Colleague and running partner Art Palmer made the trip over to Australia in December to be a plenary speaker at the ANZMAG conference up in northern NSW (Kingscliff) and he made the time to let me take him for a bit of hiking after the meeting. Well, also during the meeting as we made the most of the free afternoon to scamper up Mt Warning. Our return down the mountain was made in torrential rain for part of the way - lucky it was still reasonably warm...
Anyway, after he's provided me with so much good hospitality in Manhattan in the past, I'd been agonizing over what to do to make the best walking experience I could for him - something he couldn't easily get around his parts. I juggled all sorts of choices for 4 days of walking in NSW and in the end settled on: (1) the Wentworth Falls circuit (including the part down to Vera Falls) as a day walk, then (2) a two-day walk in Kanangra Walls NP - where I'd never been other than one brief visit and (3) another day walk (perhaps Grand Canyon) depending on how we were tracking.
Well, part (1) was foiled by part of the track having fallen off the side of the cliff a few days before (and, very sadly, also a track repair worker being killed soon afterwards). Never mind - I used my trusty OpenStreetMaps to cook up another circuit. I found a track leading down from Sublime Pt lookout (you'd never know it if it wasn't on the map - we couldn't see the way in even when we were right on top of it)! It's labelled Copeland Pass on OSM, and it took us (steeply) down to Lindemann Pass, which is also a bit unused. I think Art was, by this time, a bit suspicious of what I called 'going for a walk', but he persevered... I think he was mostly driven onwards by the novelty of having Virginia leg ham for lunch - don't ask me why.
We took Lindemann pass all the way around to Federal Pass, up the Giant Stairs and then back on the clifftop walk all the way to Sublime Pt - a great day walk as it turns out! Fantastic tea and lunch spots (totally isolated with no people) at the bottoms of waterfalls that people only normally see from the top. We managed to spot a kookaburra and a rosella as introductions to Australian wildlife.
Next day we headed to Kanangra Walls (but not before experiencing the unique 'hot pot' dinner at the pub in Blackheath - sliced potatoes covered in bolognese sauce and cheese - it was an odd one). I'd chosen a walk in the "Buskwalks in the Sydney Region" book (Lord and Daniel) that started at the Kanangra Car Park (just after we saw an echidna!), wend past Pages Pinnacle (very nice) and then plunged about 1000 m into Gingra Creek (after coming across a black snake in a narrow chimney getting down a cliff - more Aussie wildlife!). From there, it was 7 km to the Kowmung river and apparently, we could follow the "Old Cedar Road", a disused logging trail.
Well. I think Art will run screaming whenever hears the word "cedar" now - especially in the same sentence as "road". Unfortunately, in the 20 years since the book was written, the vestiges of the road that were there have become completely overgrown with hakea and nettle. The former is very spiky and unpleasant (like, as Art attested, everything in Australia that isn't poisonous) and the latter is very sting-y and unpleasant (it was several days before our hands stopped tingling...). After hammering away at that for a while, we realized that the only way down this creek was actually to walk *in* the creek. That was fun and games with biggish packs on...
In 5 h, we made it about 5 km and the sun was about to set. Fortunately, we came across a single small sliver of flat grass on the side of the creek and could set up tent and cook there. We *had* seen wombats (and I spotted some lyrebirds), so that partially made up for the hard yards... Art was also lucky enough to spot a leech - as it was nearing the end of it's meal on his foot. *More* Aussie wildlife - so lucky!
Next morning, we hammered the last 2 km down the creek to the junction with the Kowmung (another 2 h!). It was a very pleasant spot for morning tea, before we embarked on the 16 km uphill ridge walk back to the car. It warmed up a bit, which made it an authentic Australian bushwalking experience (as did the enormous goanna spotted on a tree - I'm glad he got to see one of those!).
By late afternoon, we made it back to the car - both in one piece. My camera was still in one piece too, but sitting somewhere by the side of the track in some unknown location, which was a minor shame. It was amazing country though - but a touch more hard core than I'd anticipated. Art mustered the compliment: "It was the most arduous thing I've done in 40 years!", before we keeled over into the car to head back to civilization exhausted. Total: 34 km and 1100 m ascent over the two days.
Needless to say, we got to have the next day off...(and I felt slightly guilty about the choice of walk...). Still, it's a fantastic remote area - well worth another look some time I reckon.
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