Category Archives: Bushwalking

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.

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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.

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The unassuming Little Wanganui track end of the Wangapeka Track

Day 1 took us to Belltown-Mananui Hut.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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Negotiating the slippery track

 

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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.

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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.

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Climbing up to the saddle

 

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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.

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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.

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And suddenly the cloud lifted!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Walking on day 3

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

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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.

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Our only lunch outside with some rare blue sky

 

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

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So where’s the track?

 

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One of many side creek crossings

 

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Purple fungus

 

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Where’s the track?

 

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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.

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Whio (blue duck)

 

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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.

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Beech forest growth

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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More side-creek crossings

 

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Track or creek?

 

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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!

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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.

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.

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Looking canyon-y

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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!?

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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.

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Can he get across?

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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.

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Wildflowers still out

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

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Room with a view

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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.

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

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Well… we’re abseilers sometimes

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On the way back down

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Creek walking

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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!

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I wonder how old?

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Cheecky lunch companion

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Stunning… if in the wrong continent

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Californian redwoods

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

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The adventurer emerges

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Canyon ledges

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Canyon

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Getting a bit chilly by this point!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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.

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Vivien in an old mine shaft

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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!

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There were thousands of daisies everywhere

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Lovely slab walking

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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).

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Rockfall

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

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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.

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Very pleasant lunch & swim spot

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

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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.

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.

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

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Carl in Blayden’s Pass

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Paul and Carl in Blayden’s Pass

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Easy descent down to Boolijah Creek

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Open forest walking

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Alex taking the non-dry feet route across Boolijah Creek

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Impressive staghorn fern – we saw lots of these

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Not quite sure how to caption this one!?

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

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Photographing rock orchids

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Nicci, Paul & Tom climbing up a waterfall

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

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Crossing the tops

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Carl doing the limbo

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Tom & Carl in a crack

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Paul negotiating an awkward boulder

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Rock Orchid (Dendrobium Speciosum)

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Orchid (Dockrillia Striolata)

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Alex’s first jump of the season

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

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Perfectly cooked damper

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Made even better with raspberry jam!

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Home for 2 nights

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Tom squeezing through

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

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Spectacular gorge… but what is everyone looking at?

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

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Enjoying lunch after a swim

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Big boulder!

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A well camouflaged frog

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The pool at the end of the side creek

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Looking back upstream

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Speccy!

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It goes that way :)

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Alex taking the wet route

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A bit of a scramble

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Emerging from the scrub

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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.

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Russells Needle from Ahearn Lookout

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

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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!

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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.

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Orange tree growing in the Nattai River

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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.

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Alex scrambling up to the Russells Needle ridge

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Yep, it’s a long way down

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Emilie enjoying that airy feeling

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The press gallery

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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.

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Tom supervising the fire starting

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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.

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Lauren & Alex crossing the Nattai on Sunday morning

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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.

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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.

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Plenty of boulder scrambling

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Lauren going for an ambitious route

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

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Beautiful pools

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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.

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Lauren checking out an interesting rock seam

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The barefoot bushwalker!?

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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.

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Disintegrating records in the log book jar

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Looking down into Rocky Waterholes Creek from Fingers Lookout

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Lauren likes sitting near the edge it seems

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Dennis taking in our first awesome views

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Negotiating a crack

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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.

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Cosy campsite in the banksia

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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?).

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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.

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Dimitri using the spikes on Watson Pass

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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.

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Pretty speccy

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Amazing view, great weather. Bliss.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunrise

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First light on The Castle and surrounding peaks

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Early morning

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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.

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On our way out, with the ubiquitous cairns

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Climbing out of a gully

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

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Morning tea on day 2

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More “track”

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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.

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Complete change of scenery below Quiltys Mountain

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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.

Wet & wild in Wollemi (10-11 August 2019)

Winter in Sydney had been something of a non-event, a string of records for most consecutive days over 20°C, amongst general mildness. Of course just as a trip Tom had planned on the SBW calendar 3 months earlier was due a polar vortex was heading for NSW. The wind was the biggest concern as the original plan had us camping on the tops facing west. After much deliberating, giving the group the opportunity to drop out (half took the chance), the rest of us were scheduled to meet up on Saturday morning, with a revised route that hopefully took us out of the full brunt of the wind. Though there was still the forecast of snow for both days!

forecast

Tom scrapped the Friday night drive-up as we didn’t really want to be camped out in the wind waiting for a tree to fall on us. So very blearily we left our place, with Kirsten, at 5:20am. We saw our first snow going over Mt Tomah and it continued as we headed west.

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Snow at the Mt Vic Causeway junction

Not much to worry about from a driving perspective but then we got messages from Lauren and Ross saying the Great Western Highway was closed. Lauren was stuck at Wentworth Falls, Ross in Katoomba. The trains were still (mostly) running so they managed to hop on the same train train. That meant we weren’t really in any hurry so had time to stop and have photos in the snow.

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Tom in the snow above Lithgow. It was much thicker on Sunday when we were on our way home.

We were lucky to find an open café in Lithgow at 7:20am on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately it had literally just opened so the heater had just been turned on so it wasn’t much warmer in there then it was outside! But at least we could get a coffee while we waited an hour for the train to arrive. The snow flurries continued to build as we watched out the windows. As we drove out of Lithgow, with 5 of us squeezed in the car, I did wonder what we were thinking! Fortunately once we descended into the Wolgan Valley things cleared and it just seemed to be a normal, albeit cold, winter’s day.

Arriving somewhat later than planned Tom had already adjusted the previously adjusted route. It was pretty pleasant walking early on, particularly since we got to drop packs and few times to go and explore various side gullies.

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Interesting historical feature in this canyon

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Climbing up a side gully

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In the side gully

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Interesting rock formation

It had been largely dry to start with but we’d copped one bout of sleet/hail, and so we were glad to have some protection for lunch in an overhang. With the temperatures we had though you didn’t want to be sitting around for too long – not when we had 4km to cover in 4 hours and Tom thought we might be pushing it to make it before dark!

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Convenient overhang for lunch (yes, it rained)

There was some medium scrub to get up on the tops and then it was relatively straight-forward (if a bit meandering) to make it to a lookout as another rain band passed over us. At just the right time the skies cleared and we could take in the beautiful Wollemi wilderness. But not for long as we still needed to get to camp!

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Tom promised views… and he delivered (on Saturday at least)

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Looking over to where we would have been on our original route

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More views

We didn’t have too many issues finding our way down into the creek, Tom’s memory of a trip 10 years ago seemed to be serving us pretty well (other than a small side canyon we failed to find just before lunch). I think he was starting to get a little worried as the camp cave he was expecting hadn’t materialised….

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Descending a small chute

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More descending

It was just a little further on than he expected. Strong winds are good for something – lots of recently fallen branches – we soon had a good fire going and could warm up. While I’m sure it was more sheltered down in the creek than on the tops it was still pretty breezy from time to time. And despite the fire and many layers for once I was glad I had brought my down jacket along.

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Our camp cave – not so protective on a windy night

I was warm overnight, if not completely dry as the wind would occasionally blow in a bit of sleet. It was raining / snow flurrying as we set off in the morning, but we had a climb to warm us up almost straight away.

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What you can’t see in this photo is the snow flurry!

Being in dry canyons is quite pleasant in this sort of weather, and we (mostly) had a fun time negotiating a couple of small drops. The latter, which I don’t have any pictures of, involved a wriggle through a cave.

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Descending a canyon

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Some tape work

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) there was a bail out option mid-morning. The rain had been fairly constant to date and while we ate morning tea in another convenient overhang it didn’t let up. I think there was only one disappointed party member when the leader decided we were going to take the quick way back to the car. It didn’t take long for us to get wet pushing through the undergrowth. We ebbed and flowed on our contentedness with the decision as the sun occasionally popped out, or another snow flurry came through.

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Walking through saturated ferns – guaranteed to get wet!

It was raining at the car and so we just piled 5 wet bodies in and headed out, wondering whether we were going to be stuck in Lithgow for the night! The snow drifts were impressive as we approached Lithgow but the major roads to Sydney were open. The traffic was heavy through the mountains due to all the ‘snow tourists’. Wanting to avoid the traffic we put Lauren & Ross on the train and headed home via Bells Line – which was scenic with plenty of deep drifts. An enjoyable weekend out, if a bit chilly at times.

Bonnum Pic (overnight) 27-28 July 2019

We’d only visited Bonnum Pic once previously, back in 2013, and we hadn’t taken a tape. That meant unfinished business as we hadn’t gone right to end. I was nursing a calf injury so needed something flat-ish and short-ish; Tom was keen on high camps for sunset/sunrise photography; and with the unfinished business of getting to the end… I thought it was a genius idea to do this walk again but this time as an overnight trip. We had one of the most leisurely starts I can remember for a walk – leaving the cars at 11:40am. There were quite a few cars at the start so we figured we’d see the various day trippers at some point in the afternoon.

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I’d seen some comments on bushwalk.com about an ‘obvious’ camp so I wasn’t really looking out for campsites as we made our way along the cliff edge. But by the time we hit some of the more scrambly section we hadn’t seen anything obvious and it looked unlikely that there was going to be anything in front of us. Ditching packs we continued walking out along the narrowing ridge – glad to have the extra agility now being packless!

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Tom doing the ‘slide of death’

At the slide of death we had a bit of discussion of which tree to anchor off and whether the tape was actually doing anything other than being a mental aid! Lewis elected to stay there and enjoy the views while Tom & I made our way to the end – new territory. We found the log book – for a few years it seemed to be dominated by SBW’s John K who seemed to have an entry every other page.

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Low dam levels in the distance

The dam levels are noticeably low – not a surprise but sometimes having a visual makes things feel more real.

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The end of the pic

Having had our full of views and happy-snapping (is it happy-snapping when your camera weighs 1.5kg?) we returned to the slide.

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Lewis waiting above the slide

Getting back up the slide was the harder bit. I managed to get my left leg stuck in the crack which took a while to wriggle out of. Tom did the same thing before deciding that facing forward rather than out was a better option.

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Now the hard bit getting back up

Going facing into the rock meant the tape was definitely more than just a mental aid!

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See that effort!

 

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The crux done

So now we had to find a camp – one that clearly wasn’t that obvious since we hadn’t seen it on our way out. We back tracked up onto the last flatish plateau and split up to look for options. There wasn’t anything great, but with only 3 of us we didn’t need much flat space. The good thing about being up on the ridge was there was definitely no need to collect firewood.

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Our (2 star?) campsite

After happy hour on the cliffs for sunset we made it back to the campsite before dark. We had pleasant night around the fire and retired to bed at bushwalker’s midnight.

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Sunset, with Mt Colong dominating the horizon

With no time pressure the next day Tom of course got up before dawn for some sunrise photography. It was a glorious walk back along the pagodas with the morning light. We managed to stay on the cliff edge a lot more compared to our ‘inland’ route the previous day, which gave lots more views and fun on the pagodas.

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On the way back

 

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Lovely rocky walking

 

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More views

We had morning tea out on another rocky outcrop before winding our way back through the bush. At the fence line we met another walker who sounded like he had spent a couple of hours just getting to that point – trying 3 different routes before finally ending up there. We wished him luck in getting out to the cliffs, but it was a reminder that the walk isn’t completely straightforward if you’re not used to following rough footpads.

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Cliffs above Burnt Flat Creek

We were back in Mittagong at lunch time – a great, if short, walk in the bush.

Rejuvenating, while being scratched to pieces, in nature (8-10 June 2019)

With the combination of an injury and work deadlines it had been 6 weeks since I’d been out in the bush and boy did I need to get out. All 3 of us were nursing foot injuries so this was meant to be a chance to get out and enjoy being in the bush without being too strenuous. So of course we started our long weekend loaded up with several litres of water, ropes, harnesses and at the last minute my down jacket also made it’s way into the pack (another 800g I really didn’t need to be carrying).

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Tom and Jonathan above the cloud (and in it at times)

Tom’s SLR soon got some action, to justify the weight, with lots of low lying cloud about.

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Tom and Jonathan with the river of cloud

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Where is everything??

Eventually we made it to the spot we planned to base camp and had lunch. The cloud continued to envelop us from time to time and it wasn’t conducive to sitting around. That said, it was still after 1:30pm when we set off to do our canyon. “How long will it take?” asks Jonathan. “A few hours”. Ok, well we have 3.5 hours till sunset….

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Getting scrambly

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This is meant to be dry canyoning! (As Jonathan bravely abseils into a pool of unknown depth)

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Climbing pagodas

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The cloud still about as the sunsets

We stumbled into camp well after dark, fortunately no one going over a cliff edge in the dark. Despite our 5am wake-up and a solid day of activity we didn’t go to bed till after 10pm. I slept like a log. Tom was up early to photograph sunrise but I enjoyed a sleep in. We knew we had the luxury of more time today, but also a longer canyon. I suggested we should get going and save any relaxing for when we got back to camp (hopefully in the light) later in the day. Even so we weren’t away much before 10am.

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Next morning still plenty of low cloud

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Tom and Jonathan checking out another river of cloud

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Getting slotty

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The man in nature

Despite both Tom & I having done this canyon previously there were many abseils, some awkward, some requiring particular care with rope placement, others needing to be doubled-up, so we didn’t make any speed records getting through the canyon.

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Slightly awkward abseil

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Another awkward abseil

The others started on lunch at 2pm in the feeble sun in the creak bed while I went to look for some water. We’d picked some up the day before but not in a spot we could get to today, I went a long way downstream and didn’t find any. Oh well, we’d have to make the 7L we had back at camp do. I scoffed my lunch on my return and then we were off. Detouring off from the exit I found a couple of pools – not the most attractive looking but definitely good for putting out the fire, and probably fine for drinking if you didn’t mind heavily tannined water.

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Camp

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Bliss. Happy hour, quiz and sunset.

We made it back to camp in the light – but only with half an hour to spare. The sun was already lighting up the cliffs opposite camp with magnificent colours so we settled in for cheese & biccies and Good Weekend Quiz. (For the record a respectable 18/25).

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Sunrise from the comfort of my sleeping bag – some advantages to sleeping under a fly!

Our final day I decided to stay at camp with the Good Weekend while the others went to explore another small creek. Then it was just a matter of retracing our steps back to the car – easier said than done when we were all feeling the impact of a much harder weekend than planned! Relieved to be back at the cars we then had a slow drive home in the long weekend traffic – broken up by apple pie at our usual stop on Bells Line. A great weekend in the bush – though maybe next time we need something a little easier after a 6 week lay off!

 

FNQ: Paluma (19-22 Apr 2019)

With Nationals in Townsville over the ANZAC weekend and Easter falling the weekend before there seemed no excuse for spending a bit more time in Far North Queensland. Originally we had hoped to do some canyoning but with our collective fitness and the effort of lugging all our gear we ended up settling on just bushwalking. We based ourselves in the very small village of Paluma which has a great trail network right on its doorstep.

Day 1: Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls is Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall, with the main drop being 268m. After two flood events during this year’s wet season all of the waterfalls we visited were pumping!

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All 268m of Wallaman Falls

 

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You know it’s big when you struggle to fit someone into the photo at the bottom

 

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Warning!

 

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Grass trees

 

Day 2: Jourama Falls

Originally we were going to do our walk to Crystal Creek today but as we were driving to trailhead not that long before 10am we decided it might be a bit late in the day to start. Instead we headed down the hill and around to Jourama Falls. There are some lovely rock pools to swim in below the main falls but our destination was the top of the falls. Beyond the tourist lookout is a bushwalker’s pad which takes you around to the top of the falls. It was hot and sweaty work but we were well rewarded with a swim, views and the place to ourselves.

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The multi-cascaded Jourama Falls from the tourist viewpoint

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Almost level but a fair way to go to before a swim

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Dry feet crossing

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Finally swim time!

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Wet feet crossing

Abseiling Jourama Falls was one of our intended canyoning trips – but I wasn’t too disappointed we weren’t. The amount of water was intimidating and the bolt placements were such that you would be rapping directly through the main falls.

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Checking out the first major drop

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Looking downstream

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First drop

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The joys of not camping :)

Day 3: Crystal Creek Falls, Birthday Creek Falls

This was by far our biggest day. Started walking around 8am and not back until 5:30pm. Following the most recent flood event the road to Birthday Creek Falls (and Paluma Dam) was closed so the only way to visit was to walk. I had came up with a loop which took in Ethel Creek Falls, Crystal Creek Falls, Torsten’s Rockgarden and Birthday Creek Falls and completely exhausted us!

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Rainforest walking

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Ethel Creek Falls

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Well marked track junctions

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I’m not sure I’d want to be crossing this creek if you needed to use that rope!

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The top cascade of Crystal Creek Falls

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Crystal Creek Falls

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Fungi

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Trail marker

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Vegetation

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Torsten’s Rock Garden

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Swimming below Birthday Creek Falls

Day 4: Cloudy Creek Falls

After our big day yesterday we just did the local tourist walks that most visitors do.

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Crossing Cloudy Creek Falls

This finished up at the Rainforest Inn, the only cafe in Paluma (opening hours vary generally open Fri – Mon). I’d read about the scones on the web and they did not disappoint!

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Rainforest Inn, Paluma

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