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On the evening of Monday 25th October, Karen, Brett, Colin and myself arrived at Newnes fresh (?) from a rogaine at Gundy in the Hunter Valley. The final 27kms from Lidsdale was on a part bitumen, part gravel road which passes through the Wolgan Gap and descends on a narrow, steep, winding section of road into the Wolgan Valley. As you near the northern end of the valley and the campground, the valley narrows and towering cliffs dominate the skyline.
Kynie, Julie, Yuriko, Eva, Ron and Ray were already set up waiting for us to arrive. The club tarp was soon erected and 'Happy Hour' was shared under the shelter. Several inquisitive Satin Bower birds were checking out what was on offer. On Tuesday 26th we awoke to a lovely sunny day but had to say goodbye to Ron, who had to return home because of a potential tooth abscess (which subsequently fixed itself up). After breakfast a 7km drive brought us to the beginning of the Glow Worm Tunnel walk. Off with the shoes to cross the ford and then a steep climb onto the railway formation where once 'Shay' locos chugged along. On the way up we had a close encounter with a Gang- Gang cockatoo.
As you near the tunnel you pass through a beautiful rainforest area with abundant tree ferns. We took a short detour up a narrow canyon, which was well worth the extra walk, then donned our head torches and entered the tunnel. The Glow Worms are concentrated in the darker centre of the tunnel, high on the walls and ceiling. They glow by bioluminescence to lure prey into their webs.
After lunch we headed back via the Pagoda track and the Old Coach road, surrounded by a lovely display of wild flowers and the heady perfume from the flowering Hakea. Near the end Karen, Brett, Julie and Ray continued back to camp via the old railway formation. The rest of us drove back to the Hotel, which is now privately owned. Thomas, the owner of the hotel gave us an informative tour. He would like to renovate and turn the pub into a guesthouse. He has built a cabin, with a second on the way) to obtain finance for the project. For further information you can call 6355-1247 or visit www.lisp.com.au/~newnes. After this warm day a swim was needed but the Wolgan River can best be described as a sandy bottomed creek that barely covers your ankles. The Hotel owner told us of a deep spot just 2km from camp. The river narrowed at this spot providing us with spa-like action and was most refreshing.
The evening's entertainment was a game of boules. We divided into 3 teams - Drongos, Galahs and Tits - and silver balls were soon flying around the campground. After tea we did a little spotlighting in the surrounding forest, with wombats and brush tailed possums being the predominant animals.
Wednesday 27th was another warm, sunny day, with high winds for our walk around the Newnes Historic Ruins. They are located on the other side of the river so once again we had to get our feet wet. We soon got a feel for just how big the oil-shale operation was and found it hard to imagine what a busy, noisy, smelly place this once was. A number of interpretative signs located at various sites gave us information on the activities that took place there. We saw such things as the water reservoir, enormous retaining walls, retort areas, beehive kilns (90 still remain), and a workshop complex and distillation areas. We then set off for a walk along the river, with evidence of old buildings and ash piles along the way. The wind was increasing so a lunch spot was found with the girls going for a swim.
On our return we crossed to the northern side of the river to check the start of the Pipeline Track. On this side of the river the remains of the brickworks and a water supply pump can be found. Exotic trees indicated the location of the manager's residence, complete with a tennis court, which would have been very impressive in its day.
We returned to camp to find the corner of my campervan blown in, Colin's tent collapsed and the club's tarp wrapped around a tree, its poles and ropes neatly left on the ground. Despite the wind we did have a campfire, and we toasted marshmallows as a full moon rose majestically over the towering cliffline.
When we woke on Thursday 28th it was decided to break into three groups. Group 1 - Karen, Brett and Colin - left at 7.30am to walk to Glen Davis and return. Group 2 - Kynie, Julie and Ray - drove to Glen Davis and walked from there. Group 3 - Sandra, Yuriko and Eva - started from Newnes. When my group met Kynie's group, a key swap took place. This worked very well with all groups returning to Newnes almost at the same time.
The Pipeline walk is a 10 or 12km one way walk, depending on what book or sign you read. After leaving the campsite you follow the Wolgan River, before a steady climb of about 340m in 1km takes you to a ridge top. A short detour out to a lookout gives you fantastic views over the Wolgan River and the surrounding rugged area. The track then takes you to Glen Davis via Green Gully where bits of the pipeline can be seen.
Glen Davis consists of a large campsite, several streets with some occupied homes and a store that opens only on weekends. The large valley it is situated in - the Capertee Valley - is cattle grazing country also surrounded by impressive clifflines.
Another challenge that was met over the three days was the climb up Mystery Mountain near the campsite. It certainly got your heart going, but the view is well worth it.
We each went our separate ways on Friday morning, with most of us travelling home, looking forward to a nice, hot shower! Postscripts
Gordon, you have some serious competition for fire controller! Yuriko was continually adding fuel to the fire. Eva, first time camper, has to learn that a white towel and camping do not go together. Colin, flaming sambuca and a nylon gazebo don't go together either. And Ray certainly has a way with the birds - every evening a family of ducks would visit his campsite.
(Ettremist - November 2004)