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Wollangambe One and Two 17/18 Jan 2004

Party:-

Alan, Tom, Hugh L, Warren, Eowyn, Fayja L, Daryl W, Dug F, Bill R.

The Wollangambe one and two Canyons lilo trips are two of the classic NBC walks that seem to have dropped off the walks program in the past few years.  I’m not sure why since they really are wonderful trips that anyone should be able to do.  We had kids 9, 10 , 11 on this trip and they loved it.  Everyone I  know who has done these walks loves them they are such unique lovely places.  Mt Wilson is a great place to visit and car camping is very civilised at the Cathedral Camping Ground.  Some people prefer to do some of the lovely short walks in the area or visit the many gardens on one of the days. 

The weather forecast for this weekend was foul but I believed it would be ok at Mt Wilson because it is in a rain shadow from the west.  They had floods at Tamworth, snow in the Snowy and beaut sunny weather on the Wollangambe.  This is about the 8th weekend in a row that the forecast has been crook but my trips were ok (although I must admit it didn’t look all that ‘cool’ early in the night with misty rain falling until the south westerly changed arrived and cleared the mist, it was still overcast though).  Eowyn, Warren and I slept on the floor of the shelter shed, Fayja and Daryl slept in cars, and only Alan and the boys slept in a tent.

Wollangambe One:-

eight of us waited until the cloud lifted before starting.  We drove to the fire-shed to keep the walk as short as possible for the kids.  There is a well defined track to the lilo start on the river.  First you walk through tall lush forest on the basaltic soil of Mt Wilson, this gradually gives way to the typical sandstone ridge vegetation of the Blue Mountains and finally a delightful rainforest gully down to the river.  Near the end the track does tend to divide and then split again but most people end up on the cliff edge overlooking the Wollangambe for the view and then follow the top of the gully back to where they can get in easily.

On the yellow river sand bed, flanked by tall colourful sandstone cliff and blue blue sky above, to admire the scene, before starting to blow up the airbeds – by mouth as no one had brought a pump.  Water level still lower than last year despite the recent rains.  The soil is so dry it just soaks up all the moisture.  Into wetsuits or thermals and were away just after 11am.  Lots of laughter and merriment as first timers work out how to ride their new conveyances.  I sit propped up by my backpack (full of emergency gear and food), others lay face down and paddle like a surf board, yet others lay crossways and paddle and kick for propulsion.  We have a variety of lilos some better than others.  Mine is the single cell box design that I used for the 8 day trip, this is good for my weight, there are several that have rounded tubes in one chamber and a separate pillow, these are good for the kids and smaller people (Warren bought 2 new ones at coast camping – they both leak slightly, so he needed to blow them up every 20 min or so), Daryl and Alan end up on low cost blue coloured plastic design that require each tube to be blown up separately – a good idea you may think – but they are hard to inflate or let down due to a one-way valve and they are too small making them difficult to stay on (infact you seem to be mostly submerged).  Still before long everyone is doing well and we make good progress along the first long narrow length of river.

At the first jump spot Tom climbs up and goes first , then Hugh, Eowyn gets up but finds it very high – then leaps.  Eventually Fayja joins them as they stand on the edge again, she waits for quite a while before making the leap, plummeting 4m or so into the deep green river – good on her.  Noisy laughing place, the Wollangambe really is a wonderful creek, water nearly as sparkling as 2 weeks ago, cliffs and vegetation always a joy, blue warm sky above.  Nice to see the lilos spread out paddling erratically along, kids being kids racing or tormenting each other either laughing or squabbling.  All of us enjoy the spirit of place.

The blockups are a feature of these rivers and add to the challenge of keeping going.  Boulders, smaller rounded stones, small trees, you battle, through over under round through any which way but always on.  You empty the water out of your pack (by bending over), carry your lilo or throw your lilo or pass your lilo anything to keep going as easily as you can.  Some time there is enough water to ride the rapids.

Whoppety Whoppety Whoppety, oh oh I’m not sure I like that sound in a canyon, there was a rescue here last week and it sounds like another somewhere down towards Serendipity.  Later at the exit we can hear the helicopter hovering again this time for quite some time, only a few 100m downstream.

The jumps keep coming soon some of the kids are diving in off things into deep water they found too high to jump a short time ago.  Where the tree log is wedged the whole width of the canyon 4m up, the kids rush up and walk out into the middle before jumping or diving as is there want.

Eventually all good things come to an end and we change into dry clothes and pack away wet suits and deflated lilos to climb out.  A party of 8 Sydney Bushwalkers, 6 women in there late twenties and two older leaders, catch up with us while we change.  They enjoyed the canyon too.  There is a scramble that worried me first time I did it years ago but “it is easy, there is a tree root each time you need a handhold or foot hold”.  That’s the way it is no problems here at all.  I must admit there was a bit of a pout and a dropped bottom lip from a kid or two about walking up hill with a pack but we all make it back to the cars – well done everyone. 

As we exit a man passes us hurrying towards the canyon and we recognise each other having met in passing last weekend in Rocky Creek.  We hear the story about the helicopter.  He was leading a party of Coast and Mountain Walkers down Wollangambe Two and a lady fall and damaged here ribs at the awkward climb down, at the water fall, just down stream from the start.  Alan has exited to phone for a care flight from the fire-station and is now on his way back to guide the party out.  They thought it better to get a helicopter in even though the casualty wanted to walk out because of the slight possibility of further injury (for instance if she had a broken rib which might puncture a lung when she started to breath hard on the climb out).

Brilliant starry night, we all eat well and chat round the fire of wood we brought with us.  Bill Rose has come up on speck today to join us tomorrow.  We are joined round the fire by two groups from Canberra one doing Claustral Canyon tomorrow the others Butter-box Canyon.  Alan and the boys leave for a family appointment in Sydney.  Warren and the girls are keen to get down to the Snowy so they leave in the morning. 

Wollangambe Two:-

Pleasant night for every one, especially Daryl who sleeps in his car but now has much more room after I show him how to rearrange his seats.  We leave at eight o’clock in brilliant sunshine, walking from the camp ground through the magnificent forest that gradually changes to sandstone ridge vegetation as we follow the “new” Serendipity Canyon exit track into the Wollangambe.  This is just down stream of the water fall with the awkward climb down (the river level is too low to jump safely where we normally would).  I start the Wollangambe Two with a 4m jump, Daryl climbs in, Bill slips and falls 1m in.  Just round the bend is the Serendipity Canyon exit – very imposing.  Daryl remembers it from when he did Serendipity with a commercial group a couple of years ago.

Wollangambe Two is even better than One in my book, the pools are longer and the cliffs taller with some spectacular water sculptured effects.  The swirling water reflections casting ever changing patterns of light and shadow over the cliff faces.  At the Whungee-Wheengee exit we catch site of another group just moving off on lilos.  I lead the way up into the ‘green room’ – part of the Whungee-Wheengee Canyon, Daryl and Bill are amazed this is such a special place.  We continue on past the Waterfall of Moss Canyon (not much moss on the waterfall nowadays) to the exit point by 12pm.  The party we saw before have done Serendipity Canyon and overnighted in the camping cave by the exit.  I’m not sure I would encourage people to do that because of the fragile nature of canyons and the lack of toilet suitable places.  Daryl can’t find his keys and thinks he may have dropped them as we morning teaed at the Whungee-Wheengee exit.  So he backtracks without a lilo or pack, it took us ¾ hour to do this trip so I’m more than impressed when he gets back just over half an hour later, unfortunately still sans keys.

The way out is a little longer than yesterday and Bill says he found it hard; “that’s no problem take your own time, there is no hurry”.  But really he had no trouble keeping up and certainly wasn’t breathing heavily, well done.

Thank you everyone for a beaut weekend.  I enjoyed your company and as always I really did enjoy what the Australian Bush has to offer for the little explorer.    © Copyright 2004 Dug Floyd

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