Friday, 1 January 2016

Rambling in The Royal

To those about to read my garbled nonsense, this is not a “Rob and Cait” experience. The lovely Cait would kill me if I dragged her along on something as silly as this. She just patiently asked me to “write down where you are going so I can send help”. What a good wife. There was zero phone reception all day so a wise precaution.

My efforts to get the pack and walking shoes on in recent times have been frustratingly thwarted. Work, weather, wounds all playing their part. This time again, just when I had everything packed and ready to set out from Katoomba for a few days of pre-Christmas adventure in the Wild Dog mountains, a mystery bug laid me a bit low, my back gave way, then the weather produced apparently the highest December rainfall since dinosaurs roamed the earth, so probably good I hadn't set out.

This left me with only a brief gap between Christmas and New Years.

It always surprises me how and when ideas for a walk take hold, like an itch needing a scratch. Out of nowhere I had an urge to go exploring the Royal National Park. A quick gaze at a map (actually I have several maps of the RNP – you can never have too many maps.  Even a 1976 map from my school boy days).  A possible route leaped out at me. A tad ambitious, but I was sick of sitting on my butt, and time was running short before the holidays ended and a new job beginning. Now or never.

Left home at 7.15, parked at Audley at 8.30. Set off at 8.40. A dream start. What could go wrong !!  Only delay was waiting for a curious young child to bugger off so I could apply some lubricant to parts best left unseen.  It was going to be a hot day out there and chafing was not on my to do list.

This was a day combining a mix of everything. Lots of exploring new places, revisiting old favourites, meandering and taking photos, and some easy fire trails to get some running in as well. I started with a climb directly up from Audley towards Winifred Falls. I had never been along here before, and it was lovely. Some nice rock walls which always amaze me. The work done so long ago and so well, still standing. It always humbles me to think of the effort it must have taken to do this, so crazy bastards like me could go rambling about a hundred years later.

time to start running
Crossing Warumbul Road the track became open fire trail and time to do a bit of running to Winifred Falls. These were lovely, and I had a nice wander and scramble around. 
Winifred Falls

Returning to the track, I shortly crossed South West Arm creek and I was passed by a fellow who had been at the falls as well. He looked geared up for photography. As he tore past he asked if the track led to Anice Falls. At that point I thought it was, and mumbled a quick “I think so” and he powered off into the distance. Why do people listen to anything I say. For several reasons I am known as THAT GUY – one being “don't follow THAT GUY” as I am prone to head off in the wrong direction before sorting myself out. I hope Mr Photographer wised up eventually. My little voice in my head was getting louder telling me “you know you are going the wrong way, don't you”. I definitely was not going to start climbing a ridge anytime soon to reach a fire trail. I retraced my steps to Winifred Falls, started out again, and did some more wandering and scrambling around trying to pick up a trail.
South West Arm Creek crossing
I recrossed the creek once more, then noticed an erosion gully just off to the left which I now suspected was actualy the right way. Which it was, and I had a fairly gentle climb up to the Mt Bass Trail. Another wide trail, so time to start running. All gradually uphill, so a nice effort for a couple of km. Crossing Bundeena Drive, it was then a nice downhill trot to Little Marley.
I could have cut out Marley altogether and shortened my day, but I love the stretch between Marley and Wottamolla and I was travelling well. Passed a few walkers, was passed by a few motor bikes. I came across the side track to the Deer Pool which I hadn't planned on. Feeling good, I decided to go exploring and it was well worth it. A great detour. My old school days map has this as a camp site.  These days camping is forbidden - but what a great place to spend a night (stealth) camping.  I climbed back to the main trail and resumed choofing down to Marley, with Marley Lagoon appearing on the left.  For years I had thought that the Deer Pool and Marley Lagoon were the same. How wrong could I be.
Deer Pool

Marley Lagoon - not the Deer Pool obviously
From Marley to Wattamolla was all the reasons why The Coast Track is spectacular and I wanted to include this stretch. Cliffs, ocean views, crashing waves, eroded sandstone. 
Little Marley

track down to Wattamolla

A quick refill at Wattamolla (thousands of people), then off to Curracurrang. The heat was kicking in, and a geat place to stick the head under running water. Someone asked me “can you drink the water”? I was guzzling it down and filling my bottles, so I hope so. 

Curracurrang - why wouldn't you stick your head in ?
Then off to Curracurrong and Eagle Rock, and more head cooling before heading off to cross the Curra Moors.  Loved the boardwalks along here.  Some parts of the Coast Track are severely eroded with just a bunch of boards randomly thrown down.  Not only are these boards useless after the rain (as they just disappear into the mud as many have discovered), they are actually slippery and dangerous; and they definitely do not have the "wow" factor of the boardwalks which I find kinda cool.

Eagle Rock
 At this point, despite having maps and a clear sense of where I was, I had a brain fade and missed a turn off. I'm pretty sure I recall where I went wrong, but not paying enough attention. I was using a NPWS tourist map which clearly stated “not for navigational purposes”, but I can't blame the map as it was 100% correct. Poor workmen...etc. When I hit Sir Bertram Stevens Drive I was already in the wrong place but convinced myself I wasn't.  After a hot road slog I hit Garie Road and realised I was off track and thought "oh no" (I believe what I thought was a little stronger, but this is a family show).

After working out where I had gone wrong (not hard as it was obvious), I began a long road bash back to where I needed to be. Not a lot of road shoulder along here, and a few presses into bushes were required. I don't know why people fuss about snakes – P plate drivers are way scarier.
This is what I was looking for.  Just wish I had found it sooner.
Eventually I hit the start of the Walumarra Track. Bliss. Another stretch to jog along for a few hot km, until the start of the single track down to Bola Creek. All through the park these large fire trails lead to beautiful little trails winding down to creeks and falls. The wander down to Bola Creek and onto Lady Carrington Drive was fantastic and I could imagine people having walked this stretch for thousands of years. A special place. More of those old stone steps and rock work I love so much as well. At the bottom, the few km walk along Bola Creek was easily one of the nicest I have ever done and would be a great walk with kids.  I do like to rate trails on their "Lord of the Rings" factor, and how likely it would be for a mystical creature to appear.  I give this section a solid 8/10 although the only mystical creature was a goanna exploding out of a pile of leaf litter and scaring the pants off me. 
down to Bola Creek

Bola Creek
Eventually I hit Lady Carrington Drive.  My 1976 map has this as "one way traffic only" and apparently it was open to cars as recently as 1984.  Amazing. The long day was beginning to hit. I had stretched out my pace and nutrition, but I really needed to have had a few more salty nibblies (I would have killed for some Twisties) and more sports drink to give me a big salty sweet lift. At least I had plenty of water and only about 9km to go.  No one was going to die, so  I toughened up and got to trotting along. A lot of nice improvement since last I came along here. It was finally cooling which was much appreciated.  I passed a very tired lady clad in the finest bike riding gear money could buy, pushing what looked like a new mountain bike.  I was tired but she looked shattered as she struggled to finish what was probably a good idea at the time.  With about 1km to go, it was time to relax and walk it in. Great to see so many families through the day enjoying this wonderful park, and Audley was still pumping at 4.30. I love getting away from it all, but I also love seeing these beautiful places being used and appreciated.  Obviously a few more rules and restrictions over time which don't please all, but possibly for the best.
Lady Carrington Drive
I arrived at the car at about 8 hours and 45 km after starting. Thank goodness for leaving clean clothes in the car because I stunk like a toilet. I just wish I had remembered some Twisties as well to make the day perfect.  Nonetheless it was an epically enjoyable adventure. Photos a bit average with a different camera, but cramping hip flexors will keep the memories fresh a little while longer yet.

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