Hole in the Wall, Sheep Dip,
Wolangambe and Rock Hill. 1:25000
Ian, Anna, Dug.
I text Ian on the way to Hole in the Wall car park because I couldn't get mobile phone voice cover. He would know to look out for me when they drove in during the night. I camped on the flat area by the road junction just at the end of the pine forest, a pleasant place to be. There was only one car at the HIW car park with three people. This surprised me as I expected to see more canyoners out enjoying this short burst of fine weather. I messed around making camp, collecting wood to cook with, hung a fly so we sit under if did rain. It is overcast, there is distant thunder and occasionally mist roles by. I cooked dinner and turned in early, as soon as it was dark. The others drove up about 10pm and soon set up camp.
A pleasant night even if misty off and on, a much more significant bird dawn chorus here, even a number of night bird calls. Ian felt like a slow start today, since he had a big day yesterday, with little sleep the night before. Away, walking around 9am, a pleasant sunny day with a mild breeze. We walk the old fire trail now littered with logs to make it unsuitable for vehicles, in what is now a declared wilderness area. The track out to HIW is well trodden and easy walking through pleasant ridge country. It only takes us about an hour and half to where we don wetsuits in the canyon. This first section of canyon is great, very narrow, and very dark in places at this time of day, beautifully coloured shiny pink sandstone rock, testing scramble-downs or slides or jumps, into long narrow pools of cold water. Then the cave/overhang at the end is so silted up with sand Ian and I need to crawl, although Anna can squat waddle through, being much smaller and nimble.
This is obviously going to be a photo shoot canyon as both Ian and Anna find lots that take their fancy. The open section next is most pleasant in the warm sunshine, with tall trees and large rock face cliffs and sculptured rounded cathederal cave overhangs, alternating with cool splashing walks in the creek under the tree ferns and scrambling over and down boulders strewn along the way.
We arrive at the first jump down of the final narrow section. The pool is too shallow for safe jumping due to build up of sand and we hand over hand in. A couple of short abseils later we arrive at the tunnel section where the creek goes completely underground. This is always a feature of this canyon. We go in with torches ready, but off, so we can see the glow-worms to best effect. Water level and sand level are such that we don't need to crawl under the block at the start. Once around the bend I realise that there is more light than usual, we can sort of see because of the glow of the glow-worms. In the main chamber I can see a glimmer of light through the narrow gap we squeeze through to get out. An amazing experience, swimming in this very dark chamber outlined in the glow of the glow-worms around the walls and overhead in the very narrow channel the water cut through this rock to eventually form the chamber eons ago.
To exit we need to swim over to the gap, scramble up over a boulder (very slim canyoners can slide through beside the rock) then duck down into the slightly wider way out. Somehow I managed to get stuck up too high and need to take my hard hat off before exiting feet first which was not easy, the others do much better than me and come through head first.
The next abseil is the "pussy in the well" where we drop the rope down through a hole in the creek floor beside a large chock stone. Once through the hole your free fall into a delightful vaulted chamber, with an underground waterfall to our right at the very end. The sculptured shape of the rock combine with its delightful orange colour, the subdued light and the waterfall behind us make a very special place. This special place continues down stream, down the hand over hand and along to where you eventually can just see the Bungleboori Canyon through the slit ahead of us. I need to sit down to slide through this slit because it is too tight a squeeze for my waist, chest and head. The first time I saw this was 12 – 15 years ago on a trip with Canberra Bushwalkers. We were moving upstream in the Bungleboori and having lunch on a rock ledge above the water, when we heard squeals and voices, then canyoners popped out of the hole in the wall right opposite us. I didn't know it existed before that – of course we did it next day and it has remained one of my favourites since. This is Annas' first canyon, what a way to go :-)
We wade, swim and rock hop, upstream in the Bungleboori to the exit point. Then lunched sitting on the rock platform, in the warm sunshine enjoying the antics of the local water dragons. Including one which uses Dugs foot as a high vantage point. One other has grown larger than usual on the good tucker provided by lunching canyoners over the years, glad he didn't need to use the foot. We decide to forgo doing Banks Canyon today in favour of Sheep Dip, as all the photo stops have made us a little later than usual.
The walk out takes less than two hours which is pleasing to me as it indicates I'm getting my fitness back. Keep it up boy!
The drive over to Rocky Creek car park is uneventful, if a bit bumpy and we arrive about 5pm, in time to meet a party coming out of the bush, obviously they lost the normal out track. But they did find the exit up the 5m aluminium ladder that one of the adventure companies use to add a little extra for their clients :-) Ian and Anna head off, I decide to take it easy and get camp ready back at the long paddock.
There is no one else at this normally popular camping spot in the bush and I pick the location to best suit our needs, set up my fly as a place to sit dry in case we do get a thunderstorm. My next chore is to collect wood for the cooking fire, (I said it was a popular camping spot, hence no wood lying about). Just as well to, because I found I had run out of gas for my stove. The others return about 7:30 Anna glowing about the experience; Sheep Dip really is a great trip.
A pleasant evening cooking, eating diner, chatting and enjoying the ambiance. Gradually the stars begin to show and the wind drops, it looks like a pleasant night. We all retire early to aim for an early start tomorrow.
Tuesday New Years Eave.
As expected, a pleasant night and great looking day, we busy ourselves early breaking camp and breakfasting. Away driving the short distance about 8am. We drop one car at the Rocky Creek car park and the other where we start walking from the Galah Mountain trail Junction. The old fire road is being decommissioned, so now we have a relatively narrow track. I have done this walk to Breakfast Creek Canyon many times so am not paying particular attention to the rout. Again this is lovely forest to walk through with wild flowers, colourful birds, insects and fungi to keep our interest. Of course because of my inattention, we need to zig zag a bit to confirm the correct place to leave the trail, still we find the tree with the selection of slings used for the first abseil into the amphitheatre formed by a creek junction by a big overhang. Only about 12m and no problems, the next abseil is at a small waterfall at the creek junction into the cave, about 8m somewhat slippery. A pleasant spot with the creek running in its sandy bed, around the base of the cliff of the cave to form a semicircle, large tree ferns and other ferns.
We wander down stream in this enchanted place formed where three side creeks join to make a broad valley with cliff sides. Mixed rainforest and fern vegetation. A few 100m along the creek takes a right bend and descends over slippery rock into the "St Paul's Cathedral" cave, only a trickle of water but damn slippery. We all use a fallen log to negotiate the top part, then a mixture of bum slide and very careful footwork to get to the base. This is a great rock formation, so of course the cameras are out.
Progress, pleasant, sometimes in constrictions, sometimes in open forest, sometimes over boulders, anything for variety. Then we come to the tree with a sling in a narrow section only about 5m to the stone creek bed below, that disappears down a narrow waterfall chute just ahead. I know we need both 30m ropes here because we must abseil down the waterfall. I also surprise the others by appearing below them on the stone creek bed after disappearing into a hole between the boulders. This waterfall is a delightful narrow slot down about 20m to a vaulted chamber that seems underground. Both Ian and Anna who have not been here before love it. The canyon continues along and down in this narrow form to just before Rocky Creek. Where we use three different ways to overcome the last obstacle. Anna crawled through a low overhang and scramble down, I abseil about 4m from a convenient rock, Ian crawled through a hole that takes him below the boulder I abseiled off (after I did a bit of gardening first).
Rocky Creek is a delightful stream of clear water flowing over sandy bed or rocks, in a valley, full of rain forest, ferns and tree ferns, formed between tall towering sculptured cliffs. We found a delightful place to lunch in the sun, enjoying the ambiance.
We enjoy our walk up this creek sometimes in the water sometimes on the bank, what a place to be. About 4pm we arrive at the right angle bend that signals the start of the Rocky Creek Canyon and rug up in our wetsuits again for the possibly cold water in the long pools. This is a magnificent place the first section of our walk/wade/swim through long pools between very tall narrow cliffs that curl in to hide the light above us. Just occasionally a sun beam shines through to add a flash of brightness in the cathederial gloom. We all love it, especially since many of the swims I was expecting are just wades. Then round the corner into the big pool with a rock slab above, we must scramble up. Of course then came the mandatory slides and jumps accompanied with laughter as ever.
The water flow is not too severe and there are no problems scrambling up the small waterfalls, helped in this instance by providentially positioned logs. Then at the final 3m waterfall we show Anna the small narrow tubular chamber we scramble to get to the rock platform, she does smile.
We doff wetsuits and ready for the final walk out up the beautiful rainforest canyon, up to the Tree Fern Gully and then the steep eroded track out. Back to the cars by 6pm a delightful day. Anna and Ian are pleased we did this trip, and so am I even though I have done it many times before.
We drive off to seek our enjoyment for New Years Eave, Ian Anna to Sydney, me to Newcastle. As It turned out I didn't get home till 11:20pm, so by the time I had a bath, I just had time to get a light beer and sit in a chair by the front veranda to watch the calibrations else where around me.
A great trip with great company. Thank you Ian and Anna. Till next time. Copyright © Dug Floyd January 2009.