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Participants: Rachel Grindlay, Gill Fowler, Mike Baldwin, Caoimhin Ardren, Matt Ryan, Kate
Gill picked me and Mike up at 6:30am and we were off on our adventure. The run out of Sydney was pretty good and we were soon stopped for our coffee fix. We met up with Caoimhin in Bungonia and then dropped off his van in Windellama. By this stage we were running late for our 9:30am rendezvous with Matt and Kate in Nerriga. Not to worry as they arrived at the same time as us. Caoimhin and I had a Nerriga burger to kick the weekend off. Then finally we were on the dirt road out to Quiera Clearing. Only a minor problem of losing Matt at a junction delayed us futher. Eventually we had both cars parked at the clearing and we were all packed and ready to go. Well not really since Matt and Kate's lunch was still in their esky in the car. We left the cars finally around 11:30am.
After consulting my trip notes I suggested we should go south of Bulee Hill and then strike down towards Myall Creek. We launched into the bush and went marching on following Caoimhin. Until I said "aren't we back at the bottom of the clearing?". Hmmm, having almost circumnavigated Bulee Hill we decided to take a bearing was a good idea and headed down the spur. The walking was reasonable until we reached cliff line. The scrub around the cliff line was fairly thick and bashing through to find no way down was frustrating. After several false starts we eventually found a way down. Those who had not had the nourishment of the Nerriga burger were ready for lunch so we found a shady spot by the water and dug in. Given the time (~1:30pm) we didn't dawdle over lunch as we still had a reasonable distance to cover.
The next section of the creek had high walls and was pleasant walking. We soon reached the junction with the side creek and then continued on. Some time later we reached a pool which Caoimhin and I walked past ignoring the calls for a swim. We stopped to allow them to catch up but when no one had arrived in a few minutes we realised they must have stopped for a swim anyway. Caoimhin went back to make sure they were ok while I waited in the shade. With everyone refreshed we negotiated the Myall Creek Cascades. Unfortunately there was very little water so they were not as spectacular as hoped. Negotiating the climb-downs was made easy given the dry rock.
We made reasonably good time despite the hot day. Caoimhin had us all holding out for a large swimming hole he remembered from a previous trip. With that in mind we made good time, though all of us (except Mike) did the scramble up to the top of the ridge between Ettrema & Myall Creeks. The view of the swimming pools in Ettrema Creek was enticing and we hurried on. Negotiating our way around the final waterfall looked harder than it was, with good hand and foot holds. Once down we plunged into the cooling water. The pool had lost the sun by the time we got there but the surface water was still very warm - further down was a different story. Having washed away the sweat of the day we had a further 10 minutes down the creek to the junction with Ettrema Creek. I arrived first and tried to find the campsite unsuccessfully, Mike soon joined the hunt. It was only once Caoimhin arrived that he pointed it out. It was a great site and we were soon set up and enjoying pre-dinner snacks.
Mike whipped up a creamy mushroom and chicken pasta for dinner which was excellent. The cream he had frozen and stood up to the hot day (though none still frozen for ice cream). After dinner we had port, chocolate and a few rounds of 500. It was a warm night so Gill and I decided to just sleep in the tent inner. I was using my new booster bag which kept me toasty all night, unfortunately Gill didn't have the same experience spending most of the night cold (despite the beanie and thermals!)
Life stirred round camp around 9am, and after breakfast and packing up most of us headed upstream on Ettrema Creek (minus packs). Not far along we came to the spot we had looked down from yesterday. We also met a group of walkers and then the SUBW group. After exchanging pleasantries we continued up to Sentry Box Canyon. It was another hot day, Matt and Gill had been swimming at every opportunity. We all swam at our turn around point and then headed back to Kate and our packs. Lunch pangs were upon us so we had lunch there.
After lunch we wandered down the creek to Jones Creek. The first group we had met earlier in the day had set up a very comfortable looking campsite there. We dropped packs again and headed up Jones Creek. We made it as far as a deep limestone pool where Caoimhin, Gill and I swam. We then headed back to Ettrema. We had been warned by the other group that the water dried up the closer you got to Transportation Spur so I filled up. After walking past several large pools I was regretting my decision to carry the extra 3 litres of water any further than I needed to. We rounded a corner to find the SUBW group set up in another nice campsite next to a swimming pool. They had the fire going (despite a Park fire ban) and looked very comfortable. I think by this stage most of our group would've been happy to set up camp but we continued on. The pools dried up fairly quickly after this and we were walking past and through large section of dried up white algae(?).
Reaching Gallows Gully before the others, Caoimhin and I headed up to check out the water situation (I realised I was unlikely to see the "big cascade with its delicate mosses and ferns" that were described in my track notes, but I was at least hoping for a couple of sizeable pools. We avoided the itchy plants and nettles of "execution camp" as we made out way into the gorge. There was very little water to be seen until we reached the bottom of the cascades. There were a couple of stagnant pools, the cascade was damp but you could hardly call it flowing. To our surprise Gill's head soon popped up, she hadn't filled up at Jones Creek so was hoping to find water. She filled up from the one decent pool and we headed out. The others had pushed on to find a campsite and after a few minutes of hunting around, we were all reunited having found flowing water a bit further past the gully and a passable campsite. Mike was soon into preparing our sweet potato and sage risotto, refusing to eat anything else in case he ruined his appetite. Another great meal later we were all completely stuffed. Everyone went to bed fairly early, and with cooler temperatures we had no doubt about whether to use the fly!
The next morning we had an early start, leaving our campsite at 8:38am. We puffed our way up the steep section of Transportation Spur enjoying the views from knoll about half way up. The next section was easier-going and soon we reached Pardon Point (around 10am). The views were magnificent! After morning tea we set off, not wanting to repeat our earlier navigation errors more care was taken with the map and bearings. A couple of unpleasant sections of scrub generally gave way to reasonably easy walking. Eventually we hit the road and walked to 2km or so back to the cars. Then to Nerriga for a burger for lunch. Perfect.