Friday, January 10, 2014

Doing the Great North Walk Backwards
Day 7    14 Dec 2013 -   Paxton to Flatrock Lookout

I left Paxton Pub early in the cool, loaded with as much fluid as I could carry, and had to walk the extra 8km south to rejoin the GNW at Congewai Trackhead. Turned west through some lush pasture country, then climbed steadily 500m into the Corrabare State Forest.
Slightly steep going

The climb caused me to sweat in the heat and needed to drink more than I wanted to. However at the summit there was a comm tower with an unlocked gate, and very sweet water in a tank probably meant for the long-dead garden.

 The next few km followed a fire trail along the high ridge, eventually into the Watagan State Forest, and coming to Flat Rock Lookout early afternoon. Enough for one day so I pitched my tent on the edge. The view was not too painful.
Camping at an eyrie; Congewai Valley from Flatrock Lookout
Later a couple of mountain bike riders turned up and we chatted for a while and they gave me a litre of water and couple of muesli bars. They really wanted to party, one of them offered to call his wife and arrange a few beers, etc thinking I needed company. Managed to decline the party-on-the-cliff-top offer, and accept the healthier gifts instead.

Later still, a bunch of 7 scrambler bike riders roared into my little camp. Turns out they were also friendly guys in their 50s -60s, who like to explore the forestry tracks. They were impressed with my modest little tent, and we chatted about motor bikes, walking in Tasmania, the view from here and price of real estate in the Congewai. We took photos of each other and they roared off.

Day 8 - 15 Dec 2013 - Flatrock to the Basin

Slept well. Breakfast of muesli and nuts, packed and left Flatrock early Sunday walking south, still carrying extra water thanks to my new friends. The fire trail stopped and I found the GNW post marking the track, followed it down a windy narrow slope, across the Watagan Creek, into some beautiful isolated pasture country. 
Watagan Creek

Kept going slowly up the side of Mt Warrawolong (642m). Had a break then continued along a fire trail called Kangaroo Point Road down and up again, crossed something called the Pig and Sow Ridge. 

 Mid arvo I noticed something white behind a stump. It was a 10 litre Coles Drinking Water container, half full. I took a litre and kept going, wondering how many walkers that person had helped. 

 The track became very windy, steeply descending for some hours, although it looks dead straight on the map. Came to conjunction of two creeks in a sizeable pool. Very cool, damp and dark with big ferns and moss on everything. It looked like a 'basin', although was not the Basin I thought it was. 

 Pitched camp, topped up on water, had a soapless wash, and went to sleep listening to the sweet running water and the odd owl.

Day 9 - 16 Dec 2013 The Basin to Cedar Brush

Woke early with birdsong I didn't recognise. Ate, packed, and walked on. Beautiful but dense forest. In half hour came to The Basin turnoff, an extra 5k side-trip on the map I decided to save for a lucky future. Kept climbing a winding track of sorts up to Walkers Ridge, got lost in the undergrowth few times due to landslides, tree falls and unmarked forks on the track, but each time sorted it out. 
Late morning still climbing and crossed Forrest Road onto Kingtree Ridge; easy going now on a fire trail to a place called 'Walkers Rest', so I did and camped. Early day so did some sketching. 

Behind a log in the bush I found a plastic bucket with a tight lid. Inside were provisions and a note written in 2009, inviting me to help myself to the food: cans of baked beans (I took one) and Wheat Bix (turned to dark grey powder). I added my thanks to the note and said I might  return
one day and add some water. The baked beans heated up tasted great, although weird dreams that night.

Day 10 - 17 Dec 2013  Cedar Brush to Yarramalong

Up before dawn, ate, packed, and walked into the hot morning, drinking water freely trusting I was close to a supply. A GNW post steered me left off the fire trail into a beautiful winding trail, across, up, down across up, then several 'No Trespass' (etc) signs, so I knew a road would appear soon. 

Sure enough it was Brush Creek Road and I had reached Cedar Brush Trackhead. 

Easy walking then, although getting sore, hot and tired. Met an old guy, is 70 old?, on a quad bike with a rat-catcher doglet in the basket. He turned off the motor and we chatted a while. Told him I was looking forward to resting a day or so down the road in Yarramalong. He gave me the bad news- all the accommodation had closed down, including the pub and camping ground, and there is no phone service for me to search for options on my iPad. The good news was his son in law now had a monopoly running the only shop in town. Great.

Getting hot, over 10km along Brush Creek Road, I made it to
Yarramalong, the shop, left my pack there and wandered around looking for a place to pitch camp..or anything. Found nothing. Back to the shop and told the staff I'll hitch into Wyong and rest a day there. One of them said she was going that way and gave me a lift. How lucky! Turns out she is at Newcastle Uni doing radiography.

At Wyong I checked into the Royal Hotel. A guy at the bar took a look at me and said 'God, you need a beer!' and shouted a schooner. Later, caught up with friend Bronwyn who runs the CCLC here. Later still, so good to sleep in a bed, even with window wide open to the good old Pacific Highway.

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