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Monday, April 9, 2012

From Yerranderie into the Blue Breaks

The Blue Breaks have for a while held a kind of talismanic charm for  us. They are the southern parts of the Greater Blue Mountains, well to the south even of the Kanagara Walls. We have only glimpsed them in photographs on David Noble's web site! It takes almost seven hours from Sydney to drive to the best access points, so I suppose we have always walked further afield when we thought we had that driving time to spare.

The closest access is from Yerranderie; a former mining town deep in the mountains. There was once a road there from Sydney, but the building of the Burragorang Dam flooded the road in 1959, necessitating the seven hour drive and turning it into a ghost town.

We hatched a plan to combine a walk to Laceys Tabeland from Yerranderie, with a bush retreat for some overseas visitors to the institution at which most of us work.

The drive in is via Oberon, where there is an amazing Art Deco civic hall in the main street:

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From Oberon it's a bit more than two hours to Yerranderie. The road runs through commercial forestry, and past the Mt Werong Correctional Centre, before reaching the edge of the National Park and the 60km dirt road toYerranderie. We arrived in time for dinner and sleep, and headed out the next day.

Here is the house we rented in Yerranderie, named for the Gallipoli veteran who originally lived there:

Next morming, after a bit of messing around, we walked down to the Tonalli River along the Sawmill Management Trail, headed for Pulpit Rock, a prominent feature which juts out from the cliffline about 500m above the river. There was a snake on the track, presumably the Red-bellied Blacksnake, intrepidly snapped here by Sara:

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Following the management track to Burragorang 484230 we found what looks like an abandoned road or a firebreak, not marked on the map, which runs out at around 47952450, almost on the ridge which leads directly to the Pulpit Rock and the Tonalli Pass. Assisted by this unexpected bit of luck it wasn't long before we were under Pulpit Rock, where we had lunch:

We then turned left along the edge of Pulpit rock to find the extraordinarily easy pass up on to the tableland. At this point we had to find water so we headed to the swamp at the head of Laceys Creek, which was a lovely stroll off track through dry Eucalyptus woodland. We found the swamp and pumped water, at which point we realised that probably the only place with nice views we could reach by dark for camping was back at the Tonalli Pass. So there we headed, to be rewarded by views of the wonderful walls of the Tableland and the Burragorang Dam.
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There is a nice saddle between the cliffline and Pulpit rock with soft ground for pitching tents, and some overhangs along the Rock itself that would provide good shelter in wet weather. This evening, however, it was warm and windless with a full moon promised, so we set up camp on  a rock platform at the top of the cliffs, staking the tents with rocks, and in one case just rolling out a bivvy. We had beautiful sunset views of the Axehead range, and during the night the whole valley lit up by moonlight.

The next morning Paul and Sara (a visiting Dane rightly recommended to us as a walking companion by Lise Marie, the intrepid Danish walker readers of this blog will have heard of before) made for the top of Pulpit Rock. Here they are seen from the cliffline:

After following our tracks back to the Tonalli River we stopped for a rest and to cool down: it was unseasonably warm, as well as dry, which makes it the first dry Easter walk we've had for years. Here's Paul after a swim in the river:

A brisk road bash got us back to Yerranderie in time for lunch. As dusk approached we thought a quick trip up Yerranderie Peak might be nice as it cooled down and the light got  better. We went up with some of the visitors who were having a bush break, including their ten year old daughter. Not all of them made it up as the light was fading, but when we reached the summit we found we had the young lady's bubble maker in one of the backpacks, so here's Sara blowing bubbles on the Peak:

And here she is looking over at the view which shows you the Tonalli Range, Axhead Mountain and the range that goes right over to where we had walked earlier that day. The yellow area immediately below her is tailings from the old silver mine.

The following morning we were amazed by the huge goanna wandering around the camp, mostly oblivious to humans but occasionally scuttling up a tree and relying on camouflage if worried:

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But basically we didn't do much until late afternoon, when we turned out attention to Axehead Mountain. This is easily accessible from Yerranderie along the Scotts Main Range Trail, from where there is a rough track up to the top and along the mountain. Here are three of us on Gander Head, looking back to Yerranderie Peak:

Finally in the morning we said farewell to Yerranderie: here's the peak over the ghost town at first light. The facilities at the old town are excellent, whether renting a  house or camping, and the NPWS staff are friendly and helpful - it's a good base for day walks to peaks with views, and has excellent wildlife. The Spotted Quail-thrush seems to be abundant around here.

But we will be back; as we left we formed a plan to walk into the Blue Breaks from the Kanagara Walls, which will be an expedition to really look forward to!

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