It was raining and cold when we picked up Helen in Swansea. Not an auspicious start one would tend to think! Luckily it was dry just down the road and we could see 8/8th stars by the time we reached Sydney. Looking better!
We met all the others at the Pizza Palace in Richmond. It is a long time since I have congregated with such a big group here and it was pleasant. In the 70s and 80s NBC would meet here regularly when heading for the Blue Mountains. I like the authentic, home grown pizza, prepared by the descendents of an Italian Migrant family - 3rd or 4th generation working here now.
By the time we got to the tops of Bell Line Of Road we were continually in and out of mist. Not a good sign! We followed each other along the mysterious tracks on the Newns Plateau until we found a suitable place to camp for the night. An area chopped up by quad bikes leaving a flat sandy bed just off the road, see they are useful after all. Still misty as we set up shelters. Some made do with a tarp tied to the car (Theo, Lisa, Steve), or rain coats (Daenam), Ian, Charmain and Helen put up tents, I slept in the vehicle
A pleasant night for most, although Lisa, Steve and Theo were dripped on. Clear sunny morning, looking good. We divined our way through the maze of tracks, 12 km or so, to the end of the chosen track. Ian chose to leave his 2wd Camrey part way as he found it too rough, luckily there was plenty of room for us all in the Forester and Honda. We parked in the rough parking area (AGD66, 498 950). Just before the track barrier - well where the track barrier used to be!
A beaut sunny day as we follow the rough track se along the ridge that will lead us to the Wollangambe River. This is pagoda country so the views are always fascinating. Pagodas are strange rock formations that look just like the Pagodas and Gompas built by Himalayan Buddhists, rounded and split into strange shapes by weather and time. The flowers and plants of these sandstone ridges are also fascinating, beautiful colours, prehistoric looking, and a food source that attracts bird life. We see lots of brightly coloured parrots, finches, tits and butcher birds, some have delightful calls others tend to sound screechy, but hey!!
Theo is a non ending wealth of knowledge about the birds and plants we see, ably supported by Charmain and Ian who are arbourists. All happily pointing out this flower, that flower, that food plant, this tree as we pass amongst them.
Halfway along the ridge we walk over to a long rock platform to admire the cliff-line on the creek to our ne. There is a huge overhang and a number of narrow clefts - possibly short canyons - worth checking out some time. At the nose of the ridge we easily find the pass through the first cliff-line on the southwest corner. Remember "the nose always goes". "Well, mostly". This one became somewhat steep, Theo and Lisa easily found there way down here until it became somewhat cliffy! No problems my advice from people who had been here before, was sidle east. Which Steve and Daenam did to find a somewhat hairy way down via a convenient gully. (On our way out on Sunday, we worked out that we could have had an easier way if we had followed the base of the cliffs to the other side of the ridge and descended easily into that side creek.) On the way down a rather delightful pool appeared below us in the Wollangambe, clean cream sand, clear bluish water, green green vegetation.
The Wollangambe Valley just here is somewhat scrubby with lots of boulders to negotiate (or pools for Theo to freeze in). We stopped in a lovely sunny spot for morning tea and a swim for Theo as usual, of course. Soon after we set out again Charmain told me that she was having difficulty with her knees in this rough terrain due to pack weight. I had noticed Charmain was having slight difficulties on the steep slope, getting down here. This is the roughest part of the trip but it won't get smooth enough to ensure no strains. So Chamain, Ian and Dug decide to camp here, while the others five go on to the Crater; planning to be back here by 10:00 tomorrow morning.
We three scout around to see if we can find a nice overhang for the night. We explored the cliff-lines around us in the Wollangambe and up the north-south flowing side creek. We found lots of scrub of the corral fern and bracken fern type - mixed with sticks of course. We found a stack of fire wood in a small overhang about head height, ready for a rainy day camp. The ground was flat just here, but just to scrubby to bother camping, so we looked on. Just around the tight bend in the river we found a splendid overhang just right for our party, with water splashing past right at the door. A little further searching revealed a nice flat amongst the vegetation, where we could enjoy the sky above. All of the other overhangs we found, were thought wanting, in one way or other. In the end we opted for the flat area so we can see the stars tonight between the trees, (well, we can hope).
After setting up camp and eating lunch we set out to explore a bit more without packs. We found a convenient gully nearby that gave easy access to the slopes above. A fascinating place with strange rock formations and easy walking. We took our time exploring and eventually reach the top of the ridge from where we can study the slopes of the ridge we used to get here searching for easy ways out. There seems an easy way up. Looking to the other side of this ridge we can see the gap formed by Wollangambe crater, but vegetation prevents a view of the crater itself. On the way back we looked for a partially collapsed overhang that we noticed while walking up, but cannot locate it, - possibly an optical illusion.
Back in camp we lit a cooking fire so we would have the glowing embers we needed to prepare the evening meal properly. Out came the happy hour snack, I had prepared avocado dip with crackers for the trip. Enough for eight, so we will need to nibble well. A pleasant evening turning gradually to night, it will be an hour or so before we can see the near full moon because this valley is so deep. A conveniently located log provides a good seat to sit and chat as we quaff copious cups of tea or coffee depending on taste, as we firstly cook and then eat dinner. Very peaceful with just the gurgle of the creek to keep us company. After we snuggled into sleeping bags for the night there was an almighty boom in the distance, I assume mine blasting, then quiet reigned again. I did get a nocturnal visit from a bilby that bounced of my sleeping bag and raced away around the fire when I stirred.
A pleasant night tending to the cool side later, so I made sure to keep the fire going to add that slight extra warmth. A slow start for the morning as the others won't be here till around 10:00. Strangely there wasn't the usual dawn bird chorus, just a few bird calls and it seems quieter than I would expect, after all Australia is the land of the birds. We do hear one lyre bird pretending to be a wattle bird, and a few chirps and cheeps, but that is it. Luckily the fire has kept the area dry so Charmain's and Ian's tent is dry to pack.
Right on time we can hear chatter from above and the others emerge from the wilderness down the gully we used yesterday. They have had a good trip. They were at the crater around lunch time yesterday and then went on to explore the Wollangambe downstream where it becomes a constricted canyon, with high cliffs as shown on the map. They were able to set up a great camp amongst the tall trees on a river flat.
The way back, up the ridge from this east side proved to be very easy. Just an easy scramble up to base of the cliff line. Then wandered along the cliff base a half km or so, to where the cliffs stopped and we simply walked up. On the way along the more adventurous found their way through a tight slit between a boulder and the cliff, while others skirted through the scrub. Helen and Lisa simply walked through grinning from ear to ear, while some of the larger bodies had to take packs off and wriggle.
Lunch on a rocky spot with lots of improvised seats, looking out over the expanse of forest, cliff-lines and pagodas, lovely. The map doesn't show anywhere near enough cliffs, we can see them everywhere. I guess that is partly due to the 20m contour lines on the map. But some of these cliffs are 60 meters or more and we feel should show.
Thank you, Charmain, Ian, Helen, Theo, Lisa, Steve, Daenam, a great tip. It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time (we have half a plan to repeat this part of the trip next summer, but to then continue on down the Wollangambe to Mt Wilson by lilo). Copyright Dug Floyd January 2010.
Crossing the Wollangambe, not much water here.
Black bottle brush flower.
Ridge on the way out.