The Wodi-Wodi Track
Danny Yee, David Watford, Anna Hansen, David See
I had six takers for the walk originally, but Cathy rang up the day before to say she couldn't make it due to an ankle injury. Then Suzanne turned up at the station to tell us that she had ankle problems and wasn't coming. And we hadn't even started walking yet! It looked like being just Dave and I, but a minute before the train departed (8.44) Anna and David turned up, so there were four of us in the end.
Stanwell Park is only an hour from Central (on the South Coast line to Wollongong) and we reached it almost before we noticed.
There was a brief period of quite heavy rain soon after we left the station (and stopped for a quick bite to eat). Walking down to the beach the prospects for the day looked rather gloomy, especially as David and Anna had no rain jackets and just an umbrella between them. But we stopped for a drink in a kiosk and when we finished the rain had lifted; the rest of the day was overcast but dry (with only a hint of fine drizzle once or twice). In fact the weather was almost perfect for walking: perhaps 20 degrees, but with clouds and a stiff breeze keeping it very comfortable.
There were a few hardy surfers and some children on the beach, but the weather had obviously kept most people away. The hang-gliders were out in force, however, using the updraft created by the sea breeze hitting the escarpment. They looked so elegant hovering up there that I decided hang-gliding might be worth trying one day...
At the southern end of the beach we managed to get lost, beating around trying to find the tunnel under the railway line referred to in the book. Eventually we gave up on the track and started walking alongside the railway line; then after some distance we scrambled up the slope to find the track. Dave backtracked to where the track started to find the route we should have taken. (Details are below).
This part of the walk, the main Wodi-Wodi track, follows around just a few hundred metres inland from the railway line. But it's under fairly dense tree cover and, except for the hourly trains and occasional glimpses of the viaduct, feels quite remote.
We took a 250m side trip up to a lookout which gives great views of Stanwell Park, though these are not as dramatic as those along the coast from the beach. This is also the starting point for a cliff-top walk which is planned to go all the way along the escarpment.
Returning to the main track, we followed it down into a small creek (this is not on the map in the book - it's a small tributary of Stanwell Creek). Here the effects of the recent deluge were very marked, with banks cut away and severe erosion. So much so that we had some trouble finding the track on the other side of the creek. I scrambled 30m up an eroded runoff thinking it might be the track, scrabbled around at the top to find the real thing, and returned down it to find myself just 5m from where I had started climbing. The track was actually in good condition, though someone had been systematically removing the signposting - we spotted uprooted posts thrown into the bushes in several places.
Stanwell Creek itself is much bigger. Dave and I rock-hopped 300m downstream to the railway viaduct, which is an impressive brick structure some 70m high. Dave explored the bottom of the pillar in the middle of the creek, found it was sitting on very soft mudstone, and decided he was glad our train didn't have to go over the viaduct on the way back...
Climbing out of Stanwell Creek took us into wetter forest on south-facing slopes. We passed the turn-off for the side-trip to Stanwell Tops and Kelly Falls just before the station, but decided against it (it would have added another 3km or so to the trip). We reached the station just after three and had an hour to wait, since trains only run from Stanwell Park every two hours. Fortunately we found a good second-hand bookshop -- Escarpment Books -- in the small complex of shops near the station. (I bought a copy of Baynham's From the Lower Deck, an account of ordinary seamens' life in the early 19th C British navy.)
And almost before we knew it, we were back in Sydney (around 5pm).
Update: A safer approach is to use the pedestrian tunnel under the rail line, located on Lawrence Hargrave Drive between Stanwell Park and Coalcliff (November 2009 update from a ranger).
With the exception of the beach and road sections of the walk, the track is under fairly solid tree cover, so it would be ok in summer. It might be better to do the walk anti-clockwise then, though, aiming to reach the beach for a swim in the early afternoon.