[SUBW-A] Trip Report - June Long Weekend at Barrington Tops

Schmelitschek, Cameron (Sydney-LIU) Cameron.Schmelitschek at LibertyInternational.com
Wed Jun 12 19:12:02 AEST 2002

June Long Weekend at Barrington Tops
Party: Marcelle, Tom, Albert, Wendy, Cameron
After a late departure from Sydney Marcelle, Tom and I rendezvoused with
Albert and Wendy at the Williams River picnic ground shortly after midnight
- where they had been waiting for a couple of hours for their tent to turn
up.  I think they had been able to take some time lapse photos of the star
filled sky.  The rain that we had seen in Sydney and the hot southerly wind
at the campsite foretold of the change in the weather to come.
Saturday we woke to pouring rain and leaches in the tents.  Our original
plan had included the possibility of taking a spur leading to the Chichester
Range and following it to the Tops.  The decision was made to change that
plan in light of the rain and the added risks.  We weren't pressing on
regardless, but I think it was a sensible decision.   We packed our things
into the cars and drove up to Lagoon Pinch where we had a wet breakfast and
were to begin the walk by taking the trail up the hill.  The rain was to set
the scene for the weekend.  Every creek was full of water, every depression
was full of mud.  Everything was slippery.  
The morning was uneventful with the tramp up to the Tops, a climb of about
900 metres.  Of note however was the 2 metre Diamond Python on the road.
Despite assurances not all in the party could be convinced that it was a) a
python and not venomous, b) very fat from having recently eaten and not
particularly energetic or c) that it really didn't want to eat wet
bushwalkers.  Some chose to scrub bash around the track.
While one of the principles of responsible walking is to leave nothing but
footprints and take nothing but photos we could not leave behind the naked
Barbie doll that Albert found off the side of the track.  She was to embark
on a great adventure.
We had lunch in Selby Alley Hut, shared with a group who looked like they
had no intention of venturing out into the rain.  I'm not sure they
appreciated five steaming walkers intruding for lunch, their faces told the
great outdoors had suddenly became very small.
After weighing up possibilities for the afternoon we only went as far as
Wombat Creek camp ground before setting up tents.  The rain had stopped so
Marcelle, Tom and I headed off a few kilometres to Carey's Peak and
appreciated the views for a full 3 minutes before the cloud rolled in and
hid everything below.  We returned to camp colder and hungrier than we had
left.  While waiting for dinner we did a photo shoot of the adventures of
Barrington Tops Barbie.  The photos will surface eventually, I'm sure our
credibility as responsible people will suffer as a result.
Dinner was a great pasta care of Marcelle and I made a chocolate fondue
which I must say was very successful - half a kilo of white and cooking
chocolates, one cup of UHT cream, a shlonk of Cointreau, melt in trangia pot
suspended with two billy grippers in a large pot of hot water, simmer on a
shellite stove.  Dip with strawberries, marshmallows, apricots, banana,
fingers, Barbie.  Not really lightweight walking food but very enjoyable.
Feeling rather full and pleased with ourselves we retired to the tents (at a
very early 8pm) to escape the freezing and relentless wind.
The only furry creature I saw in the bush visited us in the tent that night.
Some sort of rat or possum I'm not sure but at two in the morning it looked
the most viscous and foul tempered rodent you've ever set eyes on - and it
will eat you laddie...
Sunday was freezing (still zero degrees at 8:30) but the persistent wind
brought blue skies.  The plan was to follow the link track to Gloucester
Tops east a short way then scrub bash our way north to what looked like a
great spot for views and photographs.  The scrub at the edge of the track
was a wall of lawyer vine and Albert and Wendy decided that this was not how
they wanted to spend the rest of the weekend, Wendy suffering from trouble
with her joints.  They would return to the cars and agreed to take my car
from Lagoon Pinch to Upper Chichester so the remaining party could head down
the Mt Nelson trail from Gloucester Tops and avoid a circuit walk.  Such a
simple plan.
With our scrub bash the most immediate task at hand we pushed our way north.
Pushed, cursed, crawled and climbed.  Eventually we admitted defeat to the
Lawyer Vine and turned back to the road - the lookout would be left for
another time.  We had lunch contemplating the contents of Tom's tinned ham
before setting off again - in three hours we had only moved 100 meters up
the road.
Much further along the trail to Glouster Tops we were provided with the best
scenery.  Enormous Antarctic Beech and giant ferns create a magical
cold-climate rainforest.  The day was however getting late and we planned to
camp near the Gloucester River so we pushed on  - Tom and I plodding and
splashing our way along behind Marcelle who kept a cracking pace.  A minor
navigational error caused us to depart the track a little too early and we
found ourselves on dusk in a valley that we hadn't counted on seeing.  A
lovely place though, a nice creek and soft grasses we made it our home for
the night with only the stars for company.  Far more enjoyable to the muddy
Wombat Creek camp ground with iron fire places.
Dinner was a less spectacular affair than the earlier night but still very
much appreciated.  Custard and strawberries with grated chocolate for
dessert.  We retreated from the wind into a tent and warmed ourselves with
chatter, port and Cointreau.
Monday morning we woke to a spectacular day and set off again to find the
track and the point were we should have left it the previous afternoon.  The
accidental camp ground was far superior and worth visiting again.  Down into
the valley of the Gloucester River we scrambled through the rainforest rich
with liberal amounts of mud, moss and Lawyer Vine.  And then came the swamp.
Heath and grass that was waist high or chest high when you sank into the mud
and a few kilometres of the stuff.  A lot of fun, even when we were up to
our knees in slush, but hard work.  We found and the crossed the river using
various techniques and profanities on the fallen trees.  Photograph of
Bungy-Barbie.  After more effort we climbed the slopes on the eastern side
of the valley and found the road to Gloucester Falls.  
The trail from Barrington Tops to Gloucester Tops heads in a large arc
around the valley we had just spent many hours and much effort crossing in a
more or less straight line, which could have been done in just a few hours.
Where we rejoined was roughly 110 degrees of the point we left it, right
where we wanted to be.
After lunch (and a short mourning for Barbie who lost her head tragically
somewhere in the scrub - sorry Albert!) all that was left for the day was
about 8 kilometres back to where the car - or so we thought.  The trail
weaves about and covers far more distance than the old maps would indicate
and darkness joined us quickly.  It didn't help that we'd run out of 25k map
(since I hadn't planned to go this way) and were using the 100K tourist map
for the area.  The Mt Nelson Trail drops down from Gloucester Tops over
about 1000 meters with a climb in the middle over Mt Nelson of 100 meters.
It seemed like an endless trek down on the very greasy mud, with the last
drop being a nasty 600-700 metres over 2km. 
As we neared the bottom and entered farm land the trail disappeared in a
maze of cow tracks.  After much wandering in the dark we followed the fence
lines to the road and rediscovered our lost way.  It was 7pm, we had been
walking for four hours without a break or drink and the car was no where to
be seen.  There was awkward silence.  Somewhere in the distance, a dog
There where two obvious possibilities - Albert had missed the track and had
followed the road to Upper Chichester a few kilometres further on, or the
car was left further back down the road as they might not have been able to
come this far.  We decided to head down the road since Winter Hills
homestead was in that direction.
We disturbed their cows and their dinner by knocking on the kitchen door.
After accepting glasses of water we used their phone to call Albert, who was
thankfully somewhere within mobile range, to determine the whereabouts of
the car.  He had missed the turn-off and the car was at Upper Chichester.
The very generous people at Winter Hills drove us back up the road from
whence we came, past the trail junction and on to the car.  Albert's mistake
was completely forgivable given the confusing area and inaccurate map - with
hindsight it was somewhat inevitable.We also learned that the property
owners had been driving around the top of their property that day checking
the cows - the source of our confusion over the tracks.
We wound our way back to Dungog dodging cows and possums (but unfortunately
not the rabbit who we cleaned up while singing our second rendition of
"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" - Python irony?)  The search for
food at 9pm on Monday in two pubs and the RSL (a big town - it has two
pubs!) was sadly unsuccessful.  Onwards to Raymond Terrace for the last of
some very questionable 10pm take-away before the long drive back to Sydney.
Barrington and Gloucester Tops are fantastic places to visit and I plan to
go there again.  The changes in vegetation are fantastic - one travels
through the greys of gums and snow grass, lush green rain-forests,
heath-land and scattered timbers.  The giant Beech are amazing - towering up
above the paths.  Off track is great fun but also a challenge, not everyone
on our trip was prepared or equipped for it (gardening gloves make a world
of difference).  When we go again I think we will spend more time on the
Gloucester Tops side.
I'm not sure we convinced Tom of the joys in leaving the track for a sojourn
in the scrub, if he comes back for another walk I guess we'll know.  Then
again it may have been because we spent so much time playing with a doll
that he thought we were nuts.
A great trip it was just the right mix of the bush, laughs and drama.
Thanks guys for coming along.
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