” This is a strenuous walk with difficult rock scrambling, large boulders to negotiate and very steep slippery ascents and descents. From the car park at the end of the road to Bungonia National Park we will walk on the White Track over Mt Ayre and steeply down 450 m to the Shoalhaven River for morning tea and possible swim. From here we follow Bungonia Creek up to Troy Walls and the entrance to the slot canyon, Bungonia Gorge. Getting through the canyon requires scrambling/climbing/crawling through large boulders. We continue through Bungonia Gorge to Breton Creek, also known as the Efflux, where we have lunch. The route out from here is a 300 m climb, steep and slippery in places. Partly on track. Distance of 11 km and total climb of 600 m. ” .
Well, it all went according to plan!
April 25th 2018 and 9 happy bushwalkers left Canberra at 7.30 am. bound for Bungonia Gorge, to the south-east of and near the city of Goulburn, a 1 ½ hour journey away. Our leader was the well-known Philip G.
I have done this walk in both directions several times in the past and had no illusions about the steepness of the routes down into the gorge and out again, nor about how hot those routes can be. Heat exhaustion is a very real possibility. Thankfully, today was not too hot, but on a previous walk, coming back up the White Track, a member of the party had collapsed.
Once at the car park it took a few minutes for everyone to get themselves sorted out before wandering over to the lookouts, one of which juts out over the edge of the cliffs. It was quite a hazy day, but even so the views were fantastic.
Looking across Bungonia Creek, just down from the slot canyon, to the Shoalhaven River.
Bungonia Creek from just downstream from the slot canyon to its confluence with the Shoalhaven River
From the lookout which cantilevers over the gorge. The downstream end of the slot canyon can be seen immediately to the left of the green foreground trees with white trunk and branches as a dark shadow which is the cliffs on the far side of the slot.
On our way across to Mt Ayre before the descent to the Shoalhaven River
Soon we were wending our way down the White Track to the Shoalhaven River 450m or so below. This track is long, steep and loose underfoot, so care has to be taken. On the way down we overtook a bunch of Sydney bushwalkers up for the day.
The view from the side of Mt Ayre to the Shoalhaven
Overlooking confluence of Bungonia Creek and Shoalhaven River
On the way down we also had views up the Shoalhaven River to the site of the old Tolwong Mine, one of whose chimneys was clearly visible. Mike had taken us to the old mine site only a few weeks ago.
The Shoalhaven river, looking upstream from Mt Ayre, to the site of the old Tolwong Mine. One of the 3 remaining chimneys can be seen from here (see next photo) The route down there follows the distant right hand ridge
One of the chimneys can be seen in the centre of this photo as a short, pale, vertical line
The White Track took us down to the confluence of Bungonia Creek and the Shoalhaven where we stopped for morning tea. After our break we commenced our walk up Bungonia Creek, making our way up to the slot canyon and the red rock Troy Walls, haunt of rock climbers . The rocks and cliffs here are limestone. A stranger, solo walker, tagged himself onto the end of our group, perhaps unsure of his way, especially through the trackless maze of massive boulders in the lower half of the slot canyon. Before the slot canyon was reached we passed the junction of the Red Track from the top , which gives a circular walk, shorter than ours. We would use the top section of the Red Track to exit the gorge.
The Shoalhaven. Bungonia Creek enters just down on the left side of the river. At this point we are walking along a narrow dyke, with the Shoalhaven on our right and Bungonia Ck below us on the left. The creek curves around this dyke to enter the Shoalhaven
Lovely Casuarina trees line the Shoalhaven here at its confluence with Bungonia Ck.
On Bungonia Creek where it flows into the Shoalhaven in the distance. Morning tea spot
Leaving morning tea spot on Bungonia Creek
Walking up Bungonia Ck. Note the white rectangle left of centre on the skyline rocks, as the cantilevered lookout is directly over it
The mouth of the slot canyon is seen in this photo, with the Troy walls opposite the mouth and in the canyon itself (mainly the orange coloured rock)
the position of the lookout on the top of the cliffs is clearly shown by that white rectangle, left of centre on the skyline.
Bungonia Creek not far from the slot
about to enter the slot. Troy Walls on the left
It is always fun going through the 200-300 m of the incredible jumble of massive boulders. I have done this walk about 4-5 times now and I don’t think I have ever taken the same route through the boulders. There are no markers or trail signs or path. I hope that it will always be like this. Getting through though is always a challenge with a little uncertainty involved. Sometimes one goes up over boulders, sometimes through tunnels and cracks. Sometimes one goes over the top of a boulder only to have to slide down on the other side into a hole, but the question then is whether there is a way forward and if not can one get back out. My heart is always a little in my mouth on rock scrambles led by Philip as he and his wife can stick on vertical smooth rock which I , even with my previous rock climbing experience, can’t hope to emulate.
Threading a way through. Note the 2 figures
A tight squeeze
Well, Philip led us with his usual skill through this maze, although I think this was probably the hardest crossing I had ever made, but perhaps the most fun. Mind you, past crossings were never easy. On our way through we met a most pleasant Canberra couple coming the other way right at quite a difficult spot which took our party of 9 some time to negotiate. But they were most patient and very helpful in safeguarding us as we came sliding down the boulder into the hole.
All too soon we had left the fun behind us and were walking along the flat floor of the remainder of the slot canyon with the sun shining on the cliffs beyond.
The end of the huge boulders
Approaching the upstream end of the slot canyon
looking through the end of the slot to the gorge beyond, which gives a good idea of the bottom part of the Red Track exit from the gorge
At the point where the Red Track leaves the canyon to climb back onto the tops we stopped in the shade for lunch . A most delightful and relaxing spot.
Lunch spot opposite the Red Track climb from the gorge. The opening into the slot canyon in the background
The Red Track out of the gorge is shorter than our route down along the White Track but much steeper and looser and in the lower sections involves some easy rock scrambling. Once out of the rain forest the upper section facing the sun is very hot and although not as steep is very loose.
A gendarme on the top of a buttress beside the Red Track
Ascending the Red Track
On the way up we were overtaken by a group of 17 young people, mostly young Asian women, all of whom seemed in high spirits.
All too soon we were back at the cars and the end of great day, well led as usual by Philip.