Cooyoyo Camp to Long Gully Camp, Budawang National Park

Tuesday 1st June 2021
After another cold night it was time to pack up and make our way out as we knew it would take us almost as long to go downhill 7km as it did to go up on the first day. And we still had a 5 hour drive home.

What a descent – it was tough to have our heavy packs on, albeit a couple of kilos lighter for having eaten most of our food. We still had the same challenges on the way down as on the way up, rocks to climb over, down and through, trees to negotiate, cliff edges, wrong turns, and the general steep steps down, always a little harder on your body than the steps up. We all kept going and going and going. Four hours later we made it back to the car. We were very happy hikers, thrilled with our achievements over the last 4 days.

After getting back in the car, we decided to share one last gourmet meal (Haloumi, sweet potato, turkey rissoles and peperonata sauce) at the Forestry Campground just up the road. Yummy!. It was a great idea as by this stage it was 2pm and we still had a long drive home. We though we would get on the road by 3pm but we finally got away about 3.45. Fully satisfied and ready to talk all the way home about this adventure and the next. What a great long weekend shared with great friends in the most amazing National Park.

Hope you enjoy our adventure!

The Castle and Monolith Valley, Budawang National Park

Monday 31st May 2021
So today we are planning to climb to the Castle Summit and hopefully hike through Monolith Valley. After enjoying the early morning sunrise across to Pigeon House Mountain, having a spectacular outlook on the cliff edge for breakfast we made a few decisions about today’s walk.  We decided to go with minimal packs to the first difficult section and then let David carry one small pack up the crazy part. We headed off about 9.45 knowing it was going to be a very physically challenging day. So up we went the first 500m of stairs back up to the crossroad, this definitely got the heart pumping but it was lovely to have left our big packs behind. Once we got to the crossroads we headed towards the Castle, it was incredibly difficult terrain again, made ever so slightly more pleasant to not have our big packs. We came to the first chasm which was a rock climb as well as a squeeze through, ending at a rope climb down the other side. So the adventure begins, with a little stress for David who felt a little responsible for ensuring everyone’s safety. He was very particular with checking all the ropes and always went first. We all made it safely down. It was a great adventure climbing up another 7 ropes, some more sheer and arduous than others, but all checked and double checked by DB before we negotiated them. It took 2 hours, all our strength, agility and strong minds to complete and was very exhilarating to make it to the CASTLE SUMMIT. Yay team, with encouragement by all at every stage we made it.

Now a little time (1.5hrs) to explore the top, enjoy the view, rest and snack before the next stage – going back down which we all believed would be a little bit more difficult. And we were right, but yet again we rose to the challenge and all successfully negotiated the seven rope descents. It was an amazing achievement and we all were very happy with ourselves. It had taken us two hours to climb up the 2km. And then 1 hour 40 mins to get back down again. We enjoyed a lunch break once we got back to our small packs and then headed down to the Monolith Valley which was very different terrain wit another rock climb with chain assistance. We walked until about 3.30pm when we decided it was time to head back before dark.

What a great day hiking 10.5km over 6 hours to The Castle Summit, then through the Monolith Valley and back to Cooyoyo camp for another night under the stars.

Long Gully Camp to Cooyoyo Camp, Budawang National Park

Sunday 30th May 2021

We had a lovely night by the fire at Blue Gum Flat Campground in the Morton National Park, a great sleep on our new Sea to Summit thick mattresses and were quite surprised how quiet our young camp mates were. After a nice breakfast and cup of tea Alice, Ange and I went for a walk down to the Clyde River where we saw the results of the latest floods. The debris was up in the trees at least 4 metres and it is really amazing to see and hard to believe the water can rise this high. We saw an amazing tree and an incredible wombat tunnel and hole.

We took our time getting organised, checking we had everything, making decisions again about which warm gear to take or leave behind, ensuring we were ready to go!. It always amazes me how you think you are ready when you leave home but still spend more time getting ready again before you take off. We weren’t in a rush as we knew we only had a 7km hike in to Cooyoyo camp. Little did we know that it was going to take us 4.5 hours to walk such a short distance.

We finally set out at 12.08pm for what we knew was a good uphill climb. The first 3km only took us an hour so we were thinking that we would only have an hour or two to get to camp, so we had a leisurely lunch, where we found out from some fellow hikers that Monday was a public holiday in Canberra which unfortunately meant there would be more overnight campers at our camp tonight. So much for our special planning to avoid the crowds. We the got started again, little did we know that the terrain was going to get very tough, over rocks, under trees, over trees, squeezing through caverns between rocks and boulders and the track went up and up and up. We did great, just kept soldiering on and on and on. Yay team!

At about 4pm after walking for almost 4 hours we came to the cross intersection to our camp, only 500m to go. Luckily it was all down hill, but as we went down, down, down – all I could think of was that tomorrow that meant we had to start with 500m up, up, up. Oh well, as the saying goes want goes up must go down and vice a versa.

Anyway, we arrived at camp, quickly chose a site in a very crowded campground and went out to the ridge to enjoy the sunset. After enjoying the sunset, we setup camp, started a fire and enjoyed our first night in the remote camp. We met some lovely young hikers from Canberra who were going to Uni through the Navy. They had some really interesting stories and had travelled extensively considering their young ages of 21-23.

We all went off to bed about 9.30ish for a well deserved sleep. It was a very cold night and unfortunately I struggled with this having made a wrong decision on my thermals. Oh well, maybe tomorrow night will be better.

Distance hiked today –  7.2km, 4 hours 42mins, 595m up, 100m down to an altitude of 664m above sea level. What an amazing day!

The Castle, Budawang National Park Adventure

The Castle Adventure 2021
Well this adventure has been in David’s to do list for a very long time and having done some research on it I can understand why.There were many stories of how difficult the ascent and descents were along with climbing through small gaps, up ropes over sheer cliffs with a very long drop below. I was a little concerned I may not be up to the challenge so spent a little time watching a couple of people do the walk. Having done this I felt more comfortable with the adventure but a little disappointed that I had already seen the view.

Quoting from alltrails.com blog “The Castle Walking track is one of the most challenging yet rewarding days hikes along eastern Australia. The trail is technical and diverse across varied terrain, with some open woodland walking, tight crawls through vegetation and steep climbs toward the summit, not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced.”

Whilst planning the adventure we realised besides the physical challenges that the time of year was going to add its own concerns weather wise. The week ahead was looming with clear skies but very cold temperatures ranging between -3°C and 11°C. Very chilly. We haven’t hiked in this low a temperature since the NT Larapinta Trail in June 2018.

Saturday 28th May 2021
Davistown to Blue Gum Flat Camp via Pigeon House Mountain
Well we got up early to be on our way for our 1st day of the Budawang and Morton National Park Adventure. We left home with our hiking buddies Ange and Alice at about 8am.

We headed inland from Milton at about 12.30 for our first hike. The Pigeon House Mountain Didthul walking track in the Morton National Park, a Grade 4, 6.6km return hike to the summit (485m ascent). We started the hike at 1.20pm walking through forest, heathland and age-old sandstone before coming a series of ladders that lead you to the summit and the view. The sight of the amazing cliffs and gorges within the Budawang Wilderness showcasing ‘The Castle” which was our adventure for the next two days was spectacular. Looking east you were also able to see the coastal waters of the Ulladulla region. It was fantastic yet again. They have improved the track since our last visit. Originally the track went up at a very steep gradient straight up from the start but they have made it a little bit more user friendly with many switchbacks for the first 20 minutes or so. With a stop for about 20mins we headed back down again as we still had a 30min dirt road drive to our camp for the night.

Unfortunately Long Gully Campground which is at the start of tomorrow’s hike was booked out so we headed to Blue Gum Flats. This was a lovely campsite with a river nearby and a pit toilet. We arrived at our camp after a pretty easy drive at about 4.30pm to find all the campsites taken, luckily for us the young campers were happy to vacate one site for us as they were all together and didn’t realise other campers had booked there. After setting up camp we then had a lovely Salmon and stir fried vegetables on quinoa and rice for dinner. Yummy!! We experienced a little trouble with our Isobutane gas which was struggling with the cold. It took a lot longer to cook our dinner and fusspot Dave had to put his back on because the veggies were too crunchy. We enjoyed a lovely campfire compliments of Ange and stayed warm for the night.

We were using our new blue camp mats for the first time and were very happy with them, we had the best night sleep even with our young neighbours. Yay!

Warrumbungle National Park Adventure – Day 3

Monday 3rd May 2021
Our last day of this adventure was a quick hike up and around Beloughery Split Rock 5km track, up 332m, down 277m over boulders, up cliff faces and across ledges. A little challenge to work us into our next adventure. We had a lovely morning out in the fresh air with great company in the Warrumbungle National Park. After a quick lunch we headed on our way home, a long drive to go, arriving home way after dark. A great adventure had by all and we are already planning the next one. Stay tuned!

Warrumbungle National Park Adventure – Day 2

Sunday 2nd May 2021
Another cracking day. We made a quick dash partway up the track to Bluff Mountain to enjoy the sunrise. Unfortunately we had too big a day to continue to the top so headed back down for breakfast. Then after packing up our camp and re-loading our packs we headed on our way at 8.50am. A little earlier today as we had another big day of walking ahead. We hiked up to Dogma camp where we had a little morning tea before leaving our big packs and heading to Mt Exmouth Summit with a drink, a jacket and our lunch. As the name indicates it was a decent hike uphill to some more amazing views and an enjoyable lunch break at the top. We then hiked back to Dogma camp, collected our heavy packs and headed back down the hill to the carpark.

Another big day of walking – 16.92km, 7hrs 52mins elevation loss 903m, elevation gain 497, maximum altitude 1214m.

Warrumbungle National Park Adventure – Day 1

Saturday 1st May 2021
Well, time for our first overnight hike since my heart surgery. How will I go is the big question. We have joined a few friends this time – Ange and Alice from the surf club and Alice’s brother Will. We are looking forward to an amazing couple of days hiking.

The weather was perfect for hiking, the sun shone brightly and the company was great. We headed off at 9.45 for what was to be a big day, with many hill climbs and heavy packs. Our first big climb was to Macha Tor and Febar Tor lookouts where we saw our first good views of the Breadknife. We then hiked up to Balor Hut, which was a pretty hard slog. We decided to leave our packs at the junction of Balor Hut track and the main track and head up to the Breadknife and Grand High Tops with just a lunch pack. This made for a much more pleasant hike even though it meant back tracking a bit, this was definitely one of my better ideas. After an enjoyable walk with plenty of time to enjoy the views, we headed back down to Balor Hut, refilled some water bottles from the tank and made out way to Dows Camp for the night.

A great day followed by an enjoyable night by the fire. Well I survived my first heavy pack hike after heart surgery.

13.56km 6hrs 57mins, elevation loss 347m, elevation gain 794m, maximum altitude 794m.

South Coast Trip – Day 3

Tuesday 27th April 2021
We headed off early today at 7.35am as Mum was due at Gosford for her dialysis at 2.30pm. We had a lovely drive through Kangaroo Valley but unfortunately the views were hidden by the fog. We then went through Fitzroy Falls and Mittagong before heading to the North Connex. We arrived back at Mum’s at 1pm with plenty of time for her to get to dialysis. A great weekend away shared with Mum and David. Loved it!!

South Coast Trip – Day 2

Monday 26th April 2021

We left the Windmill Motel at Woonona and headed to Wollongong Central where we did a little walk to see the street art. As always we are amazed at how much talent there is on such a large scale. Very impressive. We then went to Hill 60 Lookout at Port Kembla and Bass Point, Shell Cove. Once again we were blessed with a gorgeous day weatherwise.

We then headed to the Minnamurra Rainforest Centre where we enjoyed a short walk through the rainforest and had a little lunch break in the car. We then stopped at Saddleback Mountain Lookout in Kiama where we could see right out to the coast.

We then continued south to Hyams Beach where David unbelievably had a swim and then on to Blenheim Beach. The white sands meet the beautiful blue water here and are quite spectacular but unfortunately it was a bit late and the sun was on its way down so we missed this by about 30minutes. Oh well, maybe next time.

We then drove via Vincentia to our accommodation at the Huskisson Beach Motel. After a little rest we went for a lovely dinner at Stonegrill Huskisson which was a short walk from our hotel. We all enjoyed a beautiful meal that we cooked on the Stone Grill. Yummy!

South Coast Trip – Day 1

Sunday 25th April 2021
After a delayed departure ensuring I didn’t have Covid yesterday we set of on our little adventure with Mum very early today at about 8.30am.

Our first stop was Bundeena wharf/jetty at the entrance to the Royal National Park in Sydney. It was a beautiful drive and Mum has never been here. We had a nice walk around the rocks and watched the ferry from Cronulla arrive as this is the start of the Bundeena to Otford Coastal Track. As this is an overnight walk we would like to do in the future we drove around to check out the campground. We then continued on to Garie Beach for an ice cream stop and to enjoy the view. This was a very open beach with a bit of surf and patrolled by SLS. We then continued the beautiful drive through the Royal National Park, stopping at Governor Game lookout Royal in Lilyvale, then on to Otford Lookout, as we drove past the hang gliding take off point we saw a few hang gliders in the air. We continued down the hill to Stanwell Park Beach Reserve for lunch, watching the hang gliders land. It was a lovely morning of exploration.

After lunch we headed to Helensburgh to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple which is Australia’s first Hindu Temple built in the traditional style of Hindu Temple architecture. It stands as an outstanding example of Hindu Temple Architectural Excellence. Located in a bushland setting, it serves as an impressive local landmark. It was being visited by many people from India, all in their traditional dress. It was very colourful and glamourous. We were one of the few white people here. Unfortunately no photos can be taken in the temple but as always it was adorned with gold and the usual opulence of the Hindu temples overseas.

We then headed to Berkeley to the Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Nan Tien is very different from most tourist attractions because there is so much on offer. The visual delights of grand architecture, art and culture including unique exhibitions and festivals, Buddhist festivals, vegetarian culinary delights, educational and healthy lifestyle classes and retreats, accommodation, top-class conference and auditorium facilities. There is also the spiritual and religious experience that is unforgettable and even life-changing for some. Also unfortunately, we were unable to book in to stay the night there as they had no availability, so we just enjoyed the walk around the grounds, went in the temples and enjoyed the peacefulness of the area.

At the end of a very full day we went to our hotel at Woonona (the Windmill Hotel), which fortunately they were happy to transfer our booking from the previous day because of our itinerary change. It was a great day.