Date: 16/9/2023
Trip leader: Bruce Stafford
Party: Alper Tunga, Devin, Josie, Kaci, Lingrui, Shibo, Terry Wing Chun, Yasmine (friend of Jose), Ms Chan (friend of Lingrui).

Centennial Glen & Porters Pass Loop, West Blackheath. Saturday 16/9/2023.

Because I have to get up quite early to go on a Blue Mountains bushwalk, I was up early enough to see Venus shining very brightly in the pre-dawn sky. As I walked to my station, I passed a flock of cockies (White Cockatoos) with the rising sun giving a golden sheen to their feathers. (See Photos).

Most of us met up at Central Station for the two and a quarter hour train trip to Blackheath. Devin got on at Blacktown and Josie and her friend Yasmine had to catch the next train 20 minutes after ours (more on that shortly).

On arrival at Blackheath there was the usual toilet (not “bathroom”) stop requirement. Shibo pointed out a “gas” station opposite the station entrance and said, what about there? (They are called Petrol stations here, by the way). But the better and more convenient (for the walk) toilets at Blackheath are directly opposite the shops, are free and have hot water (very welcome in cold snowy weather there). By the time we had finished the toilet break, and Terry had ducked into a coffee shop, we were ready to cross over the level crossing to Bundarra Street to start our walk. By that time Josie and Yasmine’s train had arrived and I walked the short distance to the station to collect them. Josie had advised me earlier that Yasmine was not a SUBW member (and thus not on my list obviously). I told Josie that she shouldn’t be bringing friends along on walks without prior permission (which is not often given anyway) and she accepted this. I told Yasmine that she had to accept responsibility for risks on the walk, and I asked her if she had any medical conditions that could affect her walking. She said no. With that out of the way, I was OK with Yasmine coming.

Lingrui Gu had been a “no show” twice before on my walks, but I decided to give him a chance this time (one of those walks was at South Head last October and affected by rainy weather and a few people decided not to come, but I digress). I thus didn’t expect him to turn up, but he did show up at Central Station. After I collected Josie and Yasmine at Blackheath Station and returned to the others waiting nearby, I noticed that another young woman had joined the group. I had noticed her earlier when we got off the train and as we walked towards Blackheath shops, but I assumed that she was just another of the several other passengers who had also got off at Blackheath and who were heading to the shops. She had made no prior contact with us and I didn’t notice her at Central, so I had no reason to think she was connected some way with my group. Thus when I saw her standing with my group, I asked her who she was; maybe she was mistaking us for some other group. Before she had a chance to answer, Lingrui answered for her that that she was his friend. So I told him off for bringing along someone who hadn’t signed up, and reminded him that he had twice been a “no show” on two of my walks, and now he was doing this! I asked if she was a Club member, and he said yes. I also asked him what would happen in she came along on a walk with limited car spots with none for her; his response was “It didn’t matter as we came by train today”.

Anyway, I didn’t want to delay the walk longer, so we set off on the first leg towards Fort Rock. This took us the length of Bundarra Avenue and the track starts at its end. Along the track we came across a working party of volunteers who were doing work on the track to repair sections damaged by the prolonged rainy weather over the last couple of years in “La Nina”. The track gradually drops down to Centennial Glen Creek and then comes to a junction with a side track to Centennial Glen, but we went straight ahead to Fort Rock (most online walk guides, e.g. “Wildwalks” do the walk in a clockwise direction. I led it anti-clockwise). So we arrived at Fort Rock, which is actually a stand-alone pagoda atop which is a good view over the Kanimbla Valley and also the real Mount Victoria peak (see photos).

Mt Victoria

While everyone took a break on Fort Rock to take in the view, decided that I could add Lingrui’s friend on to the list, as she was supposed to be a member, thus she would be covered. I brought up the walk on the SUBW website on my mobile phone, and asked her to enter her email, which she did. The answer came back “ERROR, cant find xxxxxx”. Whoops, she was not a member after all! Lingrui Gu then gets her to create a SUBW account on her own mobile phone. The whole thing was rather messy and unfortunately a rather embarrassing experience for her, which was not really her fault.

With that partially resolved situation out of the way, we got off Fort Rock and proceeded along the Clifftop track which runs level through heath for a while. Along this section we came across a group of about 16 young walkers, complete with loud music, who were going in the opposite direction. We passed by and said hello as we went (we came across them later). Shortly after, the track started to rise up again to a junction with the Porters Pass track which if you go up the rise from here ends up at the Porters Pass trackhead on Burton Road. This junction is not signposted and you are unfamiliar with it can cause you to make an unnesessary walk to the trackhead instead of going down to Porters Pass. As it was now 12 noon I decided that this was a good partly shaded spot with a breeze to have lunch.

After lunch we continued along the Porters Pass track which now starts to quickly drop down, passing a direction sign oddly not located at any track junction, and then a very steep drop down into a cool shady glen; the cool air here was appreciated. The descent was finished you, though. We went down another set of steps until eventually levelling off (sort of). From here the track undulates, passes next to (and under) some mini waterfalls, and along sections which are quite narrow and muddy in places where care must be staken to avoid a long slide down a steep embankment if you slip. This is not an easy walk by any means. It passes under beetling cliffs before starting a cimb up to the start of Centennial Pass and its canyon. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t take as many photos as normal on this walk; concentration is needed on this rough track. (Having said that, I usually try to have frequent stops for water and photos on walks, but like most trip leaders I don’t like people stopping every 50 metres to take selfies; that didn’t happen this time).

One of the many steep and rough climbs

The track at one stage consists of clambering over mossy rocks in the stream of Centennial Glen Creek (again). Here we met the young group with the music again headed the opposite direction (unlike us they had done the loop walk clockwise).Then a steep climb up perpetually wet steps under a spray from the adjacent falls as the walk ascends Centennial Glen. At this point a side track goes to “the Canyon” but it is a dead end and we gave it a miss. Here I gave directions to a couple of other walkers about the best way up to get to the car park, or to Bundarra Street.

Further up there is another track junction with a sign pointing to Fort Rock and Bundarra Street. We took this track and at one point went behind a waterfall, and then we came across several rock climbers (this location and nearby Walls Pass is popular with them). But the track started to climb again up and up and eventually came out at a track juction we had passed earlier on the way to Porters Pass. From here it was just a matter of walking the track to Bundarra Street, again passing the volunteers who were still at work repairing the track. We continued along Bundarra Street to the level crossing, and found that a train was leaving in 3 minutes but decided not to bother rushing for it as the next train was 20 minutes later. Some people though opted to head towards the shops and get a later train.

It was an interesting walk not often done which has some challenging and interesting sections. The temperature did not get above 23 degrees C so it was not uncomfortable to walk. It was mostly a sunny day. The last photo shows what happens to an empty water bottle when you seal it at 1063 metres altitude and bring it down to sea level. For the same reason, do not bring carbonated (sparkling) water on Blue Mountains walks; when you open it at high altitude, the lower atmospheric pressure will cause it to spray everywhere, and it has happened to some people!

It was unfortunate that we had some drama at the start, and I definitely don’t like incidents like that happening, as it puts a dampener on the tone of the trip. Unfortunately it is necessary to sort out such issues, and I will now state clearly that if members bring uninvited friends then they can expect their friends to be asked questions which they might think are intrusive, AND their friend/s might even be turned away! But these questions are necessary. Everyone who joins the Club signs a risk waiver, and for good reason. People need to be made aware that bushwalking can and does present risks. Even very experienced bushwalkers can have serious accidents, as my Wondabyne group last August saw when someone from another group broke her leg. Consider, you don’t sign a risk waiver when you join the Young Liberals Club at Uni (although maybe you should….).

One final point: Chloe’s trip report of last years’ PBT contained this interesting item: “Nam went around teaching people the warning signs of getting leg cramps, and giving people salt tablets if they had the warning signs”. Well, if Nam can do that, there will be Physiology Departments from prominent universities queuing up to employ him! One reason why the cause of cramps still hasn’t been pinpointed is that cramps are notoriously difficult to predict in advance. Researchers can have test subjects cycling furiously for hours…and nothing happens. Then maybe one or two of them might get night cramps. And the fact that night cramps can occur without any prior exercise is also still unexplained. Researchers are now looking at a possible neurological reason for cramps, not electrolytes like Sodium or Potassium. The advice now is: ditch the salt tablets. This article even suggests that Pickle juice might relieve cramp pain, and it might be the Acetic Acid in the Pickle Juice that does the job. Possibly even experiment with other mild fruit acids such as found in lemons; if you get a cramp, suck on a fresh cut lemon and see if it works!

I will putting more more walks on in October, including (weather permitting) soem beach walks where you can swim.

Bruce Stafford