RNP 24 Circuit

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The Walk Start

I started from Otford Station with my Cousin at 1916h after a few quick photos and set off North along train line fence. There was a defined track which eventually lead down to an unsealed road which we followed for some time. Eventually the road left the train line so we left it and stuck to the train line fence. The going became tougher and slower as there was no real path, only overgrown bush to push through. Luckily it wasn’t too bad as the fence there to follow. We reached what the map said was the turn off to Lilyvale, and we headed West, for what we thought was a bright orange street light. As we came closer, it turned out to be a fire on someone’s property, so we skirted around it, hitting a fire trail soon afterwards.

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Descending from Lilyvale Road

This fire trail was followed for a few k’s until we came in line with the Colliery, when we left the trail and bush bashed North into a steep valley with a few slips and trips and back up the other side, eventually reaching the Colliery road, which after avoiding the trucks and cars, lead us into suburbia. We then walked through the quite town of Helensburgh, making our way North along the roads until we crossed the train line at the station at 2130h. From there is was a short walk along the road until we crossed the train line again at a bridge and followed it West a hundred or so metres along the fence until we hit Southern portal of the abandoned train tunnel we were to travel through.

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The tunnel entrance

I had been through it a week or so before when scouting out the area, and this time to my surprise it was full of glow worms on the roof and walls. It was very spooky as everything, including your foot steps, echoed. Eventually at 2200h, we made it out of the tunnel, a good 350m in length, only to be faced with a thick red sludge at its end. Thankfully there were submerged wooden plancks to tread on, and my new Gortex shoes meant that my feet made it out dry.

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The red sludge

We then followed an old road which lead us over the Prince’s Hwy where we had our first little food break at 2220h (12.3km), and continued to the Old Prince’s Hwy. From there it was only a short trip East until we reached the fire trail which lead us into the Heathcote NP. We followed this fire trail which followed some high voltage powerlines, until we reached Heathcote Creek at 2320h (16.6km).

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Start of the Bullawarring Track

Heading West along the Bullawarring Track we made good progress past Kingfisher Pool all the way until it splits and a track leads off to Lake Eckersley. The last k or so from here to Battery Causeway seamed endless and the track meandered up and down the hill slope. We finally reached the Causeway at 0100h (22.6km) and after a quick rest stop, met the dirt service road and water pipe we were to follow for hours to come.

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Mist over the track

It was an interesting walk along the pipe line, but I was thankful that it was on a road as I was becoming tired, having been up since 0630h didn’t help. We eventually climbed up to Heathcote Road at 0215h (27.3km), crossing to the other side where we had our first extended break (about 15 mins) to stretch and eat the still warm fried rice we had bought before setting out. This really woke me up and I believe it is what got me through to day light. We set off, following and at times walking along the pipe line as we snaked our way through the bush, following the Woronora River, eventually climbing steeply out to Bundanoon Road at 0400h (32.8km), which we crossed at continued along the pipe line at the other side of the road. This then took us down to Maandowie Creek where we finally left the pipe line and had a spot of confusion over the maze of fire trails in the area. After retracing a hundred or so metres, we set off in the right directions, following a fire trail all the way out to Loftus. We reached the train station at 0530h (39.0km) as first light broke. We rested at the station for a good 20 mins or so, had a small snack and headed across the railway line and up the Prince’s Hwy.

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First light

After 500m or so, we crossed the Hwy and entered the Royal NP via its most northern fire trail, through an area that had been subject to back burning only a week before. It was quite strange to see the landscape devoid of greenery as we made our way down the steep slope leading to Temptation Creak, crossing the to other side and plodding up the hill.

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Burnt bush

It was at the top where we reach the 42km mark, my first marathon! We took a photo and continued on, following the fire trails around to just before Bungoona Lookout where we bashed our way down to the Hacking, following a steep creek on the way down. It was here that we hit an old walking track which we followed along to the picnic area before the causeway at Audley. It was here at 0715h (45.0km) that we had breakfast as we watched 30 or so people from a fitness group run, jump and crawl around. Much to our surprise, they insisted on running up and over the very picnic table that we where eating on!

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The Hacking River

My Cousin rested and I munched down on some dry Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes while I waited. We eventually left at 0800h. From here we headed South across the causeway and up to near the new Visitors Centre where we started the track to Winifred Falls. This was our first lot of bush track walking in a while and it was a pleasant change, but it was more overgrown that what I had experienced in previous trips. We made good progress, crossing Warumbul Road where we began the long decent along a fire trail to the falls. We eventually reached them at 0915h (50.3km). There was less water that what previous visits, so we crossed and headed up the steep track on the other side.

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South West Arm Creek

This eventually dropped down to Anice Falls and rose again, which after passing through a few muddy sections, we reached Maianbar Road at 1010h (52.8km). By this point my walking partner had started to slow up as his feet had become saw, so the trip along the Road into Maiabar was slow, made worse by the cars zooming past at 100km/h. Eager to get to Bundeena, we descended down what we through was the trail leading to the bridge across Cabbage Tree Basin, only for it to come to a dead end. We could see the bridge, so we forced our way down the steep slope and around to the crossing. It was here that my Cousin decided that his feet and knees were too sore to go on past Bundeena. We continued through Bonnie Vale Camping Ground and followed the rocks around to a local Fish and Chip shop near the Wharf. I rang my Dad, explaining the situation. He said that it would be unwise to try and complete the trip on my own, but he would be happy to meet me at Wattamolla, walking the rest from there with me. I had a great burger for lunch, and left my Cousin who was to catch the Ferry back, at 1245h (61.1km).

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Crossing to Bundeena

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Lunch at Bundeena

I walked through the street of Bundeena, eventually hitting the start of the Coastal Track at 1305h (62.6km). From here the walk was straight forward as I had walked this stretch many times before. I came across many tourist on what I presumed were day walks and made good progress, only leaving the track descending from Marley Head, all the way to Wattamolla at 1450h. It was here that I waited nearly 50mins in the shade of a low hanging tree for my Dad to arrive. After he turned up, headed off though the car park and onto the Coastal Track once again. I once again made good pace with my Dad’s fresh legs keeping me from lagging behind, and we only stopped shortly at Curracurrong for a few photos of the Falls and Eagle Rock. We then made our way along the cliff-top to where we descended the worn and eroded steps leading down to the Northern end of Garie Beach at 1710h.

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Looking South down the coast

After walking for quite some time, the stretch along the sand was quite draining, made worse by the fact that the sand had been aerated and each step sunk into the ground. We eventually crossed it and unfortuatly due to the high tide and large seas, we were forced to head up and over instead of around, Little Garie Point, Thelma Head and Mid Ear Point, stopping briefly at each top, before continuing through the South Era Community and up Semi Detached Point to the Burgh Ridge. It was here that we spotted a small Echidna, the first that I have seen in the RNP.

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An Echidna

It was only a short time that I put on my head torch for the second time in the trip at 1815h, as the sun disappeared. We then followed the Garawarra Ridge Fire Trail after reaching the Farm and it was this leg that was probably the slowest of the trip. We eventually rejoined the trail of the Coastal Track and finally made it down to Lady Wakehurst Drive. After stopping briefly, we set off down the steep road to Otford Train Station, eventually reaching the platform at 1942h, one day and 26mins after leaving the same spot, a reasonable 86km journey later.

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The End

All in all, I am pretty stoked with what I had completed. It may not have been a 100km in length as an extra loop or two was left out, and it wasn’t within the 24 hour time period I had set out to achieve it in. Saying that, I did waste some time at Bundeena and then again a fair bit at Wattamolla.

I believe that starting just after dark was a big advantage as you are able to walk the most tiring section during the day, when you feel less like going to sleep. It would have been better however to start after sleeping during the day, as opposed to waking up at 0630h like I had. This would have avoided being awake for over 38 hours at the finish! I also believe that I had carried too much weight for the walk. My pack weighted nearly 12 kg and this was mainly due to carrying an excess of food and water, something that I will reduce in future walks. Another thing I will be mindful for future overnight walks is the moon phase. Unfortunately for my walk, there was no moon and this meant that it was quite dark during the night, require the constant use of head torches. Back on the food front, I found the chocolate and honey covered nut bars I had bought were quite enjoyable and I consumed one roughly every hour. Violet Crumble Cubes were also quite good and gave me a nice boost when I needed it. Finally, the burger I had at Bundeena was great, and I will keep take away in mind, as odd is it may sound, when walking through built up areas as it saves weight and it very nourishing.

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