by Paul Ellis
On Saturday September 2nd I joined up with three other members of the Shoalhaven Bushwalking Club for a two day walk along the Clyde River, just north of Yadboro. The walk was led by Alwyn Martin. The other two members were Gordon Grenenger and John Prior. All are very experienced members, and often lead walks themselves.
We met at Alwyn's orchard at Wandandian, just south of the Sussex Inlet turn-off on the Princes Highway at 8.00am and drove south to Milton where we turned off towards Pigeonhouse Mountain. This dirt road took us past the Pigeonhouse turn-off and a few kilometres down the road we crossed the Clyde River and turned right into the large camping area at Yadboro. After removing our packs from our vehicles we had morning tea, then moved off at 9.35am. The sky was overcast, but the forecast was for clear sunny skies.
We crossed the old wooden bridge over the Clyde and ascended the road for one hundred metres, taking the first dirt road to our left. This road ascended through eucalypt forest and gave us excellent views of The Castle and Byangee Mountain. After twenty minutes walking we came to a gate marking Private Property and a sign prohibiting us any access. We took the new side track that detours around the property and soon found ourselves climbing a very steep hill to the top where we all took a much needed ten minute rest break. By now the sun had come out and the sky was clearing. We were so hot we all removed our shirts and continued on wearing our thermal tops. It certainly was much cooler that way.
Paul, Alwyn and Gordon
We now descended the hill on the other side of the property, knowing we had yet another steep walk back on our way out. At the bottom we followed the fence line to another gate and the continuation of the dirt road we had followed earlier. We descended this road and passed a great view of Pickering Point, Byangee Mountain's eastern-most point which towered just above us. We came to our first Clyde River crossing at 11.10am. Here my companions removed their boots and socks for the crossing, but I didn't bother. I just waded though the cool refreshing water which only came up to my knees.
Once across my companions dried their feet and put their socks and boots back on. We followed the old logging road on this side for about two hundred metres, then suddenly, Alwyn took us into the bush. This was the start of our Bush Bashing weekend. Alwyn wanted to take a look at Pigeonhouse Creek which is inaccessible by any road or track in this area. For the first one hundred metres we found ourselves back-tracking many times as each route took us to impassable areas of thick scrub. We ascended and descended many steep slopes, only to find our way barred. The vegetation was very thick with bracken, rotted dead trees and thick strands of vines and brambles. It certainly was a nightmare. Eventually we reached open forest and the going became a little easier. The grass was long and there were many bramble-like bushes that seemed to grab you as you walked past. There were huge fern trees and occasionally we caught glimpses of the Clyde River through the tall Sydney Blue Gums.
At 12.35pm we came out onto the intersection of the Clyde River and Pigeonhouse Creek. The entrance to the creek was barred by a huge fallen tree. It was here that we stopped for lunch. While my companions were content to sit in the shade of the stony bank, I crossed the river to the eastern bank and although it was warmer here in the midday sun, I enjoyed my lunch in relative comfort as I sat on an old log.
Alwyn and Gordon
We moved out again at 1.10pm, but strangely, not up Pigeonhouse Creek. We continued to follow the Clyde River north for some distance, again scrub bashing our way through. It wasn't long though before Alwyn found a suitable campsite in the forest and we dropped packs. We all selected our tent sites and noticed the huge amount of firewood lying around. We pitched our tents, collected dead timber for the night's campfire, and selected a site for it away from the tents near a fallen tree where we could rest our weary backs. The air was abuzz, literally, with the sound of Bot Flies which started to annoy us. Then, at 2.30pm Alwyn led us off on an exploratory walk up Pigeonhouse Creek.
Gordon, Alwyn and John
Two of us carried daypacks, but I carried my waterbag and camera by hand, which almost spelt disaster for me. We backtracked towards where we had lunch, then, after two hundred metres, we crossed the Clyde and scrub bashed our way across to Pigeonhouse Creek which we followed for some distance. The terrain brought me a sense of deja vu as the look of the creek and its obstacles reminded me so much of a walk I'd done with friends down Glenbrook Creek during Easter 1986. We scrambled over rocks, across slippery fallen trees, many of which spanned the entire width of the creek, trudged our way across sandy banks and mini islands and scrub bashed sections of inhospitable bush. We had one excellent view of the cliffs of Wombat Ridge in the east which I recorded on my camera. During one pause in the walk, Gordon asked for the First Aid Kit and we were shocked to learn he had found a tick attached to his groin area. I did not envy his job of removing it. Later Gordon showed us the area the tick had bitten and the entire region had become quite inflamed. Poor Gordon would be scratching himself for days.
Gordon crossing a creek via a log
We had almost reached our turn-back time at 3.40pm when I realised I didn't have my camera. It must have fallen from my pocket during a scramble up an embankment. We immediately turned back and it was with great relief that my camera was retrieved, just inches away from the water and in working condition. We made our way back to the campsite by the same route we had walked in, spying a huge Grey Kangaroo, probably the biggest I've ever seen, grazing in one of the clearings. We filled our water bags at the Clyde and arrived back at camp at 4.30pm.
Gordon immediately got the campfire lit and it wasn't long before we were preparing our dinners. I had Freeze-dry Beef Teriyaki, which was bloody awful, though I really wasn't that hungry. We found ourselves the victims of several nasties at the campsite. Apart from the Bot Flies that pestered us, I had a visit from a rather large Huntsman Spider who had obviously been sleeping in one of the hollow branches collected for the campfire. We also found we had all collected leeches, though none had managed to feast on my blood (thankyou thermals). All these horrid little bloodsuckers were quickly dispatched unceremoniously into the campfire where we whooped with delight as the flames engulfed their disgusting little bodies. It got dark by 6.45pm and we sat around the campfire until I turned in at 7.45pm.
Next morning I was up by 7.30am. I helped myself to some breakfast, then started the chore of dismantling the tent and repacking my gear. Again it was a cloudless sunny day, it wasn't cold and there was no hint of any breeze, it was gonna be a hot one. At 9.00am we all set off again, following the Clyde River northwards. We had no definite plans for the day, just exploring, but I was hoping we would make it as far as the Tingha Clearings. Again we found ourselves scrub bashing our way through the forest. We had to be careful now where we put our feet as the ground was dotted with camouflaged Wombat burrows. One wrong step could mean a twisted ankle or worse.
Pigeonhouse from a clearing on the Clyde River
After some distance we came to a large clearing which was surrounded by Wattles in full yellow flower. The clearing itself gave excellent views of Byangee Mountain to the west and Pigeonhouse to the south. From here we dropped to the river for a quick look around, then headed inland and started to climb a steep ridge. About halfway up we followed the embankment, taking care not to slip. We followed this precarious route for close on 300 metres until we took an immediate climb up the rest of the slope and came out onto the old logging trail. We followed this as it descended to yet another clearing, crossed the river and at 10.15am found a comfy spot for morning tea. My companions even took the trouble to make a campfire so the billy could be boiled. During the break we again had leech trouble and again we disposed of them the same way, which was becoming quite a popular practice. We were even looking for the damned things so we could all have a chance to throw one on the fire.
At 11.00am we moved on and headed once again inland away from the river. Somehow we missed the track and found ourselves navigationally misplaced in a forest full of fern trees. We crossed two dry creeks before consulting the map and once again headed in the right direction. We accidentally stumbled upon the right track and followed this past a very cosy looking campsite to another river crossing. Gordon, not keen to get his feet wet, negotiated his way across by using the narrow trunk of a fallen tree, while the rest of us splashed our way across a two inch deep ford. From here we decided to stay on the eastern side of the river so as to save on two more crossings before Tingha Clearings. This meant more scrub bashing and included a rather steep climb up another hill.
At the top we realised that our progress would be further slowed or even halted by the thick scrub that we could see up river. This spot also gave us tree interrupted views of the Castle and Shrouded Gods Mountain. We had no alternative but to back-track to one of the river crossings we had earlier ignored. Once again everyone removed boots and socks for the crossing, except myself, who waded across through knee deep water (very cool and refreshing too) to the other side. Alwyn decided that the grassy embankment here would make a great spot for lunch as it was now midday, during which time we all did recce's of the immediate area. I found a track marked by trees spray painted with orange dots, obviously the route to Tingha Clearings. Unfortunately my return to the camp came to news that we would be heading back to the cars immediately after lunch. No Tingha Clearing this trip.
At 1.00pm we donned our rucksacks and headed west across a small clearing to the bottom of a huge looking ridge. We had to climb this to reach the old logging road, located high above. The climb was extremely steep and the ground was most treacherous. One slip and we would find ourselves sliding all the way back down. It was tough going in the heat of midday, it was so steep we had to grab hold of anything we could to steady our progress. On two occasions I almost came to grief, thanks to dead timber. The first being a dead sapling which broke away as I grabbed hold, the second was when I placed my weight on an old fallen log and the damned thing disintegrated under my size eleven hiking boots. Eventually we all reached the road - if you could call it that - so badly unused it was well-overgrown, and we stopped to regain our breath and let our heart-rates settle.
We moved on, following the old road as best we could. It descended steeply to just two hundred metres from where we had taken our bearings earlier that day when we got lost and followed the flat scrub for some distance, taking two detours around two dry creek beds before we came to another large clearing. This clearing gave us excellent views of Pigeonhouse to the south and we could see dark clouds approaching. We hoped the rain would stay away. The old road, barely a foot track now, wound its way through the clearing, then climbed steeply up another ridge which passed our previous night's campsite, unseen below us. We recognised this only by the familiar rock formations across the river valley.
This climb too was quite taxing, but it soon levelled out and it wasn't long before we were following a steep descent to the ford on the river which we crossed earlier yesterday. We arrived and crossed at 2.30pm. It had taken just two and a half hours to walk the same distance, basically, on track, to what had taken the best part of two days by bush bashing. We took a fifteen minute break here before moving on back to the cars. The last section was still quite hard as we had to ascend the dirt road to the Farm gate and then take the detour around the property. The ascent up the steep ridge sapped what remained of our energy. At the top we took a short rest before the descent back down to the track-head and the cars at Yadboro.
We arrived back at the cars at 4.05pm. Alwyn, Gordon and John collected firewood and lit a small campfire to brew up some afternoon tea. Although I'm not a big enthusiast for scrub bashing, I found this weekend to be most enjoyable and I got to view an area of the Budawangs I'd never seen before. The company of Alwyn, Gordon and John was excellent and I look forward to doing another walk with them in the future. It was a shame we never reached Tingha Clearing, but there's always next time.
Clyde River reflections