Saturday, 10 November 2018

Mount Gibraltar

So it was recently my one year Wedding Anniversary, so I planned a day for myself and my wife, keeping the details to myself. I surprised her with flowers,

Only to realise we didn't have a vase, but we improvised.
and we hopped in the car and began driving. I told her she could change the CD, as I know she isn't a fan of my music (I was rocking to Eluveitie), so she put on Foo Fighter's 'Wasting Light'. As we headed along the East-West Link, towards Albion Park, she guessed that we were heading up into the highlands (which was also where we got married). I told her "No, we're just going to visit your mum", stirring her up.
We got stuck behind a truck driving up Macquarie Pass, which I didn't mind because I was able to enjoy the views along there more than I usually would. I only roughly knew the way, so after turning and following the tourist road at the top of the pass leading us to right nearby the Fitzroy Inn (where we were wed), I stopped to quickly examine Google Maps for directions. We continued on until we arrived at Mount Gibraltar (Aboriginal: Bowrell). I stopped at our first lookout, Jellore Lookout. We hopped out of the car into the heat and walked a very short-way down for a look.

While the lookout wasn't that spectacular, I knew there would be two more, and more of the day planned. As we returned to the car I opened the boot, and took out some Grape Licorice, which we both enjoy before opening my backpack to give her some water. It wasn't there. I had left it in the freezer. We now had no water to drink on a scorching hot day. Things were going south fast. We enjoyed some licorice as we drove around to the next lookout.
The next lookout, Mittagong Lookout was even more disappointing, rundown and overlooking more suburbia.
We continued on, to the third and final lookout. Bowral Lookout.
We stopped here at a little covered table and seating area and I pulled out some picnic foods from the car. We enjoyed pine nut hommus with crackers while being visited by a cute Currawong and Magpie.

They got very close and the Magpie even took a little piece of pine nut from out of my hand.

We then went for a walk to the lookout, which was also suburbia, but a nicer view of a little old timey looking town.

Knowing our next destination (Nattai National Park), we looked for places where we would be able to buy some water on our way, we decided on a Coles Service Station that was along the main road. However on our arrival to the Service Station, work was being done, so I could not fill up on fuel (I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone), but they also did not sell any plain water. Only flavoured. So we drove back into town to a shopping mall where we went to Woolworths and bought a big bottle of water. We then continued on our way to Nattai National Park.
I enjoyed the views on the way there, including crossing over what I assume to be an abandoned train line which looked pretty cool. We came to dirt road which began to make my wife feel ill (as I only have a little car).

She also started getting anxious as the last time we had driven my car on dirt roads was when I had taken her out to Blue Gum Flat in Morton National Park, which was an absolute nightmare in my car. The next morning after camping I tried to take her to walk Pigeon House Mountain (as she had never done it), however the car park was absolutely packed even though we arrived very early. I began driving back down from there to maybe park on the road up, but wasn't able to in my small car. As I was doing this a car began coming up. I was wanting to turn around and just continuing checking the car park for people leaving. So I reversed to give myself some room to turn around. However the car coming up just kept coming up every time I reversed for some room.As we reached the top my wheel feel down over a drainage bit, and my car was stuck. Jennai (my wife's name) was very freaked out worried it was damaged and because we were stuck. The car that kept coming up drove by and I could see the people laughing at us, infuriating me. However some nice younger people all came rushing to help. They helped lift the car a little while it was on so as the other wheels pulled forward as it was lifted we managed to get out, checking to see that no damage had been done. I thanked everyone profusely, wiping anxious sweat from my forehead, and we decided to head home, without having walked Pigeon House, and since, Jennai had not wanted to drive it on dirt roads.

We eventually arrived at the destination according to GPS, but I could not see anywhere to go, some trails not detailing anything. I was feeling the day had been a massive failure which was upsetting as I had looked into it and they all seemed to be lovely locations. I decided to go back to one of my plans that I had scrapped and drove us again back into town where we stopped and enjoyed a nice picnic at Corbett Gardens.

We sat and ate in the shade enjoying the nice green trees, it was a very hot day and I began to feel incredibly tired and sleepy. We looked at our phones realising we had just been there enjoying each others company for 2 hours, just what the parking time limit was. We returned to the car which was scorching hot, regretting not putting up my sunscreen we drove to the bottom of Mount Gibraltar to go for a walk.

As we walked up we came to a set of rocky stairs or a path to our right. We took the path to our right.

This led around to a set of wooden steps that we took.

This led around and over a tiny wooden bridge just built for rainfall to flow under, and continued up and around until we came to and opening on our left and a big wheel to our right.

We were really enjoying the walk together and I found the opening and open cliff wall very beautiful to look at, a part of me wanting to just walk up and free climb it, Jennai warning me that "You better bloody not".
There was a sign nearby giving us some local history and information about the site.

We soon came to another even bigger opening up on our left, with a big rock in the middle with a plaque on it and a little table to the right we stopped to sit on to drink some water.

While we were drinking a felt a thud on my groin, looking down I noticed a little bee had fallen. Worried he was exhausted from the heat I filled a spoon with some water and offered him some.

I nicknamed him 'Larry'
We continued along the path that continued downward and turned right, seemingly heading back the way we came but down a separate path. Along the way we walked past old overgrown mining equipment.

The path soon split, two our right, leading back up, which I believed would take us to where we were just before or after the big wheel, and straight. We continued straight and it took us onto our path that we had began the walk on that led to the stony steps, so we walked back and up the path to the big wheel and headed back that way towards the stony steps, and we began walking up towards the lookout where we had enjoyed morning tea.

While walking I struggled a bit more than Jennai, just feeling a bit overheated, especially in my long pants. Telling myself again I need to start being more consistently active. The path continued straight up, but even so the walk itself never felt too hard, not like walking up the stairs of Sublime Point.

Finally we reached the top where the walk came up right behind an orientation table right behind where we had morning tea.

We both used the toilet facilitates and I snapped a photo of a sign providing information on Mount Gibraltar Reserve.

We watched two Kookaburras, one swooping down and grabbing a worm and the other I caught a short video of.

We headed home, going out and enjoying some Sushi for dinner, and I was just relieved that we had both had a fun and enjoyable day and that I hadn't completely butchered our one year wedding anniversary.

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Thanks for reading! - Steven

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Bong Bong Pass

So I had a day off from work, and first thing in the morning my Dad called me up saying "Are we going to go on a hike today seeing as you're off, or not?"
So agreeing to go we started discussing where we would go, throwing out suggestions of ones we had done before such as Macquarie Pass or Brokers Nose. I told Dad to leave it with me, feeling like I'd like to do something I had never done before. So I sat eating my leftover jalapeƱo stuffed-crust pizza for breakfast and a hike I had been wanting to do for ages came to me.

Previous night's dinner
I told him that I had heard of a hike out the back of Dapto in which a World War 2 fighter plane had crashed and that you could walk to it, however I could find no articles or directions to this hike, or to the plane, but looking on Google Maps I managed to find the start of the walk and so I drove to pick Dad up. As soon as he hopped in the car I said "Jesus, what the hell happened to your eye!?"

He told me that he had just woken up last night and it had been bleeding. I told him that he shouldn't be hiking with me but should be going to the Doctors. He waved it off as not being a big deal and I said "Well, you're 65 and your 26 year old son is telling you what you should do, but you're old enough to make your own decisions" and so I left it at that and we headed along the highway, out through Dapto, and to the end of Bong Bong Road where we saw the hikes starting path to our left.

We parked up and began our hike straight uphill.

It is a steep rocky walk through through cleared lantana, and in the hot sun I instantly regretted having worn pants instead of shorts.

We noticed tracks in and our of the path wondering if this is where people had walked through trying to find the Lockheed Hudson. However we also noticed tracks that looked like the paths were probably made by deer in the area.

So the path began to bend around and we noticed a fence to a left leading up to a big gate in front of us.

We continued to our right, following the path noticing some old crumbled steel I assume was an old water tower, but seeing it at a distance, I got my hopes up that it would be the plane.

Pushing further on up hill, already soaking with sweet and continually having Dad tell me I should have worn shorts we passed a turn off to our left.

Shortly past here we reached a fork in the path. One continuing the steep incline, the other, off to the right, blocked by a fallen down tree.

We decided to continue upwards, saying that if we had time we would explore down the blocked path on our way back.

After a very steep slope the path began to even out for the first time during the walk.

You could feel the climate change walking through, as the bush slowly became rainforest.

Continuing along there was a small break in the trees to our left letting me lookout over the Illawara facing towards Albion Park.

The path continued on with a steep rocky cliff on our right and a sharp fall into a gully on our left.

Shortly after this around a bend the path opened up, and Dad noticed paths going up to our right we he wanted to quickly explore before continuing up the path. Dad placed his backpack down, assuming it'd be a quick look, and we climbed up.

Upon reaching the top there was a little enclosed grassland with a banksia tree, so we headed to our right, (facing back down the trail) and headed to the edge of the cliff face.

Many bees were flying around the ledge drinking from little puddles of water in the rocks. We continued climbing upwards around the ledge, wondering if up here was he site of the plane crash.

Just as we reached the top we had to walk through a thicket of grass trees, before finding a very small track leading us to a beautiful view overlooking the Illawarra.

Overlooking Lake Illawarra
We continued around the edge, having to walk in a bit to a clearing where we discovered someone had enjoyed a camp fire.

We followed the cliff edge all the way until we were looking towards Northern Illawarra, leaving Dad I walked into the bush hoping I might stumble upon the remains of the plane, keeping an eye open in case of snakes.

I continued walking though random scrub for about 10 minutes before deciding I'd just be wasting my time wandering aimlessly through the bush, and began heading back when I heard Dad calling out saying he'd found a path. I cut through the bush heading away from the cliff face when I came onto the track Dad was on.

We continued walking on this wondering out loud how long this path would go on for as Dad's backpack was still down the bottom. Dad said he believed it'd be a loop trail and probably link back down to where his bag was. Soon we opened up onto a big fire trail, we decided to head left on it to see if it did link back saying we could always run up the other way after we grabbed his pack.

Is it even a bushwalk without a termite mound?
Up ahead we saw signposts facing away from us. I got excited believing that they might be saying something about the plane crash or the walk. However as we reached them and turned around to look we felt our burst of excitement immediately deflate.

Feeling a bit awkward and uncomfortable we noticed a path to our left heading down with a big sign in front of it which was at the top of the walk had we taken the other path.

We were heading down this path for less than a minute before I spotted Dad's backpack. We quickly stopped for a drink and I ate my trail mix (goji berries, almonds, peanuts and cacao nibs) for a pick me up and we headed back down to explore the other path blocked by the tree lest we accidentally got ourselves a whopping fine.

Jumping over the tree, I turned on my phone for a quick google search of a location for this plane, really wishing to find one, for my sense of adventure and two as a lover of history. I soon found a video of people walking to it, a clear segment showing them walking down this path, however as the video was cut and from years ago I only new I was heading the right direction, the rest would really be up to luck. Heading down here there was an abundance of dendrocnide, the giant stinging tree that I reminded Dad about (as I have on other occasions).

To my right it looked like the land had slipped away or been cleared, whether this naturally occurred or was cleared by man I don't know. Soon we came upon again what looked like a path to our right heading down through some trees were you could follow the slope down to your left or right however while I was sussing it out Dad continued on forward and to the left which led into a little grassy area with a path leading around some trees to the right and heading forward in the direction of the original path, so I quickly followed him.

This path began heading downhill and for the first time I was glad I was wearing long pants as we walked through thick native raspberry bushes, orange thorn (Pittosporum multiflorum) and lantana.

Rubus rosifolius
Continuing down through the scrub we saw an abandoned Satin Bowerbird nest underneath all the Lantana.

We continued on searching the bush for over an our to no avail.

We followed a few different paths believing they might lead us there, however they were sprinkled with poo. Including some square poos that I can assumed were left from Wombats. Our thoughts were given further evidence when one track led us to a cabbage palm that looked like it had been an animals lunch.

We decided we needed a change of tactics and so we separated. Dad heading up the hill and myself down, figuring we would cover more ground.

So instead of heading further in I began heading downward, wandering around searching for any sight of this wreckage. After about half an hour I stumbled upon a bunch of wires wrapping around an area. My heart began to race as I got excited believing that it had been placed around it to stop it being damaged or stolen by people.

However I noticed there was nothing inside, then I saw something sitting in the base of the tree trunk, a tub of something.. An uncomfortable feeling hit me as I looked around I saw another tub sitting at my feet.

I looked around, uncomfortably aware that my Dad was lost somewhere else in the bush, I decided to hurriedly move along back towards the road.

Hot and thirsty I came to a my a dense part of the bush, and rather than return to the wires I tried my luck at walking up a very soft dirt hill with incredibly loose topsoil. For every two steps I slid down a step, exhausting myself as I also tried to keep from sliding all the way back down.

At one point the soil gave way I went fell belly first into a bunch on native raspberry, thorns digging into my skin. I pushed myself back up and started using my hands, digging them into the soil to help pull myself up. I finally made it to the top, exhausted with my legs cramping. Looking up I realised there was more slope with this loose soil. It wasn't as steep up it continued along an edge, almost losing balance I at one point had to grab a hold of some orange thorn, ripping up my skin. Finally I made it to the top, coming up the left side of that slope I had looked down before falling Dad through to the grassy area earlier. I called out to Dad and luckily he wasn't too far away. He made his way down through the lantana, covered in scratches and blood himself. I told him about what I found and we decided to have a quick look down the right side after noticing one of the trees on top of the slope I had climbed has a small pink ribbon around it.

We didn't search long after doing a time check we realised that we had spent almost 3 hours just wandering through the bush (not including our initial hike up Bong Bong Pass). Tired and exhausted and feeling a bit defeated that we had not found the ruins of the crashed World War 2 fighter plane we headed back to the car, vowing one day we'd find out where exactly it was so we could see it.

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Thanks for reading! - Steven

Extra tidbits! - The next day I decided to drive up to Camden with my Wife as I have wanted to visit for a few years now because my 4th Great Grandfather, James Sheather, moved there from England in 1839 to work on Camden Park Estate. And Sheathers Lane there had been named after him and his children.

We visited the lane before having a picnic at Macarthur Park, exploring the graveyard at St. John Church for his grave, and going to Camden Museum. We then drove out to Burragorang Lookout which was a beautiful sight.