Rocky Waterholes Creek - Nattai River, via Starlight's Track. (25/26 April 2010)

Sub Title : - Rocky Horror Show Creek!!


Hill Top 1:25000


Monika, Daenam, Dug

Nattai River.  Pic by Dug


The Nattai is a spectacular deep river valley with long cliff walls, beautiful to see but in places difficult to get up or down. The map indicates Waterhole Creek is an equally as impressive, with tall cliffs either side and few indications of exits. Monika attempted to enter the creek from a side creek 15 or so years ago but their party was blocked by a 50m waterfall. This is her chance to right that. Some trip notes by a ANU group a few years ago indicate that they had very slow going due to scrub and boulders. In the end that party exited on the wrong side, which resulted in them being benighted and a long walk to the cars.

Starlight's Track is a popular way down to the river to camp on the wide grassy flats, or start an adventure, such as this walk, or walk to Katoomba over several days, etc.


Daenam and I were able to sleep at the "Mittagong SES shed" after the Joadja rogain, which was handy as it rained and we were to meet Monika at the bakery at 7:30. Thank you SES and Jim.

Freshly showered and breakfasted we met Monika at the bakery ready for the short drive to Wattle Ridge carpark to start walking. Our aim was to reduce weight of packs so we shared gear as much as possible. Monika took her ultra light fly and 20m of climbing rope (the exit was an unknown and may require climbing short pitches to get out). I took some tape for improvised harness and gear to belay or prussic, plus my sinylon poncho that doubles as a hoochy fly, and a stove.

Russel's Needle from Starlight Track. Pic by Dug A beautiful day despite the forecast of showers and the showers of yesterday and last night. The track is easy to follow and mostly relatively smooth. At first we were on the plateau wandering along in the shade of the stunted trees, listening to the birds and admiring the wild flowers. Then we entered the long gully the track descends to the Nattai, gently at first then steeply down a spur nose to the River flats. The tree cover in the gully is much taller due to the wetter terrain and there are some more scrubby patches. The flowers and ever-changing vegetation still please the eye, as do the birds. The bird song and other soft bush sounds delight the ear.

As we descend along the track, the cliffs on each side and ahead become more apparent, each taller than the last. Subdued sand stone coloured sand stone cliffs, then valley slopes, covered in Australian green down to the watercourses. We love this scenery, the autumn sun and air so clean and clear that we can see forever. The warm air and gentle breezes pamper the skin. As the track steepenes we get wider views of the Nattai with its cliffs, valleys and flats.

Just over there is Russel's Needle, a pointy rock atop a tall spur that we used as a 100 point control in the Wangandery Navshield several years ago. We got to see and feel a lot of this county during the course setting for that event (in fact the map that Daenam is using today has the course marked on it from my time helping).

We are down on the flat beside the river by 11:00. A large grassed area beneath big shade trees, this has been used for camping often. A strange lot of campers though.They have left their rubbish lying about. A delightful camp spot has lost some of its appeal. A big pile of dead coals and ash complete with an accompanying pile of tins, foil marks one fire place. Strangely someone has tried to burn one of those small gas canisters. Weren't they lucky it didn't explode - a camp-site IED. I suppose from another point of view if it had exploded the Darwinian awards would have been working. Someone has lugged a cast iron stand down here presumably to use for cooking and it has a number of unopened tins covered by a plastic container on top????. (It is also possible this area was homesteaded in the past and the stand was part of the furniture.) Time for a water - nibble stop before we mosey off upstream to our destination side creek.

A most lovely natural place Russel's Neddle from Nattai.  Pic by Dug. with tall trees surrounded by enormous cliffs, is part of our scenery as we find our way west, on the river banks. We have noticed sets of blue and sets of yellow markers on trees probably indicating routes, but make no attempt to follow. We find mostly open easy walking on level river banks but occasionally the steep contour scrub bash around a bend. The river itself is a series of long wide pools separated by rocky narrows. Water flow is very gentle. Some pools are covered in water week others clear, but I would be reluctant to drink from the River, although the side creeks would probably be ok.

By 13:00 we were beside the Rocky Waterhole Creek where it parallels the Nattai and stopped for lunch in a nice flat, grassy area, enjoying the warm April sunshine. This would make a good place to camp, but heeding the report of slow going up the creek, our aim is to get upstream as far as we can. The aim is to find an acceptable camp spot. The map suggests we should find something flat enough amongst the rocks a bit over a km further up, even though the creek system does narrow and become steeper, the further we go.

The first half km or so is flat river bank similar to that we have been walking, but it does get a little more scrubby. From there on the valley closes in and the scrub is much thicker. We try walking the creek where it is open rock hoppy, and on the valley side where they are less steep. It doesn't matter where we try, we find the going annoyingly slow. We find that we can judge possible camping sites by studying the trees, where there is a stand of similar trees, acacias, gums, etc, there is often enough flat ground to set up a couple of flys. Eventually at about 15:45, we say this will do, on a patch of creek with sandy patches between boulders. We have travelled a little over 1 km in 2 1/2 hours - not quick going by any means.

With a little gardening and landscaping we soon have enough clear level space for the bigger sinylon fly, my smaller hoochy fly and a good cooking fire. We fuss about for a while before setting up camp, scrambling up higher to spy the lay of the land ahead. All looks good, though still scrubby and rocky. Then we settle down producing hot drinks to rehydrate and revitalise, before, each of us prepares our own meals on the fire or the stove. I have used my titanium billy set on a cooking fire before but Monika prefers to keep hers nice and silver by heating on the gas stove.

Cooking in camp.  Pic by Dug A great evening, a lovely purple sunset glimpsed between the trees and cliff lines, followed by a 1/3 moon and stars lighting our slice of paradise. We do get a splash of moisture from time to time, as it thinks about raining, but the clouds don't suggest much. Just as we slower ones are finishing our meal we get 10 minutes of drizzle necessitating, rain coats or a retreat to the fly. My poncho is set up as a small fly to sleep under so I cannot wear it without the sleeping gear getting damp (-:    There wasn't enough rain to prevent us returning to the fire for after dinner hot drinks. Our rock seats were still dry enough to sit on, as we sipped tea or milo and told tales tall and true.


It did rain for a while after we had retired to warm sleeping bags for the night. Drat this will make the scrub and hence us, wet to walk through in the morning, already slippery rocks will be slipperier. The temperature had dropped significantly by morning. The added coolth with the slow lightening of sky due to our high valley walls meant that there was no rush to arise with first light. Despite the lethargy, we were still away by 8am, after returning our camp space back to as close to original as we could. I doubt that many people will recognise it as disturbed a month from now.

The Valley is closing into a canyon now with tall cliffs towering above us on each side. A spectacular place, in the early morning sunshine. The going was slow yesterday, it hasn't improved today. Damp scrub, thick on the banks, and big boulders to scramble, up, over, through, down, under, any way on in the watercourse, make for even slower going. About 09:30 we stop for a drink and to assess progress. We have traveled 3/4 km in hour and half, mmmmmmmm. We don't have a confirmed exit point from the canyon, but our best guess is a spur down to the creek 700 m ahead, if not there then a side creek 1.5 km further on, MMMMmmmmmM.

I reluctantly say "the best option is to back track and return via the Starlight Track, especially as Monika needs to be in Canberra tonight". The others reluctantly agree, so we turn back. We know the creek is slow and think that possibly higher on the valley wall may be quicker. Well it was worth a try. We eventually got back to last night's camp spot in about the same time. So we return to the creek to try and follow out up track mmmm, then we tried the opposite bank. Rocky Waterhole Canyon.  Pic by Dug

About 11:30 we were sitting in the sun enjoying a drink and a nibble when we become aware of another party on the bank above us. This is a group of 4 rogainers, including Alexa, the association president, (and as I found out later the winner of the 12 hour rogain). Their aim is similar to what ours was, walk up the creek to an exit they have been told of about, (where the map had suggested to us). They started after us yesterday and camped on the flat river bank down by the junction. They have taken a similar time to us to travel up to here but they are younger, more agile and fitter than me, so they should make it, ok.

We continued on our way back (I was too knackered to think of going back that way again). We soon reached the open river bank and continued on, this time purposely trying to follow the track markers. There was often a vestige of a walking pad which made travel quicker. At the flat below the Starlight Track by 14:20, much quicker than yesterday. I was definitely "running out of petrol" on the last little stretch and needed a short break before attempting the 400m height gain of the way out.

Today is similar to yesterday bright April sunshine, an occasional slight cool breeze. The walking very pleasant in magnificent scenery, a different way to yesterday, so new scenery to admire. Monika and Daenam dash on up the track, while I plod my way slowly upwards. At the top of the steep bit I felt a brief burst of renewed energy, before plodding on. I was still enthralled by the ever changing scene, cliffs and valley, different trees, different shrubs, constantly changing beautiful colourful flowers, brightly feathered parrots, weather sculptured rocks covered in patterned mosses. One large boulder beside the track with the centre eaten away leaving only a hard shell, had a window in the far side allowed us to see right through. A mini natural arch you might say!

All good things have to end eventually and I reached the road at the end of the track where the other two were waiting. From here only three km up hill and down dale to the cars. We reached the cars about 17:15 still in daylight! Now for a quick splash of water and soap to clean up and change our smell a little. The four rogainers were not back, so it looks like our choice was the right one, in the end. Now it is only a four hour drive for each of us back home.

The other four didn't get out to the car till after 19:00, after a slow trip. They didn't reach the exit spur till 15:30, so the going got even slower in the creek after we stopped. They found the way up the spur somewhat "hairy" so I wouldn't have liked that either. The way across the top back to the car must have been slow too, and remember these guys are good rogainers used to navigating in the dark of night.

Thank you, Monika and Daenam, a great tip.  It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time, when we go in by the exit trail?  Copyright Dug Floyd April 2010.


Butterfly just emerging.  Pic by Dug Starlight Track.  Pic bt Dug

Daenam, start descent Starlight Track, Nattai Cliffs in background.

Rocky Waterholes Creek. Pic by Dug Mossy Rocks.  Pic by Dug
Daenam and Monika Rocky Waterhole ck. Pic by Dug Cooking fire preparation. Pic by Dug

Preparing a cooking fire and clearing a space all in one.

Cooking fire preparation. Pic by Dug

Cooking fire burning down, preparing coals.

Cooking fire. Pic by Dug

Pleanty of coals now, ready to cook on.

Daenam in Rocky Waterhole Creek.  Pic by dug. Rocky Waterholes Creek.  Pic by Dug

Tis somewhat scruby up here!!.

Rocky Waterhole Creek, Cascade.  Pic by Dug Rocky Waterholes Creek.  Pic by Dug
Camp fire pic by dug

Good cooking fire now!!.