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Rocky Creek, Jan 2004

Party:-

  Margaret, Libby, Dug


I trained to Sydney to meet the other walkers and we drove up to the Newnes plateau via the Zig Zag Railway, on a lightly overcast Saturday morning.  The Rocky Creek car park was as full as I have ever seen it, just one spot left. I could see relief on two faces, “Oh, it can’t be all that bad, if all these people do the trip”.   The reputation of canyons creating that tinge of fear even though Libby has done Sheep Dip and Wollangambe One.  They know that there is no abseiling, or swift water, or really big jumps but for two mums who have done the Six Foot Track and parts of the Great North walk (and found them boring) this is a new possibly frightening adventure.  The convey of cars that had stopped us on the way in to ask the way arrived shortly after and had to park back a bit.  We changed into wet suits and loaded small day packs and my big pack (with all the safety gear) for the short walk to Sheep Dip canyon. 

Just a few meters down the old road from the car park we dropped into the delightful little gully on the right.  At the bottom is the aboriginal living cave with the small ochre wall paintings.  Last autumns bush fire, came through here and cleared the vex-some vegetation nicely.  We’re soon to where the cliffs close in and the fun begins.  First a series of water slides into pools each a little steeper and deeper than the last.  Then the delightful bell shaped overhang on a corner, onward through the tree fern filled sections.  Then the first jump, the looks of trepidation have return it’s only about 1.5m but “how deep is the water”, a number of parties have been through here before us and the water is quite stirred up and muddy.  I take the plunge as I’m confident that it is deep enough (if I wasn’t confident I would have climbed down and tested the depth and then gone back and jumped), the others sit on the edge and jump in “it doesn’t look as high sitting down”. 

The series of slippery dips and jumps continues in this fun little canyon, it is very pretty and worth a visit for that reason alone.  We catch up with a larger group making a video and photographic record of their exploits at one of the highest jump, bit over 2m.  First one goes, next to go a older female hesitates and then “the water is a bit shallow but its all right”, well meaning words from one of the girls below puts a complete end to her confidence.  I try and recover the situation and help by saying its ok I’ll show you how to jump shallow and walk past and jump, landing with my legs bent in a sitting position, my arms out at the side (I also have a big backpack on).  The water is much deeper than me so I’m not sure what the other girl was on about.  Libby and Margaret sit on the edge and jump, the last I see is that the lady still hasn’t gone and the party leader has climbed up to encourage. 

We swim across the pool hoist up onto the ledge and slippery water slide about 3m into the next pool.  Then we are at the last jump, this can look a little daunting as you jump 2m into a 3m round pool but you can see past the edge to the pool to a waterfall another 4m down, airy looking, but safe.  I stand and jump the others sit and jump (that’s what I did first time down, several years ago).  Then hand over hand down the fixed rope to the bottom, no problems to any one. 

We follow the rough walking track to the start of Rocky Creek Canyon, about 20 mins through a very nice series of  gullies, tall cliffs, big tree or tree ferns or hanging vines.  At the place where you scramble down the tree roots we meet an immaculate looking party returning. They have been down Rocky Creek and backtracked the canyon and changed into dry clothes.  A party of a father and two sons is just in front of us all the way.  I had intended to have lunch in the sunny  creek junction just at the start of the canyon but a big party lounging in the sun, having  just backtracked the canyon, dissuaded us from that.  I can see signes of mutiny from my party looking at the 3+m jump, but I quickly get over that by climbing down the hidden little hole.  A gem in its own right, in this sandstone country one of the erosion mechanisms is for boulders and grit to cut a cylindrical hole down in the rock by the swirling action of the water over the eons.  This one is just right, to scramble and chimney down (and hidden until your right on it). 

Margaret still looks worried “ is this fast running water, the running water is awful noisy”?  “No problems the water level is much lower than I’m used to”.  Another all female party has arrived coming back up the canyon, which probably restores confidence again.  I recognise one guide from my guiding days, they are a group of guides and prospectives on a familiarisation trip.  Before can we start another party comes back upstream.  It’s getting a little crowded and we move off  with a warning about the three snakes further down the canyon.  We pass another three parties coming back up all relay the warning about the snakes. 

This first section of Rocky Creek Canyon is a series of pools with water cascading into them, quite noisy and very pretty and you need to take care with the “light water” –  water with a lot of air bubbles that won’t support you..  We walk and jump and scramble and swim our way on, all enjoying ourselves, the water flow is less than I am used to.  The chasm is very pretty and very interesting.  At the sunny spot on the big bend with a big pool each side we enjoy ourselves slippery dipping and jumping. 

I mention that Rocky Creek has more rescues than all the other canyons put together many of them at this spot as people climb higher and higher up the cliffs to jump out into the pool until eventually they don’t reach the pool because it is too far.  Another reason is because Rocky Creek Canyon is regarded as “safe” many inexperienced people try and lead the trip.  That is ok if the whole party is fit and well co-ordinated, but the less fit and awkward need to be guided, the inexperienced guide isn’t aware enough of this.

We continue on down stream to the vaulted part of the canyon incredibly beautiful.  Again a little trepidation, where the big chock stone blocks the way and going round seems awfully dark, you can’t see ahead after the bright sun.  But no problems as soon as you’re in the shade you can see ahead.  Many of the long swim pools (50+m) are now only wades and there is a fair bit of smashed up fallen timber to negotiate.  This section in particular needs a good flush out, soon.  This tall vaulted chamber is incredibly lovely with it dark smooth water sculptured rock walls, it is a “green room” with that delightful subdued light.  Then the hanging garden of ferns and tree ferns each staking a claim to its own ledge on the tall cliffs.  We don’t see the snakes, probably not surprising considering the amount of traffic today. 

All too soon were out into Rocky Creek having finished this delightful canyon.  Another party is sunning themselves ready for the return up the canyon.  We chat for a while as we eat our delayed lunch in a wonderfully beautiful section of the creek.  That party leave and the father and sons team arrive and we chat some more.  Whungee Wheengee canyon comes up in the conversation and sadly we later find out a tourist dies there of a brain haemorrhage that day; then again what a way to go, Whungee Wheengee Canyon is really wonderful.

I have decided to walk on down stream to the other exit as this is a wonderful piece of creek for people who have never experienced a Wollami NP creek.  As we wander along we here talk and noises of clinking hardware, another party doing Coachwood Canyon.  They can’t be far up but we don’t see them. 

Libby recognises the “get out” gully on a sharp bend, which impresses me no end, many people would walk straight past.  Then up the gully, the scramble bit that makes for some comment but no problems for these two champion canyoners.  On the ridge, follow the very well defined track back to the road and eventually to the cars.  Again a lovely bushwalk on a defined track (just 5 or so weeks ago we couldn’t find the track all the way when we did Coachwood and Galah, shows how much traffic you get once the season starts.  At the cars the party who backtracked the canyon while we ate lunch are surprised that were out so soon (considering we stopped for lunch we have taken less time than them, which surprises me a little).  A good trip thank you for you for your great company.  Well done, in tackling an adventure you weren’t sure about to start with.  Until next weekend in Wollangambe.  © Copyright 2004 Dug Floyd

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