“Pole-pole” (pronounced polay-polay) is a common swahili expression. On treks in east Africa, you’ll be advised to take it slowly or “pole-pole”. My two trekking poles help me tackle steep ascents and tricky descents pole-pole, even if I lack the elegance of a light footed African gazelle…. [Continue reading]
Hey Sister Go Sister Soul Sister! There is the reassuring, familiar sound of women chatting in front and behind me, as we power along the harbour side bush track. A cool breeze provides some evening relief after a warm Sydney summer’s day. The current topic of our walking conversation is our decision to change our name, from the ironic Over the Hill, to a more upbeat Sole Sisters, a name which better expresses who we are. Of course, the conversation quickly turns to soul music to walk by…. [Continue reading]
From the small sandy beach beside Blue Hole on the Lane Cove River you can look up at the arches of De Burghs bridge, carrying streams of traffic on an important North South artery through Sydney. Blue Hole was the first fresh water swimming spot on the Lane Cove River, out of reach of the tide and sharks in the days before the weir at Fullers Rd dammed the river. The building of the weir submerged early wharves on the river, including the highest wharf which was near Blue Hole, Lofberg’s Wharf. Blue Hole is reached on a side track of the Great North Walk, as you walk up the Lane Cove valley towards Brown’s Waterhole.
We start this 12km loop at Allen Park, in west Killara, and follow the Great North Walk across Blackbutt creek, under De Burgh’s bridge and onward up the valley. About 4km from the start, look out for a track to the left that crosses the Lane Cove River and climbs some stone carved steps towards the Macquarie University sport fields. Walk around the sport fields and pick up the path on the other side, which takes you down to Brown’s Waterhole. Return to Allen Park by following the Great North Walk on the eastern side of the Lane Cove river valley.
The early European settlers in Sydney displaced the first people, the Guringai, who have left their mark in engravings in the Lane Cove valley. These engravings include a wallaby close to Allen Park and wallaby tracks near Brown’s Waterhole. John Brown in 1850 was recorded as the owner of land from De Burgh’s bridge to Pearce’s corner, and watered his cattle on the waterhole on the river.
At one stage Brown employed Lofberg, a young Swedish mariner who jumped ship in 1857 and headed up the Lane Cove river to hide. Lofberg ferried wood felled in the forests to Darling Harbour, from his wharf near Blue Hole. Although it is likely the wharf was not much more than a pile of rocks at the highest navigable spot on the river. Smart man, he later married the boss’s daughter. Children today now play on Lofberg Oval and swim in the local council pool in West Pymble, not far from the old river swimming spot Blue Hole near Lofberg’s early wharf.
De Burgh’s Bridge
De Burgh, an Irishman, arrived in Australia some time after Lofberg, in 1885. He became an eminent Public Works engineer, building many wooden “De Burgh truss” bridges across rivers such as the Lane Cove River (1901), Hunter, Kangaroo, Murray. His two lane bridge over the Lane Cove river replaced a ford, and was considered “magnificent and daring”. The 50m span was the longest timber span built in Australia. The modern bridge bears his name.
The approach to the original bridge was constrained by the rocky hillsides of the valley, but that was no longer a problem by the time the original De Burgh’s bridge was replaced with a new six lane concrete bridge in 1967. De Burgh’s wooden bridge burnt down in the 1994 fires that swept down the valley.
Some things stay the same, and others things have changed dramatically, as the pictures of the Lane Cove valley below show. 1943 on the left and 2005 on the right.
A good map for this walk is the STEP maps. Wildwalks have detailed track notes for the east bank part of this walk, from De Burgh’s Bridge to Browns Waterhole.
Every year, about 130 bushwalkers get lost. Not wanting to be a statistic, and knowing the best way to improve our navigation skills was by practise, we entered two teams in our first 6 hour rogaining adventure. Rogaining is an outdoor adventure strategy game, a big social treasure hunt, and a fun way to explore a new area. The challenge is to set a strategic route and then successfully navigate using map and compass to the controls (checkpoints), collecting as many points as possible in the time allowed. … [Continue reading]
I am a data and design geek who loves hiking, bushwalking, trail running. I’ve been exploring tools that that allow me to visualise and animate my GPS tracks…. [Continue reading]
We’re heading off for our regular Monday morning Sydney bushwalk. Amongst the essential safety items in my daypack, food, water, first aid, compass and map, is my smart phone, a multi-function safety aid in the metropolitan Sydney bush. … [Continue reading]
“Our vision is for a world where no one is needlessly blind, and Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians.” Fred Hollows (1929-1993) was an inspirational Australian whose work restoring sight is continued by the Hollows Foundation. Coastrek is a challenging annual Sydney endurance walking event organised by Wild Women on Top that is a significant fundraiser for the Hollows Foundation…. [Continue reading]
Ambling through the peaceful forest in Killara’s Bushranger Reserve, I wondered who the wild bushrangers were, and where they could have lived. Gavin Souter, in Times and Tides: a memoir of Middle Harbour enlightened me. The Geary Gang were an elusive bunch, who escaped from capture twice, leaving a trail of “plunder and alarm” and on two separate occassions robbed the unfortunate Mrs Matilda Fish in Killara. A gang of five, led by William Geary, they lived in a gibber gunyah or “house of rock”, an overhang or cave, in the bush near Gordon Creek around 1821. Geary escaped from jail a third time, but ultimately ended up on the gallows.
This 9km circuit starts at Barra Brui Oval, in St Ives, and follows the pipeline track before turning onto Governor Phillip track. Enjoy the flowers and views on your way down to Middle Harbour creek. Once you reach the creek, turn right (south), duck under the pipeline, and follow the track alongside the creek to the crossing of Rocky Creek. Follow the track alongside Middle Harbour, taking care through some areas of salt marsh that can be swampy at hight tide, and around Lockley Point, before climbing up to East Killara. The track to Lockley point was constructed during the Great Depression, and old stonework can still be seen in places.
Turn right at the top and follow the track through Bushranger Reserve, for around a km, taking care to follow a side track down to avoid ending up in suburban Killara streets. Zig zag down a side track to cross Rocky creek and climb back up to Burraneer Road for a quiet suburban walk back to your car at Barra Brui Oval. If time allows, there are plenty of places for a hill interval workout.
Bungaroo and Governor Phillip
Bungaroo is the historic campsite at the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek. It was here that Governor Phillip camped with a small exploration party on April 16, 1788, while exploring Middle Harbour in search of arable land. Bungaroo today is not significantly different to what it might have looked like, remote and wild, in 1788.
Manly Council have a document describing Governor Phillip and parties journey through “heights inaccessible”. Spare a thought for the difficulties faced by this early party, as you tackle overgrown sections of the path, or wade through high water. From Bungaroo, they took a day trip up onto the ridge line – perhaps to Turramurra or as far as Pennant Hills – from where they observed distant large mountains and the hoped for large river. One wonders how they found their way back to Bungaroo – perhaps by using hatchets as they went to trail blaze trees.
Crossing Rocky Creek
This loop crosses Rocky Creek twice. The first downstream crossing is only passable, with care, at low tide. A piece of wire is strung across the creek to guide you. If the tide is high, you can go upstream to another crossing point. As with all creeks, don’t cross after heavy rain or if the river is flooding.
The upstream crossing of Rocky Creek, in Bushrangers Reserve, has some large rocks and pools. Close to Eastern Arterial road, there is a large pool and waterfall on Rocky Creek, according to the STEP map. I attempted to find this, but the footpad was too overgrown to follow.
Once you have crossed from the now thankfully peaceful Bushrangers Reserve to the St Ives side of Rocky Creek, climb to the line of the sewer vents, and a short overgrown track will soon bring you to the fire trail. From there it’s a short hill climb back to the road, and from there back to your starting point at Barra Brui Oval.
Wildwalks have track notes for most of this walk, although in the reverse direction and without linking up to make a circuit. GPS Tracks below excludes the first section, from Barra Brui Oval to the turn off on the Bungaroo track (guess who forgot to turn the tracker on) and includes a sortie in an attempt to find the waterfall near Eastern Arterial Rd.
Other walks in the area that are both accessible from the stepping stones at Bungaroo across Middle Harbour Creek include the Davidson loop (on the eastern bank) and the Cascades walk (upstream from Bungaroo).
The snow conditions on the groomed slopes favoured by downhill skiers are unreliable in late September, and the crowds have gone. Out backcountry however, high on the Snowy Mountain ranges, the conditions are perfect for our group of ski-tourers and snow-shoers. Mt Kosciuscko, Australia’s highest mountain, is our destination for the day.
We’re staying in Thredbo, but we stop over in Jindabyne on the drive up from Sydney to collect our ski touring gear from Bruce at Wilderness Sports. He offers us good advice on which boots, ski’s and poles to get for our ski-touring ability and aims. We have enough time left in the day to test drive our new gear at Friday Flat before a late afternoon swim at the great Thredbo Leisure Centre.
In the morning, we meet our guide, Acacia from K7 Adventures, and take the Kosi Express chair lift up to Eagle’s Nest. On a previous adventure in 2013, Acacia had showed us how to walk in our ski-tourers using the free heel movement, and how to set the bindings to one of three different step heights – flat, medium and stiletto. Our boots also have two modes – one for ease of movement when snow walking, and another to lock them in to ski downhill.
To prevent ourselves sliding back as we climb directly up a hill, we apply sticky removable “skins” to the underside of our skis. The skins have the appearance of fake seal fur, and allow forward gliding but prevent backwards sliding when weighted. When skiing downhill, we remove the skins and lock the heels of our boots into the bindings. For ski-touring, you need to be able to ski at least at intermediate level, and have a good level of physical fitness, as you it is hard work climbing hills.
The snow cover up top is excellent, and the spring weather is mild. We’re not wearing padded ski gear, but we’re still layered up with thermals, fleece, goretex, beanies, goggles and gloves. Our backs backpacks contain lunch, water and safety gear. Acacia has more safety equipment, and it is comforting to have her navigating and alerting us to the unfamiliar hazards of the snow country.
Acaica gives us advice on how to climb efficiently, and how to listen for water under the snow when crossing frozen creeks. We’re far away from the crowds here, out in a wonderland beyond the bounds of the resort. We spot two para-skiers out enjoying the magic with us – cruising the snow fields among the rocks, trailing behind their parachutes under a wide blue sky
We ski down the Basin and use the T-Bars to gain some height initially. Then we head off across the countryside towards the Portal, a distinct rock feature, and beyond that to North Ramshead. We don’t follow the route of the summer walking track, instead taking a more interesting route that has us climbing higher and ski-ing down to the red Cootapatamba Hut before starting the steep climb up the Kosciuscko South Ridge.
From the Kosciuscko ridgeline, on a sparkling clear spring day, we’re treated to gorgeous 360 views of the Bogong High Plains and Mt Feathertop in Victoria, and Mt Jagungal and Mt Perisher in NSW. It’s chilly on top of Mt Kosciuscko, so we ski down to find a more sheltered spot to eat our lunch in the snow. We complete our 13km circuit via Signature Hill Steeps to Eagles Nest for a Hot Chocolate before catching the chair lift down.
On our second day, some of us get more ambitious and climb high for the long ski run down to Leatherbarrel Creek and a picnic amongst the snow gums, before starting the big climb out.
Next year, we plan to forsake the luxury of our Thredbo Lodge for a snow tent – we loved the K7 orange snow dome tent!
It has been raining. The creek is muddy. The waterfall is gushing. We follow a long flight of old sandstone steps down an unmaintained path and find ourselves at a crumbling stone waterfront cottage. We prove once again, on our adventure at Harold Reid Reserve and Castlecrag Northern escarpment, that walks that don’t go quite as planned are often the most fun.
We park at Harold Reid reserve in Middle Cove, and after enjoying the views, walk down the path on the southern side of the Sugarloaf peninsula. The plan is to do a counter-clockwise loop of Harold Reid Reserve before taking the North Arm track towards Castle Cove. Except somehow we find ourselves at a muddy creek crossing. We could easily correct our navigation error, but who can resist the playful challenge of finding a route across nice thick wet mud? Squelch squelch. A quick check of the excellent STEP map confirms our options to re-route our walk. Soon we leave the mud behind and climb up the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment.
We decid to try find the water dragon, natural arch and waterfall, all marked on the STEP map. Mission accomplished, we retrace our steps along the path and continue to descend a long flight of ancient sandstone steps, clearly no longer maintained, until we reach the waters edge. We admire a historic but now abandoned waterfront stone cottage, then find a second flight of sandstone steps behind the cottage and climb up those, exiting at a road at the top.
We eventually get back to Harold Reid Reserve to complete the planned loop, on a wide well-formed track that seems quite tame after our earlier adventures on the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment.
Our adventure was a total of 7km with close to 500m of climbing, took us 3 hours and led us in all sorts of unexpected directions to secret Sydney places.
There were plans in the early 1980’s to build an expressway to the Northern Beaches along the Castlecrag Northern Escarpment, crossing Middle Harbour. Fortunately sense prevailed, as it is a beautiful area of bush and worth taking the time to explore.
Willoughby Council has information for the Harold Reid Reserve loop. The Willoughby district historical society has information on the historic Castlecrag waterfront cottages. For everything else, you’ll need the STEP map and a sense of adventure. See North Arm and Explosives Reserves for another nearby walk.