Mele Cascades, Port Vila

One of the highest rated attractions in Port Vila, Mele Cascades is an easy walk along a series of swimming holes to an impressive 35m waterfall.

About ten kilometres from Port Vila (Vanuatu) is the Mele Cascades. It’s more of a stroll than a hike, but there’s lots of clear swimming holes to stop at and the waterfall at the end is impressive. Avoid at all costs visiting when there’s a cruise ship in town, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll have the place to yourself if you go early or late in the day.

You’ll need to pay an entry fee near the start (2,000 VT or about USD$18 per person). You can also pay a bit more to get a guide, or join a slightly more expensive guided tour from Port Vila. There’s a cafe, picnic area and an artificial beach near the start of the walk.

There’s immediately a small pool and some small cascades next to the path. There was a a decent flow of water: I’d heard that for many months earlier in the year the river had been virtually dry.

You can swim in any of the pools, which are all very inviting – some of the lower ones are a bit rocky and harder to access.

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Once you leave the building at the bottom, it does feel a little more like a bush track – although ones with stairs for the steeper sections!

After the initial up to a low ridge, there’s a wide but unmarked track that leads to a lookout – it’s only a hundred metres or so from the main track.

There’s a nice view to the south over Mele Bay, and a large grassy area that would be suitable for a picnic.

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From here the walk gets a bit more interesting, as the trail crosses the river a couple of times. Unless you’re wearing sandals, now’s the time to take shoes off…

While generally following the river quite closely, at times the track goes through rainforest-like sections. Evergreen, the new owners of Mele Cascades since late 2017, have added many native plants along the path.

Along this last section is another nice pool, just below a small set of cascades.

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For the last section, as you near the foot of the falls, the river flows over the stone stairs and you can hear the falls not far ahead.

There’s another photogenic and inviting pool just blow the main falls.

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A last set of steps up the river…

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…and you’re at the base of the falls, which tumble about 35m into another swimming hole.

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It’s the same way back down the river. Except when I reach the concrete stairs down the last steep section, I take an alternate path to the right. This is a more natural bush track, that winds down the steep slope back to the Mele Cascades entrance.

You could do the walk in under an hour – I’ve taken two hours with many photo stops, and if you’re going for a swim in one of the many pools you could easily spend half a day here. It’s a bit expensive when you consider you’re just paying for access to a short walk, but the cascades and waterfall are well worth a visit.

Location Mele Cascades is about 12km north-west of Port Vila (250 VT by mini-bus or around 2,000 VT by taxi)
Distance About 4km return including side-trip to lookout
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain of 150m.
Season/s All year. Mele Cascade is open 8:30am-5pm daily.
Maps None required.

 

Tabletop Track, Litchfield National Park

 

A 39km circuit in Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory, through an arid and often burnt landscape punctuated by beautiful waterholes and creeks.

I’m glad I managed to do this walk. But I wouldn’t do it again… The Tabletop Track is a “classic” Northern Territory walk that’s been on my to Do List for a while, promising idyllic creeks and waterfalls surrounded by rainforest. The reality is that those moments where I stop for a break or a refreshing swim, or walk along a crystal clear creek, are hard-earned by walking through a very arid and often bleak landscape which is often burnt out by recent fires.

Just getting started proved trickier than I expected: I’d spent hours trying to purchase a detailed topographical map on-line. In the end the best I could do was the 1:250K “Pine Creek” topographical map on my phone, which was virtually useless. Even in Darwin not a single store I tried had stock of the recommended map. Since I was arriving into Darwin very late in the evening and couldn’t take a gas cylinder on the plane, I’d managed after several phone calls to find “Shorty” from Camping World Darwin, who offered to drop one off at the Hertz car hire booth at the airport – he went out of his way to help. By chance I checked whether the park was open a few days before leaving Sydney (why wouldn’t it be?!?), and discovered that in fact the entire Tabletop Track was closed due to bushfires. With a sense of dread I made a few phone calls… it might be possible to get a permit (not normally required in the dry season) to do at least a part of the walk. Tracy from the Permits Office (see contact numbers at the bottom) was super-helpful, and less than 24 hours before my flight departed she’d responded with approval to complete the southern section of the walk.

Getting there

Being short of time as always, I landed at Darwin at 12:15am, driving to the small town of Batchelor (about 90min away) so I could make an early start the next day. Or, rather, the same day. From Batchelor it’s only about half an hour to Litchfield National Park where four “link tracks” provide access to the Tabletop Track. I had originally planned to start at Wangi Falls and do the track in a clockwise direction. But due to the recent fires and the track being closed, the best option as stipulated by my permit was to start at Florence Falls, walking towards Wangi Falls. I was allowed to walk as far as the campground at Tjenya Falls (5km past Wangi Creek) – but the track was due to re-open on the second day of my walk, meaning I should be able to complete the circuit.

Day 1: Florence Falls to Tjenya Falls

A brief detour before heading down into the valley to the lookout platform over Florence Falls, which has a decent flow of water.

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I’m then off down the paved path towards Florence Falls. It’s a bright and clear day (I suspect like every day in the dry season) and there’s not a soul around. It’s only about 10min before the path crosses Florence Creek, and I reach the sign marketing the start of the Link Track.

Florence Falls Link Track to The Steps [14.7km]

Permit in-hand (or rather, in my backpack), I veer off the paved highway. The Link Track is easy to follow as it heads down into a small valley, follows Wangi Creek for a short distance, and then ascends to a plateau. Regularly-spaced markers provide reassurance that you’re on track: orange triangles for Link Tracks and blue for the Tabletop Track. This is one of the shorter Link Tracks – it’s only 1.8km to reach the junction with the Tabletop Track.

Initially the landscape is somewhat varied and not too unpleasant to walk through, especially being still cooler in the morning hours. There’s tall grassland, short grassland and some light forest.

There’s also a few creek crossings that break the otherwise arid landscape with a swath of dense green foliage and some shade. The track ascends constantly over the next 7km, but only 100m in total, so it’s barely noticeable.

The highest point of the southern section – at the grand elevation of 215m asl – is reached about 7.3km along the circuit. A 4WD track is crossed – this would provide an emergency exit point as it eventually reaches the main highway. From here it’s very gradually downhill – and much less enjoyable walking! It’s getting warmer and there’s a long section where I’m walking through bush that’s been recently burnt. Prescribed burns (as well as natural fires) are part of the management of the, undertaken for thousands of years by Aborigines. However, there’s now debate that large-scale, deliberate burning has become excessive and is permanently changing the landscape. Part of the problem is the increase in gamba grass, a perennial grass from Africa that was introduced to Australia as a pasture grass and grows up to four metres tall: it fuels wildfires and burns more intensely than native grasses.

The track has been a bit harder to follow, both through the burnt section and then an area of re-growth. For much of the circuit, the track doesn’t follow a natural feature, such as creek or valley, so you’re always looking for the next arrow. Mostly it’s directly in front of the previous one; sometimes it makes an abrupt turn up a ridge or down into a valley! I’m very glad to reach the next creek, where I’m ready for a swim and to fill-up my water bottle.

The track crosses another couple of creeks, both clear and flowing. It’s often remarkable how a thin green band of semi-tropical plants thrives while metres away the bush is brown and devoid of any life.

I’m glad when I reach “The Steps” cascades on upper Wangi Creek (I’m not 100% sure this is the correct geographic name, but it’s fitting!) – time for another very refreshing swim. There’s also a campsite here, which is arguably the nicest one on the circuit.

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The Steps to Tjenya Camp site [9km]

The next part of the walk is one of the nicest, with the track following the creek fairly closely. The trail markers are always a fair distance from the creek – you can see from the debris wrapped around one of the posts how high the water must get in the wet season!

There’s plenty of rock pools that almost compel you to stop and have a quick dip – and the day is getting gradually warmer (temperatures reach around 32 degrees Celsius by mid afternoon).

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After two kilometres the trail leaves the creek and goes up over a very small ridge (I lose the track here for a short time) before following another bigger creek downstream. After another 2km the track crosses the flowing creek: this is the only river crossing so far where I need to remove shoes. Just downstream is Wangi Falls, accessible by car and a popular tourist spot.

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The next bit is not much fun. I’ve walked exactly 20km since leaving Florence Falls, it’s getting pretty warm… and the track now heads straight up a rocky ridge. And back down. It’s only about 80m (vertical ascent/descent) but feels like more with a heavy pack. For the first time there are views out to the west. Not that there is much to see.

Then it’s back down into another valley – this time crossing a nice creek and small waterfall – before heading back another steep ridge…

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On this last ridge I manage to get a weak phone signal (I only noticed as my phone starting pinging as it received a few emails). By standing on a rock and pointing my iPhone skywards I managed to get onto the Litchfield National Park Web site – the status is still that the anticipated opening of the Tabletop Track is the following day.

I’m now almost at my camp site – another descent before I reach Tenja Falls. It’s got some deep pools that make perfect swimming holes at the end of a long day.

A hundred metres or so past the falls is the campsite. Near the edge of the Tabletop escarpment, there’s a large cleared area for tents, a metal container to light a fire in (although this is discouraged) and a metal platform that keeps packs and supplies off the dusty ground. It’s not the most picturesque camping spot, but it’s near the creek. And it’s a nice spot to watch the sun set.

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Tjenya Camp site to Walker Creek – Day 2 [10.5km]

I wake up early the next day: I’ve decided to continue the circuit. I’m more than half-way, the track is supposed to re-open today and there’s no sign of smoke or fire in the direction I’m heading…

I’m carrying a bit less water than the previous day (about 1.5L) – a mistake in hindsight, as this next section is pretty dry. The landscape is pretty dry, and the first creek is not really flowing. Compared to the previous day, the track is more distinct here, although I’m still keeping a close eye on those markers…

There’s some sections that have recently been burnt: the blackened ferns look like they’ve seen better days!

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The track passes another creek – it’s got plenty of water, but it’s not really flowing.

After 6.3km I cross the firetrail/4WD track that crosses the park – it would be another escape route if the trail was “burnt out” or there was a fire (my fear being not much being caught in a fire, but the markers being destroyed.)

Despite this area having more signs of recent fires than the southern section, there are still a few wildflowers. In general, I’ve seen few flowers and no animals (except for some spiders) so far.

The landscape is still pretty stark and dry – it’s been almost 10km and still no flowing streams. Some sections of the track go through re-growth, probably from fires the last dry season. There’s one smouldering log next to the trail, the only sign of the more recent fires that closed the Tabletop Track.

As the trail approaches the Link Track to Walker Creek, it traverses an even more desolate landscape. Walker Creek is only 1.9km away down the Link Track and is supposed to be a nice camp ground – but no sign of any creek here!

Walker Creek – to Florence Falls [9.5km]

Another 2km past the Link Track, and the trail crosses another creek – this one is shown on my 1:250K map and seems to be of a decent size. But it’s not flowing and the water is pretty stagnant. I could filter it, but I’ve still got some water left and I’m hopeful of a more picturesque babbling brook eventually!

Along this creek is the third campsite – it’s the only one that’s not directly on the track (there’s a short 400m walk to get to it). It seems the least appealing of the three Tabletop Track camping sites from the state of the creek a bit further down. I’d seen a less than flattering description on another blog: “The campsite up on the plateau and 1.8 km from the Walker Creek link track is horrible. There is water from a stagnant creek surrounded by scrub typhus and mosquito infested bush and there is very little shade.” [The Conspiracy Times]

UPDATE: A comment (see bottom of post) by Brad suggests I am mistaken: “Camp site 6 at walker creek (there are 8) is alongside an amazing spring fed flowing creek”. So, if you’re doing the Tabletop Track check it out and let me know how you find it!

Finally I reach a more promising creek about 16.3km from the Tjenya Falls camp site. After following the creek for a few hundred metres, there’s a perfect spot for a quick dip and to re-fill water bottles. While not an approved camping spot, I’d pick this over the Walker Creek camp site if I was doing the walk over three days.

The track follows the creek for about 500, before it crosses near some nice cascades and heads up a small ridge.

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Less then a kilometre there’s a another nice creek that the trail crosses.

I’m on the home stretch now – it’s easy walking through some more sections of long grass, before reaching the Florence Falls Link Track to complete the circuit.

There’s one last swim as the Link Track crosses a small creek, before it rejoins the main Florence Falls loop track.

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It’s been a tough walk in terms of terrain and route-finding (or rather, making sure you’re following the track markers) – I think I’ll be dreaming about blue triangles for the next few weeks. There’s many long, dry and exposed sections. Conversely, finding a pristine water hole for a dip after hours of walking is its own reward. And it’s been a long time since I’ve walked two days without seeing a soul.

Shady Creek Loop [500m]

I take the long way back to the Florence Falls car park, following the Shady Creek Walk track. It crosses Florence Creek a few times and passes through a rainforest-filled gorge.

Near the end is the pool at the bottom of Florence Falls. It would be a nice spot for a swim – but after having two days of private waterholes and creeks, swimming with 50 people is not really appealing. (I’ve become a Swimming Hole Snob in two days!)

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A steep climb up the stairs to the car park – and my walk is completed! I’m glad to take the backpack off, and head back to civilisation.

Rather than taking the sealed road back to Darwin, I’ve got plenty of time (it’s about 2:30pm when I reach the car) to complete a circuit of Litchfield National Park.

Tolmer Falls

First stop is Tolmer Falls, regarded as one of the most spectacular falls in Litchfield National Park. There’s a short walking track to a viewing platform over the falls (and a longer 1.6km return walk that follows Tolmer Creek).

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Wangi Falls

The second stop is Wangi Falls, the best-known and most popular attraction in Litchfield National Park… it’s pretty busy here on a Saturday afternoon. A short walk leads to a lookout over the pool and falls. A longer track goes up over the falls and back to the car park. There’s also a cafe here, and free wifi (so I can book my accommodation back in Darwin for this evening).

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There is a Link Track from the Tabletop Track (1.2km) to Wangi Falls and I had considered making this short detour on Day 1. I’m glad I didn’t – after the solitude of the Tabletop Track it would have been disconcerting to suddenly be surrounded by hundreds of people (although I wouldn’t have minded a hamburger from the cafe).  Despite the Tabletop Track being so close to Wangi Falls, when you’re on the circuit you can’t see or hear the Falls.

Location Litchfield National Park is about 120km (2 hours) south-east from Darwin via Batchelor on a fully-sealed road or through Berry Springs via the partly unsealed Cox Peninsula Road (dry season only; 2WD accessible).
Distance Official distance is 39km plus the Link Track/s (variable lengths) to access the Tabletop Track. Actual distance as measured by my GPS units (Apple iPhone and Garmin watch was 50km:

  • Day 1: Florence Falls – Greenant Creek – Tjenya Falls (campground after Wangi Falls): 22.2km on the map and 26km distance walked
  • Day 2: Tjenya Falls – Walker Creek – Florence Falls: 18.4km on the map and 21km distance walked
Grade Hard. Track is very rough and navigation can be tricky. Temperatures reach 30-32 degrees C in the dry season (winter). Approx 1,080m elevation gain & loss over the entire track – the walk is between about 200m elevation with some drops into valleys and up ridges.
Season/s Dry season – typically May to end of September.
Maps
  • Australia’s Northern Territory Litchfield National Park –
    Edition 7 (topographical map). Bloody hard to find but try the Darwin Museum (they had sold out when I asked), Camping World Darwin (sold out), NT General Store (open weekdays).
  • Tabletop Track information sheet and overview map – PDF download
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – Day 1 and Day 2.
View route and export to KML format.
Resources
  • Litchfield National Park phone number – 08 8976 0282
  • Check if a park is open web site – worth checking, as I discovered!
  • Information on applying for a permit – required in the wet season or if park / track is closed. If unsure you need one, they were very helpful when I phoned – 08 8999 4486
Tips
  • I didn’t treat water from most of the creeks – but between Tjenya Falls and Walker Creek camp site the only water sources (in mid-July) were pretty stagnant. You’d want some form of purification, especially if hiking after July
  • Don’t think about wearing shorts – the sections through forest re-growth (after a fire) or long grass will not be fun
  • The camp sites near Greenant Creek and Tjenya Falls were great. The one near Walker Creek I would avoid (continue about 2km further towards Florence Falls)
  • Walk from May-July if you can – reports from later in the Dry season suggest many of the creeks/waterholes have started drying up.

Mount Barney

A tough ascent of Mount Barney East (1,351m), one of the highest mountains in Queensland’s “scenic rim”, about two hours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

It’s my first solo overnight walk since hiking the 3-day Thorsborne Trail (also in Queensland) back in 2006… I could have done Mount Barney as a day walk with an early start. But as I’m flying up from Sydney and don’t arrive at Mount Barney National Park until 8pm, it makes more sense to camp at the base of the mountain and get an early start the following morning.

It’s pitch black when I arrive at the Yellowpinch carpark and trackhead, but even by the light of my head-torch the first thing you notice is the warning signs. Be prepared. Make sure you’re equipped. Why don’t you consider another walk… Someone at the Parks office must have have had their annual bonus paid on the basis of how many people they could discourage from undertaking this hike. The mountain is known for rapid weather changes and there’s been a few bushwalker rescues by the local SES. But I can’t help feeling that a bit more effort could have been spent on having the various routes to the top shown on the topographical map, if safety is a concern. I’ve got both a printed and an on-line topographical map, and not one of the three summit routes is shown.

The other striking thing is the stars – being a completely clear night and far away from any towns, the night sky is incredible.

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Three Routes to the Mt Barney Summit

There’s many ways to get to the top of Mount Barney – all of them being fairly rough. The warning signs outline the two “official” routes, but makes no mention of one of the most popular routes to the top.

  • South East Ridge (SER) – one of the official summit tracks and also one of the longest routes. The signage suggests not to descend using this route due to some steep scrambles.
  • South East Ridge – an alternate and popular route; it’s the most direct and steepest.  No official signage at the start of the trail. I went up this way.
  • South Ridge (SR) aka Peasants Ridge – the second “official” route which is slightly longer. It’s the only route that provides camping sites close to the summit (Rum Jungle and Old Hut sites). I came down this way.

Although I didn’t do all three routes, both the South East “Unofficial” and South Route were of similar difficulty (in terms of both navigation and rock scrambling). I met a group who had gone up and back down using the South East Route (SER) and they didn’t experience any difficulties. If you’re planning to camp near the top, then the South Route would be the best option; otherwise going up the South East “Unofficial” track is the (arguably) quickest way to the top! (It’s feasible but not officially allowed to camp on the summit – there’s plenty of space but the ground is very rocky and covered with vegetation – and it can get very cold and windy!)

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Distances of camping sites and Mt Barney summit trailheads from Yellowpinch Reserve

South East Ridge – going up

I’ve camped at Cronan Creek 9 (booked and paid for online the previous day – see link at bottom of post): it’s one of two official camping spots along an old forestry road that follows the valley,  providing access to all the summit trails. I leave the warmth of my tent around 6:30am, and continue down the firetrail.

About 500m further I pass Cronan Creek 10, an equally nice camping spot – both are situated close to Cronan Creek, which had a decent flow of water (there had been some rain over the previous days).

It’s only about 15min to the start of South East Route; I knew what I was looking for from previous online research – a tree with arrows scratched into it, next to a fallen log – although there is no official signage here. The track is narrow but easy to follow, as it immediately starts climbing through tall forest.

One of the advantages of the South East Ridge route is you get nice views along the trail to the east and west: below is the view looking south towards Mount Ernest (964m), another peak in the Mount Barney National Park.

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About half-way up there’s two markers with “SER”: nice to know I’m on the track, but a little baffling as this is the “unofficial” South East Ridge track that isn’t meant to exist… there are two of these markers close together.

As the trail follows the ridge up, it gets rockier and the trees more stunted… to the left (east?) the trail often passes closes to the edge of the ridge, with steep drop-offs to the valley.

About two thirds of the way up is the only time that I think I may have lost the track… there’s a rocky outcrop that looks a bit daunting, but is actually fairly easy to traverse. A nice view again from the top of the outcrop…

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After clambering over the outcrop, the track then drops slightly into a small gully, before climbing up what I hope is the summit (I’m now at about 1,100m asl). It initially seems there’s no obvious trail on the other side of the outcrop, but after a bit of searching I find a trail that continues up the next ridge!

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There are frequent views out to the south, and as you gain altitude Mt Lindesay (1175m) starts becoming visible behind Mt Ernest.

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There’s one tricky section where a rope would come in handy – it doesn’t look too difficult in the photo (below) and there’s no exposure – but it takes some effort to get up one large boulder. After a few attempt, I wedge my feet into a narrow crack and haul myself up the rock. I wouldn’t have liked to do this with a heavy pack!

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Although the views are generally to the south, there are a few vantage points where you can look out the north east, with Mt Maroon (967m) to the north – this is another peak that has a trail to the summit.

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I’m now at around 1200m, and there’s a final ridge to climb to what I hope is the summit – it looks impossibly steep. But the track winds up the steep ridge, between rocks and along a few sections where you’re pulling yourself up with the help of exposed tree roots.

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Finally I think I’ve reached the summit… but it’s a false summit. The Mount Barney East peak is tantalizingly close, but first I need to drop down slightly into a saddle and back up the peak.

I’ve got the summit to myself: s group of four hikers is behind me, and I meet a family who have just finished lunch and head off down the South Ridge track.  The views are pretty impressive.

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To the south Mt Lindesay is clearly visible behind Mt Ernest, which has a long ridge line.

To the north west is a glimpse of Lake Maroon and the Main Range National Park.

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South Ridge – going down

After a short break at the top, I decide to descend South Ridge, and continue along the scrubby summit ridge. Directly ahead of me across a saddle is Mount Barney West (a few metres higher than Mount Barney East, at 1353m).

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I’m heading for Rum Jungle, an area of dense forest in the saddle between Mount Barney East and Mount Barney West.

It’s a fairly steep descent with no obvious path – most of the time I’m trying to walk on top of the large sections of rock, and avoiding the thick scrub. I’m aiming for a small clearing at the bottom – the Old Huts site, where there used to be a few huts (nothing remains there now). From here there are occasional markers, which helps as the track from Old Hut site, which crosses a small creek, is hard to find. This would be a nice camping spot, with a short but steep hike up to the summit.

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Here I lose the track – or rather, take the wrong track which leads to nowhere – before backtracking and finding a faint trail to Rum Jungle. This is another nice camp site, very shaded and I’ve read prone to leeches if it’s been raining.

I make a small diversion up Mount Barney West, which provides a nice view back to the Mount Barney East summit. I don’t have the energy to scramble to the top of this peak…!

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The start of the track from Rum Jungle down South Ridge is not obvious… but once you’re on it, there are orange “SR” markers at regular intervals. There are a lot less views from this track – although you do get occasional views to the south.

It’s a lot less steep than the South East Ridge track, but a bit longer… it feels like the descent take forever as it descends through light forest and the occasional rocky section. Looking the GPS track afterwards, it’s about 3km up via the South East Ridge track and 5km down via the South Ridge track,

In contrast to the South East Ridge track, with its tricky slab near the top, the South Ridge has a couple of steep bits near the bottom. The first one is a long and steep section, which is not difficult, but would be more challenging if wet. Shortly after there’s a big rock that requires me to precariously cling to the rock and some handy grasses growing out of the rock… the group behind me takes one look at me stuck halfway down, and finds an easy way around the rock!

From here it’s another easy 1.5km or so back to the main firetrail, through tall forest and a few sections of rainforest.

Unlike the South East Ridge trailhead, this one is well-marked.

It’s starting to feel late in the day, even though it’s only about 3pm – sunset is around 5:30pm. I’ve got time to explore a bit more, so rather than heading back to the car at Yellowpinch, I continue up the firetrail to have a look at Conan Creek Falls. It’s easy walking, although slightly uphill (you gain about 100m), and the firetrail crosses the creek a couple of times (all of the crossing can be rock-hopped without getting wet feet!).

I reach the sign-posted track down to Cronan Creek about 2.6km from the South Ridge trail head. It’s then only 100m down to the creek. I think it’s worth the walk – there’s no-one else here, and if it was a few degrees warmer I would have gone for a quick swim.

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Now it’s straight back to the Yellowpinch car park, via my camp site where I need to pack up my tent and collect overnight backpack. It’s about 5km down the firetrail to the national park boundary, where a weir crosses Logan River.

The last 2km passes through light forest and farmland – it seems the firetrail is actually on private land. The mountain directly ahead is not Mount Barney – it’s a much lower peak.

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There are glimpses of Mount Barney East to the west, rising above the forest.

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A bit further (about a kilometre before the car park)  is the well-marked start of the “official” South East Ridge track, with Mount Barney in the background.

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From here it’s another 20min or so back to the car. I’m back just after 4pm, and with plenty of time to get my evening flight back to Sydney. A great walk that I’d do again… but with time to catch sunrise/sunset from the peak.

Location Start at Yellowpinch car park, about 100km from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Do not enter “Mount Barney” into Apple or Google Maps or you’ll end up at the wrong place!
Distance Approx 1-4km to start of summit trail (depending on which one).
3km ascent via South East Ridge (unofficial) or 5km via South Ridge.
Approx 22km as walked (3km Day 1 / 19km Day 2)
Grade Hard. Total elevation gain 1,100m. Some difficult sections of rock and some trails are distinct but unmarked
Season/s All year. Winter is definitely the best time. Avoid walking in the middle of the day in summer.
Maps
  • 1:25K Mt Lindesay topographical map
  • Create a bespoke topographical map which can be downloaded as an image or PDF at QTopo
  • Mount Barney National Park map PDF download – not much use for navigation
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources
  • “Secrets of the Scenic Rim” by Robert Rankin has detailed notes of many walks in the area, including Mount Barney
  • “Take a Walk in South East Queensland” by John & Lyn Daley
  • Camp sites must be booked and a small fee applies – you can do this on-line via the Queensland National Parks Booking Service. You’ll be able to print a Camping Tag to attach to your tent.

 

Bulcamatta Falls Track (Burralow Creek)

Bulcamatta Falls Track is a short and shaded walk from the Burralow Creek camping ground, to a small grotto and waterfall. 

A last minute decision to go camping on a rather damp long weekend sees us arriving at Burralow Creek camping ground on Saturday afternoon. We’re hoping the recent rain might mean it’s not too crowded… the reality is that while there’s still a few spots left in the large, grassy area, it’s pretty busy. I guess being less than two hours from Sydney, it’s going to be busy on any long weekend, even in the middle of winter. It’s a good lesson: don’t leave home on a long weekend!

We find a spot that’s not too close to anyone, and set-up camp. We’ll come back here on a “normal” weekend, as it’s a very nice campground – and even on a winter weekend the weather is pretty mild (a degree or two colder than Sydney).

On the following day, after a leisurely start (the kids cook us bacon & egg rolls), we set out to find the “short walk to a waterfall”. The start of the walk is not marked, but is fairly easy to find. on the western side of the camping ground. Shortly after the metal gate at the start, the track crosses the creek on a dubious “bridge” of logs. Here there is a sign.

The track is very flat – it’s easy walking – as it follows the alluvial flats through tall forest, not far from Burralow Creek. After about 500m there’s a pit constructed from sandstone blocks that’s part of an old settlement. Early settlers thought the swampy area would be suitable for irrigated agriculture: Burralow Creek camping ground is the site of the first rice farm in Australia!  A short side track leads to an impressive termite mound, and a little further there’s a a natural stone grotto and a natural stone grotto.

The track then follows a smaller side-creek through sections of fern and  increasingly moist vegetation.

After about 1.5km a narrow and shaded gorge is reached, in an area of temperate rainforest (coachwood, sassafras, cedar wattle and umbrella ferns).

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At the head of the grotto and surrounded by ferns is the picturesque small waterfall that we’ve set out to visit! We’re told that glow worms can be seen near the waterfall at night – so we’ll try the walk at night next time!

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It’s back the same way – a very pleasant and easy walk with lots to see. (Next visit, we’ll try the slightly harder track to Burralow Creek, which descends steeply to the valley.)

Location Walk starts at the western side of Burralow Creek campground (the campground is reached via Bells Line of Road near Kurrajong (take Warks Hill Road and then Burralow Road). 4WD/AWD required.
Distance 3km return walk
Grade Easy. Total elevation 20m
Season/s All year. Campground very busy on long weekends / school holidays
Maps Kurranjong 9030-4N (1:25,000). Track is not shown on the map.
GPS Route Google GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks Burralow Creek campground web page

Pisang Falls (Sungai Pisang)

A fun “jungle walk” near KL following the Pisang River (Sungai Pisang) through a set of tunnels under the Karak Highway and up to the picturesque Pisang Falls.

I’ve got a couple of days in Kualu Lumpur on the way to a trip across Borneo; just enough time to engage local guide Eddie Yap for a half-day jungle trek with my son. “Something I haven’t done before, not too far from KL” was my detailed brief 🙂

It’s less than an hour’s drive from our hotel in KL to the start of the walk, just past Batu Caves and along the old highway that goes up to Genting. After a brief walk along a rough path that follows the river bank, the river runs under the Karak Highway through two huge tunnels.

We leave our shoes on, and enter one of the dark tunnels – it’s possible to keep your feet dry if you keep to the very edge of the tunnel, where there’s a small ledge…

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…although our shoes don’t stay dry much longer, with the the trail crossing the river a few times – and sometimes the trail is the river itself.

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Unlike most previous walks with Eddie where we are climbing up steep hills or mountains, this walk is fairly flat with the path following the river upstream. It’s a rough track though, as we cross sections of thick jungle roots and scramble under (or over) fallen trees and boulders.

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It takes about half an hour to cover the 1.5km to Pisang Falls (also called Banana Falls), which have a drop of about 30 metres. It’s not crowded for a Saturday considering we’re only about 45min from KL – there are about ten people in the swimming hold beneath falls, and another ten or so people picnicking above the falls. The only steep section is from from the base of the falls up to the top.

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Path near Pisang Falls. Photo credit: Eddie Yap

There’s a camping and picnic area at the top, and the path makes a broad loop around the back of the Falls before descending again on the other side to the river.

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We return the same way down the river and back to the car, the entire walk taking about 2.5 hours. It’s amazing how you can have a “jungle experience” and swim in crystal-clear water so close to KL!

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Location Access via the old Gombak Highway past Batu Caves. Look for signs to Jungle Lodge, where you can park and access the river neat a pumping station.
Distance Return distance 5km (including the loop above the Falls)
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain of 130m
Season/s All year. Avoid after heavy rain.
Maps None available.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to KML format.

 

Fitzroy Falls East to West Rim

Fitzroy Falls East to West Rim is one of the shorter but more scenic walks in Kangaroo Valley. The full walk traverses the east and west rims of the Yarrunga Creek gorge, with spectacular views over the valley and of Fitzroy Falls from both escarpments.

If you’ve got two cars – or you can get dropped off at one end as I was – you can do the “east rim” of the Fitzroy Falls as a one-way walk. Which I’d recommend, as the east rim of Fitzroy Falls is definitely the less spectacular side. The start of the walk is not particularly easy to find as doing the east rim as a one-way walk is not recommended, but there is 4WD track from Nowra Road that joins the East Rim track (it’s about 300m from the main road).

From here there is a well-marked track that follows the top of the escarpment, with a number of lookouts over the Yarrunga Creek gorge. The first lookout, Yarrunga Lookout, offers broad views over Morton National Park to the south-west, with Mt Carrialoo and the more rounded Mt Moollattoo to the left and Bundanoon in the distance. To the other direction (looking north-east) is Fitzroy Falls, which is at the end of the Yarrunga Creek gorge – but is not yet visible!

A bit further along the track is Valley View Lookout, with views over the Yarrunga Creek gorge again.

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The next viewpoint is the Lamond Lookout, which offers similar views over the valley. Shortly after this lookout is the Warrawong Lookout, and the start of the Janet Cosh Wildflower Walk (named in honour of a local plant collector). I’ve walked 2.5km from the start of the walk, with another 1.2k to the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre. As well as a view over the narrowing gorge, there’s the first sighting of Fitzroy Falls, at the head of the valley.

 

The walk so far has been through eucalypt forest and fairly flat, as it closely follows the edge of the escarpment. So it’s a pleasant change when it drops into the lush Ferny Gully, passing a stand of tree ferns below a tall rainforest canopy, and crossing a couple of small creeks.

The last lookout before the end of the east rim trail is the May Lookout, perched over the edge of the gorge.

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Shortly after this last East Rim lookout, the track crosses Yarrunga Creek, and becomes the West Rim track. A short distance from here is the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre, which has lots of information on the areas and a cafe. The West Rim is far more impressive than the East Rim, and would be the best option if you haven’t got time for the full walk. It’s also much more trafficked, and not so pleasant on a busy Easter weekend!

Heading west along the track, which is now more a boardwalk than a bushwalk, the first lookout is reached after 200m.

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Cantilevered 80m above the valley floor, the metal platform provides a view to the base of the falls as well as down the length of the Yarrunga Creek valley.

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A couple of hundred metres further, Jersey Lookout provides a view back to the head of the valley and to Fitzroy Falls, with part of the lower falls visible.

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A gradual uphill section leads to the next viewpoint, Richardson Lookout.

There’s a couple more viewpoints, before the track crosses a side-creek, just before The Grotto. Even with the Easter crowds, this section of the walk is fantastic – it would be even better on a day with no-else around!

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A  short detour off the main track is The Grotto, an overhang with coachwood and water gums in front of a small cascade. Despite it being a busy day, I have the serene grotto to myself for a few minutes.

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Fitzroy Falls to The Grotto is the most scenic section of the walk; continuing another 900m takes you past Starkeys Lookout and to the final viewpoint, Renown Lookout. The last view points

From here, it’s back the same way to the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre; if you’re doing a car shuffle you can save about 500m by finishing on a fire trail near Glen Road (but it’s hardly worth it). It’s an easy but nice walk, especially after heavy rain when Fitzroy Falls is in full swing!

Location Start at Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre or at the end of the East Rim track, on Nowra Road (Kangaroo Valley, about 3 hours south-west of Sydney)
Distance 8.1km in total (East Rim one-way and West Rim as a return walk)
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 270m
Season/s All year. Falls more impressive after heavy rain.
Maps Kangaroo Valley 9028-4S
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Best Walks of the Shoalhaven” book, p.72 (Walk 14)
fitzroy_falls_area_map
Map showing East and West Rim trails, Fitzroy Falls

Piles Creek Loop (Brisbane Water NP)

A varied track through a valley and along ridges in Brisbane Water National Park, combining the longer Piles Creek Loop and short Girrakool Loop tracks. 

Today’s walk is to check out a potential route for the 2nd Gordon Cub pack; we’ll be staying at the nearby Kariong Scout Camp. There is a link track that joins the Piles Creek Loop track.

I’ve started at the Girakool Picnic Area, which is a really nice spot, with free gas barbecues and running water. The various tracks are well sign-posted, as I set off down the Girrakool Loop track (which starts off as a paved track that is almost wheelchair-accessible).

The first lookout, Broula Lookout, is reached after less than five minutes from the car park, with a view across the valley. Shortly after this is Illoura Lookout, meaning “creek in a gully”. From here you can see a nice pool formed by Piles Creek.

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The lookout is also the junction of the much shorter Girrakool Loop and longer Piles Creek track; I continue to the left along the Piles Loop track. The trail crosses Pile Creek along a natural causeway with stepping stones just above the falls.

From here the track follows the top of the ridge above the valley formed by Piles Creek. It’s a pleasant combination of eucalpyt forest and is mostly in the shade, with some deep overhangs in the sandstone cliffs.

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After 1.4km I reach the (sign-posted) turn-off to Kariong Camp Scout, which you would normally ignore… as I’m on a reconnaissance mission for our upcoming Cub camp, I take this track which climbs gently up to the Scout property (it adds about 800m each way to the Piles Creek Loop).

Just after this turn-off is another (unnamed) lookout over the valley and the cliffs on the other side.

The track continues along the top of the valley, passing a large and weathered rock that I suspect will require an extended stop as the Cubs use it for some parkour practice (reminder: pack first aid kit!).

After about 3.5km (or 1.8km without the Scout Camp detour) the track starts descending fairly steeply down the into the valley, crossing a small side creek with the aid of some small bridges made of timber planks.

Shortly after this creek crossing is another well-marked intersection with the Great North Walk (GNW); the next section of the Girrakool Loop track is part of the GNW. A bit further on – and the lowest part of the walk – the track crosses Piles Creek on the very sturdy Phil Houghton Bridge (suspension bridge). The Cubs will enjoy this 🙂

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The bridge was built in 1998; the original bridge was washed away in a flood, and some parts of it still stand. This might be a nice swimming hole if there’s been some rain, but today it looks brown and not particularly tempting, even on a hot day.

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Just after the bridge is a nice and shaded campsite, which is used by Great North Walkers. Immediately after the campsite, the track climbs steeply up the other side of the valley.

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Fortunately, being a warm day, this part of the track is well shaded, passing some high rock overhangs and sections of dry rainforest.

After the initial climb up from Piles Creek, the track continues gently climbing along the valley. Parts of the track are exposed to the sun, although there are a few caves and overhangs that make a nice spot for break.

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Eventually Bundilla Lookout is reached, just before the track reaches the intersection with the Girrakool Loop track. The view isn’t particularly great, but from the right-hand side of the lookout it’s a relatively easy scramble down to Pile Creek and the natural pool (the same one we saw from the other side of the valley at the start of the walk). On a warm afternoon, it’s a very welcome diversion and and great spot to cool off and have a swim.

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After re-joining the Piles Creek Loop track, it’s only about junction with the Girrakool Loop track. It would be a few hundred metres back to the car park from here, but instead I turn left and take the longer route back along the Girrakool Loop track.

It’s not an unpleasant walk, but doesn’t compare to the Piles Creek Loop track – I wouldn’t recommend coming here just to do the shorter loop. The track follows Leek Creek (which feeds Piles Creek) in a northerly direction, before reaching Boondi Lookout. The view from the lookout over the eucalpyt forest is very ordinary, but just below the lookout is an almost semi-circular cliff covered with ferns. It would be an idyllic spot… but it’s located about 30m from the M1 Pacific Highway. You can’t see the highway, which is above the cliff, but the constant drone of traffic takes away from the ambience a little!

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From here, it’s an easy 400m walk back to the car park.

In short: I’d recommend the Piles Creek circuit, a quite varied walk with the option of a swim on on a hot day if you “bush bash” a short distance to the creek. I wouldn’t bother with the shorter Girrakool Loop unless you’re in the area and really only have time for this (and even if you do, just do the return walk to the Illoura Lookout.

Location Start at Girakool Picnic Area at the end of Girakool Road, off the old Pacific Highway
Distance 5.7km circuit (Girrakool Loop and Piles Creek Loop).
7.4km as walked, including side-track to Kariong Scout Camp
Girrakool Circuit only is about 1km.
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 200m.
Season/s All year.
Maps Gosford 9131-2S 1:25K. Track is well sign-posted.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources
  • Wildwalks Pile Creek loop track notes
  • Take a Walk – Sydney to Port Macquarie (John and Lyn Daly) p.104 and p.106

Gunung Angsi

A relatively short (but steep) hike through the jungle to the third highest peak in Negeri Sembilan state, about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Another trip to catch-up with the team in Malaysia, means the opportunity for another mountain hike… A work colleague suggested Gunung Angsi, which could be done in a morning and is not too far from KL. I’ve booked my trusty local guide, Eddie Yap, who took me to Bukit Kutu on my last Malaysia trip as and as well as Medang Falls with my local marketing team before that.

It’s about an hour from my hotel in KL to Seremban, about 60km to the south, and then another 20min drive to the start of one of the trails to the peak. We are taking the Bukit Putus route up, which is the shorter and more direct route, starting at an altitude of 285m. The trail from the large parking area is impossible to miss – it’s not the most picturesque starting point, with what seems to be a very new trail cut into the side of the hill. (Older blog posts show a more solid set of concrete steps marking the start of the walk, rather than the makeshift steps shown below.)

The trail immediately climbs steeply up the hill (or mountain!), with ropes helping on some of the more vertical sections. The track is well marked, with both regular small arrows as well as a series of numbers in preparation for an event in a couple of days time.

It’s a fairly relentless, steady climb through typical Malaysian jungle – lots of exposed roots – until a fairly flat section is reached after about 2km. At the end of this section is a rest area, where we chat briefly to the only other hikers we’ve seen on the trail. This area seems to have been cleaned up, as I’ve seen photos where there are a heap of multi-coloured chairs, cooking utensils and other junk left here.

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From here it’s uphill again, with the first views over the area from “Waterfall View”. Being a fairly overcast, the view wasn’t great – but better than nothing!

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Another half an hour or so and the summit is reached: it’s taken exactly 1:30min to climb the 540m up to the 824m/825m summit. (The height is described as both 824m and 825m.) I’m not sure why at 825m Angsi is a mountain (gunung), while Kutu at 1,053m is a hill (bukit)?

There’s a covered shelter on the large, open summit area and very little rubbish lying around.  Despite the poor weather, there are some views over the surrounding wooded hills towards the east, and almost below us to the west are some glimpses  through the trees of the outskirts of Seremban.

After a brief stop on the summit, where the elevation and slight breeze is a relief from the humidity of the jungle, we continue our journey down the other side of the summit. After passing by an old, abandoned trig marker we enjoy the last views over from the mountain before we re-enter the jungle.

The descent we are taking is the longer Ulu Bendul trail. It’s narrower and seems less trafficked than the Bukit Putus route we took up (although other trip reports suggest this longer route is more popular) – and descends even more steeply. In a number of places there are sections of rope in place to help descend the slippery track.

After about 20min, there’s a fun section of the track that feels like a combination of obstacle course, abseil and bouldering! We enter a narrow section of track, following a deep channel caused by water carving a channel through the jungle landcsape.

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Then we follow the top of the large “sand boulders”.

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Finally, a steep section that involves carefully reversing down an 8m wall of red rock to the bottom of the boulder section! There’s a couple of routes down (or up), both with rope to assist the descent (or ascent).

After this section, the trail continues fairly steeply down the mountain for another 20min (1.5km).

About 3km from the summit, we cross a small stream, which marks the end of the steep descent! From here the trail is fairly flat, although not being used to the Malaysian climate I find the last section the toughest due to the humidity and lack of breeze in the valley.

Soon after the crossing this small stream we can hear the sound of rushing water, as we meet the river (Sungai Batang Terachi) that we’ll now follow back to the Ulu Bendul finish point. Soon after the track joins the river, a short side-track leads to a small set of cascades.

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After only another five minutes we cross the river for the first time. Despite having rained the last few days, the river level is low enough that we can cross without getting wet feet. Next to the river crossing is a clear pool with a waterfall – it would be a perfect lunch or swimming spot if we had time!

Just after the crossing is Kem Tangga Batu, a large camping area with a covered hut and a set of concrete steps (as well as a dilapidated and overgrown building that looks like it might have been a toilet in a previous life).

There’s remarkably no rubbish and it looks like a great place to camp by the river… it feels like we must be close to the end of the track! A few minutes on and there’s another steep but short side-track to a set of cascades. A nice photo-stop, but not as nice as the previous spot for a break.

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The track descends again as it follows the river, with a couple of steeper sections.

Another half an hour, and we each a small shelter and some plastic pipes that follow the river. It’s now been two hours since we left the summit: it’s taken longer than we expected, although there have been a few photos stops (tip: bring a small tripod to get some great cascade/waterfall shots)!

The narrow track seems to go on forever, as it follows the river. The track is narrow and eroded in sections – I’m not sure how they managed to construct the huts and shelters we saw previously! There are some calm sections of river and I have a quick swim to cool off.

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Finally, after passing a small dam, there’s a last river crossing. This time it’s impossible to avoid wet feet, and the crossing might be tricky if the river was higher (but if you’re starting from Ulu Bendul and you’re able to cross, the other river crossings will be fine).

A few minutes later and we’re at the Ulu Bendol Recreational Forest. There’s a ranger station here, and a water slide park. We only see a couple of people here, but it looks like it might be busy on a weekend.

After crossing the picnic ground, there’s a restaurant by the highway. We buy some cold drinks, and while I need to get back to the office the food looks very tempting! It’s taken just under three hours to get down, which is longer than we’d thought. Our car is 3km up the highway at the other trackhead, so one of our group of three hitches a lift to avoid a hot and boring walk up the road – it would be ideal to have to two cars if going up one route and back on the other! Total distance about 12km based on my GPS, although other trip reports suggest it’s 10km.

It’s been a great walk, combining some views from the peak with cascades and river crossings. I’d definitely recommend the Ulu Bendul route, or going up one way and back the other for variety.

Location Starts/ends at either Bukit Putus trackhead (2.7275351,102.0553951) or Ulu Bendul trackhead (2.727418N ,102.0758E) near Seremban, about an hour south of Kuala Lumpur.
Distance 12km open loop (4.6km via Bukit Putus / 7.4km via Ulu Bendul)
Grade Moderate (very steep/slippery in sections with some ropes)
Season/s All year, but best to avoid hiking after/during heavy rain
Map N/A
GPS route Google Maps GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Track notes – Malaysia Traveller / The Star Online

Map-GunungAngsi

Binna Burra (Lamington)

A long day walk that combines waterfalls (Coomera Circuit) with views over the Byron hinterland (Mount Hobwee Circuit).

Lamington National Park is part of the Scenic Rim, a group of forested mountain ranges that was formed by volcanic activity and encompasses south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. The national park is also part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which includes an extensive area of subtropical rainforest. The park is divided into two sections: Binna Burra on the eastern side and Green Mountains on the western side of the Lamington Plateau; the Border Track links these two sections by foot.

Lamington National Park has over 150km of trails (largely constructed during the Great Depression) that were designed by Romeo Lahey. There are references to Lahey laying out these trails based on his observations of dairy cow movements on the surrounding hills, with their paths never having a gradient of greater than 1:10 [source: Wikipedia]. While I haven’t found primary evidence of this, it is noticeable when hiking that the paths are never steep, and often “zig zag” endlessly up the side of steeper peaks.

It’s been just over eight years since my last hike in Lamington National Park, so I’m taking the opportunity to squeeze in a walk before an IT conference that’s being held on the Gold Coast. Being easier to get to Binna Burra (it’s 30min less driving than Green Mountains), I awake early and I’m on the track by 7:15am. I’m starting off on the Coomera Circuit, which is regarded as one of the best walks in this section and takes in a number of the 400 waterfalls that are in Lamington NP. It was rated  as one of the best day walks in Australia by Australia Geographic.

The tracks are well made, and I’m travelling at least as fast as a cow as I leave the Binna Burra track head.

The Coomera Circuit trail soon branches off to the right (the Border Track goes straight ahead), and descends into the Coomera Gorge. The first waterfall, at the 5.4km mark, is the most impressive. Coomera Falls has a drop of 64m, below a viewing platform 160m above gorge.

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The track continues through rain forest as it follows the Coomera River, ascending gradually (the Coomera Falls lookout is the lowest point of the walk, at 695m above sea level). The vegetation is lush and it’s cool on the track, with a number of smaller side waterfalls. Fortunately, there are no leeches!

The next falls are the Gwongorenda Falls and Goorinya Falls. My pace is now slowing, as I stop to take photos every few hundred metres.

Another ten minutes and down a short side-track is the Bahnamboola Falls, which cascades into a deep pool.

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Next, there’s Kagoonya Falls and the smaller Gwongarragong Falls, both of them quite different but all of them very picturesque.

Mercifully, as my progress has now slowed considerably (I’m well below cow-speed, despite the very gradual ascent) with the constant photo-stops, there’s 500m or so before my next step. Moolgoolong Cascades are small, but drop into a large and still pool.

A bit further on, I reach the junction with the Border Track, having walked 10.6km. It’s still early in the day, so rather than turning left and returning via the Border Track, I turn right and continue further. It’s about another kilometre to the next junction, where I leave the Border Track and join the Hobwee Circuit (I’m now about half-way to O’Reillys Guesthouse, at the Green Mountains end of the track). The thick rainforest has been replaced by more open wet sclerophyll forest.

A side-track leads to Dacelo Lookout, with views over the Byron Shire. Mount Warning is the highest peak, directly ahead in the distance (another good hike).

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The Mount Hobwee Circuit track gradually ascends to the summit of Mount Hobwee, which is the highest point of the walk at 1,164m. There is no view, so I take a photo of the sign, eat my chocolate bar (it’s lunch time) and continue on my way.

I add one more side-trip to my walk, taking the Wagawn Track (4km return) out to Mt Wagawn. There’s again no view from the Mt Wagawn summit (1,015m), but a rough track that leads down the ridge from the summit provides some views to the south. (According to my map, the track should continue down the ridge to Bushrangers Cave, but the track peters out, and I don’t have the energy to bush-bash down to the cave. Post-walk research reveals that the cave is best visited by starting from the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road, at the bottom of the ridge.)

From here, it’s back to the starting point… I’ve walked 18km and it’s more or less all downhill from here. From the Wagawn Track I re-join the Hogwee Circuit, and then I’m back on the Border Track. There’s one more nice view from the Joalah Lookout, this time out over the Woggunba Valley and the Springbrook National Park beyond.

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I’m almost back… another 5km  and I arrive back at the car, finishing the walk at 1:15pm and in time to get to my afternoon meetings in the Gold Coast – and a well-earned beer!

Location About 110 km / 2 hour drive south of Brisbane and 45m / 50min from Gold Coast, both via Beechmont
Distance 27km (Cooomera Circuit + Hobwee Circuit)
Grade Moderate. Total ascent of 600m.
Season/s All year round.
Map Lamington National Park 1:35,000
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks web site. Map for Binna Burra.

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Havasu Falls, Arizona

A hidden gem: a two-day walk through a dramatic landscape red canyons and turquoise waterfalls.

I stumbled across this hike somewhere in the depths of the Web… it looked amazing, and yet I hadn’t seen it in any of my US hiking  books. After a bit more research, it was added to my mental “wish list” of hikes! “The Havasupai Waterfalls are the most dramatic waterfalls in the Grand Canyon and possibly even the entire Southwestern United States” and “Havasupai (Havasu Falls) might just be one the the most beautiful places on Earth” are a few of the descriptions of this hike.

Getting there was the first challenge. I needed to be in San Diego on Monday for a conference, so the best approach was to fly to Las Vegas from LAX and pick up a car, overnight in Peach Springs and drive the last 100km to the start of the hike at Hualapai Hilltop early the following morning. Getting there at sunrise, the hike started with impressive views down the Hualapai Canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. A few mules are tethered near the start of the trail – this is the only place in the US where mail is delivered by mule (UK Daily Mail).

The trail drops quickly  from 1575m down into the canyon via a series of switchbacks and follows the dry floor canyon. After about 10km the Havasu Canyon is reached, and some trees and greenery start to appear… another 2km and I reach the village of Supai at 975m).

Supai is an interesting place. Home to the Havasupai Tribe, which has a population of about 600 people, it’s the smallest Indian nation in America. Reached by foot, mule and helicopter, Havasupai tribe has been living in the area for centuries. The land on which the Supai village is now situated was claimed from the National Park in 1975, after many court battles, granting the tribe a trust title to approximately 185,000 acres (source: Wikipedia). The village now has a shop, cafe, church, post office, health clinic and a lodge, which is where I stayed overnight (day-hikes are not permitted, and it would be a very long day hiking back up to the top of the canyon). The village looks pretty run-down and while many locals are reliant on tourism, no-one appears particularly friendly…

I check-in to Supai Lodge around midday and continue hiking down Havasu Canyon. The best is yet to come: Havasupai is roughly translated as “the people of the blue-green waters”, in reference to the amazing turquoise colour of Havasu Creek, formed by leaching from minerals. Navajo Falls is reached first, a short detour off the main track about 3km beyond the village. It is spectacular. One of those spots where I know the photos won’t do justice to what I am seeing.

I take many photos, and continue… Another 3km and I reach (arguably) the star attraction: Havasu Falls. Being outside peak season there are a few other people on the track and swimming, but there is also a sense of isolation and serenity. It’s somewhere I could happily camp and stay for a few days.

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A little further again (another 2km) after walking through the fairly-empty Havasu camping ground, and I reach the 70m-high Mooney Falls (these are the highest). The base of the falls is accessed through a rough track carved through the cliff and then down some less than confidence-inspiring wooden ladders. But worth the effort. Each waterfall seems to outdo the last in beauty and amazing-ness!

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I climb back up the narrow trail to the top, with one last waterfall to reach. There’s now a 4km stretch to Beaver Falls. The track is well-defined it gets rough in sections, with a number of ladders and steep sections to scramble down as it alternates between the two banks of Havasu Creek.

At last, Beaver Falls. I’ve walked 24km from the start of the hike at the top of the canyon many hours ago. I still have another 11km back up to the lodge at Supai where I’ll sleep tonight. It’s another 7km further before  Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River, and I fear that I won’t be back at Supai village in time to get some dinner.

I take a few (more) photos, and reluctantly head back up the trail. I’ve got enough time for a swim at Havasu Falls – the water is warm and relaxing – and make it back to the Sinyella cafe in Supai on the far side of the village about half an hour before it closes. A cold drink and fry-bread never tasted so good!

Supai Lodge is fairly basic, but I sleep very soundly (after a mix-up with rooms is eventually solved, and I am allocated a room that doesn’t already have an occupant)!

It’s an early start again the next day. Back through the village, up Havasu Canyon and then the final ascent up Hualapai Canyon to the car.

I get back mid-morning. It’s been a spectacular day and and half. I wish I could stay longer and I will be back one day. But today, I have a conference to get to.

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Location From Highway 66 near Peach Springs, turn onto Indian Route 18 and follow this for 100km to Hualapai Hilltop
Distance 47km (35km Day 1 to Beaver Falls; 12km Day 2).
Grade Moderate.
Season/s March through June considered the best time. Avoid monsoon season (mid-July to August) where flash flooding can occur
Map Havasu Falls, AZ  36112C6
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Permit required: refer NPS web site
Good track notes on BigBoyTravel web site
Photos Google Photos gallery

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