Mt Namadgi (Recce)
Image 1 - Mt Namadgi as seen from the Yankee Hat carpark
Why a recce? I wanted to confirm a couple of things with this Namadgi walk, and decided that a recce was in order. I don't normally do recces, preferring to plan the route, pack the essential gear and then push off for how ever long it takes me to do the walk. Although there are other website articles about people who have managed the return trek to Mt Namadgi, these were written quiet a few years ago and my theory was, there's been a lot of re-growth in the past few years and the walk may require a lot more time and effort now. I should point out that there is no walking track on this route, and the only way to get to Mt Namadgi is to slog it out through the bush.
Walk Rating: Hard. This absolutely requires land navigation skills. If you managed to get to the peak of Mt Namadgi and back, it is a tad over 24 kilometres return, but expect much further as you need to pick different pathways through the scrub so the travel is anything but a straight line. The walk from the Aboriginal rock shelter is through thick scrub, rocky granite outcrops and fallen timber, with occasional open ground.
Directions: To get to the Yankee Hat car park, you drive to Tharwa. Once over the bridge, swing left onto Naas Road. From here it's around 32 kilometres,so enjoy the beautiful picturesque scenery and the wonderful mountains! Continue on Naas Road until you pass the interesection with Apollo Road (leads to the old Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station - another beautiful spot). From this point, Naas Road ends and Boboyan Road starts. Follow Boboyan Road and pass the turn-off to Orroral Valley and a little further on you will pass the Glendale Depot. This is a National Parks depot and services the needs of the rangers and Parks personnel with upkeep and maintenance of roads and infrastructure. Continue past the depot and go past the carpark at Rendezvous Creek. From here it is only a little further. Keep an eye out for the small sign (Old Boboyan Road) on the right side of the road. If the road changes from tar to dirt, you have gone too far! Turn off to the right and the well-maintained dirt road will take you to the Yankee Hat carpark. There are two small weirs to cross, but generally there are no problems with a two-wheel drive (except when the creek is in flood of course).
The Walk: I've mentioned the regrowth at the start of this article as since the bushfire of 2003, different articles about peoples walking experiences have described the various states of regrowth. I wanted to see what the current foliage was like, and I was also curious as to whether I could actually do this in a day. I must admit, that when I first set off, I was quietly confident of smashing this in a day (in hindsight, I was a fool!).
So I picked a day when the weather forecast was for cooler conditions and set off from home well before the sun came up. The trip to Yankee Hat at that time of the morning was a real battle, in terms of avoiding the many Kangaroos who had moved to the roadside during the night, and seemed intent on bouncing out in front of my car just as I was almost adjacent to them, causing as much alarm as possible.
Image 2 (above) - Information sign at the Aboriginal rock shelter and Image 3 (below) - The ancient Aboriginal rock shelter
I managed to survive the trip unscathed, arriving at the carpark as the sun was just beginning to push its rays above the horizon, and the early light revealed an overcast (and rather depressing) looking day. I peered out into the distance and spotted Mt Namadgi shrouded in cloud. I must say, it looked rather daunting, staring back at me from under its vale of mist, almost daring me to come and have a crack.
As I slung my pack, I realised that if I was to make the summit today, there would be no majestic views to reward the effort (Image 1). The positive, it was cool, overcast and perfect for bushwalking.
I kicked off the walk at a cracking pace, covering the initial 4.3 kilometres across the grasslands, into the valley and arriving at the Aboriginal rock shelter in 43 minutes. At this pace, I'll summit the mountain and be back at the carpark by lunchtime. How wrong I was!
Anyway, if you just want to walk to the rock shelter, head straight for Mt Namadgi (Image 1) and you will come across a vehicle access track (very rudimentary but you can't miss it). Turn right on the track and it will take you through two old gates (posts only, no gates). The second one will be at a track intersection, on your left. Go through this and continue to follow the track until it pretty much comes to an end. From the second gate to the rock shelter is a distance of just over one kilometre. You will have to find a spot to cross Middle Creek. On the day I was there, it wasn't overly deep but still required a big step to avoid waterlogged boots!
Enjoy the rock shelter, remembering to respect the wishes of the Ngunnawal custodians. There is a sign at the rock shelter to remind you of the sensitivity of this site (Image 2) and what you can, and more importantly, cannot do. I found this amazing, when thinking about the spiritual significance of the place and the Aboriginal history over thousands of years (Image 3).
From this location, I headed westerly with the next goal to find the old farming fenceline. This is about 750 metres from the rock shelter.
Things started reasonably well, but I could see that not too far in front of me, the bush was about to close in around me and the further ahead I looked, the thicker it was. But, I was fresh and this was the start of the walk, so I was very keen!
I managed to get to the fenceline (which took nearly 40 minutes) and over I went, heading headlong into the even thicker scrub. The 750 metres in 40 minutes should give you an indication of the going.
From here, I managed almost 1.5 kilometres in just over an hour and then a further 300 metres in 25 minutes. It was really starting to get quiet thick, and there was now a lot of trees littering the ground, having been blown over or uprooted by the elements.
At this stage, I began to weigh up the options (as to whether I could make it in a day), as I'd worked out pretty quickly that you would not want to be caught here in the dark. Even with a good headlamp or lighting source, this would be really treacherous and the risk of rolling an ankle or worse would be greatly increased. Coupled with the fatigue element of what would have been a massive effort to the peak and back, this would be a recipe for disaster.
All this aside, I decided to go for one more push to see what ground I could cover. I managed another 1.1 kilometre in a respectable 23 minutes and had made it to the foot of the eastern spur line of Mt Namadgi. I must admit, I did think about shooting straight up the spurline, rather than go to Big Creamy Flats but I was faced with a wall of dense scrub and granite rocky outcrops.
I took the time to have a rest. It had been tough going to here, and I hadn't had a break yet. Whilst I sat quietly, regaining my breath, I became aware of the thriving birdlife at this location. A family of Gang Gang Cockatoos had nested in a nearby tree, and the parents were teaching the three young birds to fly. It was very amusing, watching the three take off from their nest, circle around the tree and land back at their nest, much to the delight of their raucous parents! It was such a pleasure to see this endangered bird seemingly thriving in this isolated spot of Namadgi. Makes canberra bushwalking truly pleasurable.
Image 4 - The route that I took, together with timings. Click on image for larger version.
After rehydrating, I decided that this was definetely an overnight trip. I'd rather walk out in the daylight then push on, only to be caught out here in the night. I pulled my now weary body off the ground, slung my pack and headed back. By this stage I'd also worked out (it's a pretty basic bushwalking rule) that if the scrub got too thick, it meant I had dropped too far down towards the creek line. Each time this happened, I headed up, sometimes only ten or twenty metres, but it always made such a huge difference in terms of an easier pathway. Don't drop too low and keep on the northern side of Middle Creek!
I had one encounter with a Copperhead snake, which was a reminder that there's more out here than just cute birds and kangaroos. I spotted a different looking tree stick on the ground as my right leg was in the air and about to tread back down. If I hadn't realised that it was a snake, I would have trod on him/her for sure. The snake lifted its head slightly, gave a hiss, and then put its head back down and continued to bath in the (very limited) sunshine. It was almost as if the snake was saying: "You've had your warning, now get lost."
I took the advice, skirted right around and continued my journey. I plotted my tracks on an electronic device that I had (to the purists out there - I still use map and compass). Image 4 shows the track and the timings - click on image for a larger version.
To give you an idea of the terrain you will have to push through if you attempt this walk, I've attached some images below.
I hadn't had lunch yet and made the decision to push on back to the Yankee Hat carpark and sit down at the picnic table. I arrived back at around 2.20pm, motivated by the thought of food! It was such a relaxing way to finish the day and as no-one else was around, I had the place to myself. Peace and quiet!
After lunch, there was one more treat in stall. A Wedgetail Eagle had landed in a nearby tree and sat long enough for me to fumble through my bag, get the camera out, focus and get some shots. The Wedgetail is the second largest eagle in the world (only just) and is such a majestic bird (Image 5). After my photo, the eagle took off, much to the alarm of two kangaroos grazing nearby (Image 6). The look on their faces!
Well, needless to say, the walk to Mt Namadgi is an overnighter. Based on the timings from this recce, there would be around 10 to 12 hours of solid walking time. The regrowth has really kicked in and pending another disastrous fire, I can't see the walk getting any easier.
Image 5 (above) - the majestic Wedgetail Eagle and Image 6 (below) - taking flight, two nearby Kangaroos got the fright of their lives!