised the bang was thunder. It rumbled above us before heading down the valley. We were very snug in the hut – and I was very glad of my warm sleeping bag. After night 1 there had been no issues with being too hot!

DSC01736

Early morning clear skies after huge storms over night

By early morning the rain had cleared. I almost forced Tom out of bed so we could do a side-trip up Mt Luna. But I figured with the volume of rain overnight, even with the clear day, it was unlikely to be good conditions for a foray up to the tops. As it turned out we may not have even been able to cross the river to get to the Mt Luna track! Instead we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and left the hut around 11am.

DSC01739

The result of the overnight storms…

We lost the track fairly early on and found ourselves walking through a flooded creek – fortunately re-finding the track fairly quickly! That said much of the track was flowing.

DSC01743

More side-creek crossings

 

DSC01746

Track or creek?

 

DSC01748

How much longer will this section of track last for?

It was only a short section to get to Kings Creek Hut and the day had somewhat cleared by the time we arrived, but I was grateful we didn’t have to go any further.

DSC01755

Kings Creek Hut

Our final day was the only fine one of the trip. It was nice to finally see some views and blue sky.

DSC01761

What’s going on? Finally a blue sky day for our walk out

 

DSC01763

Mt Patriach – we had hoped to get up on the tops, but weather didn’t cooperate

Our transport provider had advised us shortly before the trip that they didn’t think they would be able to cross the Dart Ford to pick us up. That meant we had an extra 8km walk along the road to meet them. That was the worst 8km of the trip – neither of us big fans of road walking and my new boots didn’t agree with at all. Fortunately we were able to cross the Dart Ford, and we did see a Pajero get across – but anything less powerful would have struggled. From there it was a 1.5 hour drive back to Nelson for a shower and dry feet!

DSC01769

Crossing the Dart Ford to meet our transport

Despite the weather I enjoyed the trip. It had a really remote feel to it – no doubt aided by us only seeing 2 other groups on the track.

Bowens Creek North (1 Dec 2019)

On Saturday night we had a very pleasant evening at Cathedral Reserve with a bunch of new female canyoning friends. Those of us not feeling too worse for wear the next morning (the wear was from the prior day canyons not overindulging… I think!) headed off for Bowens Creek North Canyon. I was teetering on the edge of wussing-out. Mt Wilson was covered in mist, I had a cracking headache, but I decided since I was there I should just do it. The mist eventually lifted, though some smoke lingered from the many fires in the surrounding areas. I was very glad I did as we had a great day out – lovely to do an all-women trip with new friends.

DSC01572

The way in

DSC01580

Kylie on the first (optional) abseil

DSC01587

Trish on the first (compulsory) abseil

DSC01589

Bec on the first (compulsory) abseil

DSC01592

Looking down canyon

DSC01597

Going down the plughole

DSC01600

The lovely Kylie

DSC01601

Bags away!

DSC01604

Monica heading down

DSC01609

The group at the bottom

DSC01611

Looking back up canyon

DSC01613

Beautiful

DSC01615

More greenery

DSC01616

Walls of ferns

 

November adventuring (Nov 19)

I’ve been a bit slack on sorting my November photos so they can just go in one post.

First up…
We had hoped to get out for an overnight canyon in Kanangra but given the catastrophic fire danger, and National Parks guidance that the public should keep out of remote areas of the parks we figured that probably wasn’t in the spirit of what they were asking. Instead we visited a canyon Tom had done many years ago, via a new tributary.

DSC01436

Looking canyon-y

DSC01438

Whatcha doing down there?

I was getting a bit nervous as this point as there had been a number of sections where Tom had said “hmm, I don’t remember this”. That’s quite out of character for him and I was beginning to wonder if we were in the right creek. And if we were in a different creek did we have enough rope!?

DSC01457

Hmm. I hope the rope reaches down there!

Fortunately he remembered this point and it became clear once I got to the edge we were going to be ok.

DSC01468

Can he get across?

DSC01471

Guess not!

Though apparently last time he managed to get across. Guess ageing isn’t a good thing.

Then in keeping with not being “remote” we had a lovely cliff-top camp only a few minutes from where we were able to leave the car. Though of course everything was very smokey with the Gospers Mountain Fire raging away.

DSC01485

Wildflowers still out

DSC01487

Sunset, cheese & biccies, fortified shiraz… What more could you want?

DSC01489

Room with a view

DSC01492

Flannel flower

We’d climbed up Portal Lookout many years ago but I couldn’t remember much about the route. I had planned on leading an SBW trip up to it, but after our recce I decided against that idea. Unusually, I (presumably) found this route harder than I had on our earlier trip given I have no real memory of it.

DSC01499

After this recce I decided not to lead this walk for SBW!

DSC01500

Well… we’re abseilers sometimes

DSC01505

On the way back down

DSC01506

Creek walking

DSC01508

The cotton fairy has been?

We had a weekend in Victoria to get some fresh air after all the smoke in Sydney. The Otways are one of the wettest parts of Australia so it was nice to see some decent water flowing – not that I’ve chosen to put up any of the photos of the many waterfalls we saw!

DSC01529

I wonder how old?

DSC01534

Cheecky lunch companion

DSC01541

Stunning… if in the wrong continent

DSC01542

Californian redwoods

Lastly we bashed around in the upper reaches of well-known canyon. This yielded some surprisingly good canyon sections.

DSC01546

The adventurer emerges

DSC01551

Canyon ledges

DSC01557

Canyon

DSC01561

Getting a bit chilly by this point!

DSC01562

The adventurer

We exited via another tributary – not knowing if it would go. We climbed about 8 small waterfalls. Our general technique involved me standing on Tom’s knee to get up, then bracing myself so Tom could use my foot as a handhold so he could haul himself up. It was quite fun… as long as we could continue to get up them… which we did.

DSC01566

Yep, another waterfall to climb up

Unfortunately our choice of route to get back onto the ridge turned out to be less than desirable. It was possibly the worst scrub I’ve had the pleasure of bashing through. I think we took an hour to cover 200m and my legs were streaming with blood from all of the sword grass cuts by the time we got into clearer territory. That part of the day is not one to be repeated!

DSC01571

Sadly this photo doesn’t display the full brutality of the last hour of bush-bashing (for 200m gained)

All in all a pretty good month, given that many of the National Parks in NSW are closed due to the fires.

Macquarie Pass Canyon (2 Nov 2019)

DSC01402

Practising different rigging techniques

 

DSC01404

Tom checking whether he’s going to need to be lowered

 

DSC01407

After lots of practice we are now on our way down-canyon

 

DSC01411

Tom’s never one to miss a slide (sadly the photographer missed the slide action shot)

 

DSC01416

Abseiling

 

DSC01418

We’ve caught up with the others

 

DSC01420

Looking down canyon

 

DSC01425

Final abseil

 

DSC01428

Tom jumping

 

DSC01430

Tom sliding

 

Upper Nattai (26 Oct 2019)

It has been a trip which had morphed and changed multiple times. Seemingly quite a lot of angst for nothing, since Vivien was the only one who signed up for the trip in the end. Well, and Tom, by default, but then he pulled out two days before. To cancel? To do something else? To do the planned overnight route? To do the original overnight trip as a day trip? Eventually we settled on my original route but converted to a day trip, using bikes to get between the start and end.

The day didn’t start off so well. After picking up Vivien and entering the Gore Hill Freeway on a different entry to usual I ended up going over the bridge rather than taking the Cahill. After 20 minutes of snaking our way across the city we were eventually back on the M1. No further dramas and we were soon parked at the end of the walk. Riding through the back roads of Woodlands was quite pleasant, the occasional sandy section of road keeping us honest, and an exhilarating downhill (top speed 56.1 km/h) before turning off and ditching the bikes in the bush near the Boxvale Tramway Trail. It was then I realised with my keenness to get going after out slightly late arrival I had forgotten to put on sunscreen back at the car.

Surprisingly, given our city detour, we were walking at 9:05am. The air lacking the crispness it had on my previous Boxvale trip. We were just pleased to be away from Sydney after 36°C day yesterday, and another hot one forecast for today. It wasn’t long till we were tackling the steep incline – silence reigned as we concentrated hard on the descent. At the Nattai it was time for new territory – I’d gone upstream previously, so downstream was a mystery. While never particularly hard going there was quite a lot of climbing over small boulders and route finding through the vegetated banks.

DSC01369

Vivien in an old mine shaft

DSC01371

A nice morning tea spot

The nature of the river changed after morning tea (and the junction with Drapers Creek). I was now back on previously visited territory. The walking was very pleasant – sections of rocky slabs, interspersed with open, slightly rocky, banks. Vivien and I picked our own routes as we criss-crossed our way downstream. Being just the two of us we made pretty good time, scrambling when we felt like it – whether it was to avoid a vegetated bank or just because it looked like fun!

DSC01376

There were thousands of daisies everywhere

DSC01381

Lovely slab walking

DSC01384

Another lovely pool and waterfall

There were a few waterfalls along the way and some nice pools (if you didn’t look too deep and see the algae).

DSC01387

Rockfall

DSC01389

Vivien taking the non-scrubby (though probably more crumbly) side of the river

DSC01391

Looking a bit more bouldery

We made it to my intended lunch spot about 1:15pm, and learning from morning tea, we immediately had a swim. The forecast wind suddenly picked up while we were having lunch so Vivien almost had to have a second swim after some of his stuff ended up in the pool. After a few minutes of holding down my slices of cheese and other assorted bits and pieces the strongest gusts died off.

DSC01394

Very pleasant lunch & swim spot

We headed back upstream, found our exit creek and surprisingly quickly we were over Mt Waratah.

DSC01398

Views on our walk out

Back at the cars around 3:30pm, and having to collect the bikes on the way out, meant we were a bit late for the cafes in Mittagong. Fortunately the RSL does a decent selection of sweet treats so we didn’t miss out. A great day out.
Wildlife count – 3 red belly black snakes, 2 lyrebirds, 2 black piglets, plenty of skinks, water dragons and darters.

First canyons of the season (20 Oct 2019)

DSC01311

Cool depths of Dalpura Canyon

DSC01314

A tunnel

DSC01317

Will the log hold?

DSC01319

Getting in a bit deeper!

DSC01320

Yep, it’s fresh

DSC01324

Tom on the final (optional) abseil

DSC01328

Morning tea views

DSC01330

Tea-tree (leptospermum somethingorother)

DSC01336

Perfect set-up!???

DSC01337

the unclad bolt

DSC01339

We just climbed down Tom as a meat anchor in case anyone wanted a rope. Alex seems to be doing fine with it though

DSC01341

Staying dry

DSC01343

Onni also has no need for the rope. Or shoes :)

DSC01356

One of many Waratahs we saw

 

Exploring Danjera Plateau (5-7 Oct 2019)

The October long weekend has had many great, if somewhat tough, trips over the last few years. Longer daylight hours, hopefully not too hot, perfect for getting a walk with a bit of ridge and a bit of creek. This year was no different. I’d been angling to go to this area for years, but with the installation of a locked gate adding a 13km fire trail bash Tom was never really that keen. I must have got him at a weak point this year, though he did meddle with my route so we didn’t have to do the full fire trail twice. Day 1 we were on the go from 8am – 5:30pm, Day 2 we base camped and did 2 expeditions for a couple of hours each, Day 3 was another long day on the go from 8am – 5:30pm (or 7am – 4:30pm for those still running on pre-daylight savings time). Members of SBW can read my full trip report in the magazine.

DSC01113

The Locked Gate and cause of our 13km fire trail bash

DSC01121

Carl in Blayden’s Pass

DSC01123

Paul and Carl in Blayden’s Pass

DSC01131

Easy descent down to Boolijah Creek

DSC01132

Open forest walking

DSC01135

Alex taking the non-dry feet route across Boolijah Creek

DSC01137

Impressive staghorn fern – we saw lots of these

DSC01140

Not quite sure how to caption this one!?

DSC01141

Making our way up Danjera Creek. Interesting to note the high water mark.

DSC01152

Photographing rock orchids

DSC01157

Nicci, Paul & Tom climbing up a waterfall

DSC01164

The team climbing another waterfall. I took an alternate route allowing me to get this photo.

DSC01174

Crossing the tops

DSC01176

Carl doing the limbo

DSC01190

Tom & Carl in a crack

DSC01192

Paul negotiating an awkward boulder

DSC01198

Rock Orchid (Dendrobium Speciosum)

DSC01201

Orchid (Dockrillia Striolata)

DSC01209

Alex’s first jump of the season

DSC01216

Someone had gone to a lot of effort to construct the seats in this cave

DSC01220

Perfectly cooked damper

DSC01221

Made even better with raspberry jam!

DSC01222

Home for 2 nights

DSC01225

Tom squeezing through

DSC01228

Easy walking across the tops… when you could find rock platforms!

DSC01248

Spectacular gorge… but what is everyone looking at?

DSC01252

… this pool. A great lunch spot. Though no fish.

DSC01254

Enjoying lunch after a swim

DSC01257

Big boulder!

DSC01259

A well camouflaged frog

DSC01266

The pool at the end of the side creek

DSC01269

Looking back upstream

DSC01276

Speccy!

DSC01281

It goes that way :)

DSC01284

Alex taking the wet route

DSC01286

A bit of a scramble

DSC01295

Emerging from the scrub

DSC01299

Our old friend the fire trail, as the low cloud descends

Russells Needle & Rocky Waterholes Creek (21-22 September 2019)

Coming up with new trips for the Club Program takes time, and for once I decided a repeat trip was in order. I’d led the same route in 2017 and thought it was good enough to do again without 10 years in between. Plus I figured there’s a limited time before the vegetation in the Nattai River recovers from the floods so best to get as much walking in while it’s relatively open and easy-going! After a very dry winter coastal NSW got 3 days of consecutive rain in the week leading up to the trip. More rain was forecast for the weekend which wasn’t ideal, but fortunately for us (maybe not so much for the environment) the forecast totals had shrunk to negligible levels by the day before.

So we set off at 8:30am from the car park, treading the section of fire trail which I have now walked several times since my first visit in 2016. Other than Tom the rest of the party hadn’t really walked in the area so I was glad I had included the side-trip out to Ahearn Lookout. The low cloud had lifted by the time we got out there for morning tea. The rock pools were full from the recent rain.

DSC00994

Russells Needle from Ahearn Lookout

DSC01000

Lauren pointing out the birds from the lookout half way down Slott Way

DSC01002

Photographer in action

A delightful stand of orchids attracted our attention on the descent to the Nattai. With several keen photographers in the party I think there would have been a mutiny if I hadn’t allowed us to stop for a closer look!

DSC01005

Emilie pointing out a spider in the orchids

We were most surprised to find an orange tree growing in the river bank. It was laden with fruit until Onni went fruit-picking.

DSC01009

Orange tree growing in the Nattai River

DSC01011

Onni boosting his vitamin C intake!

The clouds had started to look a little ominous as we prepared to ascend Russells Needle. Fortunately there were only a few light splotches, not enough to make any of the rock slippery. The tape stayed in my bag as everyone handled the route up confidently. Though not everyone felt the need to attain the true summit.

DSC01013

Alex scrambling up to the Russells Needle ridge

DSC01018

Yep, it’s a long way down

DSC01025

Emilie enjoying that airy feeling

DSC01026

The press gallery

DSC01029

Onni on the (avoidable) scrambling route to the summit

Keen to avoid drinking the Nattai we headed up the side-creek to see if there was water about. With the frog chorus echoing around us we figured it was only a matter of time before we came across some water! We found quite a few reasonable sized pools and filled up. Curiosity not quenched we then went for a further explore upstream with ideas for future exploring being thrown around.

The campsite that we’d used in 2017 seemed a little damp so we headed back downstream to an earlier spot. Of course it was right on arrival that the only reasonable rain for the day arrived. Rather than sit it out we all got our tents up only for the rain to stop pretty much as soon as we’d finished.

DSC01033

Tom supervising the fire starting

DSC01035

Camp

It rained between 6-7am but then cleared which I was glad of as a morning of rock-hopping is much better when the rocks are dry! Though as it turned out, maybe because we were coming off the back of Winter, some of the sections were exceedingly slippery regardless.

I hadn’t spent a lot of looking at timings, or comments, for the previous trip, as my memory was it had all been pretty straight forward.

DSC01040

Lauren & Alex crossing the Nattai on Sunday morning

DSC01041

The Nattai River

Rocky Waterholes Creek started much the way I remembered – flat with lots of small-ish rocks to hop along. We made good time and the conjecture around the fire the night before about today looking like it could be a short day seemed on point.

DSC01043

Early stages of Rocky Waterholes Creek

But then the rocks started getting bigger. The route-finding and scrambling got harder. I didn’t really remember the house-sized boulders. (though on checking my previous trip report I do mention them). Our pace slowed considerably. Onni had decided very early on to go for the barefoot option, I was surprised to see he maintained his barefeet almost the entire way up the creek. It did mean he could move more directly up the creek as the rest of us were trying to keep our feet dry.

DSC01052

Plenty of boulder scrambling

DSC01054

Lauren going for an ambitious route

There were plenty of beautiful pools and Onni even had a swim!

DSC01065

Beautiful pools

DSC01066

Onni on one of the many of the large boulders

The junction with Iron Creek seemed to take an age to get to. We had thought to have morning tea there but at 11am I decided we just needed to stop junction or not.

DSC01069

Lauren checking out an interesting rock seam

DSC01073

The barefoot bushwalker!?

DSC01074

Choose your own adventure (and check out that flood debris!)

Eventually we made it to our exit side-creek and we had lunch. Tom recalled the route Alan had led us up last time and we were quickly through the exposed section. We bashed out to the ridge a bit earlier which brought us out near the end of the fire trail which saved a bit of time. Most of us headed out to the end of the ridge to Fingers Lookout. I discovered the logbook (well single A4 piece of paper in a jar) which I had missed on the earlier trip.

DSC01081

Disintegrating records in the log book jar

DSC01087

Looking down into Rocky Waterholes Creek from Fingers Lookout

DSC01092

Lauren likes sitting near the edge it seems

DSC01094

The yellow fleck in the distance is Tom at the lookout

From there it was just an hour or so back to the car, but probably the most painful of the trip despite it being technically the easiest! I think we were all feeling the full-on two days we’d had, in particular the full body workout in Rocky Waterholes Creek, and were glad to get back to the cars at 5:30pm. A great weekend with a great group.

The only surprise at that point was when Alex asked Tom & I if we were wearing our driving shirts. I had no idea what he was talking about until I came around the side of the car to find that Tom & I had packed the same shirts to change into. How embarrassing!

DSC01096

Awkward. Unplanned wardrobe coordination.

 

Folly Point (17-18 August 2019)

Originally this walk was meant to happen in May but with injury issues I’d had to cancel it. It was only after it was republished on the club weekly update that Tom told me he couldn’t make the new dates. Oh well, his loss! I love going to new places, but running trips to areas you haven’t been to before brings additional stress to running a club trip. Despite this being a well-known route and shouldn’t bring many difficulties there were still plenty of things playing on my mind in the lead up. Would the fire trail be as easy to ride as I thought I remembered it would be? Would there be water at Folly Point? Would anyone’s bike break down? Would everyone arrive in the right place at the right time on Saturday morning?

The forecast, in contrast to the previous weekend, was great. Light winds, pleasant winter temperatures, just what I wanted. We were all at the National Park car park with bikes loaded up, ready to go by 9am. Woohoo! The initial section of road to the campsite and toilet was a bit rocky and covered with fallen sticks – not the most fun first few hundred metres. But things soon were easier going and I enjoyed the slight uphills as we cycled towards Newhaven Gap.

DSC00872

Toni looking like she does this all the time!

Stashing bikes we headed off on foot towards our goal of Folly Point. From now on it was all new to me, as well as 3 of the 4 others in the party. The track doesn’t seem to get a lot of use and was pretty overgrown. Certainly it was much easier going than had there been no track, but there weren’t many sections where you weren’t either ducking through banksia corridors, walking through spear grass, or generally pushing your way through vegetation. The occasional spots where you popped out and got a view were much appreciated.

DSC00878

Dennis taking in our first awesome views

DSC00882

Negotiating a crack

DSC00884

David approaching camp

We didn’t have major difficulties following the track, though I could see if you were not used to route finding that it would potentially be easy to miss it in many places. There was only one spot where we faffed about for a couple of minutes before we re-found it. During those few minutes I managed to fall into a small gully and pay my skin sacrifices to the scrub gods (and continue to be constantly reminded of that sacrifice 2 days later). We got to camp mid-afternoon which gave us plenty of time to explore and appreciate the views.

DSC00887

Cosy campsite in the banksia

DSC00889

Watson Pass logbook

I clearly hadn’t needed to be worried about the water situation. There are several deep potholes in the creek below camp, and it would take a very long extended dry period before they would be completely dry (if ever?).

DSC00890

Some of the water at camp

Those of us who hadn’t been to Watson Pass before went for an outing down below the cliffline. It has some scrambles that would be challenging with a pack. The spikes and chains themselves are curious, you look at them and think “are they really necessary?”, but I couldn’t see a way up without them. With help from someone else I could probably make it up, but if on my own I think I’d be stuck.

DSC00899

Dimitri using the spikes on Watson Pass

DSC00910

Scrambly section of Watson Pass

I was going to go back up the track and look for the other lookout I’d read about, but when David showed us the views on the cliff edge I didn’t really feel I was going to get a better view elsewhere! It was just stunning, and the pinnacle at the edge had a very convenient spot to sit with a back rest.

DSC00911

Pretty speccy

DSC00912

Amazing view, great weather. Bliss.

DSC00914

Vantage spot. Two late arrivers found somewhere to camp out here!

DSC00915

A bit of exposure

We climbed up the pagodas behind camp to get view towards Talaterang, which didn’t leave a lot of time for gathering firewood. Unfortunately that meant Dimitri and I were hauling eucalypt up the pass as the sun was setting. We were a little surprised to then bump into two women coming towards the pass! I asked where they were heading for and they said “the point”. “Good luck with that!”. Any way we didn’t see them again that night, and when David headed out for some early morning views he found them wedged in somewhere with a view of sunrise from their tent. Good on them.

DSC00926

Exploring the many pagodas surrounding camp

By the time we had wood collected it was a bit late to drag everyone back out to the cliffs for sunset. I ducked out for a couple of photos, before returning to the fire and happy hour.

DSC00930

Sunset

I also got up for sunrise which was nice, though the wind had picked up overnight so it was a bit chilly out on the tops.

DSC00936

Sunrise

DSC00943

First light on The Castle and surrounding peaks

DSC00956

Early morning

DSC00957

Breakfast fire

The party was very efficient in getting ready and we were away 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. We seemed to make better time on the way out, maybe lighter packs? Though my knees were suffering a lot more with a second day of bush whacking. I think trousers would be my apparel of choice if I head out that way any time soon.

DSC00960

On our way out, with the ubiquitous cairns

DSC00962

Climbing out of a gully

DSC00964

The track was pretty over grown – this was one of the easier banksia sections!

DSC00967

Morning tea on day 2

DSC00970

More “track”

DSC00975

Almost back at the fire trail

Back at the bikes by 11:15am we road unencumbered up to The Vines. From there it’s just a short out and back up to the Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain. We had lunch with a stunning view down Kilpatrick Creek towards Pigeon House Mountain.

DSC00978

Complete change of scenery below Quiltys Mountain

DSC00983

Bora Grounds on Quiltys Mountain

Then it was just a matter of riding back to our packs (though some of the party got a bit of extra riding as they didn’t recognise the spot we’d left them…), and then back to the cars. A very civilised finish just after 3pm meant I was home in time for dinner. It was a wonderful weekend in the bush.

1 2 3 9