Great North Walk Day 1 (2 July): Sydney – Baden Powell Scout Camp

Note: These posts are written in diary-style with the time of writing each section of text identified. They are direct transcripts from the journal I kept out on the trail. There aren’t as many photos as I would like because I didn’t want my camera battery to die and didn’t know how long it would last.

My first big GNW trail sign

My first big GNW trail sign

Time of writing: 6:49am 2 July

I sit here at the back of the big metal QANTAS bird in the sky. We’ve just taken off from Brisbaen Airport en route to Sydney. After months of planning and dreaming, my pack is (hopefully) in the plane’s hull and I’m off to The Obelisk in Macquarie Place for my first lond hike. Sure, I’ve done loads of 2-5 day hikes byut this is my first foray into longer expeditions.

If someone had told me two years ago that I’d be here taking on this adventure, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s two years since I embarked on my ‘get fit and healthy’ journey. I started as a triathlete. Then branched out into trail running and adventure race. Now, the outdoors is a natural part of my life. Iw onder where this next chapter will take me.

Time of writing: 4:15pm 3 July

There’s only one wored to describe yesterday’s walk: hard! I hiked 32km with over 25kg on my back. By the time I got to the Scout Camp at Thornleigh I was grateful for the bink bed and hot shower they let me use. It didn’t even cost me anything. Thank you trail fairies.

But just because it was a tough day doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good one. I always knew my first day on the trial would be challenging. First, there’s the excitement of actually being here. Then there’s the anxiety of having 250 unknown kilometres stretched out ahead of me like a blank page at the start of an assignment. And then there’s the sheer physicality of carrying a loaded pack all day.

I started the day by flying to Sydney. My flight arrived around 8:00am but it was 9:00am before I stepped off the crowded train at Town Hall Station. From there I walked to an outdoors store to buy 2 x 220g cannisters of gas for my stove.

My pack at the obelisk in Macquarie Place, Sydney Cove

My pack at the obelisk in Macquarie Place, Sydney Cove

The walk to the start of the walk was long, largely because I went to Martin Place instead of Macquarie Place. Whoops. I probably walked an extra kilometre byt eventualy reached The Obelisk that marks the official start of The Great North Walk (GNW). After the obligatory photo (it didn’t happen if there’s no photo), I wandered down to Circular Quay, just missing the Woolwich ferry.

With half an hour to kill, I bought a Maccas thickshake (yes, Suwati, you were correct in saying that I’d have pre-walk Maccas) and then hung out in the sun. I tested my Spot GPS tracker by sending what I thought was a private “I love you baby” message to my partner but have since learned that said message was broadcast to my Facebook friends.

The ferry ride to Woolwich was pretty. Having read Pemulwuy, I could place many of the locations we passed in the context of 1780s – 1802 Australia. On arrival in Woolwich I walked up the hill, turned left and powered on. I was keen to make good time b ecause it was already 11:00am and I wanted to cover another 28km to Baden Powell Scout Camp in Thornleigh.

My first GNW trail marker (Woolwich)

My first GNW trail marker (Woolwich)

I passed my first GNW trail marker in Woolwich and spent the day following them. The first hour or so took me through suburban Sydney until I reached Boronia Park. I was astonished by how quickly I felt like I was way out bush. The track twisted along the beautiful Lane Cove River through salt marshes and mangroves, and past the iconic sandstone formations for which Sydney is famous.

Salt flats near Magdala Park

Salt flats near Magdala Park

Just before Sugarloaf Point I met a woman with two children out enjoying the bush. We stopped and had a yarn before I continued. I had more company at Magdala Park where a group of fitness walkers greeted me for another yarn. I love how life on the trail can be so friendly and sociable, especially when you are walking alone.

At Lane Cove National Park Headquarters I took a wrong turn and hiked on the western side of the river. It cost me an extra kilometre but was so lovely that I didn’t mind. By the time I rejoined the main track at DeBurgh’s Bridge it was getting late and I still have 8kmk to walk. I tried to power on but could only manage 35 minute stints. Not that it mattered – I was still making forward progress.

As dusk fell I walked for about 20 mintues with a man and his two young children. He’d taken them on a five hour hike and the children (probably aged 6 and 8 years) were still chirpy. After he turned for home I was left in darkenss just as the track started to cross deep sections of the river. Not only did I have to ws through shin-deep water to cross the river but the track itself had become a shin-deep creek that I had no choice but to wade through (I tried to stay dry but that resulted in me taking a swim).

It was about 6:30pm when I arrived at the Scout camp wet and tired. There was no one around but the bunk rooms and hall were unlocked so I made myself at home. I had a booking so figured someone would come along to check on me or try to lock up. I think the hot shower I had last night was the best ever. It had been a long day.

Eventually, the caretaker came to lock up. We talked for a bit and then she let me stay for free. The trail fairiers really did have  my back today.

Total: 30-32km hiking with 25+kg pack.


  • omellette with mushrooms on toast at home
  • apple
  • chocolate thickshake
  • Milo bar
  • oat bar
  • Organic Food bar
  • fruit puree
  • 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles Happy Cow cheese
  • Coconut curry soup


7 responses to “Great North Walk Day 1 (2 July): Sydney – Baden Powell Scout Camp

  1. Pingback: Great North Walk Day 2 (3 July): Baden Powell Scout camp to Tunk Ridge bush camp | Transventure

  2. Strewth, loved it, great read. This is literally my backyard, we live at Epping, not too far from the Scout Camp, so I often walk/run that section from Epping to the camp and back….

    • Oh wow! What a small world. I did wonder while I was out walking whether I was coming close to where you live because I remember you saying you get out on the trail frequently. That section near the Scout camp is quite pretty (even when it’s wet).

  3. I guess I didn’t realize until this first post that you’re walking solo? Wow!

    • Oh yeah … I walked the whole trip solo. I kind of prefer it that way because I tend to be selfish when I am traveling (though I do love traveling with my partner). It was amazing. I think everyone should take time out for a solo pilgrimage at some point in their life. Doesn’t have to be walking … can even be a driving pilgrimage. You learn so much when you are out solo. It’s really empowering. And trust me, I really came to appreciate my partner’s company again 🙂

      • I agree about a solo trip. Read the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed about her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I think you’d like it. I’d still rather do a long hike with a partner, but I do LOVE long road trips by myself.

  4. Awesome first day Andrew, looking forward to some more! :))

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