Wollangambe One

Nine of us met at Mt Wilson Cathedral camping area at 8:30 Sunday morning.   Quick cuppas and nibbles for those who drove up early from Sydney.   Overcast but warm enough, the general thought is that it will be hot and sunny later.   A briefing to ensure everyone has adequate gear.   No problems, even though it is a first time for 5 of us.   Away walking by 8:45, the bush today has that wonderful aroma enhanced by the overnight showers.   Birds calling or flitting amongst the tall lush forest tees.   Vistas of rolling forested hills disappear into the distance between the trees.   The underlying ruggedness mostly hidden by forest and gentle slopes but you do get a hint from the occasional rock face peeking out here and there.   The river beds are up to 100 m down below the general lay of the land but only a few m wide so they don’t show, from here.

We find the correct track turn off but there are soon many pads leading off every which-way.   I find a way that “goes” but fortunately Sandy finds another way before I set up a hand line.   At least we all get a good view of the river from above. It is impressive – perhaps even daunting from above.   We can see into a beautiful hidden grotto with a pretty vegetated sandy river bed leading into a long pool of black water that disappear between high sandstone cliffs. The way down is a rainforest gully, where we stroll between tall trees or slide down to duck under boulders leaning on a cliff-face, lots of moss and ferns.    At the Wollangambe we meet a commercial group on a sand bank, about to start.   A quick nibble with drink as we done wet-suits, do final check of water-proofing and inflates air-beds, and then we are ready to get wet.

There is much mirth and merriment as new liloers adjust to their new means of locomotion.   Most opt for the face down surfboard style; the old hand sits propped up by his pack and varies between paddling ahead or backwards.   As the day progresses many different styles evolve particularly as arms grow tiered but the sitting propped up is the most used.  The first long paddle between tall water sculptured cliffs is an excellent introduction for everyone.  Laughter and shouting ahead, the commercial group climbing up and jumping into the deep pool.   One girl hesitates as she finds the jump much higher from above but good on her she goes.

Eventually we come to the first boulder block-up where we find a way as best we can.   The block-ups are as much a feature as the paddling.   You wander over, round, under any-which way that goes or often float bubbling along in narrow cascades passing under and between boulders (there is no right way, there is no wrong way, just a way that suits, in any of this paddling or block-up rock rout finding).   We soon learn the art of walking on slippery rock with packs and air-beds (a pack full of water seems very heavy until it all drains out).   At one of the block-ups I manage to spear my lilo, terminally, as I navigate one of the fast little runnels.   Luckily I can backstroke using my pack as a support (sort of), even more luckily it not all that far (about 1 km), everyone offers to share their lilos if I have any problems.

It stays overcast all day and we don’t see that sparkling jewel like blue green colour of a couple a weeks ago.   It really doesn’t mater, it is: beautiful, magnificent, exciting, awesome, good fun, challenging, peaceful, mystic - a great outdoor outing in a primeval setting.   The red yabbies, grey water dragons, black tadpoles and rainbow dragon flies are all there together with spider webs strung right across the canyon or tree trunks jammed across 3 m up.

This is a delightful place, sandy beaches, rainforest pockets, trees and shrubs growing from the cracks in the rock, hanging gardens of ferns and moss, tall imposing narrow sculptured cliff-lines, long swims, jumbled block-ups, grey sky way up there.   We stop for lunch on the sandy beach beside Kelvinator canyon.  Several of us wander up the canyon to enjoy the cold narrowness of the cliffs coated in thick spongy moss, truly enchanting especially if you have never seen a canyon like this before.   There is almost no water flowing in this system so we don’t notice the usual temperature drop in the Wollangambe, which is just as well because a number of us are now feeling a bit cool (what happens at lunch, is that the body takes blood away from heating the skin and concentrates on digesting and transporting food from the stomach, this effect will last about 20 mins after you finished eating).   

At the first exit point the general consensus is that we should get out here, as some new unexpected unused muscles are starting to tell.   If the sun were shining we would have probably gone on.   I was a little concerned about the climby bit on the way out but in the event it was a non-event.   I just went ahead, having said “there are tree roots just where you need them”.   Every one said, “the tree roots are just where I need them”, as they clime out past me at the top.   Well done all.   For the second time in a few weeks there was a drizzle or two from a thunderstorm that passes but that’s all.   Back at the car by 4:20.   Lots of beaming faces a great trip thanks for your company everyone - until next time.   © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd