Walkers: Bruce (leading), Nicole, Lilith, Cathie, Olivia, Yichen, Chia-Yi (Joy), Shing Cheng, Jacqueline, Mason, Nathalie, Matthias, Mason.
Not a bad turnout for a Monday public holiday. It was also expected to reach 30 degrees at Cronulla, so if we found it a bit too warm at Audley, the fall-back walk was to go along Lady Carrington Drive, which is now blocked to cars (but not bicycles) and is shaded a fair bit, and also follows the Hacking River. The Uloola Falls and Karloo Track are, on the other hand, through open woodland and heath, which don’t give much shade. Either way, the walk was always intended as an easy walk of 10 km on a track which was not strenuous (unlike many Blue Mountains tracks). So a higher than usual temperature could be tolerated.
With Nathalie, Matthias and Cathie meeting us at Loftus, the rest of us started off from Central for the 45 minute train trip to Loftus. From there we went to the tram stop at Loftus for the tram to the Royal National Park entrance. For a change we got a Sydney tram from the 1950’s instead of a modern Melbourne tram as we have done in the past on trips that have started from here. The tram ride cuts the trip to the Park entrance from a 45 minute boring road bash to 7 minutes, a time saving which proved to be very valuable at the end of the walk. At the Park entrance we proceeded down the Honeymoon track to Audley, then crossed over to the weir there after waiting some minutes for a gap in the seemingly never-ending line of traffic.
It was here that we noticed that the air was cooler than when we started out from Loftus. It was also cloudy, so a decision was made to stick to the original plan of walking to Uloola Falls and then Karloo Pool. From the Audley picnic grounds we crossed the bridge over the Hacking River and along the narrow road to wattle Forest and the start of the Uloola Falls track. This track rises fairly steeply initially before coming to a junction with an alternate track also from Audley, and from there rises more slowly until levelling out on a ridge on the west side of Hacking River. There were a couple of spots where we had water breaks and photostops, but with the sun heating up the rock shelves, we didn’t linger long. We continued on for another 2-3km through heath which is typical of this Park’s ridges, and the track was heavily overgrown in many places, showing how the far vegetation had recovered since the widespread fires there in 2001 and 2002 (the most recent one in January this year did not touch this area). Along the way the temperature nudged 31 degrees but the humidity was also high (just how high we were to find out later on). For our two North Coast girls it just seemed like a normal day! Still, we pressed on until we reached Uloola Falls where we had lunch. The little stream feeding the falls was almost dry, with only a few shallow pools, and no water at all was going over the falls. An inquisitive Dragon showed up, possibly used to getting handouts from visitors (it got nothing from us).
After lunch we continued along the track which was now the Karloo Pool track, and as it was now 1pm we felt the heat, which got up to 32 along this unshaded fairly open section of track. After another 1.5km the track started to drop down and after another 1km arrived at Karloo Pool. Four of our group including Jacqueline, Lilith and Nicole went in for a much deserved cool swim, while the rest of us sat in the shade or paddled in the shallower parts of the pool, giving our feet a cool break.
I had intended a reasonably long break at Karloo Pool, but after 30 minutes there the sound of distant thunder indicated that maybe we had better cut the visit short and head off to Heathcote Station.
So off we went along the Karloo Track, with the noise of thunder getting closer as well as the clouds darkening overhead. Halfway along we got a brief light shower, but it wasn’t heavy enough to need putting on any rain cover (which would have made us wetter inside from sweat anyway!). The rain stopped, but not trusting that there would not be more, especially with a storm now getting quite close, we continued our forced march until reaching the end of the track behind houses at Heathcote.
Just as we were passing the Heathcote Rural Fire HQ (with its tall steel mast – a likely lightning attractant!), and a mere 50 metres from the Railway Station, the rain started again but this time quite heavy. We made it to the cover of Heathcote Station just in time to miss the now heavy rainstorm coming down, accompanied with lightning flashes quite close. Although the sign at Karloo Falls said it was a walk of 1 hour 15 minutes to the Station, we did it in 40 minutes! The impending storm gave us some incentive to speed up the slope of the track.
It was amazing to think that just 2 hours earlier we were in bright sun with 32 degrees temperature, yet here we were now in a heavy thunderstorm. Also, the almost 40 minutes saved by getting the tram at the start meant that we were not stuck forty minutes short of Heathcote Station in the middle of pouring rain, and lightning strikes.
Our train was 12 minutes late leaving Heathcote, thanks to a preceding South Coast train running late (as usual, as we have in the past found out at Helensburgh). Cathie, Matthias and Nathalie left us at Loftus, and the train continued, 12 minutes late, to Central. My problem though was that it would arrive at Central just one minute after my own Central Coast train left there, with an hour’s wait until the next one. So I got off at Redfern in the hope of getting a Western Line train which would get me to Strathfield ahead of it. That didn’t happen, but by a stroke of luck a special train to the Easter Show pulled in just ahead of the Central Coast train (which does not stop at Redfern. So I got it to Strathfield just in time for my train.
On arrival home, I just beat a storm much heavier than what we had at Heathcote, which eventually dumped 42 mm of rain on the Gosford area.
Everyone seemed to like the walk, despite it being very warm and very humid. The walk along Lady Carrington Drive would be worth a look some day, especially if it could be part of a loop and not simply having to double back along it.
There was by the way, one total “no show” who gave no explanation for not showing up.
The unusually warm and even hot weather we are still having is likely proving a problem for the Club organising more walks, and is no doubt why there is presently a shortage of walks. Hopefully we will see the weather starting to cool down and be more like a normal Autumn/Fall, rather than summer extended. (Even next Sunday April 8 is predicted to be 30 degrees in Sydney).
Link to my photos of the walk: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brstafford/sets/72157694431048464