[SUBW] SUBW Trip report - Helensburgh-Burning Palms-Otford, Sunday September 17
bstaffor at med.usyd.edu.au
Fri Sep 22 21:27:12 AEST 2017
SUBW Trip report - Helensburgh-Burning Palms-Otford, Sunday September
Walkers: Bruce (leading), Victoria, Cathie, Joyce, Genlei, Zhong,
Deng, Kasey, Maranna, Zhen, Robert McK, Harriet, Rebecca, Ralf.
Because the walk was listed 3 weeks before the walk day, it was not
too surprising that there were some dropouts in the week prior due to
sickness. Still, every time someone had to drop out, I was able to
replace them off a wait list. So, thanks to those people who gave me
sufficient notice that they could not come.
Most of us met up for the train at Central, with Harriet getting on at
Redfern and Cathie at Sutherland. At Helensburgh Station there was the
usual queue for the toilets and then it was off on the walk proper.
As it was decided to get the 3.15pm train that afternoon from Otford,
we decided to leave a visit to Metropolitan Tunnel for another trip,
as it would have eaten significantly into the time we had available
for the whole walk.
We walked through the station car park and then across Wilsons Creek
Road straight onto a track which goes beside the fence by the rail
line, rising very steeply initially (despite this it is used by locals
as a short cut to the station). Then by a couple of service tracks
paved with railway ballast, behind the houses fronting Gardiner Place.
At this point the track meets the fence of the Helensburgh Tip and
becomes the "Burgh Track".
Not far along this rough track we came to an unpleasant surprise: a
rotting deer carcass on the track, rather smelly. This upset some of
our walkers (and I have sent a message to the Minister for the
Environment of the need to remove it from the walking track). It
appears to be the victim of the present deer cull taking place in the
Royal National Park (the Rusa Deer are not native and have been
causing environmental damage).
After passing the tip the track widens to a fire trail, crossing over
the present Helensburgh Tunnel and staying level for a while through
heath land before starting to drop down through wooded country as it
headed for the Hacking River.
Not too far along there is a track junction - easily missed as it is
only denoted by just an arrow. Before entering this track I told
everyone that they should not stop until they reached the river, as
this was Leech City. We went along that track through a lot of Cabbage
tree Palms and open woodland and then meandered along until reaching
the river. It was quite dry along this section, very unusual, but then
we have had very dry weather the past several weeks. I also noticed
that the path is becoming more defined, whereas in past years the
track was not at all obvious. This suggests that it is becoming
increasingly used as a track to get to Figure 8 Pool from Helensburgh
Station. Even so we did not see any other walkers on this track.
So we came to the Hacking River which was exceptionally low due to the
prolonged dry weather. It was very easy to cross and only Cathie
managed to get one foot wet in the river.
Then it was on to another track which met Lady Wakehurst Drive after
100 metres, and then straight across the road to climb up the hill on
the way to Garawarra Farm. Not far from the top and out of the wind we
stopped for a needed water break after the steep climb. I also took a
head count to make sure no one had been taken by man-eating leeches.
From the top of the grade the track stays fairly level, passing
through mainly heathland. Noticed that there has been some hazard
reduction burning here very recently.
Then it was on to Garawarra Farm car park where we noted ahead of us a
large group obviously headed for Figure 8 Pool but also unfortunately
taking with them a loud ghetto-blaster. (noted also that there is now
a park and pay meter there - $12 for parking [on top of the Park Entry
There was also a sign there stating that the Royal National Park was
closed each night from 8.30pm to 5am this week for deer shooting.
Fortunately, I would say, a couple of our group needed a loo break in
the port-a-loos there and that put some distance between us and the
group with the ghetto-blaster.
Then we went down the final section of the Burgh Track, and
encountered the new boardwalk section built to stop erosion on the
track. Halfway along there is a lookout with a good view of both
Burning Palms Beach and Figure 8 Pool. I told them how to spot rips on
a beach (see photos), although the beach today looked rather rough its
whole length. Some waves were breaking against the rock shelf next to
Figure 8 Pool but didn't look too high.
We continued down past the shacks and the surf club down to the north
end of Burning Palms Beach. Although it was a sunny day it was also
cool, about 22 degrees C, so no one intended swimming (and in fact
there was no one all all in the water).
We found a spot among rocks in the middle of the beach for lunch.
Then it was off to Figure 8 Pool, which for some overseas students
would be a trip highlight. I noted though that the tide had turned and
was starting to come in again (in any case it was not a particularly
low tide at 0.41m). Also, the wind had picked up meaning that the sea
swell was going to increase, and it did. We clambered round the rocks
as far as the first point, but it soon became clear that with the
rising tide and more so the significantly increased swell, that
further progress was unsafe. Where we had been able to walk on dry
rocks back in April, was now being hit by waves.
So we had no choice but to backtrack back to the beach. There were (as
usual nowadays) hordes of tourists there, and on the way back to
Otford we came across still more heading to Figure 8 Pool (who
obviously had not checked the tide charts).
After another head count to make sure everyone had got off the rocks,
we continued along the Coast Track which also has a new boardwalk, and
provides great views south as far as Wollongong. After the Lomandra
section we entered Palm Jungle which we were pleased to note was not
muddy underfoot (due to the dry spell) and appeared to have not been
too badly affected by the foot traffic. After Palm Jungle though, the
track starts to climb fairly steeply and does not level out until
reaching Werrong Lookout, about 400 metres before the junction with
the Cliff Track (which runs between Garawarra Farm and Otford Lookout
- still don't know why Wildwalks calls it the "Squeezeway").
We had a brief stop at Werrong Lookout to recover from the climb, and
then got everyone moving for the last section to Otford Lookout and
then Otford Station. We walked the next 400 metres to the junction of
the Coast and Cliff tracks, and waited there until everyone was
gathered together. Another head count - but only 11 persons, including
Ralf and Robert accounted for, but still waiting for the other 3 guys.
After a couple on minutes they still hadn't appeared, and Robert said
that he didn't notice anyone behind him. Someone suggested that it was
possible that they might have turned right at the Werrong Lookout by
mistake and were inadvertently heading back towards Burning Palms.
Or, were they ahead of us, in which case had they gone the wrong way
at this track intersection?
I got out my list to check their mobile phone numbers but oops! I had
not written theirs down! Rebecca then suggested logging in to the SUBW
website on my phone, but the mobile signal was not good.
Also, time was now starting to run short to get to the 3.15pm train at
Otford, and we had already wasted several minutes at this spot. Cathie
recalled that Zhong (one of the three) was continually looking at his
GPS during the walk and could probably find his way to Otford Station
if he took the wrong track.
The decision was then made to continue on to the Otford Lookout and
hope that they were there.
We reached that lookout but the 3 guys were not there. More
discussion, but by that time we had very little time left to get to
the 3.15pm train and in fact worked out we were not going to make it.
Victoria suggested that we should go to Otford Station where we could
at least get the 3.30pm Wollongong train and change at Thirroul for a
fast train, and once at the station try to contact the 3 guys again.
We got to Otford Station 5 minutes before that train arrived, and just
as I started to try to check their mobile numbers again, a message
came through from Zhong stating that they were on the (3.15pm) train
and thanks for organising the trip.
So, we got the 3.30pm train which took us all stations to Thirroul.
Not knowing the area, we were (of course!) at the wrong end of the
train for the stairs over to the platform for the Sydney-bound train,
which was arriving just as we were still on the stairs. We rushed to
get this train and just made it. It's next stop was Helensburgh as it
was an express train.
It got back to Sydney at 5.15pm, an hour later than we had planned.
Still, better than being 2 hours later which is what would have
happened if we had had to wait for the 5.15pm train from Otford.
(I have previously taken up with the Minister for Transport the issue
of Otford and Stanwell Park only having a 2 hourly train service on
weekends, and I will do so again).
The walk was enjoyable in fine mild weather and everyone liked it
despite not being able to get all the way to Figure 8 Pool, and the
muck-up with the trains at the end and the 3 guys separating from the
group. (I did let them know later that I was not happy about that).
The next suitable sunday for a lunchtime visit to Figure 8 Pool is
15th October, although even then the "low" tide is 0.52m, even higher
than it was on our walk. The next suitable sunday after that is not
until New Year's Eve!
Two lessons to be learned from this trip:
1. Always stick with the trip leader, even if you think you know the
way. Walks do not always follow the route shown by a GPS, and the
Cowan-Brooklyn walk is one such walk (see my trip report of that of
Aug 20, 2016 (https://www.subw.org.au/2016/08/20/cowan-to-brooklyn-6/)
2. If you do find yourself ahead, stop at the first track junction you
reach and wait for the others to catch up.
Incidentally, despite passing through Leech City next to the Hacking
River, no one on the walk reported any leeches. Possibly due to the
dry weather, but also maybe due to people not stopping on that section
There is another track running off the Cliff Track, just 300 or so
metres back from the junction with the Coast track. It's called the
Lilyvale Track and once provided access to the former Lilyvale station
located between Helensburgh and Otford. It was closed by the transport
bean-counters in 1983. Even so this track might be worth exploring
because it comes out at Lady Wakehurst Drive not too far from the end
of the Hacking River Fire Trail which leads back to Helensburgh
Station (and part of which was the first part of our walk). Maybe an
exploratory walk for sometime next year.
My photo link:
Ralf's photos (which include me!):
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