WOLGAN VALLEY ADVENTURE
Many years ago, my wife and I visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley looking for another route to the famous Glow Worm Tunnel. While I was a little nervous climbing up into unknown territories and tracks, I was immediately in awe of this gorgeous valley with its tall cliff tops and beautiful scenery just in your face every which way you turn.
It took me nearly ten years to return on a December Saturday to revisit the beauty I had remembered from this area. As I drove into the valley I noted that the road was now sealed most of the way. I am not surprised, as I reckon the guests at the newly built Emirates Resort would not be appreciative of being driven on dirt roads. Oh diddums!
The familiarity with the vast landscapes greeted me and I was just elated, felt like I entered another world. I briefly stopped along the road side to enjoy some home-made tum (Lebanese garlic dip) with some beautiful Lebanese bread and some water before moving on. A small family of Jacky Winters (a kind of flycatcher, relative of the Eastern Yellow Robin) was busy hanging around the area; their calls giving away their presence to me. It was here too, where I saw White-browed Woodswallows, a first for me in my life. Not that I am a stupid twitcher or anything like that going around ticking a senseless list so my ego can grow as I boast about seeing yet another species while even sitting on my toilet at home. No my dear reader, not at all. It’s always nice to see a new bird for the first time and I was certainly not in this area to tick off any bird species. You see, I can understand ornithologists or bird watchers/observers who genuinely go to a spot and observe the birds in that spot. They may spend time with the birds rather than running around with a list of species they may see, ticking them all off in the process so they can say they’ve seen such and such in 2013 or in the month of December, or in their street, or in their suburb etc. I think you know what I think now. That cannot be enjoyable and certainly has no merit in my world, hence why I say twitchers are a stupid bunch and I would not give one the time of my day. No way!
Anyway, as I travelled further along, I was surprised to note a snake half curled up near the road’s edge. By now, the road was dirt and more to my liking. I pulled over to the side and activated my hazard lights. Being a potentially venomous snake, I quickly got a 70-200mm lens out with a Canon 5DMarkII so I can stay a safe distance away. Also, the colours of the snake appeared like a Tiger Snake, which is extremely venomous and can be aggressive. I inched closer and closer, yet the snake was not moving. This is not good I thought. As I inched even closer, I noted some ants busily moving around the torso of the snake. I then realized that the snake was dead. It was lying there with glassy eyes. Not the best way to see my first Tiger Snake either. I prefer snakes to be doing something other than being dead. Makes me mad at some drivers who may aimlessly stare at the steering wheel rather than being aware of what lies on the road in front of them.
As I pulled into my destination, I was taken aback by the sheer height of the cliff top, which I was going to climb to some 400 meters above road height on some goat track. Not an easy feat at all, especially since I planned on taking most of my camera gear up the trail with me as well; all 12 or so kilos of gear plus water. The directions to the trail were pretty good and in no time I was starting my ascent on the hillside at an angle that appeared to be something like 45 degrees! I was pretty tired in no time and was cursing the boxer, who in the 1950s could run to the top in some 22 minutes. After the first four hundred or so meters of trail, the terrain flattened out a while so I could rest as I walked easy. Then the goat trail started. At an angle somewhat even steeper than the first section, it was kind of frightening in places due to the close proximity of the edge of a small drop off to the trail. My large backpack has a habit of putting me off balance if I am not careful, so I had to be super cautious. The surface was a mixture of looser stones and dirt, leaves and twigs. Quite uneven actually. However, I braved on thinking that even seven year olds can climb up here, or so the story goes. Therefore, camera backpack or not, I can do it. I was, in fact, dreading the climb down, knowing that some places I may need to use my backside to slide on, as walking down on this type of surface could be hazardous. I had some fantasies of seeing this mysterious Black Panther that legends talk about, but sadly that was not the case. Maybe one day.
The last 60 or so meters saw me in a crevice between two pagodas and a rather steep section (still), though there were small trees and other things like rocks to grab whilst scrambling so overall it was not at all that bad.
When I got to the top I felt like screaming in elation of having done the deed. I drank a little water, knowing I had brought limited supplies, having left the vast majority of my life juice in my car for later.
Once on top, the view was just breathtaking. Standing about 400 meters above the Wolgan Valley was indeed a Godly experience, well, in my opinion anyway.
I spent probably two hours on top, enjoying the view and I even rang a mate, lucky that Telstra had one or two bars of signal. Though the line was not really great overall.
On the way down, I began to feel my thighs and calves working quite hard and I was already not looking forward to the build-up of lactic acid from the strain. However, a man must walk on and on I walked.
By the time I reached the small creek at the bottom of the mountain I was ready to jump in and cool off. However, all I managed to do was scoop the water into my cupped hands and wash my neck, face and head with the cool, refreshing water of the creek.
I stretched a little and got in my car, heading back towards Lithgow and the Blue Mountains. Near Blackheath I stopped to visit an old spot where I discovered a pair of nesting Sooty Owls two years earlier and began the stakeout near their old nest tree. I was lucky to have seen the male come out of his day roost (a tree hollow) tree next to me. From further up the hill I could hear the faint sounds of a begging sooty, whether a chick or a female it is hard to say as I was not in a good position to explore an unknown gully at night alone. A pair of fledged Powerful Owl chicks also kept me busy filming/photographing for a couple of hours.
This day was a most memorable day, for I achieved a dream of climbing a pagoda in the Wolgan Valley and survive it too! Not bad at all. Thank God I have been busy training for the last few months with my martial arts class, as it had paid off big time.