With the alarm set for an early wake-up, I caught an express service from Woy Woy to Asquith, arriving back where I’d left off on Day 3 at about 7:40.
From there it was a bit of a stroll down the back streets until reaching the beginning of the rifle range diversion at the end of Clarinda Street. Starting down a fire trail for the first few hundred metres, the walking track then diverged to the left, descending rapidly to a waterfall on a side creek.
From there it rejoined the old Great North Walk route at the Steele Bridge, a military construction built to allow fire trucks access to the other side of Berowra Creek.
On the other side, the track followed a wide fire trail as it wound its way first north then south up to the Tunks Ridge rest area. Here I ran into a Frenchman who wanted to know the way to Hornsby – I wonder if he’d walked all the way from Paris.
From there, the track headed out along the ridge until finally making a steep descent to Galston Gorge, including a short climb down an almost vertical rock face.
Crossing the bridge over Berowra Creek was an almost constant stream of traffic, accompanied by an occasional squeal of tyres as some tried to negotiate the hairpin bends a little too quickly.
For GNW hikers though, a more appropriate crossing below the bridge is provided.
Once across, it was encouraging to see the well-made track with only 6.8km to go to Crosslands. I also noted that, by the time I got there, I’d have less than 200km remaining to Newcastle!
Soon I was walking through a delightful forest along a veritable avenue of grass trees, a very slow-growing native plant that’s always fascinated me.
All too soon, though, the track began to climb, ascending to the top of the cliff-line high above the narrow and deep Berowra Creek gorge. For what seemed an age, it was a series of constant ups and downs, and at one point I managed to jar my left ankle, slowing me down even more. Eventually the track descended to Rockyfall Rapids, the tidal limit of the creek where the fresh water merges with the briny.
The rocks here were super-slippery and in trying to find a vantage point for the photo, I toppled over, skinning my hand as well as aggravating my ankle. I was really starting to have second thoughts about this whole Great North Walk nonsense! My spirits lifted, though, as the track began meandering through a broad open forest along the bank of the creek, soon bringing me to my lunch stop at the Crosslands picnic area.
Lunch eaten and a compression bandage applied to my troublesome ankle, I wandered across the freshly-mown grass to the start of the next leg of the day’s hike, beginning with an informative board walk through the wetlands. According to the sign, it was only another 5.2km to Berowra station – I was almost there!
Having previously mentioned the grass trees, I couldn’t help noticing this sign about the various uses their flower stems are put to, even explosives! Sadly though it seems we’re still so puritanical that we have to depict the Aboriginal man in a store-bought pair of shorts.
The wander through the mangroves ended all too soon at Sams Creek, where after going upstream a few hundred metres to a boulder crossing, it was steps, steps and more steps through a series of switchbacks rising from sea level to 130 metres elevation. With the day now quite warm, frequent rest and drink stops were required.
From close to the top there were a few tantalising views to the water left far below.
Eventually I reached the top and the end of today’s journey along the Great North Walk spine. With only 2km now to go up the link track to Berowra station, I was just about ready to declare mission accomplished.
But someone forgot to tell me that the final 2km consisted of even more ups and downs across side gullies, eventually ending in steps galore and even a metal staircase. With a final burst in elevation, I reached Crowley Road, making a short deviation to visit Ross and Sue Mudie before the final stroll through suburbia to the Berowra station track-head.
When I next return, I’ll be retracing my steps along the link track to the main GNW spine from where it’s down to Berowra Waters to sample their fabled fish and chips before making the arduous climb back out to Cowan.
Coming up next: Berowra to Cowan.