Time of writing: 8:08pm 10 July
What a day! 36km of diverse and tough hiking under my belt. I left camp in darkness and made camp in darkness, but what a day in between. A day of highs and lows. Of rainforest, lookouts and roads.
The first few kilometres out of Basin camp took me back through the rainforest I walked in through yesterday. The rainforest was dense and I often had to crawl under fallen trees or step through strangler vines. At 6:30am, the sun had not yet penetrated the jungle so I walked by torchlight until the grey light of dawn outshone the artificial beam. With overcast skies and the remnants of last night’s rain all around, I was soon covered in sweat from the humidity.
It was a stiff climb out of the Wollombi Brook Valley up to the ridges I would follow all the way to Mt Warrawolong. The campsites up on these ridges were lovely. First, there was a spot at the end of Kangaroo Point Road that would be a nice open spot but is obviously frequented by 4WDers (I can’t imagine walkers carrying beer bottles and the rubber gloves really had me scratching my head). I then crossed a narrow ridge just before Mt Warrawolong from which I had AMAZING views across the mountains and valleys on both sides. Clouds hung in the valleys, making the peaks look like islands. The ridge was definitely a high point for the day.
The awful dirt bike destroyed descents from Mt Warrawolong were one of the lows. It took ages because the track was so rutted, slippery and eroded. I’m glad I didn’t push on to Watagan Creek bush camp because it wasn’t much and also showed the signs of improper use, such as litter and broken glass.
From Watagan Creek I crossed some pretty cow paddocks to climb up to Flat Rock Lookout. I don’t know what it is about hiking through fields of green dotted with cattle that I find so pleasant. But I do, so that’s just that. The hike up to Flat Rock was stiff but the views from the lookout were FANTASTIC! I could see the whole Congewai Valley laid out before me, including most of the 19km path to Barraba Trig where I would be camping. There’s something magical about seeing where you will be traveling. And something awesome about knowing that you will descend a mountain, cross a valley and climb just as high on the other side.
At Flat Rock Lookout I turned on my phone and had service for the first time in a week. It was so good to be able to share the view with my partner. I am rather homesick and missing her now. I don’t miss my house but I do so miss her. On my Tassie trip over the summer I need to work out a way to speak with her regularly. I also randomly found a pile of stick magazines the loggers had left behind. I guess they are something the next visitor can enjoy.
The walk down to Congewai Valley was largely uneventful. There were some glimpses of views to the left but mostly I just pushed on the 8km to the valley road.
Unlike Cedar Brush Rd a couple of days ago, the Congewai Valley Road was relaxing and easy to walk. The whole valley had a sense of security and calm about it. I met a local mountain biker who pointed me to a running creek about 150m in the wrong direction where I could get water (I was running low and didn’t want to rely on the advertised water tank ahead). The mountain biker told me that two to three days ago he gave two walkers a lift to Cessnock because they quit the hike. They were only carrying 600ml bottles each and refused to drink from creeks. I’m glad they quit the walk because 600ml water carrying capacity isn’t enough to survive a walk like this, especially when you refuse to refill them at creeks (there are no taps for most of the walk).
From Congewai Valley Road I hiked up to Barraba Trig. This was a challenging push coming at 31km and right on dusk. It was good to reach the top of the spur and follow it to camp. During those final 2 – 3km on the spur I watched the sun set over the valley and mountains I’d spent the afternoon walking through. The old wood cutters’ hut on the spur creeped me out as I walked past. It hulked in the darkness and its derelict nature made it feel threatening.
The first informal campsite I came to had amazing views over the lights of Cessnock and Singleton. Unfortunately, there was a car, some old caravans and lots of rubbish lying around. I will never understand why bush car campers are so darn disgusting and messy.
Just 150m further I came to Barraba Trig bush camp. This delightful spot between the grass trees already had some guests: a group of four Scouts and their adult leader. I added my tent to the mix on the other side of the track. I introduced myself to the adult leader so that he could rest easier with a stranger camped nearby. We talked a while about Scouts and hiking.
Now I am in my tent writing as I listen to the Scouts talking and laughing in their tents just like our Scout troop do at home. It’s a far cry from the joombies of Basin campsite last night who were over 100m away up the hill but played their music so loud it sounded like it was a disco inside my tent. They had a generator, massive audio system and a chainsaw they kept using. Mind you, the music was pretty good and I did enjoy hearing tunes for the first time in over a week.
Total: 36km with 18-22kg
- beef and gravy
- lamb with rosemary
- porridge with fruit and nuts
- oat bar
- Milo bar
- apricot bar
- Organic Food bar
- fruit puree
- 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles of Happy Cow cheese
- hot chocolate custard