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Katoomba to Mittagong (Yerranderie)

Easter 1998

The short version is: I strained an ankle and had to pull out at Yerranderie, half way through a planned 5 or 6 day walk from Katoomba to Mittagong.

I caught the 5pm train from Central on Thursday. Several hundred pages of _Rumpole of the Bailey_ (First Omnibus, a battered copy picked up secondhand and intended to be disposable) kept me entertained during the trip. Arriving at Katoomba at about 7, I found it extremely misty and slightly damp, and as I walked my way through the fog to the motel we were to stay in I imagined myself as a character in a murder mystery. Surely no one wandering the streets in the darkness, on foot, could be up to any good? Or perhaps I was the victim, and my enquiry at the pub as to the route to the motel would be the last sighting of me. (It was not, of course, Rumpole which induced these thoughts: more likely my previous reading, the latest Barbara Vine and Ruth Rendell novels.)

Vic and Val and Chris had already arrived at the Colonial Motor Inn, having driven from Wollongong. We had an early dinner (eating in the restaraunt attached to the motel), packed our bags, and went to bed early, planning on an early start.

6.50am saw us at the gate on the Narrow Neck, where Val turned around to drive back to Wollongong. The mist was quite dense, and it started drizzling gently as we walked along the tops. There were no views at all, but it was great walking weather and we found ourselves at Medlow Gap at around 10.30. (Taros Ladders, where the descent off the Neck involves some spikes around a rock chimney, provided the most interesting bit - they were new to Chris and Vic, though I'd been up and down them quite a few times.)

Somewhere around here it started to rain more seriously, and by the time we reached the top of White Pup the track down to the Coxs was very slippery. I fell three times, and must have strained my ankle in one of the falls, though I didn't notice it at the time. The Coxs, which we had worried about crossing, was only a couple of metres wide at this point and we could almost have jumped across it! By now the rain was quite torrential (apparently parts of Sydney were having 8 inches dumped on them; we received less than one) and the climb up Mount Cookem was like ascending a river, so much water was flowing down the track.

From the top it was a long and fairly miserably wet 10km along Scott's Main Range to New Yards, where we found a large contingent of people at the bush Church and huts there, owned by the Catholic Bushwalking Club. Once we had the tent flies up and the stoves going for a cup of hot soup (and once the rain stopped!), we felt much better. Having put everything inside my pack into a garbage bag (in preparation for the Coxs crossing!) my gear was mostly dry, but Vic and Chris both had to face slightly damp sleeping bags. But there was only minor rain during the night, and things began to dry out.

Saturday was long but uneventful. I limped the 28km to the Tonalli River quite happily but rather slowly - we left at 7.30am and I didn't arrive till 6.30pm, so I must have been doing about 2.8km an hour. The weather was perfect -- no rain, but overcast and pleasant walking temperature all day. I arrived after dark to find a pleasant fire already going, on a great campsite by the Tonalli.

The following morning I decided I wasn't going to make it to Mittagong, so when we got going at around 7.30 the others set off on the long haul to Beloon Pass and Vineyard Flat, while I took the 2km up to Yerranderie at a leisurely pace. I arrived to find a pleasant little "township" -- an open camping ground, an assortment of four-wheel-drives, and a number of buildings. The closest turned out to be the caretaker's hut and John the caretaker was really welcoming. He told me there should be no problem getting a lift out that day (apparently lots of people drive to Yerranderie, spend 10 minutes there, and then drive back -- something he and I both considered extraordinary, given that Yerranderie is about 4 hours drive from Katoomba). He provided me with reading material (Jim Barrett's booklet about Yerranderie) and a cup of tea and I sat on the verandah watching the world go by: Yerranderie Peak above, a clear sky and people cooking breakfast around their tents.

After a while he brought out a baby wombat and gave it a bath, then suggested I might want to hold it for a while. So Harry the wombat curled up on my lap and slept for the next few hours. Harry was 8 months old, and had been with them since an infant, when he was injured in a fight with another wombat. There was also a *huge* goanna locked up in a shed out the back, with an injured foot. It was a real mean looking critter and my first thought was "how did that manage to get here from Komodo?" [ I also spent some time watching John's two daughters -- 3 and 4 perhaps? -- and reading them stories. I think having a wombat would be a lot less trouble! ]

Yerranderie is an old mining town, abandoned in the thirties. It and its associated mine workings stretch over a wide area, but I only really saw the old "Private Town", spending the middle part of the day visiting the museum and some of the restored houses. I decided I would have to come back and stay there for a week sometime, since in addition to all the historical sites there is great walking country all around.

Around lunch we found out that one of the permanent residents had been bitten by something and needed to get to the hospital in Camden, and that his wife was going to drive him out through the Waterboard catchment area. This is normally locked, so they had to get the Camden police to come down and open the gates on the other side. Anyway, they took me along with them, so I got to see parts of the Burragorang valley which I would never otherwise have been able to (not legally, anyway), and I avoided the long drive back through Oberon to Mt Victoria. As an added bonus, the woman's family had lived in the area since 1830 (they used to own most of what is now the Wollondilly arm of the lake) and she told me all about its history as we drove along.

I was dropped of in Camden, where I grabbed quick bite to eat from a just-closing patisserie, then caught the bus to Cambelltown and the train home, Jim Barret's little book "Narrow Neck and the Birth of Katoomba" providing reading material.

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