Katoomba to Kanangra Walls: 56km over 4 days
We've planned this walk to extend our walking experience, especially in wilderness areas, and to test various aspects of our gear, technology and processes in a shorter walk format (before getting to more serious and longer walks). We often walk in Spring as we get so thrilled with the wildflowers, this walk got pushed a little late that what we'd wanted due to work commitments, but mid-November proved to be perfect in 2010!
It was a bit of a surprise when we realised that we'd done the Great North Walk over 3 years ago! That was far too long... in that time we'd both gone past 50 years and catching up seems to just get harder and at times it seemed we'd forgotten everything we'd learned on that walk! We have plans to do the Mittagong to Katoomba Trail (hopefully this Autumn) and also the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia in due course, so we're hoping to generally keep improving the skills and fittness.
I've combined the four days into a single Google Earth file that gives an interesting perspective of the walk. If you have Google Earth installed you should be able to click on this link and open it directly in Google Earth: KatoombaToKanangra.kml. Alternatively you can download the photos from the Web Album into Google Earth as well.
On this walk I took semi-regular photos to compile into a time-lapse of the walk: "Following Sandi...". There is a YouTube videos and also web albums. If you go to the web album you'll be able to see where each photo was taken on a map as well as downloading the photos into Google Earth (which gives a very scary 3D display).
The aim on Day 1 was to walk the length of Narrow Neck, drop of Taro's Ladder down into Meadlow Gap and camp over night at lake Birrel - just over 13km and mostly gently down hill so should be a good first day of a walk?
Nathanael dropped us up at the Locked Gate on Narrow Neck for the start of our journey. The first day was a planned as a fairly easy walk down to Lake Birrel, although Sandi was a little stressed about getting down Taro's Ladder. The day didn't end up as easy as I'd thought, I guess the 23kg pack I was lugging around had something to do with that...
The aim for Day 2 was to reach the Cox's River thereby giving us a good early start on what I was figuring was going to be the most difficult day of the four, as it had a stiff climb up Mt Strongleg (scary name). I was thinking that it would not be too strenuous a day; but we got lost a couple of times (which is quite exhausting in the end) and the final ridge down to the river was very long at the end of the day. In hindsight it was the day that the reality crashed home that we'd been off the track for 3 years and many of the habits that had become second nature were not there anymore. It was also a great learning experience with the technology, how to get unlost and how to find where you really are on a map!
This was the scary day (which I didn't really tell Sandi about until we were looking up at it...) when we would have to climb up to an altitude of over 1,000m! It was also, from my perspective, the first day off the beaten track: all the previous days were on fire trails or marked tracks. Looking back I shouldn't have been so concerned: a marked track (on a map) doesn't necessarily mean a lot, and definitely doesn't mean that it's any easier to follow than an unmarked track. A visitor to the blog suggested that we stop at Dex and that's exactly what we did (thanks Ken!): Dex Creek not only had lots of water, it was incredibly beautiful (we could have stayed a week if we had the supplies).
The climb up Mt Strongleg was nowhere near as bad as what we thought it would be, although we were walking very slowly (with lots of breaks) and it was a huge surprise to walk into the Dex Creek gully so early! I was not sure how good the track was going to be either as it didn't seem to be an "official" one (and wasn't marked on the topographic maps), we did lose it a couple of times but that was wonderful practice too.
Day 4 was the home stretch and I thought it was going to be a pretty good walk along the ridge back to the parking area and the kids (they were making dinner and picking us up!). Well it definitely did meander along the ridge, but there were some significant climbs and descents as well to keep us puffing. Smith's Pass completely confused us as we were not expecting such a climb up... anyway, that detour turned a 12km day into a 20km day and kept us thinking about how easy it is to become a Burke and Wills.
Days 5 and 6: Rest Days at Kanangra
Our kids were very good to bring out our car and the extra supplies for us... they even stayed the night, cooked us dinner and breakfast and saw some of our sights the next morning.
Scott's Main Range Loop: 54km over 3 and a bit days
The intention of this walk was to give us a bit of a look at the Mittagong to Katoomba Trail (that we'll hopefully be walking in the Autumn of 2011) and checking out the Kowmung River (that is meant to be a beautiful river).
After two days of complete relaxing we were more than ready to get going again (though tellingly, Sandi's blisters had not yet healed), so we marched off toward the Kowmung with great joy and determination. The people who'd left the last note in the Track Log on Cloudmaker said the Kowmung was in flood: so who knows what we'll find? The day was warm, which brough its own impacts, and in the end the day was full of surprises (some of them disappointing ones).
After the disappointments and exhaustion of the first day it was somewhat interesting to wake to our first wet day. Sandi, who was brought up in (the very wet) New Zealand, has a definite dislike of walking in the wet; whereas I quite enjoy the novelty. At the end of the day we were disappointed with the performance of our our rain jackets and had questions about our gaiters.
The Kowmung proved to be a great little river with a lot of water and the Camping at Gingra Creek was the perfect place to get our very wet stuff dried. Because of the need to dry our gear, we decided to alter our schedule a little and spend some time in the morning drying and relaxing and aim for a camp spot on the way "home": Sandi was particularly excited about sleeping in the caves we'd seen on the way down.
Can hardly call this a "day" as it only took just over an hour to walk it, but it was the perfect treat for the end of the walk. Camping in the cave that had all the modern convieniences really excited Sandi and getting back "home" so fresh was a great bonus. We both said, if possible, that it'd be good to plan for the final day of a walk to be like this in future...
Days 11 and 12: Rest Days at Kanangra
It felt like we were coming home: walking across the Plateau, up the stairs and down to the parking area; the short drive up the road was a real pleasure not to walk and the camping area definitely felt like home! We didn't have a lot to do, except washing and cleaning and that wonderful relaxing stuff when you feel like you're the only people in your own little secret garden...