Walkers: Sandra Kelley (leader), Paul Ellis, John Prior, Brett Davis, Karen Davis, Ray Spratt and Colin Taylor.
I had done this walk only a few weeks earlier, but with several club members re-visiting the area I was hopeful there was more to experience. Maybe I could show them something new too.
After meeting at the junction of Turpentine and Braidwood Rds we drove to Sassafras and the Budawangs carpark. This drive revealed the first highlight of the weekend as we saw two emus grazing on the side of the road during the ascent to the Sassafras gate. Many of us had never seen emus running wild before.
No one was looking forward to the 8km walk down the access road to Newhaven Gap. Ever since the access point was moved, bushwalkers everywhere have complained long and hard about the extra walking required. There is very little of interest along the route save for distant views of Mt Tianjara and Kangaroo Hill to the east, Bhundoo Hill beside the track about halfway to Newhaven Gap and a small rocky outcrop further on, where we stopped for the obligatory morning tea, climbing up to take in the views, dominated by the Clyde Gorge to the east.
Continuing on we passed through the gate which several years ago would have been our starting point and followed the road a short distance to the Folly Point track head. This was marked by two stone cairns and the words 'Folly Point' and an arrow scratched into the rock. Nearby we noticed two mountain bikes chained to a tree (these people had the right idea) and we hoped they weren't planning to camp overnight at Folly Point, as our group already exceeded the five tent sites available at the camping ground. It could be a very tight squeeze indeed.
We followed the track southwards through thick scrub and Banksia trees, crossing occasional rock platforms and gaining tantalising glimpses of the Clyde Gorge, Mt Tianjara and Mount Bushwalker to the east. To the west we occasionally got views of Quiltys Mountain, Mt Haughton and Hoddle's Castle Hill.
By midday we had arrived at the cliff edge overlooking the small valley which rises up to Mitchell Lookout. After a break we crossed the valley and ascended to a small rock platform that gave us excellent views across to The Castle, Shrouded Gods Mountain, Mt Cole, Donjon Mountain, and Mt Bushwalker, one of the club's favourite walking locations. Colin mentioned that he had never been to Mt Bushwalker, which brought a response of "You Virgin" from Brett - this could become the title for any member of the club who has not taken this very popular walk.
Ten minutes into our break we suddenly became aware that our group of seven had become six. Where was Ray? A quick search revealed he had not disappeared into the bush for a call of nature. Ray had obviously had another 'Senior Moment' and continued walking when everyone else had stopped for lunch.
Colin ran down the track calling Ray's name, with no reply, so we had no choice but to postpone lunch. We quickly made our way along the track as it descended through a rock field, loudly calling Ray's name and blowing whistles, but still there was no reply. This was not unexpected - Ray is as deaf as a post!
Suddenly, ten minutes from Mitchell Lookout we came across a sloping rock platform and found Ray having his lunch. We all dropped packs and joined him. He had continued on thinking the rest of us had somehow got well ahead of him, then realising his error, had decided to wait for us to catch up.
After lunch we successfully negotiated the Ravine, a steep section of rock that is often very slippery, and we were thankful there had been no rain for some time. Eventually we reached a stone cairn on the rocky platform of Folly Point where we dropped packs, with me leading the group south west for five minutes to arrive at the Folly Point Lookout.
Everyone was impressed with the views from the lookout, most agreeing that it was the best in the Budawangs. None of the walking group but myself had been here before and I took great pride in being able to show them something new.
We returned to our packs and after a short walk were soon fighting for the best campsites. As I started to pitch my tent I was joined by Colin who noticed there was enough room next to my tent for his. I tried to warn him about my snoring problem, but to no avail.
There is no rest for the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers. With the camp set up, we set off down Watson's Pass. To the south of the camping area we crossed a rock platform, passed the visitors logbook just above the sink holes along the creek, descended a deep crack in the rock, negotiated a couple of large rock ribs, descending off the last one using a length of chain and two metal pegs conveniently hammered into the rock. We then descended through the cliffline of Watson's Pass which was easier than I expected despite a couple of sections that required confident scrambling, one drop requiring a chimney manoeuvre. Some wanted to descend further to take a look at the Watson's Pass camping cave, and some were not so keen, so we divided into two groups, one descending, and one waiting for a while before slowly climbing back up the hill. The two groups soon re-united. The cave had been found - occupied by the owners of the two bikes we had seen earlier in the walk.
Later, while arranging an assortment of rocks and logs for seats, Karen found my missing Swiss Army Knife which had been lost on my previous walk here a few weeks before. It must have fallen under the edge of one of the rocks. It was still in very good condition apart from some rust on the key ring.
After dinner, one interesting conversation centred around which mountain was the third highest in the world. Brett was so sure that he was right that he bet his right testicle that the answer was Kanchenjunga. I can happily inform you that Brett's new nickname is not 'Lefty' - research proved him correct.
During the night I awoke to the sound of heavy rain on my tent. I hoped it was just a passing shower and I would greet a sunny day when I exited the tent next morning, but it was not to be. I unzipped my tent to see mud everywhere.
The camping area was clouded in mist and Colin had erected a tarp over the communal area where everyone had gathered to keep out of the light rain that was now falling and to prepare breakfast. I gave breakfast a miss, I wasn't really that hungry. Colin commented on my snoring ability during the night and admitted he should have heeded my warning, Brett and Karen who had camped twenty metres away claimed they could hear my snoring above the heavy rain, but the rest of the group never heard me. Who was telling the truth?
Karen had wanted to visit Munnuldi Falls this morning and had arranged a 7am wake up for those interested in going, but the wet weather had thwarted those plans. John had wanted to return to the lookout and photograph the sunrise over the Castle, but his plans were thwarted also. It was decided we would head out as best we could in the lousy conditions. The wet weather putting a damper on all exploratory plans for today.
It was a wet, muddy and miserable experience dismantling the tent and packing the rucksack - so much for a lighter pack, the wet tent well and truly making up for all the food already eaten. By 8.50am we were all packed and ready to move off. No one was really keen, despite wearing wet weather jackets, to take the lead and cop the first load of water from the rain saturated scrub. For most of the walk back, John valiantly took this job, with myself, Brett and Sandra taking over from time to time. By now the rain had eased considerably and we picked up our pace through the 'Misty Mountains'. Within one hour we had reached the ravine which by now was slippery and quite dangerous, and we gingerly climbed our way up.
We gamely plodded on, some of us very keen to put on some pace to keep warm, others happy just to take their time. It was just after 2pm when we arrived back at the vehicles and thanked leader Sandra for a wonderfully enjoyable weekend (despite the wet weather and the access road).
One final highlight occurred on the wet and muddy Braidwood Road during the drive home. Our walk leader and club Vice-President chose not to put her vehicle into 4WD and caused much amusement with a spectacular fishtail across the road.
(Ettremist - November 2004)