Category Archives: Camping

Noosa Trail Network – Day 2

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

The moon was so bright overnight that it was like someone had forgotten to turn the lights off. I woke a couple of times during the night wondering whether it was already daytime. But it wasn’t and I went back to sleep. Ironically, by the time I was ready to get up, the moon had dropped low enough in the western sky to make it darker than in the middle of the night. It felt special to be out under the moon instead of locked away in a house.

Shortly after I woke, the sun rose to the east. For a short period, both sun and moon were equidistant from their respective horizons.

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

I set off at 6:15am, following trail #3 heading towards Kin Kin. I warmed up by following a gravel road through pretty farmlands before turning off to follow a rugged and rutted fire trail into the rain forest. I lacked the skills to ride the whole trail; so deep were the washouts. But I enjoyed the serenity of a morning in the bush.

Gorgeous gums

Gorgeous gums

While I spent most of my first day on the trail getting used to being out on the trails, on day 2 I was able to enjoy the total experience of being immersed in the wilderness. It’s almost as though waking up in a tent puts me in a different state of mind: a relaxed and adventurous one in harmony with nature.

Into the rainforest

Into the rainforest

Trail #3 is as beautiful and diverse as it is challenging. Fortunately, the ride from Tablelands Lookout to Kin Kin is almost all downhill. The rainforest included some rock gardens and tree roots, as well as mostly following single trail.

Views from Johnston's Lookout

Views from Johnston’s Lookout

That's the trail running along the ridge

That’s the trail running along the ridge

And then I popped out at Johnston’s Lookout. One minute I was riding in rainforest, and the next I was blessed with this fabulous view out over the range. Don’t let the green scenery trick you, it was pretty hot and dry. The trail from Johnston’s winds down a steep descent before reaching a gate and then dropping sharply downhill and along a ridge. I felt like I was cycling in the UK; or at least what I imagine cycling in the UK would be like.

There’s a trail marker missing after you exit the farm from Johnston’s Lookout. Turn left at the road and follow it for a few kilometres until you reach a sharp bend to the left as you head uphill. On the right you’ll see a locked farm gate and a trail network pedestrian gate. The trail network gate is locked shut because the fence posts have separated over time. I had to throw my bike over the farm gate and slide under the barbed wire.

This is NOT the trail

This is NOT the trail

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

Once I reached the main road, I turned right into Kin Kin instead of following the 5km loop into town. I was hot and needed some electrolytes. I forgot to pack them in my gear; a mistake I won’t make again. The shop in Kin Kin has been done up since last time I was there. Eight years ago it was still just a country store with a fuel bowser out the front. Now it’s a lovely cafe with massive outdoor seating area. I can highly recommend the thick shakes.

I stopped at the camp ground in Kin Kin to collect water. While there, I had a yarn with a group of horse trail riders who were on holidays from Beaudesert, south of where I live. They often ride in my local area so I told them about the Bayview trails because you can ride horses there too. I also told them about the broken gate because they were hoping to go up towards Johnston’s Lookout from Kin Kin, and you can’t just throw a horse over a fence like you can a bike.

From Kin Kin I tried to follow the signs along trail #4. I lost it almost immediately on my way to the road because I started following farm pads. I ended up climbing up the back of a steep grassy knoll only to have to ride down the front of it and joint the road. From here, I again couldn’t find any signs to the trail so followed the Gympie-Kin Kin Road for a couple of kilometres until I got lucky by stumbling across the track. The only map I had was an enlarged version of the trail network brochure and it contained insufficient detail to navigate off accurately.

Massive goanna

Massive goanna

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

The trail started to climb uphill towards Cootharaba Views Lookout. On my way up, I managed to capture a photo of a massive goanna scrambling up a tree to get away from me. It was just one of the many goannas I saw over the weekend but was probably the largest. It hissed menacingly at me from it’s perch metres above me.

The views from the lookout were as amazing as the other views but this lookout is on a ridge so it has 360′ views. To the north and east east are Lake Cootharaba and the Cooloola Sandpatch. To the south and west west are the mountains. You can camp up here; it’s an official campsite with water but no sanitation.

Dropping down the ridge

Dropping down the ridge

Perfect rural roads

Perfect rural roads

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

From Cootharaba Views Lookout, the trail flows down along the ridgeline until it pops out on a perfect country road that winds it’s way over the hill tops until it reaches a dairy farm. From here the trail is unformed but follows the farm’s fenceline until it reaches Two Hills Lookout. It’s a challenging uphill climb across the farmland because the cows use this as their pathway to be milked. But again, it’s novel and fun to ride across a field of grass.

Such diversity of trail

Such diversity of trail

I rode this section twice

I rode this section twice

After Twin Hills Lookout trail #4 splits from trail #2. I followed trail #4 steadily downhill towards Lake McDonald. This section of trail is abysmally marked, with missing signs at critical track junctions. When I finally did find a sign, it was the ‘Alt #4’ sign indicating the alternate dry weather route. I followed it only to discover that I traveled back on myself. Fortunately, after riding about a kilometre in the wrong direction I recognised an intersection so I took out my  mobile phone and used my new favourite app (View Ranger) to work out exactly where I was and how to get to Lake McDonald. Fortunately, the track was beautiful.

Resting at Lake McDonald

Resting at Lake McDonald

I reached Lake McDonald in the mid afternoon. I’ve been here before during both the 2012 and 2013 Adventure Race Australia. I ate lunch, enjoyed the view and relaxed for a few minutes.

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Ancient tree

Ancient tree

Then I hit trail #7; my final trail for the day and one I’ve ridden and run as part of Adventure Race Australia 2012 and 2013 (I certainly hope we don’t take it again in 2014 because, no matter how beautiful the track, that would be boring for adventure racing).

Cruising back to Pomona

Cruising back to Pomona

I made the most of that final 15km stretch back to Pomona. I felt strong and confident on my bike and actually got up some speed on the downhills. I also worked out my packing issues. Both my handlebar and seat post bags were rubbing against the wheels when I rode over jumps or through bomb holes. But after I removed my clothes from the handlbar bag and the waterproof from my seat post bag the rubbing stopped. I now now that I have to carry my clothes in my backpack.

One last look at the trail

One last look at the trail

One last section of trail to enjoy and drool over.

It's all over but the 4hr train ride home

It’s all over but the 4hr train ride home

And then it was done. I got back to Pomona, bought some food and cold drink to enjoy under the shade of the same tree in the same park as I snoozed in yesterday. Then I cleaned and lubed my bike chain before my 4 hour train ride home.

As challenging as it was, it was a brilliant weekend and I’ll be back to ride the Noosa Trail Network again in November.

Total: 60km MTB

PS: Sorry for being so pick heavy but I wanted to share a good selection of images to showcase the trail network. My internet searches only revealed a relatively small number of images that made the trail network seem like they were just fire trail and gravel roads, not the diverse and beautiful experience they really are.

Noosa Trail Network – Day 1

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train

It’s 5am and Brisbane’s Valley Entertainment Precinct is full of drunk people. I feel out of place wheeling my loaded MTB between them. The only other sober people seem to be bouncers and dancers who are finishing their shifts. It’s little wonder my only options for breakfast are Pie Face and the Golden Arches. I settle on a mince meat pie from the former and a chocolate thickshake from the latter. It’s very average but I need to eat.

I catch a train to Central Station to get away from the chaos, repack my gear to squeeze in the food and last-minute grabs before boarding the 6:34am train to Nambour. The 2 hour train ride passes quickly because a fellow passenger strikes up a conversation. We chat until he alights three stations before me.

On the road to Cooroy

On the road to Cooroy

Views from Eumundi Range Road

Views from Eumundi Range Road

From Nambour I have to ride 30km along the road to the trail network. It would be easy to see this as an annoyance. But I have decided to enjoy the experience as part of the whole adventure. Besides, the scenery is delightful. I stop to take photos and enjoy the views from a lookout I’ve never been to before. Some of the climbs are nasty though, and the sun is beating down on me. Summer is very suddenly here.

The start of trail #8 in Cooroy

The start of trail #8 in Cooroy

After almost 2 hours I reach Cooroy. This little town is the start point of the Cooroy Wanderer, which is trail #8 on the Noosa Trail Network. The trail, like all the trails in the network (with the exception of trail #4), is clearly signed. All you need to do is follow the numbered posts. Trail #4 is abysmally signed but more on that in the next post.

Bouncy fire trail

Bouncy fire trail

Through the trees

Through the trees

Train #8 traveled along won fire trails under tall forests. It’s 11km long and a fairly easy section, though it does have some short sharp climbs. I was still very much warming up to riding on the trail during this section so didn’t yet feel confident. I was also feeling the change of season so suffered a bit from the heat. Being indoors for the past three weekends didn’t help. It probably also cost me some fitness. But I’ll get used to it.

Leaf littered park in Pomona

Leaf littered park in Pomona

I arrived in Pomona at about 11:30am. The tiny town’s cafe, bakery and pub were all bursting at the seams. I bought a cold Powerade and the most delicious crispy crusted bread roll before retiring to the park for lunch. After enjoying some salami with the bread roll and downing the electrolyte drink, I lay in the shade and slept for about an hour. It was so good.

The start of trail #5 to Cooran

The start of trail #5 to Cooran

Single track joy

Single track joy

Picnic area along the trail

Picnic area along the trail

Through the grass

Through the grass

Scenery along the trail

Scenery along the trail

From Pomona I followed trail #5 around the base of majestic Mt Cooroora out to Cooran. This 9km trail included some fun fast flowing single track. Partway along the track I met a walker who seemed keen for a yarn. He was a local who couldn’t believe I had camping gear fit into my bike pack kit. We chatted for a bit before going our own ways again. I thoroughly enjoyed trail #5, the Cooroora Trail. It had some fun single track and traveled through lovely tall forests while also providing glimpses of Mt Cooroora (but not good enough for a photo). I had to walk up some of the hills but that just means I need to do some more training.

Cooran

Cooran

I stopped in Cooran for a frosty fruit ice block and chocolate brownie. There’s nothing to Cooran, just a small row of shops, pony club and houses. If you blinked you’d miss it. But the cafe does wonderful brownies and had a groovy array of teas (I love teas). I didn’t sample any of the teas though because I wasn’t in the mood.

Start of trail 2/3 from Cooran

Start of trail 2/3 from Cooran

Bamboo plantation

Bamboo plantation

The start of the hill

The start of the hill

Views from the climb

Views from the climb

And the climb keeps going on

And the climb keeps going on

But the views were amazing!

But the views were amazing!

And the trail just kept climbing

And the trail just kept climbing

Trail #3, Cooran to Kin Kin, was unforgiving. It started pleasantly enough with a ride along quiet country roads between hobby farms. but I could see the mountains ahead so could anticipate what was coming. The map also had a section marked ‘steep climb’ with an arrow pointing in my direction of travel. I did a lot of hike-a-bike this afternoon. I even resorted to taking my cycling shoes off and walking barefoot so I would be more comfortable. I really must work on my MTB climbing. But the views! They made the long hike-a-bike worth it. And, besides, there’s going to be a lot of long climbs on the Tasmanian Trail later this year. I better do some more training.

Views from Tablelands Lookout

Views from Tablelands Lookout

Camp at Tablelands Lookout

Camp at Tablelands Lookout

Coconut fish curry noodles

Coconut fish curry noodles

It was 4:15pm by the time I reached Tablelands Lookout. The nearest official campsite was still 8km away with more climbing. That would have taken me another hour, leaving a risk of getting caught out after dark. Besides, after getting up at 3:30am, a 2 hour train ride and about 60km of cycling I was beat. So I pitched my tent, cooked up a feed, wrote my journal and was in bed by 7am.

It was a fantastic challenging day and I fell asleep a happy camper.

Total: 61.5km cycling

A teaser

image

Here’s a teaser pic from the end of day 1 on the Noosa Trail Network.  I’ll be home late tomorrow night. But I just have to share my pic of the view from tonight’s camp.

Great North Walk: Post script from Stockton Beach

My footsteps in the sand in Awabakal lands

My footsteps in the sand in Awabakal lands

Time of writing: 8:00pm 14 July

As I lay here in my tent for my final night before returning home, I can’t help but look back on the highlights of the past two weeks. It already seems so far away; it’s odd how that happens.

I think the thing that’s touched me most are the people I’ve met along the way:

  • the artist lady and her children who reminded me to keep an eye out for animals and birds
  • the fitness walkers in Lane Cove who wished me well
  • the father with his children who kept me company that first day when I was quite anxious about whether I’d make it to the finish
  • the Duke of Edinborough group who welcomed me around their campfire
  • the Christian missionaries who left me with such a sense of peace
  • the cyclist who took me to water
  • the Scout leader who shared a yarn with me when I was lonely
  • the teenage boy who insisted I take $3 in change because he thought what I was doing in taking on the GNW was inspiring (I am going to donate the money towards my Cycling for Hope challenge)
  • the wounded warrior camped next to me at Stockton Beach who gave so much for my freedom (I hope he finds peace for he is only my age but has paid a heavy physical and emotional price)
  • the man camped on the other side of me who I only met tonight but who offered me a lift to the airport (I politely declined because I have to leave early in the morning)
  • all the other people who’ve taken the time to stop and chat as our paths have crossed.

The journey has been intensely physical but also deeply spiritual. Everyday I have spoken to the elders past to tell them why I was traveling through their land and to offer my respect. Everyday I made time for prayer. Today I bought some simple prayer cards from a church of another denomination from mine. I spoke with the good people there and they gave me an extra card: A Blessing for Travelers. I will keep the prayer in my heart and will also wish it on others who take a journey on or off the road:

Loving and gracious God, you always show mercy to those who love you, and you are never far away from those who seek you.

Remain with your servants as they travel far from home, and guide their way by the light of your Word.

Shelter them with your protection by day, given them the light of your grace by night, and as their companion on their journey, bring them to their destination in safety.

May they see your face in everyone they meet, and know the depth of your love on every road they walk.

At the end of their journey, may they return home once again with renewed faith and hearts full of joy.

On this journey I learned that if I just put one foot in front of the other and don’t give up, then, even with a heavy load and rest stops, I will get to my destination. It might not go according to plan and plans might change. But that’s just par for the course. And the most magical moments occur when my heard is open to hear what my ears cannot.

The End

(for the Great North Walk story)

Total: 16km walking around Newcastle over two days

Links

Great North Walk Day 11 (12 July): Watagan Forest Motel to Finish at Queen’s Wharf, Newcastle

Ready to head out into the cold pre-dawn for the final time

Ready to head out into the cold pre-dawn for the final time

Time of writing: 3:22pm 13 July

While I toyed with the idea of braking the final 41km down into two days, the reality is that it was never going to happen. I could either hike 15km to Teralba and spend $40 on a crap caravan park site, or I could hie to Teralba and catch a train to Newcastle for the night before catching a train back the next day to finish off the hike. Neither was an appealing prospect, so a marathon day it was.

I set off long before dawn, excited about reaching the end. Not because I’d had a bad time (I had a fantastic time) but because I was ready to return to the world.

The world was shrouded in thick fog as I walked out of the Watagan Forest Motel. My head lamp illuminated the little beads of water in the air, making navigation a challenge. The lack of signage and multitude of 4WD and dirt bike tracks compounded the challenge. But, as always, the guide book by Wild Walks was spot on and got me out of a few jams (the map kit has been hopeless in this northern section).

As I reached the ridge that would take me to Wakefield the sun started to rise ahead of me. My final dawn on the trail. I will miss the break of day on the trail the most. The possibilities of the sun’s rise are endless.

Once the sun was up, I descended into Wakefield. Oh boy! The road was dangerously busy with limited shoulders and invisible corners. I had to rely solely on my ears to cross and walk along the road. Urgh! The 7km from Wakefield Road to Teralba were terrifying. First, I had to walk through about 2km of road construction with machinery going everywhere and some stupid directions from road workers (really, you want me to walk behind the reversing plant because there might be cars on the road who are driving forwards and would actually be able to see me? Okay. If you say so. And yes, I am walking to Newcastle. That’s what those Great North Walk signs are all about people).

Roadworks cleared, I turned right onto Rhonda Road. There is no shoulder on most of this road, which leads past a busy quarry. I’d come through blind corners, praying no truck was hurtling the other way and then trying to balance in the steep roadside drop if they did. If you are doing the GNW, try to organise a lift to avoid this section. I wished I had. It was not fun or safe at all.

Teralba wasn’t much. Just an industrial town perched on Lake Macquarie. But once across Five Island Bridge, things improved greatly.

Lake Macquarie from Speers Point

Lake Macquarie from Speers Point

Speers Point Park was delightful. It was a vast open grassy space overlooking Lake Macquarie. A group of women were running and jumping under the guidance of a personal trainer. I couldn’t help but notice that I’ve never seen anyone smiling or fit-looking (as in toned and athletic, not the British use of the term “fit”) in a personal training class. Think I’ll stick to hiking and cycling myself.

The chip butty (I couldn't eat it all because it was so big)

The chip butty (I couldn’t eat it all because it was so big)

At Warner’s Bay, I treated myself to a chip butty. I had a massive serve of hot chips and bbq sauce on a hamburger roll with a slab of butter slathered on it. I’d covered 22km with just 19km to go and it was still only 10am.

The big sign at Charlesworth that brougth me almost to tears

The big sign at Charlesworth that brougth me almost to tears

From Warners Bay it was a long 7km to Charlesworth Trackhead. It was the most difficult section of the day (roadside walk not-withstanding). But I got through it and found myself almost overcome with emotion when I reached the trackhead near a huge Great North Walk sign next to the Pacific Highway. I wonder how strange I looked to those drivers as I sat trying to hold back tears of emotion near the sign.

View from Leichardt's Lookout

View from Leichardt’s Lookout

The final 9km were beautiful! First, I went to Leichardt’s Lookout overlooking Glenrock Lagoon.

Burwood Beach in the direction of my travel

Burwood Beach in the direction of my travel

Burwood Beach

Burwood Beach looking the other way (south)

Then down to Burswood Beach, which I followed north for 2km around a rocky point to the Merewether Baths. The soft sand was simultaneously soothing and challenging to walk through. But it was such a treat.

Newcastle surfer

Newcastle surfer

Then, I put my shoes back on to walk on the roadside paths along Dixon and Rocky Beaches, watching the surfers as I went. I almost didn’t even notice the final climb up the headland before the finish (though I’m not sure why we had to walk up in a loop around the obelisk).

Look, I walked 250km

Look, I walked 250km

And then, as simply as that, I was standing at Queen’s Wharf looking at a sign that said Sydney Cove was 250km away. I tried to take a selfie at the sign and a kind girl took a photo for me before trotting off to return to her friend.

Celebratory dinner

Celebratory dinner

A short ferry ride and a kilometre or so walk later I was at Stockton Beach Holiday Park. After a quick visit to the grocery shop and bottle shop, a shower and shave, a phone call home, a steak dinner cooked in the camp kitchen, and a bottle of sweet cider I was asleep in my tent.

There will be more adventures. But first I need to reflect on and process this one. There’s things I need to change in my life. Priorities that need to shit. Attitudes to be adjusted. Lessons to be implemented.

But no one can take away the adventure I’ve just had.

Total: 42.5km hike with 15kg pack

Links

Great North Walk Day 10 (11 July): Barraba Trig bush camp to Watagan Forest Motel

Checking the map

Checking the map

Time of writing: 10:37am 11 July

Fatigued at Hunters Lookout

Fatigued at Hunters Lookout

My body and mind are totally exhausted. I just want a shower, clean clothes and a soft bed. I’ve never been this long on a hike and the novelty has warn off. Mind you, it’s taken until Day 10.

View from Hunter Lookout

View from Hunter Lookout

I’m at Hunter Lookout just past Watagan HQ. The view is superb! Mountains enclose a massive green valley on three sides. To the south-west, clouds still hang low, wafting out of a hidden valley’s mouth.

Sunrise from the trail

Sunrise from the trail

View from the trail near Barraba Trig bush camp

View from the trail near Barraba Trig bush camp

I’ve already walked 13km this morning. The Scouts weren’t even awake yet when I left. The first hour of my walk was beautiful. I walked along leaf littered ridges with stunning views. I watched the sun rise over the valley and hills, lighting the world. Then came a long arduous and dull slog along vehicle tracks to Watagan HQ. Once there I dumped all my excess food and rubbish in the bin to lighten the load on my back. I think I managed to drop about 3kg.

There’s really nothing at Watagan HQ so I have walked here to the lookout. There’s a water tank here so I’ve boiled up 800m: half for a cup of tea and half for sports drink once it cools. I want to get some extra fluids into me because I’m a bit dehydrated, which is adding to my mood slump. I want to get to Watagan Forest Motel and shop today. Then I’ll decide whether to camp in the park or to push on for 15km to Teralba. Given that the shop is said to sell hot food, I imagine I’ll dine there and camp one final night because 42km might be a big day. But I have my race mode on now, so anything could happen.

Time of writing: 6:14am 13 July

I was too tired to write once I got to Watagan Forest Motel. It had been a huge day of hiking. So I rented a room for the night, surfed the internet on my phone, spoke with my partner and watched television. It was just what I needed.

View from McLeans Lookout

View from McLeans Lookout

So, how was my walk that day? Long and tough with stunning sections. Not far from Hunters Lookout was McLeans Lookout. The views here were of a similar area but just slightly more northerly. I could see a communications tower way off in the distance and cliff-lined mountains. Little did I know that I would be hiking all that way and then some. Nope, I just looked at the view in awe. I also finally learned how to use the panorama feature on my camera.

Jungle creek

Jungle creek

From the lookout I fully expected to be walking fire trails all the way to Heatons Lookout. But the trail can be sneaky. Instead of a hard march I found myself dropping down a single track into the jungle. And oh what a jungle it was. It lived and breathed with the intensity of a crazed but well-meaning lunatic. Creeks flowed quickly. Waterfalls rushed. Strangler vines grabbed and tangled me and the path. Cliffs were surrounded bu fallen boulders that held no moss. Massive trees littered and blocked the path, creating an overs-and-unders obstacle course. Mud sucked at my shoes. It was glorious to be surrounded by such vibrance.

GNW registration book tube

GNW registration book tube

I sloshed, limboed, slipped, scrambled and picked my way through the jungle for hours. Bell birds heralded my passing. Whip birds went about the business of calling for their mates. Creeks ran clear through mossy gorges. The scent of the rain forest was dense and intensely earthy.

Views from Heatons Lookout

Look at the mileage

Look at the mileage

And then, as quickly as I had entered the jungle, I popped back out at Heatons Lookout. There, splayed out to my south and east were the coastal lakes (Macquarie Lakes) and the ocean. It was difficult to imagine that I’d be walking all the way from the lookout down to the sea off in the distance. Some school students on holidays were cooking sausages at the lookout and offered me one. Best sausage sandwich ever! But then, I was famished.

Views from Heatons Gap Lookout

Views from Heatons Gap Lookout

Feeling good again at Heatons Gap Lookout

Feeling good again at Heatons Gap Lookout

From the lookout I made my way down to Heatons Gap and the Watagan Forest Motel. After a meat pie, two chicken sticks and some sort of chocolate protein milk drink I decided to rent a room and live it up for the night. Well, living it up is relative. The Watagan Forest Motel is probably 2.5 stars quality but is clean, friendly, had a bed and shower, and free laundry with drier. So I washed my clothes, showered and slept without being cold.

Total: 26km hike with 15-18kg pack

Food

  • beef and vegetable soup
  • semolina pudding
  • 6 x Vita Wheat crackers with 2 x triangles Happy Cow cheese
  • Organic Food bar
  • 2 x museli bars
  • sausage on bread
  • fruit puree
  • meat pie
  • 2 x chicken sticks
  • 2 x chocolate bars

Links

Great North Walk Day 9 (10 July): Basin campsite to Barraba Trig bush camp

This is what life's about

This is what life’s about

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.

GNW trail marker in the bush

GNW trail marker in the bush

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.

View from the ridge near Mt Warrawolong

View from the ridge near Mt Warrawolong

Walking along the ridge

Walking along the ridge

More ridgetop views

More ridgetop views

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.

View from Flat Rock

View from Flat Rock

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.

The Congewai Valley

The Congewai Valley

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.

Look what I discovered at camp

Look what I discovered at camp

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

Food

  • 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

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