Trip leader: Wing Chun Sze
Party: Addison, Badour, James, Jonathan, Katherine, Socheat, Wei
A Saturday was chosen for the walk despite the less optimal weather conditions. A cloudy day with a lower temperature made it easier for a long walk without all the hot summer conditions. The group was quite diverse with some exchange students from the US and New Zealand and some international students. Most members of the group are decently experienced and well-prepared for the intensity of the walk, including the one member who filled in “none” in the bushwalking experience field (he really had no “bushwalking” experience but plenty of “hiking” experience). Half the group met up at Central and the remaining in Katoomba. The train ride is an experience in itself where exchange students are impressed by the engineering achievement of a railway climbing all the way up to 1000m over sea level and how far electric trains run here in Sydney.
The day started with heavy fog around Katoomba, with Three Sisters vanishing from Echo Point lookout. We got off at Scenic World (where the cable car is) and walked 20mins to the start of the Devil’s Hole track right by Cliff Drive. The track starts with a smooth descent through the woodlands then slowly into the narrow canyon as sandstones start to take over the scenery.
Then straight into the hole. The hole refers to the narrow gap between the sandstone walls forming a cliff face over the plateau on Katoomba. A rock slides right into the gap right above the steepest bit down into the valley, at an inclination of almost 45 degrees. Prior to European settlement, the Devil’s Hole was used by aboriginal communities as a way to and from the valley floor.
The descent continues through the gap through very slippery surfaces. Rocks full of mosses line the canyon presenting a gorgeous view yet full of slipping traps. I have slipped over twice on the way down myself as some rocks might look perfect to stand on but are not. The steepest bit soon turns into a wide walking track with a smooth gradient. Two walking tracks run parallel yet the one marked to be an unofficial track turned out to be the better one. A new track seems to have a more favourable alignment yet the descent naturally leads to the old track. Both eventually lead to a fire trail which joins onto Six Foot Track.
Six Foot Track makes use of some fire trails and some parts of it run on Nellies Glen Road, which has some sealed sections. A giant “ladders have been removed” sign was seen, perhaps referring to Dickson’s Ladder which used to run up to Narrow Neck through the cliff walls. On the road, the track branches off through stairs across a fence into private property. Sections of the track transverses through cattle farms and private property which hikers may access. Weather still remains foggy and the cattle live their own lives peacefully below the Blue Mountains. Shortly after the farm the track reaches Megalong Cemetery with a carpark and large information signs on Six Foot Tk. A map showed the entire track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves and landmarks along the way. A quick water break at the signs and the team continued through the track into Megalong Valley.
Farms over farms as we climbed over multiple fences along the way. After sections of farmlands, the track enters dense woodlands as it begins the ~300m descent onto Coxs River. The group descended rapidly through gentle stairs, overtaking multiple groups of bushwalkers and into the suspension bridge, a major attraction of the area. The water level of Coxs River is very low and low flow leads to poor water quality. While it’s not the ideal place for a lunch break many managed to enjoy their time by the river. The bridge takes a rather long time to cross due to the one-person limit. It took some time to wait for bushwalkers from the other end to pass. Some attempted to cross back to the other side by hopping across the rocks, yet one gap in the middle was too wide and this couldn’t be done.
As it was approximately 15km away from Katoomba the group had to leave early so as not to do the last sections in the dark. Most of the group experienced the suspension bridge in the last 10mins and crossed back together. A group of four crossed over at the end, with one leading the way converting the bridge into a massive trampoline. While it might not seem long the bridge wobbles a lot in the middle, and the person jumping through said that there were moments when he was almost flying off the bridge. He joyfully hopped through the bridge while others were stuck in the air high above the river, too scared to proceed through the wobbling bridge. The remaining three made their way through with six legs over the one-person-only bridge.
We started our slow climb back to Katoomba with 5 hours of daylight available. The first leg was the 6km stretch back to Megalong Cemetery car park. Some were still fairly energetic and some preferred a slower pace. One member had no prior bushwalking experience and wasn’t expecting the walk to be this long. He eventually gained energy by cursing the mountains along the way. While this is not a pleasant experience for him, I highly commend him for his positive spirit and attitude towards the challenge, which has empowered him through.
At the car park, we waited for everyone to arrive and had a long break before carrying on into Katoomba. Many took this chance to power nap and enjoy some snacks before heading off. It was later discovered that one member of the team was feeling lightheaded and unwell during the walk. She was directed to a nearby vineyard which has tables and chairs to rest on. Being unrealistic to carry on to Katoomba in a full group, a plan was made to split it into two- one will complete the walk as planned, and as one person on the trip had a car parked in Katoomba he will drive down to Megalong Valley and pick up the remaining group. Three joined the car group- one unwell and two felt they might be better off not continuing.
With a group of six, we were able to continue on a much faster pace, completing the ~5km, 500m climb in 1.5hrs. We followed through the same fire trail and back on the climb through Devil’s Hole. On the way back we took the upper track before branching off to the narrow gap. It was a steep climb through rocks and over some landslides. The two exchange students led the way and others made it up at a much slower pace. All of the team made it to Cliff Drive at 7pm, half an hr earlier than the expected finish time. The person with a car went to Scenic World for the car and others walked to a nearby bus stop where bus route 686G takes them to Katoomba, then onto the hourly Blue Mountains Line train back to Central.
Meanwhile, the other car group met up at the vineyard to pick up the unwell member. The vineyard is open to the public for wine tasting until 5pm with some llamas and kangaroos nearby. The group was given a lift by friendly drivers on the road to the car park near Megalong Cemetery as they waited for the car to drive down. The owner of the vineyard was also very kind, allowing the unwell member to rest before other members of the team could reach there. I joined the car at Katoomba and went down through Great Western Highway on the quiet 2-lane country road, passing through Medlow Bath before turning off the highway at Blackheath onto Megalong Valley Road. The car got down shortly before 8pm and picked up the group of 3 who have been waiting at the car park for quite a while.
We drove straight to the lower Blue Mountains after picking up the group, with a short kangaroo race in the valley. A confused kangaroo hopped onto the road and attempted to flee in the same direction as the car. It then stopped in the middle of the road, stared into the car’s headlights, and jumped off instantly after a honk. Many sections of Megalong Valley Road remain under roadworks with multiple patches of unsealed dirt roads and potholes. We got on a Blue Mountains train at Glenbrook, one hour after the one taken by the earlier group. The earlier group was already in Strathfield when we boarded, and the remaining group reached Central after a 1hr train ride.