Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Katoomba - Narrowneck - Dunphy's - Megalong Valley - Nellie's Glen

Nothing starts a walk better than a long train trip interrupted by trackwork and buses, ensuring that you start late in the hottest part of a summer day.  So at 12.00 (not 10.30 as planned) I was finally at the beginning of Narrowneck, covered in flies and deafened by cicadas. 

Looking along the winding Narrowneck track with views over the Megalong Valley and 6 Ft Track

the track along Narrowneck

Narrowneck is very easy to walk along, which means you have plenty of time to stop and take in all the views.  On the east you have the Jamison Valley with Mt Solitary and the the Three Sisters, and on the west you have endless views over the Megalong Valley, 6 Ft Track, and over to Jenolan.  Then you finish with views to Kanangra Walls, Lake Burragorang, and all the way down Mittagong way.

Jamison Valley
The walk goes through lots of interesting terrain, and twists and turns, and climbs and drops consistently. I imagine the original track would have been a windy little thing before the road was put in.

By the time I had travelled about halfway along Narrowneck I was a bit mad from the flies.  I had to settle for allowing a few to simply remain on my face and blow the ones on my lips away.  Usually a nice breeze keeps them away, but not even today's hurricane winds blew them off. So I just wandered along spitting out flies.

Eventually you approach Clear Hill at the end of Narrowneck, and the views seem to go on forever.  Mittagong, Kanangra Tops, Yerranderie, Lake Burragorang, Wild Dog mountains.  Breathtaking.

Lake Burragorang in the misty distance
At the end of Narrowneck, the fun begins.  By now the legs were a bit like jelly, just right for squeezing through narrow gaps and scrambling around rocks.  There is a cool metal ladder to climb, and I would have preferred to go down facing the steps, but I couldn't turn around with my pack on.  At least there are plenty of hand holds.

Then comes the highlight of the walk along Narrowneck.  I had spent years reading about Taros Ladders, with absolutely no idea what they were.  The first time I came along Narrowneck I had thought they were my little friends pictured above.  Then I came to a sheer drop, with no clue as to where to go.  Was I lost ? (not that uncommon for me).  As I scouted around I saw a metal spike and thought "you're kidding me".  I had found the "ladders".  I should count myself lucky though.  I have since seen photos of years gone by, with walkers descending via rope, and also no rope at all.  I will settle for the metal spikes.  

looking down Taros Ladder

looking up the ladder
Taros Ladder is a bunch of iron spikes and steps in the rock, clearly designed for tall people, not hobbits like me.  I find them terrifying as I have to hold on with my arm, supporting my body (and pack) weight with just my arms, and scrabble and stretch to place my feet.  However, there is no other way down.  

However, before the walk started I had had felt a niggle in my left calf, but this had loosened nicely after a long hot walk.  Halfway down the ladder, though, at full stretch and no way I could stop, I felt a lovely burning "twang".  Not good.  

After the ladder, its down to the power lines, time for a nice limp over Mt Debert, and on to Medlow Gap.  Why they don't put a nice rainwater tank here is a mystery.  It is in the middle of all kinds of trips and walks, and in particular, at the end of a long blazing hot summer trek along Narrowneck.  About when your water is running out.  As was happening to me.  I know it's a helicopter landing area, but I really didn't feel comfortable activating my PLB for an emergency helicopter delivered water drop.  There is a shallow, weed infested water hole filled with brown sludge, but a terrible death by dysentery is not high on my list of things to do, so time to push on to a small creek about 2km along the track to Dunphy's campsite.  
Medlow Gap with Mt Mouin in the background

Of course last time, several months ago in spring, after recent rains, my beautiful creek was a free flowing water supply.  This time it looked a bit dodgy, with lots of floaty bits and tadpoles.  However, it is still a small miracle that after minimal rain, after the hottest driest spring in recorded history, in the hottest driest year in recorded history, it was still there at all.  So covering my bottle opening to get under all the floaties on the surface, I braved about half a litre, and filled up for the last bit of the days walk.

Since starting so late I had kept up the pace, so now it was a pleasant few km of easy evening limping in the cool to Dunphy's Camp.  At this time of the year I was expecting some human company, but arrived to find the place deserted. However, I was soon joined by several mobs of kangaroos, so I did have company of sorts.

approaching Dunphy's Campsite

Dunphy's Campsite

Upon arrival at Dunphy's I downed a half litre of warm water from the water tank, before stripping off and washing off a long 30km days sweat.  It was still over 30 degrees so I was dry immediately.  Then I mixed up a litre of powdered milk and MILO and downed that warm milky goodness too.  Then I drank some more water.  Then I had another wash and tipped more water over my head.  It was at this point I noticed that the tank water also contained some wiggly mosquito goodness.  Guess I'm not such a good vegetarian after all, and I may still possibly die a horrible death by dysentery.

life is good
 As the sun went down, I cooked up my noodles, instant mash, dried peas extravaganza, devoured the lot, and settled into a bit of Ian Fleming as the sun went down.  Last time I walked out here my trusty Dunlop Volleys had disintegrated leaving me with 50c sized blisters all over my feet and lots of walking the next day.  This time I was wearing my expensive runners, and  tonight I had no blisters. After cooling a little, It was now blazing hot again, so I continued tipping water and larvae over my head to cool off.  It got dark, the stars were brilliant, and I sat watching satellites go by overhead.  Life was good.

The next day it was on down through the Megalong Valley.  A nice stroll through Packsaddlers and a pleasant chat with some horses and chickens.  Not a person anywhere though. 

PACKSADDLERS -These owners allow public access through their property, so I left a generous donation for them in the small box provided.
 Soon after Packsaddlers, there was a warning sign.  Thank goodness, because soon after.........
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Okay, it sounds a little weird, but cows freak me out.  Horses are bigger, but they just ignore you.  If horses do look at you, it is brief, with a bland indifference, before returning to their gentle munching.  Cows, however, just stare.  They never take their eyes off you.  The entire herd with silently gaze at you with eveil eyes as you pass by.  Without blinking.  And some have big sharp horns on top of their evil eyed heads.   

Scary cows aside, the words "pleasant wander" apply to the Megalong Valley.  Lots of little gullies, creeks, shady trees, views over mountains and valleys, ups and downs, twists and turns, horses, more cows, farms, guest houses.  Occasional cars.  Even a Santa in a mail box.

Santa was here

Looking along Narrowneck from Megalong Valley Rod

 After a long 8km wander along Megalong Valley Road, and some playing around with my camera's "panorama" setting, it was time for a bit of 6 Ft Track and the home stretch.
6 Foot Track

Of course, as I walked along there had to be more cows.  This time a curious little fellow wanted to come and say "hi", with all his big beady eyed friends staring at me.  He seemed to want me to pat him, but that was never going to happen.  I put my eyes down and walked on nervously, waiting for the sounds of bellows and thundering hooves.

More cows !!  These long horns guys were definite freak shows.  When they saw me, they closed ranks.  Then slowly began walking towards me.......before running around in big circles like, well...crazy cows.  Then they would stop, slowly close ranks, walk towards me...then run around crazy again. Thank goodness for the fence. Obviously Mad Cow Disease.  I stood watching them for a while, before worrying they would run themselves to death.  They followed me until the fence line.  I suspect they would have followed me to Katoomba and cried when my train departed, before running around in circles trampling commuters to death in their sorrow.
Mad Cows
 The climb up Nellie's Glen is a long one, but it was still early (and cool) and I had fresh legs and plenty of time.  Last time it was blazing hot, my feet were covered in blisters, and I was a shattered man trying to make a train.

Nellie's Glen
Nellie's Glen

Walking up Nellie's Glen, I bumped into lots of runners out training.  One guy passed me several times, and still had enough energy for a quick word each time, which was quite impressive.  I also had a nice chat with some wonderful guy doing some repair work on the stairs.  I must admit I was a little jealous of his career choice.  What a great office.

looking from top of Nellie's Glen, along Narrowneck down to the Megalong Valley.

Then a short walk from the end of the trail, along the top of Bonnie Doon Falls, to emerge back into civilization, and a safe end to another adventure.  By now the day was cooking hot, the roads were blasting back heat, and I regretted my short cut past the pool.  I made my way to the station, bought my ticket, and waited for the cool bliss of air conditioned rail comfort to arrive.  Hoping all the while not to hear the sound of murderous bovine hooves.

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