Trip leader: Sunil Jassal
Party: Kwun Ming, Nicholas, Rachel, Socheat
Written By: Socheat Soth
I visited Magdala Creek in the winter of ’22, which turned out to be a glorious day with four other outstanding individuals: Sunil Jassal (trip leader), Nicholas Whyte (Nic), Rachel Ng, and Kwun Ming Shum (Ming). I wanted to do something different that day because my life had become too repetitive. I misread the trip overview posted by Sunil on the Sydney University Bushwalkers website, and I thought I was in for a leisurely walk with gentle hills and a well-formed track. It was an easy trek to Magdala Creek, but the difficulty increased after we travelled through Glenbrook Creek.
My first impression of Magdala Creek was its stillness. I asked Sunil if the water was drinkable after filtration. He said that water downstream of human settlement never was good, despite being able to boil or filter it. Especially as viruses cannot be effectively filtered. He said the best purification procedure was to boil the water, however being downstream of human settlement, the water wouldn’t be great due to dissolved chemical pollutants. The tranquillity of Magdala Creek was analogous to the “calm before the storm”. In my case, the “storm” meant an increase in the hike’s difficulty. Our group of five hikers enjoyed the serenity of Magdala Creek for about fifteen minutes before we decided to continue with our walk.
Sunil is a friendly group leader. He allowed anyone to lead the walk at different legs if they desired. Because I had not done any activity that was relaxing since my last holiday in Paris back in 2019, walking through the bush seemed foreign and exotic. I found peace and reassurance walking at the back of the pack, following the footsteps of Ming, who was fit and confident, whilst Nic was leading the walk towards Glenbrook Creek.
The track to Glenbrook Creek was easy. After consulting the topographic map, Sunil decided that in order to climb up the spur to Bunyan Lookout, we were to cross Glenbrook Creek just downstream from its convergence with Western Creek. With a lot of debris still present from the extreme rain and flooding in March, there was no easy place to cross the creek, and most boulders were obscured by trees that had been pushed heavily on their side.
We cautiously traversed Glenbrook Creek one step at a time after testing the wet and slippery rock surface before fully committing to cross to the other side. Sunil would say it’s easier to cross the creek and commit to getting your feet wet than to walk in fear of falling over. I don’t particularly appreciate walking with wet shoes, but my initial fear was of slipping, so it made crossing the creek a precarious endeavour. Finally, we all crossed Glenbrook Creek without getting our feet wet.
The ascent to Shark Head Cave was significantly more challenging due to the sudden increase in the slope of the hill. The steepness hardly affected Nic and Ming, but Rachel and I were struggling. Nonetheless, we all plodded along and reached Shark Head Cave. It would have been lovely to have lunch there, but we had to continue walking as we lost precious time crossing the creek.
To reach Lost World Lookout, we had to boulder a chasm. It wasn’t an easy bouldering problem, and we didn’t have mats to protect our falls. Bouldering outdoors was very different to the indoor climbing gym, and we didn’t have any climbing shoes. I was amazed at how easily Ming, Sunil, and Nic climbed up the chasm. Once we reached the top of the chasm, we had a light lunch for about ten minutes. By this time, it was 3:30 pm, and I was worried that the sun would set at 4:30 pm. As we had to continue ascending this spur, walk to Bunyan Lookout, and then descend a spur of which the condition was unknown, it was decided that due to light beginning to diminish, it wasn’t worth taking the gamble of that spur which could’ve been difficult to descend, as it could’ve resulted in a bit of bouldering in the dark, something we didn’t feel was safe for our skill levels.
The descent was technically more challenging than the ascent due to the loose leaves and loose sand on the ground, acting as little ball bearings, turning many areas into slides! After descending past Shark Head Cave, we lost the track, and bushbashed towards the creek, where there were very thorny plants that we had to address. Despite these obstacles, we successfully descended and tentatively ccrossed Glenbrook Creek without getting wet. It was now time for the long ascent up. My right leg was cramping up because I had only drunk 1.2 litres of water in 4 hours. Each step was a struggle. We entertained the idea that we all chip in for a taxi back to Valley Heights train station, but in traditional SUBW Spirit, we pressed on regardless, taking each step as it came. And when we reached the top, Nic sighted Martins Lookout. It had a lovely view of the valley where we relaxed for about twenty-five minutes to have snacks and have a rest.
After our rest, we continued walking until we reached a dirt road. From there, we had about 56 minutes to walk 3.2 km to get the 6:03 pm train from Valley Heights train station to Blaxland station. We exerted effort but I didn’t think I could take the train in time. Rachel came to the rescue and directed us to the bus stop so we could take a ride to Springwood train station instead. That bus ride felt the most luxurious and plush I had ever experienced. And now I was looking forward to dinner; I was so hungry.
Once we reached Blaxland train station, I was not looking forward to another walk to the restaurant. So I surprised my team by driving them to Monte’s, an Italian Restaurant in Blaxland recommended by Sunil. From then on, the group nick-named my car the “cocaine-car” because of all the junk that was inside of it. As it was the last day to use our Dine and Discover NSW vouchers, we eagerly redeemed our coupons for food. Sunil and I enjoyed the beef lasagna whilst Rachel, Nic, and Ming had pizza.
In sum, we had an amazing day. The trip duration took about 6 hours. Because we had started the hike at 12 pm, we didn’t end up seeing Lost World or Bunyan Lookouts, but as Sunil says, ‘Safety first, fun a close second!’. Consequently, our group is determined to come back to Springwood, start the trek at around 9:00 am and see more of the area. From this experience, I learned a lot about bush-walking in general, and I was lucky to experience it with a talented group of people.
I want to thank Sunil for demonstrating strong leadership skills and prioritising the group’s safety over having fun. Moreover, I’m glad that we could get out of the bush before dark; and I am grateful that we didn’t have to camp out overnight, which could have easily been the scenario.