This was our second overnight walk for the year, and the cold weather clearly frightened a number of people off.
Regular day walk Cartophile Tim took on his first overnighter with Adam and Kit, an all boys jaunt along the historic Great North Road, built using convict labour between 1826 and 1836. It was a terrific walk along well-defined track all the way, although calling some stretches ‘road’ required a lot of imagination. The only other walkers we saw were day trippers doing one of the many circuits, but we did encounter LOTS of cyclists.
We drove together to Wisemans Ferry and over the river drove the 500m or so to the start of the walk, a well signposted gate. After loading ourselves up we headed up the long slow two-kilometre climb of Devine’s Hill. This route was originally selected by surveyor general Sir Thomas Mitchell instead of the original, much steeper, Finch’s Line. The road is in wonderful condition through here and the 12-metre-high buttressed retaining walls and elaborate drainage systems were very impressive pieces of engineering. Over 500 convicts, many in irons, constructed this part of the road which was completed in 1832, and after nearly two centuries it is solid enough for cars to drive on.
We passed the old quarry site and the eerily-named Hangman’s Cave, which the accompanying sign said was probably actually a blasting powder storage facility. As we were looking at this a cyclist stopped to chat with us. One of his ancestors had worked on the road, which he said was, at the time of its construction, the largest engineering project in the world. We all felt that was probably a bit of hyperbole, but had enough cache to be worth considering.
At the top of the hill we walked along a flat, easy trail, past the turn off to Finch’s Line and out into the wilds. The road soon deteriorated into a single line track, although the original edges were still visible and we saw some large and solid retaining walls. The NPWS has surfaced over the original cobblestone surface with gravel on a layer of anti-erosion fabric to preserve the old surface. In a couple of places the original cobblestone is exposed so tourists can see what it was like.
The weather had been delightful; cool, but sunny with just a gentle breeze. We joyfully scoffed at those who had held for fear of bad weather. We stopped for afternoon tea after about 10km where the old road intersects with a service road (the Western Commission Track). As we were brewing up an enormous bank of dark cloud rolled over us and light rain began to fall. The temperature plummeted and we thought we were in for a drenching. We quickly packed up and headed off ata pace to cover the last 3km to our campsite. As easy downhill slope on a firm surface took us past an old pine plantation and the buildings of the Wat Budda Darma bush retreat. When we reached the Ten Mile Hollow camping area the wind was blowing strongly but there had been no more rain and the clouds had mostly passed.
We pitched camp, lit a fire and broke out some refreshments to celebrate a great day’s walk. Although the wind was cold we were comfortable in our tents and had a good sleep. We had stayed at the Ten Mile Hollow camping area at the end of November last year when the Cartophiles walked in from the other direction. It’s a great little campsite with a new composting toilet, water tank and a really well set up fire circle.
We woke the next day and realised the wind had kept our tents dry of condensation. Fantastic! It made packing up so much easier. It was, however, very cold, so we lit the fire again to have breakfast.
We were retracing our steps today and we knew the route was easy going with good footing most of the way, so we had a very leisurely breakfast as we struck camp. We hit the track at about 9.00am and made terrific time all the way. Tim had been very nervous about how he’d cope with the second day, especially in the pack he’d borrowed from James, but he sailed through. We had morning tea at one of the sections of exposed cobblestones and without trying hard were at the top of Devine’s Hill again just before lunch time. It was such an easy finish from there that we agreed that we’d be far better off experiencing the historic ambiance of the Wisemans Ferry Inn for lunch that sitting by the side of the road. So we did.
This is a generally easy walk with some moderate sections. We’ll repeat it sometime as it would also made a great overnight walk for beginners.
The Cartophiles next walk is an easy half day on Saturday, 16th August when we’ll walk the 5.1 km Kalkari & Birrawanna Loop Track in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. That will be followed on Saturday, 23rd August when to do the rescheduled 8.1 km Wondabyne Station to Kariong Brook waterfall walk in the Brisbane Waters National Park.