Cold, Wet and Blowy by the Sea, BUT, Perfect at Deans Siding.

(Tiger Snake, Glow-worm Tunnel, River Caves Oct 4/5 2003)


Allan, Dug.

Nine were booked to go but then the emails came in cancelling four.  The weather forecasts were for terrible weather.  Guess what, I knew better and expected it to be good on the other side of the rage.  Allan and I arrived just after nine and set up camp in the long paddock all by our selves. The weather on the coast was terrible (I am reliably told) but here it is great.  A pleasant if cool night and delightful sunrise.  Clear skies, a symphony of bird calls, crisp clean air, great to be alive.  The “cool” bush fires last year have cleaned up the trash scrub and left a nice clear green area, with the tree canopy intact. 

Gentle, slow, easy start today as the others are not due at the cross roads until 8am.  We drive up early and stand around in the sun waiting and waiting.  I chatted with the party of 4, camped 100m down the off side of the double road.  They are taking their time and thinking what to do.  They might do Tiger Snake too.  By 8:35 we decide to get going and drive on past Deans Siding to The Old Coach Road, park and are walking before 9am.  The bush is brilliant today, air so fresh that each lung full is zesty.  The track is easy to follow, pretty spring flowers adorn the way making each meter we pass a new joy.  There are amazing sandstone pagodas and the tall cliffs in the distance a wonderful place and a great time to be here.

I am always impressed that Tiger Snake canyon was found in the first place and navigated to at all, before the access track formed.  There is very little to indicate a water course most of the way, in and out of the pagodas and then just a narrow slot in the rock with a trickle of water.  Allan has read the book but is still dumbfounded when he first sees the way ahead.  We don harnesses, wrap a rope around the horizontal tree trunk, toss it down into the darkness, clip on and straddle back along the crack of rock until it becomes wide enough to wriggle down, some how.  This is awkward whether you scramble down or abseil and if you misjudge, you end up in the deeper pool of, ever so cold water.  The ankle deep water of the stream is very cold anyway and so is the air, just here.  A few meters on we come to a fence of logs and old slings formed across the canyon as an anchor point, some cleaver person has removed the bolt leaving a gaping hole in the rock because they think these log look more natural.  They don’t look natural and surely don’t make a safe anchor.  Despite this we manage and eventually emerge into the bright sunshine by the 17m waterfall abseil.  A great spot and a little awe inspiring for a first timer (and timid old hand).  Smoko in the sun, in the amphitheatre below the water fall.  Time for pictures – o, oh, no camera.  I must have left it when we got the harnesses and ropes out of the pack, but its ok, I’ll get on the way out!

We walk on and soon come to the narrow bit, first an abseil from a dicky log, the bolt is still in place but bent and it spins in my fingers (cleaver people making the canyon look more natural again).  Allan does not like this anchor at all, so I go first and we make it.  We take our packs of to squeeze through a couple of places and then climb down into the magnificent bell chamber with the natural arch.  This is really a jewel of a place to be.  It’s hard to believe the sculptured shape and nature of the sandstone cliffs only a few cm wide but many m high.  All too soon we emerge into the wider canyon still incredibly beautiful, long tall straight cliffs towering each side, tall stately coachwood and fern trees edging there way out of the boulders of the canyon floor, overhangs with wide sandy floors, long low overhangs where the water course goes on its way down and out to Deans Creek.  Allan is leading and doesn’t notice the signs, we have come too far (no defined track any more).  I think I can see a steep V gully to the right hand side.  As we scramble up the scree towards it, we cut a footpad track again, all is well.  We scramble up.  This rout is not the same as I used a few years ago but it is better.  A most pleasant end to a good canyon trip, pleasant bush and magnificent weather sculptured pagodas.  Off course I find my camera to make things better.

Lunch sitting on some warm rocks overlooking the cliffs of the Wolgan Valley, just over there.  We have decided to just do Glow-worm Tunnel for the afternoon.  It’s been a good morning and were both feeling lazy.  As usual the tunnel car-park is crammed but we manage to find one spot.  This is a pleasant drive and walk worth an excursion any time, in its own right.  The floor of the tunnel is rough in places but the approved adventure way is to walk through – NO TORCH.  Just keep your right hand touching the tunnel wall (but mind the “bolt holes” cut in the wall to protect workers  when a train was coming (not sure I’d have liked to be there – bit smoky one tends to think)).   Lots of glow worms but probably not as many as last time I was here.  We wander on through the tall Tree Ferns to see the Wolgan Valley, then back up the lovely walk through canyon that takes us back to the road.  Each bit of this worth a trip in its own right, I am sad for all you who couldn’t come on this walk to such a magic place.  Every one can do the Old Coach Road, to Wolgan Valley up the railway line and through the tunnel and when you do will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

Back at the camp for a comfortable afternoon tea with blue cheese and crackers, still the whole area just to ourselves.  No wind at all now, a very comfortable camp, birds with their evening chorus as we watch the sun disappear amongst the trees.  Gradually the night bird calls take over, Boo Book, Cooel and the rest, as be have dinner under the stars and are glad that Trevor has such a great night for his night walk to Burragurra. 

Coolish night gives way to the dawn bird song, a great place for birds right now.  Today a deviation from the published plan we go to see Tree Fern Gully and the start of Rocky Creek.  Last years fire on the plateau and ridges, down this way has been “very hot” completely burning all the vegetation and all the trees have only had time to sprout from the main trunks.  Very beautiful to see, the renewal of the bush, the new leaf growth glinting crimson in the low morning sun or the green growth on the white sand soil, bush burned clear so you can see much further than normal. “There is a picture there somewhere if you can just frame it.”  I used to hate the look of burnt bush but now I see it as part of nature’s renewal, I can see the beauty.  It is a pity that our land management allows the fuel load to build up so high that the fires burn much too hot and destroy the crowns of the trees as well, but I guess its part of our psyche to fear fire and want to put it out too soon even in these remote areas.  In California, society has learned to allow the naturally occurring (mostly started by lightning strikes), slow burning, “cool” brush fires to do their thing, to clear the leaf litter and underbrush, as part of nature’s way. 

Luckily the fire has only singed the edges of the rain forest in the gullies.  Rocky Creek is great and much clicking of shutters records the view today.  River water is too cool by far, to contemplate continuing down stream, where you will need to swim and scramble and swim, so we backtrack and exit up Tree Fern Gully.  Another magic place, tall straight giant Coachwood trees, majestic crowned tree ferns, easy walking on the black sandy soil, protected on each side by imposing high cliffs.  Too soon back to the car, for the drive over to The Natural Bridge.

The Mount Cameron fire trail has a barricade just before Natural Bridge (which is just a narrow saddle on a wider ridge) where we park, to walk on 200m before dropping into the gully.  The fire has cleared the underbrush so we have easy walking down to the creek junction where we walk up stream into River Caves Canyon.  Lots of flat sandy-floored caves on the way to investigate for ancestral markings.  This is an easy walk through section, you do get your feet wet and the water is quite cool but it is well worth it.  Incredible narrow, tall straight, parallel cliffs disappearing up above you.  Undercut by amazing caves and overhangs, gentle sandy creek bed to walk on, the occasional short rock hop for variety.  Quiet, just the singing of the water.  Allan is amazed to find such a place, so easily accessible.  On the way back to the car I spy three blue parrot feathers lying on the ground and picks them up.  Allan then points out the bower that I missed.  I have seen this before one bower bird makes a bower with a collection of blue articles; a rival comes along and scatters the blue, stealing the choice bits. A comfortable lunch, sitting in the warm sun beside the car views all around.  Again another highly recommended little trip, you’ll be glad when you do come here.

We forego Deep Pass in favour of looking for waratahs on Carmarthen Ridge near Mt Banks.  The wild flowers are just as wonderful as last week but no waratahs - a