BUNGONIA GORGE, NSW, AUSTRALIA

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.

IMG_0587 Bungonia Ck and Shoalhaven

Looking across Bungonia Creek, just down from the slot canyon, to the Shoalhaven River.

IMG_0588 Bungonia Ck

Bungonia Creek  from just downstream from the slot canyon to its confluence with the Shoalhaven River

IMG_0589 Bungonia gorge and beginning of slot canyon or outfall

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.

IMG_0590 Bungonia beginning of White Track down

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.

IMG_0591 bungonia, descending white track

Wending!

IMG_0592 lookout on white track

IMG_0593 Shoalhave R. from lookout on White Track, Bungonia

The view from the side of Mt Ayre to the Shoalhaven

IMG_0594 Shoalhave R. from lookout on White Track, Bungonia

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.

IMG_0595 from Bungonia White Track, looking up shoalhaven River to Tolwong Chimneys

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

IMG_0596 Tolwong chimney from White TRack, Bungonia

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.

IMG_0598 Shoalhaven R. , descending White Track, Bungonia

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

IMG_0599 (2) Shoalhaven R. , descending White Track, Bungonia

Lovely Casuarina trees line the Shoalhaven here at its confluence with Bungonia Ck.

IMG_0600 Bungonia Creek entering Shoalhaven R.

On Bungonia Creek where it flows into the Shoalhaven in the distance.  Morning tea spot

IMG_0601 morning tea at confluence

Leaving morning tea spot on Bungonia Creek

IMG_0603 (2) On Bungonia Ck

Walking up Bungonia Ck.  Note the white rectangle left of centre on the skyline rocks,  as the cantilevered lookout is directly over it

IMG_0605 Bungonia Ck

IMG_0608 (2) Bungonia, Troy Wall, slot canyon, the lookout on skyline, left, over white rectangle

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)

IMG_0604 On Bungonia Ck. Lookout left of centre on skyline

the position of the lookout on the top of the cliffs is clearly shown by that white rectangle, left of centre on the skyline.

IMG_0612 Bungonia Creek, wending our way

IMG_0613 (2) Bungonia Ck

Bungonia Creek not far from the slot

IMG_0614 Bungonia Ck

IMG_0618 Troy Wall and entering slot canyon, Bungonia gorge

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.

IMG_0620 the boulders, slot canyon, Bungonia Gorge

Threading a way through.  Note the 2 figures

IMG_0621 the boulders, slot canyon, Bungonia Gorge

A tight squeeze

IMG_0622 looking up, Slot Canyon, Bungonia gorge

Looking up!

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.

IMG_0623 Slot Canyon, Bungonia Gorge.

The end of the huge boulders

IMG_0624 top end of slot canyon, Bungonia gorge

Approaching the upstream end of the slot canyon

IMG_0625 looking beyond top end of slot canyon, Bungonia Gorge

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.

IMG_0627 lunch at our exit of Gorge up Red Track

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.

IMG_0630 (2) on way out, up Red Track

A gendarme on the top of a buttress beside the Red Track

IMG_0632 on way out, up 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.

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