Caro Ryan crams an almighty amount of adventure into her exploring calendar. So much so in fact, she documents her exploits through her fantastically informative blog – Lotsafreshair. Here Caro shares her most recent snake-riddled trek through Megalong Valley in search of infamous waterfall paradise of Galong Creek…
I’m lucky enough to be a member of a fantastic bushwalking club that’s been going since 1927 and in that time, hundreds of intrepid adventurous types have been out there, doing and discovering great stuff long before any of us even owned our first backpack. Actually, these hard-core types were out there before backpacks existed, carrying a few belongings in an old pillowcase with straps sewn onto them thrown over their shoulders. Can anyone say, ARrrrrrrghhh?
I heard a whisper about a place called Galong Creek/Canyon back in 2008 and since then, I’ve always wanted to go. Finally, I got there recently and it was worth the wait!
If you’re a regular visitor to the gorgeous Megalong Valley, you’ll be familiar with some of the landmarks along the way. That great feeling you get as the road winds down the escarpment from Blackheath, through a section of rainforest and then explodes you into the openness of the Megalong Valley. The cliff faces of Medlow Bath rise up steeply to the left, with the Hydro Majestic Hotel standing watch over you, whilst green rolling fields and farm lands spread out before you.
As you keep driving down the Megalong Valley Road, you pass the Megalong Valley Tea Rooms, (where you need to check the opening hours and keep your pace up throughout the day on the track to ensure you get back before they close!), pass the Old Ford Reserve camp ground as the road crosses the Coxs River at a ford, before the road changes from bitumen to dirt just after the famous Six Foot Track crosses the road.
But the valley doesn’t finish where the bitumen does. The investment of driving this road (OK for 2WD) all the way to the end pays massive dividends in views and adventures, as it’s the main access route for walks in the Coxs River, Megalong Valley and Wild Dog Mts area of the Blue Mountains National Park.
If you’ve driven this road before, you’ll be familiar with the Packsaddlers horseriding centre and perhaps the wonderful story of the Carlon family who lived here in the valley for many years. Spare a thought (and some spare change) for them as you pass through (leaving all farm gates as you find them) as they need to look after the small section of road that passes through their property, before heading up to park (and even camp) at the Dunphy Camp Ground. This is a great spot for car camping with gas BBQ provided and a toilet.
So what was amazing for me during this trip, was that after driving over the ricketty old bridge between Packsaddlers and the campground, I was now going to actually walk some of that creek. That’s right, what looks like not a very interesting, weedy, farm creek, is actually Galong Creek – full of hidden mysteries and wonders… and snakes. But more on that later.
The notes and a mud-map for this trip (and many more) can be found in the great book, Day Walks in Therabulat Country by my mate Michael Keats. If you think that was a blatant plug… you’re right!
This isn’t a trip for beginners or if you’ve never done off-track walking, navigation and importantly, rock scrambling or used hand-lines before. Phew, just as well my group had loads of experience in all those, plus a good sense of humour and adventure!
We headed off along the firetrail and then took the single track up towards Ironpot Mountain. If you’ve got a keen eye and know where to look, you can find the lovely aboriginal water pots in the stone on top. It’s here that we checked navigation, before turning off the track and headed straight down the ridge towards Tinpot Hill and onto the junction of the Coxs River and Galong Creek. Like I said, you won’t find any tracks on any maps, so you need to know how to read a topographic map (Jenolan 1:25,000 3rd Edition) and navigate with map and compass.
This is a great route down to the river with the last 150m or so being very steep loose scree, weeeeeee! This is where we hit Galong Creek and began our ascent.
Along the way, we were welcomed by about 5 snakes (yes, all of them killers – I love my country!) and were thankful to be wearing gaiters.
It’s about 2kms upstream that the creek started to get really interesting. The sides began to close in and the beautiful granite platforms started to form steps… big steps… waterfall steps.
Step after step revealed wonderful waterfalls and swimming holes, but not all of them were easy to get to… we needed to work at it. Route finding and rock scrambling was needed as we weaved and climbed our way up and up, moving ever onwards through the canyon as it starts to twist and turn.
The other key thing was a 20m handline. The only time we really needed to bring this out, was towards the end where there was a tumbling, cascade of water through a narrow slot. There was no-where to scramble around the sides, so off I went as the leader, armed with trusty hand-line to secure it to a tree at the top – making it easier (and safer) for the rest of my buddies. Oh and speaking of safer, this is definitely the type of trip that needs a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)… simply pick one up for free from Katoomba Police on your way past!
After the box canyon section (around 1km in length) the creek opens up again and you begin to feel like you’re back in farming country, as opposed to the middle of the wilderness. Out of respect to the property owners, it’s probably a good idea to exit the creek to one of the ridges to the south and join back up to the Ironpot Ridge firetrail. Not only that, anyone wishing to do this trip should seek permission from the land owners before hand.
After we hit the firetrail again, it was just back to the cars for a change into dry clothes. Oh, did I not mention that? You WILL get wet on this trip, however if you do it in Summer or in warmer weather, you won’t need a wetsuit.
All up, a sensational day with great Sydney Bushwalkers Club members. Now… for the next spot on my wishlist.