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Budawangs again Sept 04 - Part 2

November 5, 2004 at 3:52am

As saturday morning awoke from its slumber, we were already poised at the starting point of our hidden valley expedition. A quick breakfast, setting up the bikes with packs, and re-packing the gear to distribute weight were our only morning chores.

I was not entertaining the thought of having to carry my backpack on my shoulders while riding. Not only for the stability concerns with the higher centre of gravity, but the state my shoulders would be in by the time we started the foot slog, so I had rigged up a pack carrier for my bike out of bent steel pipe bolted together (for lack of a welder), and bolted on to part of an existing carrier I already had. Because the back wheel had suspension, the whole thing hung off the seat post. With the pack at less than 15kg I deemed it within exceptable load limits. But this was to be its first real test, so a certain degree of intrepidation was experienced as I took on the the first bumps and humps.

We made good time. Navigating was fairly simple, with only one minor wrong turn in the first couple of hours. I hadnt put the required miles into the legs prior to today, so when the fire trail climbed out of a steep gully I resigned to the lowest possible gear ratio: Get off and push.

Within a couple of hours we had knocked off almost half the journey, and were crossing the Endrick river back to the Hidden Valley side, and farewelling the detour that the friendly B&B hosts had advised us of. I certainly hope NPWS come to the party and make that a defined access point, as it opens up some interesting land to the north of the Endrick which otherwise wouldnt be visited, and keeps the B&B owners happy.

From then on it was a gradual climb upstream along the Endrick to a place known as the Vines. It was here that we were to abandon the bikes in a secret spot marked on our GPS, and complete the trek into the hidden valley. It took us quite a while to find the actual turnoff for the walking track, but using all the bushskills a couple of city-slickers can manage, we eventually stumbled on it.

The next section of the walk was on a pleasent well defined track which took us up to the headwaters of Styles Creek. The track hasnt been maintained to much degree with large fallen trees making it more suitable for hobbits than mortal men on occation, but still easy enough. It was at this point that our, or should I say MY, water situation became a little uneasy. We had not seen water since leaving the bikes, and even the Endrick was a mere trickle compared to our last visit. I was banking on the swamps of hidden valley to provide enough for camping, but was quite relieved when we stumbled upon a small creek a few kilometers out, where we stopped for lunch.

We then pushed on into hidden valley entering through an enchanting saddle approximately half way along its length. Like a Garden of Eden, the valley is an enclosed swamp inside a table top mountain. Probably around 1km long, by a couple of hundred metres wide. We werent treated to a panoramic view until we traversed to the southern end, and climbed up to the cliff line in seach of a suitable cave for the night. The southern end has another saddle leading out of the valley with magestic views north into the valley, and south over a vast savanah toward Hoddle Mountain. The view south was breathtaking.

Water was our immediate concern. Hidden valley was as dry as a bone. We searched along the cliff base near our proposed camp site for any drips coming off the top. After quite an extensive search we only found one which was barely functional. We had enough water if we rationed ourselves for the rest of the day, or went back to the lunchtime creek to get more. Neither of us felt like the second option so we set up every possible piece of water catching device we could find under the small drip we had, and decided to take it easy and see what happened. In the end it was just enough. We were able to glean about 1 cup of water per hour out of our drip. Between that, and what we carried, we had enough to last the rest of the day. And overnight our drip should collect enough for breakfast.

While stumbling around looking for water, we found a much better cave a hundred metres from our original, and whiled away the late afternoon collecting firewood, and seting up base. This was where I released to the public my latest camping acquisition: An ultra light-weight nylon hammock!. What a godsend after 6 hours on bike and foot to get here. Its amazing how having somewhere comfortable to sit can enhance a campsite by several orders of magnitude. My companion declared his intention to invest in one "at the first camp shop I see on the way home".

That night we set a fire, had canned meatballs for dinner and listened to the AFL preliminary final on the wireless. I was asleep before the game finished, but awoke at 3am to the sound of heavy rain. An experience of such simplicity felt so incredible. We were warm and dry in our cave, in the fabled hidden valley, with the embers glowing in the fire, and rain falling in the forest only metres away.

By morning our water crisis was over, so it was just a matter of packing up and retracing our steps. It rained gently for most of the morning, but that wasnt a concern when we knew we'd be back in the cars after lunch. The bike home seems easier as it became apparent we had steadily climbed on our way in. The pack rack held up, but some minor improvements were discovered for next time. As usual we stopped into the Nerriga pub for a quick drink before parting to drive home. The Nerriga pub is a pub best viewed at nighttime.

Another great trip.

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Budawangs again Sept 04 - Part 1

November 5, 2004 at 3:23am

By getting back into the budawangs again, we may well have started a fledgling annual event. Only the fickle hand of time will tell.

For a geographical area which has stood still for millions of years, a lot changed since the last time we were there. Sure, there was the usual weathering and errosion with time, causing perhaps a tree or rock to squash a hapless wombat on route to its final resting place, but from a humanitarian perspective the rate of change was quite alarming.

I speak of the movement of access points to the national park further out. One might say this is a positive thing to preserve the wilderness in its pristine state. Others might say its excluding a greater percentage of people who actually pay for its upkeep: taxpayers. Who knows what devious thoughts pervade the minds of those at NPWS HQ. Either way, it merely presents an opportunity for inprepit bush dogs to come up with more novel ways of exploring this magestic landscape.

This expedition followed the earlier one in many repects. I weekend event kicking off at the Neriga pub on Friday night followed by a night in the bush, then back to Sydney on Sunday evening. Although a number of logistical obstacles ensured it would not be like the other one from that point on.

Firstly, we decided that an accent into the hidden valley was the goal for this trip. It can be quietly assumed that no Finley Mathers has ever set foot in this prehistoric wonderland, and to be the first would be an honour humbling in its enormity. But Hidden valley was further into the park than last time, so time was of the essence if we were to reach it.

Secondly, as noted in the previous blog entry, access through the B&B property was now blocked. I had rung them before hand to assertain the exact situation, and luckily was able to garner some key information about another route toward the hidden valley area that skirted around their property. As it turned out, the fires of a few years ago, had promted the NPWS to grade an overgrown and disused fire trail on the other side of the Endrick river which opened up a way in, although adding a few extra kilometers to the trek.

It was at this point that a plan crystalised in my mind of overcoming the growing distance we would have to cover to get to the prize I covetted: The hidden valley. Mountain biking the fire trail leg of the journey. A simple enough concept, but an engineering challange to build a suitable frame and lash a full backpack to a bike, especially as I had recently come into the possession of a full suspension one.

If this list of obsticles wasnt enough, my better half wanted the xtrail that weekend, so I had to hire a bright yellow Hyundia Getz which was only just big enough to take a pushbike with the back seats folded down. This Getz had little going for it in the automotive world. It was small, yellow, gutless, yellow, low to the ground, and yellow. But to my surprise, once on the open highway, it was champing at the bit and would carelessly sneak up to 130km/hour if a strong, firm leash wasnt applied.

And finally, as also noted in the previous blog, the bleeding barmaid had taken over the bleeding drunks room in the pub. A fact we only discovered after a few beers on that chilly winters night.

It had been a hectic week for my companion just prior, so the usual highjinks at the Nerriga pub on Friday were a little subdued this time around. Still time for a few cleansing ailes after the tension filled drive through wombat infested country roads in the dark. The unavaliability of the drunks room meant we slept in the cars that night. Not enough room in the Getz for me and the bike, but luckily one of those old, massive, boxy, sleeps-two falcon station wagons was the other element of our convoy.

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Budawangs July 2003 - Part 2

September 22, 2004 at 0:22am

Start the walk:

From Nerriga, go toward Braidwood for about 500m until you cross a small ford, then take the first left. After a further 2km, take the right in a fork, carry on ignoring another road that joins on the right, and then take the next fork to the right. You'll eventually come to a locked gate with a picket fence and a bit of a car park, and that is where you leave the cars and start the walk.

From here you follow the driveway around to the left which follows the Endrick river upstream (east) until you come to a restored stone house (the book has it as ruins, which it was 10 years ago, but has been beautifully restored. It’s tinkering with the idea of a becoming a small B&B, and apparently does bushwalker morning teas and has a bunkhouse.
Carry on for another km or so, then take the right road that has a "Walkers this way" sign (or something similar). You are now heading south-ish, where about a km further you come to a NPWS to signify the start of the national park. Up until now you have been walking on private land, so don’t leave the track and don’t think "lawsuit" if you fall over: It was your own stupid fault. The landowners have allowed access to bushwalkers out of their own good will, and it is considered good life-etiquette to take full responsibility for your own actions when entering this area. Not to mention common sense.

The low level cloud had made walking a doodle up to this point as we pounded along the fire trail at a steady pace, but we were about to make our first off track accent to the top of Round mountain, and the fog would become a menace. By some miracle of navigation we scrambled to the top and stumbled upon a bizarre rock arrangement that some shadowy figure with too much time on their hands had left many years previous. The visibility was down to a few metres at times.

Back down to the trail we slogged on for another couple of kilometers to a lunch point where we would leave the relative ease of a defined track until tomorrow afternoon. The goal was to get up to Fosters Mountain, then camp at a cave on its western flank. After a bit of fumbling with map and compass we found the pass and got up onto the plateau. By now the cloud had burnt off and our first commanding views of the northern Budawangs greeted us with a cheery grin. This is spectacular country. A timeless land of valleys and small swampy plains punctuated by tabletop mountains with sheer rock walls on all sides.
The attempted route into the centre of Fosters Mountain was a trial of frustration at the impenetrable bush. Diving backwards using your backpack as a battering ram was the only option in places. After a good half hour of this, we decided to forgo the centre and skirt the edges where the vegetation gave way to the edge of the rocky cliff face.

We found a small gully to descend down to our camp place in the mid afternoon. As we were scrambling down, great lumps of wood began falling from the cliff and landing below us. What in gods name was happening? It turned out other hikers were camping nearby and had gone up on top of the mountain to gather firewood, and were heaving it over the edge.
These would be the only people we would see over the weekend, so we had a quick chat, then moved further south around the cliff base until we found a suitable overhand in which to camp.
We weren’t the first here, as there was a healthy pile of firewood waiting for us.
Water was becoming an issue, with the only sign of it being the gully we came off the mountain on, but near our camp there was a steady drip coming off the cliff face. We set up a billy under the drip, and were able to glean a good litre an hour of pristine mountain water, which was ample.
Being on the western side, the sun stayed with us until early evening giving us a few more hours of warmth. This was mid winter where the temp regularly dips below zero, and without a tent, it was always going to be nippy. We set up a roaring fire, and put on most of the clothes we were carrying. We whiled away the hours of early evening listening to the footy on the tranny.
When I slipped into my sleeping bag, there was barely enough room to move with all my clothes on. I had never really used my sleeping bag hood until that night, but it was an absolute godsend in the chill of the pre-dawn.

Next day we crossed the small valley between Fosters Mountain and Square Mountain, and made a quick assent of Square for a look. Once back down we skirted the southern cliff base and then dropped down to the creek below on compass only to intersect with another fire trail an hour later. We then bade farewell to this scar of civilization and crossed directly over it to follow the tree line around to Flat Mountain skirting a reasonable sized swamp. This required the odd bit of serious bush bashing like seen on top of Fosters Mountain, but this time with no alternative.
We dropped the packs and scaled Flat Mountain for another panorama, before dropping down its western face to pick up the fire trail that would lead us back to the cars.

Upon returning to the cars, I have always found it a great spur for the last section of a walk to have some reward waiting at the end. In this case, a small esky with half a dozen light beers, and tim-tams on ice can be just the tonic for keeping weary legs pumping along. Failing that, it’s only a short drive back to the Nerriga pub.

[Sept 2004 – The drunks room at the Nerriga pub has now being taken over by the barmaid, and the land owners have blocked access to the first part of the walk, unless you are staying at their B&B]

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Budawangs July 2003 - Part 1

September 22, 2004 at 0:21am

Budawangs - July 2003 - [Backdated entry]

General description:

The Budawangs are to NSW bushwalkers what the North Pole is to a compass. A place they often look to, but rarely get to.
It is one of the great bushwalking areas and is hardly used. Perfect for that get away from it all weekend. Even during school holidays there may be only one or two other groups in your area at any one time.
But be warned, once you have walked the 'wangs, you will be rendered flaccid by almost all other NSW national parks. Its that good!

The beauty of the Budawangs lies in two parts. Firstly, the place is littered with caves and dry cliff overhangs negating the need to carry a tent, as enchanting camping sites can be found with relative ease. Secondly it’s an undeveloped park; therefore some portions of the walks are the traditional bush-bashing, which really enhances the feeling of that locked away ancestral pioneering spirit.

Getting there:

The Budawangs are the southern half of Morton national park, in between the Norwa-Braidwood road and Batemans Bay-Braidwood road. Coming from Sydney, the ideal aim for Friday night is the Nerriga pub on the Nowra-Braidwood road. The quickest way is to come down the Hume to just before Goulburn and turn south to Bungonia and on the Nerriga. Some parts of this are dirt road but passable all year round.
Otherwise, head down the coast to Nowra, then inland on the Nowra-Braidwood road (take the Albatross road from Nowra). This is a slightly less well-maintained road.
The Nerriga pub is almost the classic one pub village (population 11 at last count), that has almost vanished from the Australian landscape after drink driving laws were tightened in the early 80's. Maybe the secret to its survival is the locals desire to keep it in use, or the lack of coppers to do breath testing, but long shall it live. This is not redneck territory; in fact the locals are all very “country comfort” friendly. There are a few farm stays around Nerriga, and the pub has one room (room 7) otherwise known as the “drunks room”. The only time it might not be available is if the local copper decides to dust off his breathalyzer. Enter into hard negotiations with the publican after a couple of beers, and it should be yours. If Barry the wood chipper is already in there snoring like a Massey Ferguson, sleeping in the car outside is always a fall back. Be sure to drink heavily before retiring to make it more comfortable.
If not much is happening in the pub on the social front, it does have a pool table and a TV so settle in anyway. Its not like you have anywhere else to go!

Further information:

The Budawangs has many great walks, and the bible for Budawang walks is the "Bushwalking in the Budawangs" book by Ron Doubson. The walk here is based around walk 28 in the book with one climb omitted to make navigation and the walk a tad easier.
Along with the book, another great resource is the legendary 'Budawang sketch map", a 1:50,000 scale map showing most walks and landmarks. This is not enough detail to be useful when walking, but gives a great overview of the region. Hard to find, but Map World in Pitt Street has it, or inquire at any good outdoors store.
The Nerriga pub has the sketch map on the wall, and the book behind the bar (I know, I sold my copy to them). Neither leaves the pub.

What you will need is 1:25,000 scale map called Endrick. Its shows everything in spine tingling detail, and since part of this walk requires off-track navigation, don’t leave home without it. All outdoor stores have these maps.

What to take:

This is a winter walk, so keeping dry and warm are the main concerns. That comes down to some warm clothes, raincoat, a sleeping bag, and a woolly hat.
And don’t forget a compass and the Endrick map. Familiarize yourself with compass and map use before leaving, and refine those skills on the first day which is mostly on tracks and impossible to get lost, before off-track on the second day. One of the great things about this walk is that if you get lost, walking in either a NW or NE will get you back to a fire trail and back to civilization, but you'll need to have a compass to know which way NE or NW is.
You'll also need a sleep mat, a backpack, and a billy for cooking on.
Leave the tent and camping stove at home for this walk.

Food:

Surviving off the land was never easy at the best of times in Southern Australia. Sure there are those out there who salivate at the thought of roasted Koala marinated in Wollemi pine sap, but seeing as most Koalas have the clap and it takes about 35 ring barked Wollemi pines to produce the required quantity of sap, dinner preparation can significantly eat into your weekends timeframe.
With the variety of today’s lightweight meals available from the supermarket, it’s almost always easier to buy it before hand.

The amount of food you will need to carry for a weekend walk is 2 lunches (Sat and Sun), one dinner, and one breakfast. Lunches tend to be fairly light, a bit of bread, some topping, some muesli bars, and chocolate will suffice. Breakfasts can be a couple of those small, assorted packets of cereal, plus a small pack of long life milk. These are your staples.
Dinner is where you can really do some impressive work. You will be settled in a cave, a good fire roaring, and you’ll have time to prepare and enjoy. A good start is a couple of packets of continental pasta meals, with added dried peas/corn, and a small can of tuna. Bringing an onion and frying it up before hand is the sort of decadence most mortal bushwalkers dream of.
But remember, you’ll enjoy the walk a lot more with a light pack and simple food, than a heavy pack and gourmet food. Although heavier stuff like fruit can be taken on the first day if it’s consumed that day.

Emergency rations: If you sprain an ankle or someone breaks an arm, your progress out may take longer than expected. No real emergency, just a day late. You’ll need something to eat in this unlikely event. This is where you need some bare minimum, tasteless, extremely light weight stuff as 95% of the time you wont need it. A packet of dried vegetables or noodles is usually enough, plus whatever is left over from the other meals.


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