Bungonia Gorge, Bungonia National Park
Bungonia NP lies 140 km north-east of Canberra and 35 km east of Goulburn, NSW and is on the edge of the Southern Tablelands.
I have hiked Bungonia Gorge several times in the past, always in a clockwise direction, going down on the Red Track and exiting up the White Track and over Mt Ayre. This time we walked it in the opposite direction which I think is the better way to go, especially if it is hot, as this direction gives more shade and the exit up the Red Track is much shorter than the White Track. However, even on a mild day going down or coming up on either of those tracks is hot work with the sun beating down on one and the heat reflecting back at one off the track. The previous time I did this walk one of our number collapsed from dehydration and heat exhaustion more or less at the bottom of the ascent up the White Track.
We left Canberra at 8.00 a.m. and commenced walking at about 10 am. From Mt Ayre, which is only a few minutes from the car park, the views are splendid, looking down over Bungonia Creek to its confluence with the Shoalhaven River and its gorge as it flows northwards. There are also splendid views upstream along the Shoalhaven River.
From Mt Ayre we descended some 450 metres to the junction of Bungonia Creek and the Shoalhaven. This descent is steep and very loose and is a track to be avoided when it is hot. Great care must be taken in descending the track.
Eventually one reaches the confluence of Bungonia Creek and the Shoalhaven. This is a lovely spot, with a very nice beach lined with Casuarina Trees. It is a great spot for a swim. Here we stopped for morning tea.
After tea we commenced the walk up Bungonia Creek towards the slot canyon which offers a lot of fun. Initially we walked up the boulders and slabs of the creek itself, but then found a faint foot pad on the true left bank of the creek At the slot the cliffs on each side are high and very close together. The slot canyon is filled with huge boulders, piled on top of each other. There is no track or marked trail through the slot, and one has to find a way, sometimes squeezing through narrow openings and tunnels in amongst the boulders, at other times having to scramble up and over. It is a matter of finding your own way through. Great fun.
Before coming to the narrow slot we intersected the Red Trail from the car park up on the Tablelands.
On the way through the slot we came across a fairly large party from the Shoalhaven Bushwalking Club coming down in the opposite direction. Also, as we were passing through the slot we spied two rock climbers high above us on the orange cliffs on our left, one of whom appeared to be upside down at one point as he negotiated the ceiling of an overhang.
Eventually we passed beyond the piled boulders and walked along a completely level “beach” just before coming to the spot where the Red Track takes one out of the gorge. At this spot , sitting in the shade of semi rain forest, we had our lunch. Here we also saw a couple of Lyre Birds which were not overly concerned by our presence.
After lunch we ascended the very steep and rough foot track of the Red Track back to the cars. This was a hot climb in full sun.
View from “the Diving Board” lookout, looking down to the downstream end of the slot canyon
A most enjoyable day.
(note, one or two of these photos were taken on a previous trip)