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Wild Bush Cherry

Wilderness Wollemi- where the wild bush cherries grow. (27th November to 1 December 2011)

Map:-

Six Brother, Wirraba, Mount Morgan 1:25000

Party:-

Grahame, Peter, Dug

Smiling from the start, pic by Dug

Introduction

I first began planning this trip 4 years ago, but then busted my ankle before I could go. A month or so ago after all my commitments to BWRS were met, for the time being,  I was looking for a walk and came back to this original plan. After checking it out again on paper, I advertised for starters, more than 8 put up their hand and I had to knock back a couple because NPWS sets a maximum party size of 8 for wilderness areas.

A week before the scheduled start a rain event set in and we spent time each day checking out the raising river level heights, not looking so good. But Grahame had booked his holidays and so was committed, Peter was still keen. We would try anyway and if we were stopped along the way then a exploring we would go.  Definitely an area new to us and most other people I suspect.

I picked the rout on the basis that I thought it may have served, as one of several parallel trading routes across the area. I was sure from past walks in the Wollemi that this was a very significant area for aboriginals, with a much larger population than the books would have us believe. We also know that the major creeks in the area were used as "highways", Caper tee, Colo, MacDonald, Wollombi, probably Wollemi and Girribung and others. Most people who cross east west, do so further north than our planned route. I have been told that there are remnant roads on the Wirraba/Wollemi Ranges, they are shown on the older maps. I'm not sure why bushwalkers would choose to road bash across all that way but they do!

Sunday Afternoon

Lovely views from the ridge tops and a beaut day too.

Colo River at Upper Colo was reported at 4.6m, Caper tee River at Glen Davis at 2.6m, Wollombi Brook at Brinkman's Bridge 4.1m. All we can hope is that the levels drop quickly, which they often do, but after a week of sometimes heavy rain, Mmmmm.

I picked Grahame at New Lambton about 13:00, Jim who is to be our driver at Buff Point 13:50, Oliver our co-driver at Gosford 14:10, and Peter at Hornsby Rail Station 15:30. We stopped at Windsor so Grahame could buy water and arrived at our drop off point at the elbow on the Putty Road few km past Mellong at about 18:20.

Still pleasant warm sunshine with the odd cloud to control temperatures. Fairly bushy here, where we stopped but the walking wasn't too bad. The first thing I notice was the number of flowering plants, lots of white everlasting daisies, some yellow ones as well, many lilac colour bush Irises, clumps of yellow wattle, small blue, pink or purple bulbs. Very nice to see. The second thing of note was the many more than usual food plants with a wide range of different sorts, this tends to confirm that this area was well used by aboriginals in the past. We saw many different types of gee bungs, broad leaf and narrow leaf tall, dwarf, stunted and tall; bush cherries, small purple apple berry, many tubers, and of course wood grubs if you know how to look. Grahame proved to be a wealth of knowledge about such things, quickly adding to my meager knowledge.

Our route was up a gentle spur then follows a windy ridge top, the views into the distance of rolling eucalypt forest, not a sign of white man. The going very easy and pleasant with little impeding scrub or terrain. At about 19:40 we stopped in a suitable location, to set up camp before dark. Pleasant flattish ridge top with plenty of flat places to lie out bedding. Lots of fallen branches to make the cooking fire, which soon burned down to the embers required for good cooking. Dinner out on a ridge top in the Australian Bush, nothing quite like it. No flies or mosquitoes to annoy us here tonight, no one else and nothing for miles to attract them here.

Monday

Crossing Mellong Ck was easy.  Pic by Dug

A good night under the stars for Peter and I while Grahame use his fly. Amazingly enough only few planes flew overhead. The bird dawn chorus are one the highlights of a trips in Australian Bush, for me.  This morning very subdued with only two birds off in the distance, welcoming the sun. Up early and away by 6:15. As we walk we notice a bloodwood tree that has the bark striped off on side, probably by black cockatoos digging out wood grubs. Mellong Creek was our first possible obstacle but this proved no problem at all, we simply walked across a level stone bar with only an inch or two of water running over. The walk up the spur and along the windy twisty ridge top, still good walking similar to the first bit. Not so much bush tucker on our final bit of ridge suggesting that this was a much less used rout of old.

The small side creek we were relying to get us down through the cliffs lining Wollemi Creek was steep with many small waterfalls and bluffs, as expected.  Normal creek in fact for this type of area, what GoogleEarth showed. Right at the bottom the last 4m looked to be a problem, but nowhere near as much a problem as the flooded creek just beyond. We can see from the debris on the bank that the water has been at least 3m higher recently, but it still looks to be 2m plus deep with a strong current. We could possibly cross but as Grahame and Peter are not strong swimmers, not safely. We don't have enough tape to make an angle line or a high line, nor any way of securely waterproofing our packs (left out in the interests of keeping pack weight down).

After some discussion we decide to stay the night and see what the water level is like in the morning. I showed Grahame how to abseil using a harness made from 4m of tape, and using a tape as a descent line, with a munter hitch on a carabineer as the descender. Graham declared this an excellent combination when down. He headed off to explore along the banks, to see if::- there was some place to cross Wollemi; if camping was suitable, and whether there was another way back up. He easily found a way back up, requiring just a hand line 20 or 30m upstream, but no nearby place to cross, camping would be ok. I marked the way to the small pass with a couple of cairns for future use. Just as well he found another way up as he didn't like prussicing on tape, (I have done so ok in the past), at a pinch we could have set up a haul system to help.

The boys enjoyed the water by the bank cooling off on what has turned out to be a hot day. Our plan is to camp overnight and check water level in the morning, if safe to cross then go on.  If not walk upstream to try and find a place to cross before lunch time, our cut off time. Or explore to find other ways into and out off the Wollemi for future reference.

Camping was adequate rather than luxurious with a place for a fire and cooking and three comfortable enough bed spaces on sandy patches. I wandered down stream a couple of 100m to check that out, but no way you cross safely today. Still the spur up the other side looks to go even, if a bit steep with many rock outcrops at first. I would judge this pass to our planned rout a goer, except for the water level. At normal times I would expect the creek to have a sand bed with only a few inches of water. I have often heard these creeks referred to as sandy highways. The sandpaper figs all along the banks would tend to support this theory.

We arrived here before noon, so had lots of time to laze around or explore. A very pleasant afternoon, in the sun, in the wilderness, no man made interventions anywhere. Still enjoying the absence of insects, especially no flies or mosquitoes.

That night I was just thinking to myself, it is a long time since I have been out of earshot of aircraft flight paths what a really unique experience in our age. When wouldn't you know it at about 21:45 rummble rummble, broom broom a bloody jet passed overhead. Wouldn't it be nice to have places where you couldn't hear aircraft flight paths, in a place you wanted to be that is. I often laugh at the holiday adverts for Hamilton Island - lovely place - BUT your right in the middle of a busy airport, planes, land and take of very close especially on some of the nearby Islands.

Tuesday

Wollemi Ck still too high.  Pic by Dug

Wollemi Creek Tuesday afternoon, perhaps it doesn't look too daunting,
But I judged it as not enough safety margin, so early in trip.

A very pleasant night indeed, warm, comfortable, quiet, serene, lovely scenery, gentle sound of nearby water rushing by. We all had good dinners, cooked in the open, with enough light provided by fresh sticks tossed on the embers. Some people don't like wood fires, because of the smoke and tars, but in my view we only change the time of it happening, because it WILL burn next bush fire, people or no people.

At very first light I checked out the water level, it had dropped 400mm or so but was still way too high to cross safely. The hoped for bird dawn chorus again very subdued although there here a couple of lyre bids about. A lazy start to the day was declared, we were away walking upstream by 09:15ish after firstly wandering down steam a way without packs. The going is quite slow as expected and as it is turning out hot.  We all take the opportunity to laze in the water. In my case because while sitting down discussing plans at a stop, I got a lot of burning bites about the bum, a similar feeling to green ants of fire ants. But there were none there and none of the plants we could see would have caused the problem. "Redback, ice pack " is Sheps first aid cry, so I sat in the to me cold water. While in the water it was ok but we couldn't stay all day here. Only thing to do keep walking to keep my mind off the pain.

The cliff lines on this side of the creek are quite broken in place, so there are many places you would get down after a mess-about. On the other western side very few places I could see were sensibly climbable. The square looking bends and straight section in between, looked likely, crossing places. The last bend was our target camp for today as it looked a likely place from the map. The walking all day was beautiful to look at but a bit of a chore to do and very slow. Lots of small overhangs, not really suitable to sleep in. Lots of small rocky outcrops, to scramble up, over, through, round intermingled with the solid awkwardly placed river scrub. Of course all the debris from past floods helped - not - too. Still a walk I'm glad I did but I hope not to repeat, Still many bush tucker plants and lovely flowers and colourful fungi.  Maybe if the creek was down and you walked in the creek bed:-) ?

The camp place proved suitable with a communal area for cooking and chatting and bed sites spread around. Grahame and Peter soon had a pile of drift wood blazing away to burn down to a cooking fire. We all settled down to, set up camp, chat and prepare to cook. A most pleasing place really and would be more so at lower water, bell birds ringing away all around us, the murmur of the passing stream. The water level here was now down to chest deep until the last few steps, but it's too late to continue our original route and guarantee a finish by Saturday morning. This location has more bush tucker suggesting that it has been used more in the past. Camp again away from man made influences, until that blasted 21:45 jet plane again:-)

Wednesday

Camp day 3.Pic by Dug

Camp Day 3

A noisier bird chorus this morning, with Lyre birds, bell birds and kurrajongs joining in. Another good night but Peter said that he was drizzled on and had a pool of water in his fly ridgeline.  I slept out but didn't feel any. Only a short walk to planed camp site today at the the next bend with side creek junction. An easy breakfast and leisurely start. The going along the bank more vegetated than yesterday so a bit slower still. At the junction we dropped packs and walked on upstream a few 100m, but the vegetation was far from pleasant, so we cut it short. Back at the junction we found a suitable camping place, then Grahame and Peter went for a cool off in the water and found they could cross the creek in no more than chest deep, with a much gentler current. They decided to check out the spur up the other side to make sure it is a goer for next time. I wandered around on this side, checked the side creek and cliff lines for suitable camping caves.  Found two which may just do in a pinch. When the others were back we all checked out the overhangs, then checked out the other spur where Peter found another overhang, while not ideal good enough for the night, we all prefered the feel and the view at this one. The reason we were aiming for an overhang is that the forecast for tonight is rain and there is a hint of that in the air. There is a lot more bush tucker plants in this area suggesting this place was popular in the past.  We did a wander up the side creek as the map suggested that there may have been a "hole" (volcanic plug called a diatreme).  The trees did look much taller but Grahame was puzzled by there species.  The looked like angophora but had the wrong type of fruit and leaf, perhaps a river red gum but the branches are very twisted??

The map suggests here as a good pass for the Wollemi crossing and our exploration has confirmed that.

The flat ground up the side creek, permanent water in the Wollemi easy walking and many overhangs would make this a popular place in the past. I may add this was confirmed by our explorations, Peter found a 4m length of roof gutter in an overhang, and a chrome bar stool in another, and we found a well formed path up this side creek valley onto a nearby convenient saddle. I would think there may have been a small holding here with hut, but we didn't see any hut. Also there were very few - none - introduced weeds. Can't see many reasons for a formed track with sawn fallen logs dragged off to one side.  Then again this afternoon we have been visited by a few flies and during the night one mosquito, suggesting proximity of people.

Fort Frostbite Camp 4.  Pic by Dug.

Peters flag says Fort Frost Bite, but this cave was far from that
and we remained dry during the night rain.

We have been seeking any sign of aboriginal habitation but didn't identify any, most of the overhangs in this area were not really suitable due to the rock type.

Another pleasant evening, to night spent in our rock shelter, although Grahame still pitched his tent on the ground above. Peter and I did some landscaping to make our bed sites and Grahame pitched in with a stone built fire site. Nothing quite like lying back in a small overhang with friends around, watching your dinner cook on a small cooking fire, while the dark gradually fades the trees and valley and rock-faces outside. The cave gathers a golden red glow in the firelight warmed by the flames in the entrance, while a gentle breeze through the side entry keeps the air clear of smoke. Tonight we are serenaded by a couple of lyre birds and the odd kurrajong.

During the night I awaken feeling cold, to find it pouring rain outside but nice and dry in here. A quick readjustment of the zipper on my sleeping bag soon had me off to the land of bliss again.

Thursday

Again we take our time getting ready, firstly listening to the bird dawn chorus, Lyre birds, kurrajongs joined this morning by bell birds who were absent last night. Our rout out is to follow the flatter looking bench shown on the map.  This proved easy and once on the bench proper we found the foot track already mentioned and wonder why it is here we didn't backtrack to see where it came from, though.

The bush tucker shrubs here are more like an orchard than anywhere else I have seen. We are frequently stopping to suck on the bush cherries or the many different types of gee bungs. We even tried the purple dangerous looking apple berry.  As the photo beside shows, there was even better bush tucker about, on the odd bush.

It was on the last steeper climb out that we located the stool in the overhang. I can only assume some one carting it in, found it too much of a chore and stored it there for later, whatever there seems to be a small story there.

Up on the ridge I pulled out my phone hoping to get coverage to call Jim to let him know our change of plans. Damn no coverage, wait a minute Peter is speaking to someone on his phone, what is going on? I next tried to send a text message but the stupid phone wouldn't let me "No Service". Grahame sent a text message ok. Coverage was not good just here so we walked up the small knoll nearby. Where I got "No Service" on my phone but I spoke to Jim on Grahame's. Well the important thing is Jim knows where to pick us up and that there is no need to hurry, as it will take us 3 hours or so to walk out. BUT what the hell is going on with my "Telstra Blue Tic Phone"? I brought it specially for these occasions, Telstra coverage map shows blue coverage just here.   It didn't work under similar circumstances at Ulan, two different people with the same type of phone as me but an earlier model speaking to others while mine said "No Service". The only reason I brought this phone from Telstra was because they said it had coverage in non urbane country areas. Peter and Grahame have ZTE phones over Telstra network, while the one I have is Samsung S5511?

Kings Waterhole.  Pic by Dug.

From our present location lovely scenery to cool the fevered brow, rolling forest in all directions with the odd pinnacle hill sticking above the skyline. Just follow the spur down, cross the Mellong Creek and pick up the forest roads to the Putty Road. Crossing Mellong Creek up this far, required a look around because of the deep long pools and swampy vegetated ground. Eventually we found a fallen log and crossed with ease. The track system proved straight forward although we didn't pay particular attention and it seems some track no longer exist in real life. Kings Waterhole proved to be a great spot that has been used for camping for a long time.

Back at the road (847 342 AGD) we only had to wait half an hour or so for Jim, "Well Done Jim". We stopped for hamburger and chips at Colo Heights road house. Very nice.

A special thanks to Jim and Oliver for acting as our drivers, My vehicle traveled 1000km for this trip and Jim was there for all but 100km of them.

Thank you, Peter, Grahame, a great outing.  It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Copyright Dug Floyd December 2011

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p.s. when I got back I took the phone back to the Telstra shop I brought it from at Markettown Newcastle. They said that they couldn't swap it and that it would have to be sent away for service and the service would probably be charged for. Despite the supposed 6 month warranty. I guess that Telstra thinks that they will make it all just too hard for a $140 phone and you will drop off. The person I spoke to at Markettown even wanted me to take the phone to a "private repairer" which would have make the warrantee void and outside the 3 month period which ends 6 days after I gave them the phone for repair, dirty trading I call that.

The photos below were taken by Dug.

To view photos taken by Peter Gress [Click here] These show the scene from different eyes!

Flowers along the way. Pic by Dug Black Cockies damage to Bloodwood  tree.  Pic by Dug

Rocky ridge, easy going here.

The biscuit berry, quite rare!

Always things of interest to see and do!

Wollemi River looks murky from high above, but dangerous from beside

Compare that with Mellong Creek - only an inch or so over this rock slab.

Wollemi has dropped from very recent highs

But it is still belting along.

Burning the drift wood to make a cooking fire.

Fungi can be bright red

Flowers every where on the walk.

Peter setting up in overhang camp cave day 4.