Image 1 - The view from 'Legoland' looking south west twoards Mt Gingera and Mt Ginini.
Honeysuckle to Legoland
Every now again, we come across these little ACT bushwalk gems. If you walk from the Honeysuckle campground, this walk has everything: sweeping views, ancient granite boulders in all manner of shapes, sizes and configurations, caves and, if you take the time to stop and sit quietly, the best array of birdlife that I've experienced so far in my bushwalking adventures.
Walk Rating: Moderate/Hard from Honeysuckle to Legoland carpark but easy after that. If you are walking from Honeysuckle, there are a number of steep hills that you have to walk up (much better coming back)! The bird life is way more prevalent along this road than on the top, easy section of the walk, so if you're looking for birdlife, I would recommend you take the time to stop and observe on this section of the track. Total walk distance is a little under 14 kilometres.
To get to the hut, you drive to Tharwa. Once over the bridge, swing left onto Naas Road. From here, drive along Naas Road for 10.6 kilometres until the intersection with Apollo Road. Turn right onto Apollo Road and follow the road 5.5 kilometres and you will arrive at the Honeysuckle Campground. Apollo Road is steep in sections with a lot of sharp and blind curves. It is a popular bicycle ride, so be cautious on the drive.
There is further information about the campground available at the Namadgi Visitors Centre. You can book camp sites and the facilities are very good, including pit toilets, covered barbecue and sitting area.
Image 2 - This Swamp Wallaby and her joey seemed to be permanent residents of Honeysuckle Campground.
Once you're at Honeysuckle, there is a dirt access road that takes you to the carpark where the walking tracks for Legoland start. The start of the track is easily discernible and is located to the left of the pit toilets as you drive into the campground.
This is where we started our walk and the dirt road is well graded and surrounded by dense bushland. After moving away from the campground (at about the 3-kilometre mark) we began to experience the diversity of the birdlife. As stated at the start of this blog, this was the best array of birdlife I have experienced in Namadgi. More on this a little further in the article.
On the day of our walk, it was a beautiful spring day, no wind and the sky was such a vibrant blue (Image 3). A short distance along the track, the Australian Alps Walking Track intersects and the dirt road (Image 4) forms part of this iconic walk for a number of kilometres before joining another track (Cotter Hut access road) off to the left, which takes you into the Orroral Valley. For those who don't know, the Australian Alps Walking Track commences in the township of Walhalla in Victoria and traverses the high country of Victoria, NSW and the ACT before finishing at the Namadgi Visitors Centre. It is around 656 kilometres in length and is fast becoming an internationally recognised iconic walk.
It should be noted that there were a number of very steep and relatively lengthy sections, so if you're not particularly fit, I would recommend really taking your time on the walk (Image 5 and 6). Also beware of snakes at this time of year. Although we didn't see any on our walk, they were sure to have been around, with Copperheads, Eastern Browns and Red Belly Black snakes all common to the local ACT landscape.
After 4.3 kilometres, we arrived at the carpark area where the Legoland walking tracks start. At this location, there are two tracks. The track to the left is only about 100 metres long and brings you to a massive granite boulder, which is a popular spot for abseiling activities.
The track to the right takes you to the granite outcrops commonly referred to as Legoland. The track is reasonably visible most of the time, but, be warned, it does become unclear in parts. If you stop and take a breath, you will work out where the track is, and it becomes clear again.
Image 3 - The start of the walk - Legoland on a perfect spring day. You can see the magnificent blue of the sky above the treeline.
Image 4 - The Iconic Australian Alps Walking Track intersects with the dirt access road.
Image 5 (left) and 6 (right) - One of the steep lengthy sections of the track.
This was particularly the case when we came across a huge but very flat (ground-level) granite rock (Image 7). The track dissapeared at the rock formation and I had to hunt around to find the re-start point, which is at the right-hand side back corner of the formation (as you step onto the rock from the walking track).
After re-joining the track, we came across the first of the granite outcrops and the start of Legoland. This first outcrop is at the 700-metre mark after commencing the walk from the carpark and doesn't look like much from the track due to a lot of undergrowth. If you were'nt aware that there were rocks caverns and a small cave here, you would walk right past!
To the right of the granite outcrop, you will see a not very well-defined track. Push through the dense undergrowth and, after about 20 metres, you will come out into the opening at the front of the outcrop.
There are so many interesting rock formations and rock caverns here, it's a great place to explore. If you are into photography, you will love it. It was so much cooler in the rock cavern than it was outside. This would be a welcome relief during those very hot summer days (Images 8, 9, 10 and 11).
Image 11 - A massive granite boulder suspended between other boulders.
Image 7 - Where's the track gone?
Image 8 - The entrance to the rock cavern after emerging from the thick undergrowth.
Image 10 - The entry to the rock cavern
Image 12 - One of the rock caverns you will find if you're prepared to explore.
After exploring the rock caverns of the first granite outcrop, we continued on to the next. This is around a kilometre and the track is reasonably well defined but, as before, does get a little unclear in sections (Image 13). After arriving at this outcrop we were greeted by spectacular views (Image 1).
We stopped for lunch and sat and enjoyed the vista. It was so peaceful sitting overlooking the Orroral Valley and surrounding mountains, which seemed to go on and on into the distance forever (Images 14 and 15).
Image 13 - This part of the track was reasonably well defined, but you need to keep a close eye on where you are going.
Image 14 - Overlooking the Orroral Valley surrounded by nearby mountains
Image 15 - Views from the second granite outcrop
After finishing lunch we ventured back towards the carpark and then along the dirt access road back to Honeysuckle. You do meet some interesting people on these bushwalks. After crossing the paths of two other walkers on their way to the granite outcrops, we all wondered how the female of the group would cope with two-inch high heels. What the....!
Anyway, I mentioned at the start of the article that there was one particular area along the walk that was abundant with birdlife. This was about 3 kilometres from Honeysuckle campground. This particular section of the walk seemed to be deliberately designed by nature to give these birds eveything they needed. Tall snowgum eucalypts (Image 16) provided the canopy to a small valley, with vibrant shrubery at ground level and a gently flowing creek through the middle. Parts of the creek were full of the native alpine fish, the Mountain Galaxia (Image 17).
I always keep a keen eye out for the different types of birdlife, and on this walk I was rewarded with views of two birds I'd never previously seen in the wild. I was even lucky enough to have them sit still long enough to photograph!
Image 18 is the Golden Whistler. This bird has a beautiful song and its distinct yellow chest can't be missed. During the winter months they spend their time in and around Canberra but in the springtime they migrate to the mountains for breedin - a rare sighting indeed! I'd always wanted to see a Golden Whislter in the mountains and was very lucky to finally do so.
The other bird I've always wanted to see in its natural mountain habitat is the Spotted Pardalote. I couldn't believe it when, just a few paces further, a pair flew across our path and landed on a small sapling right in front of us! They sat there very patiently while I fumbled with my camera - they almost seemed to be waiting for my 'big' photography moment, as if saying; "Okay, come on and get it over and done with, we're sick of you stalking us." They stayed only long enough for me to snap a couple of photos, and thankfully they worked out! (Image 19).
Okay, I was pretty happy with myself getting two good photos of two bird species that are hard to spot in the wild, when another native species also landed in a nearby sapling and sat long enough for a photo.The Grey Fantail is a very skittish bird so is quite difficult to photograph, except for this one time...I couldn't believe it. It also sat long enough for me to again fumble with my camera, focus and shoot (Image 20).
As far as birdlife photography goes, this was an absolute winner of a day. We finished our walk and that night opened a lovely bottle of wine and re-traced our bushwalk. I would really recommend this walk, particularly at this time of the year.
Image 16 - The tall snowgums provided the small valley with the top canopy.
Image 17 - There was an abundance of the native Mountain Galaxia fish
Image 18 - Golden Whistler - this bird moves from the lower lying areas around Canberra to the mountains for breeding.
Image 19 - Spotted Pardalote
Image 20 - Grey Fantail