04/05/2003 - report

Participants: Tom Brennan

It was a balmy 8 degrees as I sat in my car eating breakfast looking over the Megalong Valley. My plan was to do a loop walk to the Explorers Tree, down Nellies Glen into the valley, and back up Devil's Hole. I hadn't walked any of this before.

Despite wanting to travel light, I made the concession of leaving my heavy fleece on. Walking up Narrow Neck Rd towards the Highway, I was pretty happy I had it. The sun made occasional appearances from behind a fair amount of cloud, and apart from that it was a chill morning.

Not quite half way up I saw a sign off to the left saying Cliff Walk to Nellies Glen. That sounded like a more pleasant alternative to the Highway. However, it did mean I would miss out on the Explorer's Tree. I decided I wanted to visit the Explorer's Tree, so I pushed on with my original plan.

In hindsight, that was a mistake. For starters, the section of the Great Western Highway between the top of Narrow Neck Rd and Explorer's Tree doesn't have much of a footpath. In fact, at times it doesn't even have much of a shoulder. In short, it was unpleasant walking. [Note: since the Katoomba realignment of the Great Western Highway, this section is a little better to walk]

Then, I missed the Explorer's Tree. It happens to be right on the corner of the Highway, where you turn. But it's on the far corner. I assumed it would be well signposted, so I blindly wandered to the bottom of the hill before checking my map, and wasted a good fifteen minutes by the time I backtracked.

Well, when I finally reached the Explorer's Tree, all I can say is that I was underwhelmed. The tree, if you can still call it that, is well locked up in an iron cage. There's not a lot of the tree left. In fact, there's about 8ft of trunk, mostly held together with concrete stuffing and iron hoops. It seems pretty tacky. I'd suggest removing it altogether and replacing it with a commemorative monument - let the poor dead tree rest in peace.

I headed back down to Nellies Glen, a nice but steep descent through high cliff walls. After a brief detour to Bonnie Doon Falls, the track started to flatten out and eventually became a fire trail, and the walking was pretty easy all the way to the turnoff to Dixon's Ladders.

A large sign at the turn off stated that the ladders had been removed - I didn't let that stop me from heading for Devil's Hole. After a bit more fire trail walking I headed off at a cairn on to a vague track that crossed a creek and then headed up to the cliff line. A bit more looking at the map and searching for markers, and I found the obvious pass through the cliffs, with a large boulder hanging ominously over the track.

Once through the cliffs there were some large pagodas to climb with excellent views of the valley. It was only a short walk from here back to the car, shortly after lunch.