I am so glad I chose to walk this leg! The views were astonishing and I went a bit mad with the panorama setting on my camera!
The great north walk is essentially an interrupted walk due to the presence of the Hawkesbury River. Crossing the river presents something of a challenge now that the regular ferry service is no longer running. Walkers have a choice of simply catching the train to Wondabyne and picking up the trail from there (missing the Patonga leg), hiring a water taxi to Patonga (expensive but it is a very pretty trip), or catching a train out to Woy Woy and then the 54 busways bus service to Patonga (poor schedule on weekends so try to plan it for a weekday). I had almost convinced myself to consider this leg as a link track and to simply pick up the track at Wondabyne, but I am so glad I was stubborn enough to want to complete the full track – there was so much pretty on this walk!
The moment I stepped off the bus near Patonga Wharf I started imagining living there! There was a pub, a general store, some houses and not much else. The beach was wide and had sets of swings planted in the sand – the kids would love it! The view was of a relatively untouched shoreline and was rather idlyic. Yep, I could live there.
It was still early so the shop wasn’t open yet so I couldn’t grab a coffee, so I used the public loo and headed off. Almost immediately I ran into a pair of Lyrebirds messing about in the bush. Tried to take photo’s but failed again as they moved behind trees whenever I clicked. I’m now determined to get a good photo of these amazing birds – one way or another I will get a good picture before I reach Newcastle!
There was a 100m climb ahead of me and it proved to be a simple enough climb. I was worried I’d be exhausted at the start of the walk but all was well. There were many rock platforms that provided views over the river and I stopped at every one of them. If all that I did was walk this section to the top and then went back down again it would have been a very satisfying day out.
After the views came the fire trail. A long slog of unpaved road. I realized that it was worth lingering and taking time at the views because the connecting tracks can often be just hard work. As it was spring in Australia, all the wildflowers were out so I occupied myself by examine them all bit closer.
It was at this point that I was chased by wildlife for the first time ever! After batting away the flies I heard thus high pitched clicking sound heading in my direction. I soon became convinced it was after me and I bolted ahead to try to outrun it. I succeeded only to have it catch up again. I ran as fast as I could and finally stopped when I was sure I had left it behind. Then, off to my right I heard a large number of high pitched clicking sounds coming from the bush and I walked very quickly away. “The field of fear”, I called it.
Yeah, I was chased by a bug. It may have been a cicada. And there’s a small possibility it was just going in the same direction as me…
The fire trail soon gave way to walking track and I heard the sound of bulldozers. I track passed by Woy Woy tip and I felt quite angry that the beautiful bush land had been torn apart in order for folks (like me) to dump their garbage. On seeing it though, it just looked like there were a few bulldozers pushing dirt around and there was not much garbage on display. Regardless, I vowed not to drink the water from this area….
Thank fully the track soon took me across a series of rock platforms where I had morning tea. Eventually I caught my first glimpse of Mount Wondabyne. “Gee, don’t you look far away,” I thought.
By 11am I had arrived at Wondabyne campsite. There was a lot of room for tents but there was also a large ant nest in the middle of it so one would need to be very careful were to set up. I briefly considered skipping the climb to the summit but thankfully pushed those thoughts aside. On the way up there was a large cave (overhang) suitable for maybe 3 people to sleep and some folks had built a large fireplace to keep warm. It actually looked fun. I’d probably still sleep in a tent but ditch the fly. I don’t like the thought of bugs on me at night. There were a number of false summits, one of which was covered in fire ants which climbed my leg as I rested. I stamped by foot and half a dozen came off. One hung on long enough to bite me. It didn’t last long. The terrain was quite treacherous and the wind almost blew me off the mountain (an exaggeration but care must be taken up there). The true summit carried an old trig station and I sat up against it and ate lunch whilst savoring the awesome views. I could see the little train station in the valley that was my destination. I could also see that the route there would not be direct as there was a river that had to be negotiated. The only way around was via the ridge lines, crossing where the river was fed.
After descending the temperature picked up and I was regretting forgetting to pack sunscreen. I took a headache tablet and drank a large amount of water. I then saw a guy out with no backpack, and thus no water. There was nothing for miles around! I hope he likes drinking untreated from the creeks!
The track again visited some lovely rock platforms and after almost an hour of walking I came to the astonishing Kariong Falls. The descent to the passed a large sandstone overhang and the falls themselves were well enclosed by walls of sandstone producing a very sheltered, peaceful spot. I took off my shoes and dangled my feet in the ice cold water for a while. I was visited by two skinks while I ate some grapes – lovely little creatures (large lizards for those not familiar).
I forced myself to leave. The remaining walk switched from bush track to fire trail then back to bush track again. I ran out of energy on the last climb and had to pause to eat my emergency apple. When I finally made it to Wondabyne station, I was horrified to see a “Station closed” sign up with a number telling folks to call a water taxi. This was somewhat hard to do given there was no reception in the area! Thankfully the signs said that the closure was for the weekend and not the weekdays so I was okay. The next issue was that the trains ran hourly and I had missed one. Never mind, the train station was situated alongside a river so I rested and took in the view for a while. Two young girls were making a ruckus on the wharf and it seemed one of them had caught her clothes bag on a pylon and couldn’t get it free. She was in her bathers so would look a tad out of place on the train home. They got it free and caught the train going the other way, after pausing for photo’s on the train lines!
The train arrived and I flagged it down (you have to signal the driver to stop at this station and the station is only wide enough to accommodate the rear door on the last carriage of the train!
All in all, after 19.5km of walking along a mix of fire trails and bush track, I say that this was a very enjoyable walk. The panoramic views made it worthwhile and I’d recommend not even considering to skip this section of the walk. There were some well separated rest stops that made for an easy pace: the view over Patonga, the rock platforms after Woy Woy tip, Mount Wondabyne itself and finally the restful Kariong Falls.
Next up: Wondabyne to Somersby!