Consider a walk that is 7km as the crow
flies and only a couple of hundreds metres up.
But, the party I was with managed only 6 km and that took 7 ½ hours.
The walk out was a bit better - that took 3 ½ hours.
You have, then, an idea of the
characteristics of the Pagoda country, in the Blue Mountains.
In the middle is a remarkable, very large hole in the ground, called The
It is a deep, farming valley surrounded
on all sides by tall sandstone cliffs and ravines that cut into the cliff face.
At the far end is a large paddock, surrounded by cliffs on two sides and
rimmed by a creek on the other sides. A
great place to car camp and some interesting scenery with the bonus of an old
shale oil mine, hidden in the trees. This
place is called Newnes.
From here the walk begins and heads in a
westerly direction to the cliffs. The walk follows Little Capertee Creek to a
ridge that juts out from the cliffs and intersects two creeks.
The surroundings are covered with waist high ferns, below a covering of
trees. The creek is at the bottom
of a narrow valley, a couple of hundred metres deep. At the tip of the ridge the
direction is a sharp scramble up. A
traverse around the right side of the tip is needed before a final scramble up
to the end of the ridge.
From here you head in a westerly
direction where some more cliffs are met. Eventually, with a bit of probing a
break in the cliffs, on the northern side, leads you up the final section of the
By now it is time for lunch.
The size of the party in this trip was
15. Ironically, a similar number
that was in the last National Parks Association walk I did, which was a Mt
Jagungal, Snowy Mountains, walk I led about six years ago. I thought it was a bit too many then and it was again so.
Not that I minded much.
I was walking in an area I hadn’t walked in or been to for several
years. It made sense to be with a
group on this occasion – the first walk with other bushwalkers for over 2 ½
The leader was an interesting man.
George, aged 73, would put people 50 years his junior to shame.
Remarkable strength and stamina and
I was amazed to see him do a little jig and the end of the walk.
One of his stories he shared during the
walk related to the size of the Gum Trees, saying few were over 300 years old.
He said the cause of this was a massive drought in the 17th
century. The region is not known for high rainfall and the drought
killed many trees then. What was
interesting was the reason – a period of several years where there was no sun
spot activity. Apparently, the
plasma let off by sunspots, that
enter our atmosphere are a key element in rainfall.
At least I think that was how he explained it.
Another point of interest during the
walk was the use of a Satellite Navigation device.
I had not seen them used before. My
impression is that too much reliance was made on it; perhaps, because it was a
bit of a new toy. There were times
when the use of brain power, the map and a memory of distance travelled would
have been adequate and saved time.
Another aspect that slowed us down was
the scenery. At the end of the
ridge we came up was a cliff, this generally went in a North/South direction for
kilometres on either side and was at least 100 metres high, before hitting the
tree line and sloping down into the valley below.
Now you are getting an idea of the
majesty of the area. On the west
side a sharp drop and on the other east is the cliffs of the Wolgan Valley, with
ravines cutting into this that at times end about 20 metres from the steep cliff
face of the western sides. On the
top is a collection of sandstone formations you have to navigate over or around.
Thus, the oohing and ahhing of awestruck
walkers made progress somewhat slow. We
had turned left at the cliffs and where heading in a southerly direction,
staying close to the cliff face.
At one point progress came to a stop.
This lasted for well over an hour and was the subject of much debate,
mostly between Daniel and his wife. The
reason was simple, we couldn’t find a way ahead and this was upsetting Daniel,
who was determined to find a way to the Mt Dawson caves, our intended
Most of the party were expecting to
sleep in an overhang and did not have a tent.
The weather was changing to rain. The
only shelter we had found was found before lunch and it was then about 3:30pm.
Eventually, a welcome break in the
cliffs was found. It was an easy
descent into a narrow ravine of waist high ferns.
Here and there were, what the Tasmanian’s call Man Ferns, about eight
feet high and with a single trunk. These then gave way to a small grove of gums
with cliffs on either sides. In
front of us the ravine then swung left and dipped down too steeply to allow any
further safe progress. With luck
there was a good sized overhang on the eastern side.
The leader was at this point
“white-anted”. The party had
had enough and out came the camping gear for the night before he had a chance to
protest. Water had been carried in
from below the initial ascent and there was plenty of wood about.
The others were settling down to enjoy
the ambience of the campfire but for me it was time to go to work, so to speak.
The only problem was I wasn’t sure what I was going to photograph.
The reason for my large and heavy
rucksack now became evident as a tripod, five lenses, two camera bodies and
assorted gear got shoved back into the pack.
Southwest seemed like a good idea, as we were heading in that direction.
Surprisingly, after about 50 metres,
skirting around the drop off in the ravine the cliff face opened up and a
commanding view to the west was had. By
now it was late in the day and there was a cover of cloud.
But I had a suspicion that on the horizon there would be a break in the
clouds. I was correct.
After a quick walk up to the cliff to the north I set up my gear and
waited. I did not have long to wait as the sun was about to poke out
below the cover of cloud.
Whilst waiting I went over to the other
side, and looking down, called out to the others to witness the oncoming
spectacle. After some bemused and
surprised responses a half dozen made their way over and up.
They generally thought the effort
worthwhile as the sunset they witnessed became a highlight of the trip.
Sadly, I did not get any “keepers”.
(Knock out shots). In analysis, I
concluded as I have in the past, if you want to be creative, be by yourself and
become part of your environment. Somewhat
like meditation or yoga; in that, you still your mind and let what surrounds you
become part of you. In simple
terms, I got distracted and should have taken some extra shots with a three stop
graduated neutral denisity filter to compensate for the extremes of
exposure in the image – the highlights were too bright and burnt out
their colour. I think it was the
double distraction that caused me to blow it, ie the novelty of other people and
the drama and majesty the surrounds. Ah
well, such is life.
As usual, it was dark when I got back to
the campsite. Dinner was pleasant.
Campfires seem to be an irregular occurrence these days.
The high country is too sensitive as is most of Tasmania.
It is interesting though, listening to
the stories of others. I once read
of an old Eskimo calling the campfire – the television of the mind.
I think he is right.
Dawn brought a couple surprises.
One was that the sandstone rock in our overhang contained a high
concentration of iron and our compasses were out by 40°.
The second was that Daniel wanted to continue on further exploration.
He promised he would be back in an hour. By the time the party was packed he had returned and was
clearly excited. He had found a way
to his original destination, plus many other interesting rock formations and
this had made his day.
The walk out began in a light rain.
It was much quicker than the way in and everyone seemed keen to get to
the end of the ridge to commence the descent down the ridge.
The way down was uneventful and a little
confusing but it didn’t take too long to sort it out. Going down always seems scarier than going up.
I guess you can see how long before you start bouncing if you slip and
Lunch was at the bottom.
Three kilometres later, down the creek, we were at the cars.
I enjoyed the walk with other people but
I do prefer the intangible connection I get with the bush from solitary walking.
The area did not show too much evidence
of other walkers but by the time we had left there was a clear path.
I am not sure if this was a good idea.
I am glad I went.
Any text and images found on this web page are copyright © Geoff Wise, 1998 - 2009. All rights reserved.