09-10/05/2003 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Jonathan Potts, Charles Blumer
After the usual start at the North Richmond bakery, we headed for Bell, and parked the car a short way down the fire trail we wanted to take. Having just bought a bunch of lightweight bushwalking gear, I had decided that I could get away with a day pack. However, since the others had overnight packs, I'm not entirely sure that I was carrying my fair share of the group weight!
We quickly headed down the ridge and crossed the creek heading up the other side to a large rock pagoda. After admiring the view, the rain came streaming down, and we hid packs under a rock ledge. Putting on rain jackets, we headed north down a track to the Wollangambe. Well, not quite. We quickly realised we were on the wrong track, but it looked so well trodden we figured it must go somewhere interesting. It wasn't for another five minutes when it swung all the way around to the south east that we realised it was the right track ... but for later in the day!
We backtracked and picked up the (this time) obvious fire trail. A quick scramble at the bottom and we were at the Wollangambe River. Charles had to answer a call of nature and went scrambling off up the other side.
More exploration was called for, so we thought we would head upstream. After about 30m of fern bashing, which seemed to take forever, we figured we would be better off scrambling back up to the ridge and descending a short distance away. Team Courage (Jonathan and Charles) decided that rather than backtracking (all of about 10m) to the place we came down, that they would climb. Team Courage became Team Foolish as the 10m tree that Jonathan started to climb turned out to be dead and came crashing down! Luckily Jonathan had moved pretty quickly, and the rest of us were already out of harm's way.
After climbing out, we headed across to another spur and picked up a fire trail that lead back up to the main ridge, and from there a track back to the pagoda. We decided to break with tradition and have lunch at about 1pm, rather than the usual 4pm lunch that generally seems to happen while bushwalking!
We got back on track and managed to mostly stay on it down to the River. A couple of sections required some backtracking and traversing. There were an excessive number of cairns, and Team Courage went to a good deal of trouble to remove them. After all it is a wilderness area. In a couple of places, I counted five cairns within five metres! Do they breed or something?
Crossing the Wollangambe without getting their feet wet was interesting, for Team Courage anyway. They were clogging at a slippery narrow point between two large boulders, so I backtracked and found an obvious log. It took me about five seconds to cross. Several more minutes passed before they were both across. Then we picked up a vague track to the Crater. It's quite a spectacular site - I still don't know whether it's a meteorite crater or an old volcanic cone. We headed up to the campsite at the unheard of hour of 4pm (anything before dark in my experience is a miracle). All of us had frisbees to eat out of so we had a round of frisbee golf in the fading light. I missed out on the playoff after bungling the last hole, so Team Courage continued the game while I started on dinner. The playoff was still going almost an hour later after the deadlock on each hole couldn't be broken. It all ended in controversy in the dark when Charles thought that he had holed out for the win (well we couldn't see that he hadn't!).
After smoked oysters, vegetable soup, miso soup, red wine, moroccan beef stir fry, chocolate, marshmallows and port we were pretty full, and settled down in front of the fire. I'm not sure that we were competing, but the fire won convincingly. I managed to successively shrink my waterproof map case, burn a hole in my new Therm-a-rest and melt the glue holding the sole on to my shoes. Not ... happy ... Jan.
I slept pretty badly - deflating Therm-a-rest not helping much. We slept out under the stars, which were quite spectacular as the clouds cleared. It was a little chilly though - dropping below zero and staying there for most of the night.
I had to be back at the car by 2pm so I figured we had plenty of time, leaving at 10:30am. But Team Courage convinced me to go exploring upriver. It was easy walking for a while, and we found a fantastic camp cave on the way. Then it got tricky and we had to make five creek crossings in a short space of time, which took us a while. Team Courage insisted on going for a swim at this point, so I pushed on and scouted out routes. There was a bit of scrub near the top of the ridge but not too bad, and we soon picked up the day before's track again.
We had a rushed lunch at the same pagoda as the day before, and decided to take a slightly different route home, which included a 1.5km road bash at the end. Pushing the pace, I got back to the car at 2:15pm - not too bad - and drove back to pick up Team Courage, who were a bit behind.
All up an excellent weekend, and we discovered plenty of interesting things for future trips.