Day 16: Watagan Creek to Congewai Valley

With Allan Savins once again providing the car shuffle for me, I was back underway just after 10 am on a mild and partly overcast day, ideal conditions for walking.

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From the Watagan Creek trackhead, it was a short walk back along the road before heading down across farmland to the civilised creek crossing.

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Following the fence line, there was soon a stile to cross.

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The cattle seemed undisturbed by my intrusion into their domain.

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They left some hazards for barefoot hikers though.

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After one more stile it was out of the farm and into the forest.

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The track quickly began climbing up towards the top of the ridge, with many switchbacks and steps.

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Part way up I came upon an impressive grove of grass trees.

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Eventually it reached the turning circle at the end of a fire trail along the ridge, where I decided to stop for some refueling alongside a termite mound. Just as well I’m not made of wood!

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A bit further along I came to the Walkers’ Rest Area, but I was eager to reach my lunch spot at Flat Rock Lookout so didn’t stop for any more rest. At least resting walkers have a supply of water here, assuming of course there’s been recent rain.

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At Flat Rock Lookout the view opened up to the east across the Congewai Valley.

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Looking carefully, I was able to spot my car sitting alongside the road way down there. It was only 3km away as the crow flies, but I still had another 12 or 13 kilometres of walking ahead of me to reach it. Oh to be a crow!

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The views photographed, it was time for some lunch. No fish and chips here, so I had to settle for the hard boiled eggs and salad I’d brought along.

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Shortly past the lookout is a geocache, so time to break out the GPS receiver and go hunting for the quick find, which included a blue Smurf guardian.

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From the lookout, the track undulated north along the ridge top following a narrow spur.

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Another three kilometres on I reached a communications tower.

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Here was the end of the Great North Walk’s traverse of the ridge top, with the four kilometre descent into the valley immediately ahead.

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Near here was also another geocache.

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The cache found and logged, the steep downhill trek began.

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The track headed down and around an impressive rocky outcrop.

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From there it followed a narrow ledge as it made its way down the side of a spur.

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Once at the bottom, it was back into the farmland, cattle, flies and stiles.

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After following a fence line across private farmland, it joined Eglinford Lane which leads up to the Lonely Goat Olives bed-and-breakfast. At one time I’d considered making a stopover there, but its placement made it too close to the Watagan Creek and Congewai Valley trackheads and too far from the next one along at the Watagan HQ campsite.

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Turning my back on the lonely goats and their olives, in due course I reached the Congewai Road West trackhead, but this wasn’t the end of my journey.

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My car was at the Congewai Road East trackhead, a further five kilometres along the road, so, with my soles starting to become a bit tenderised by the gritty surface, it was onward into the valley.

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This was surprisingly the toughest part of the walk, with a strong headwind at times, lots of flies and, with the cloud having mostly cleared, hot sunshine. At one spot a couple of farmers repairing a fence offered to give me a lift but, as tempting as their offer was, I still had enough stamina left to graciously decline.

Some roads might go ever on and on, but thankfully this one didn’t and I eventually reached Crawfords Bridge over Congewai Creek.

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From the top of the rise just the other side, I saw my car waiting patiently for me a few hundred metres ahead, with the towering cliffs of the Dutchman’s Stern (home of a challenge geocache I completed a couple of months back) on the left.

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With my energy almost spent, I reached the Congewai Road East trackhead, the end of the day’s journey.

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From here, the next leg of my walk heads up onto the ridge north of the Dutchman’s Stern before turning east towards the Watagan HQ campsite, Heaton Gap, Teralba and, in just 71 kilometres now, Newcastle!

My thanks again go to my roadie Allan Savins for his help with the car shuffle, and to his wife Jude for letting me borrow him. Only three more legs and I’ll be back to having public transport access for the remainder of my journey.

Coming up next: Congewai Valley to the Watagan HQ Campsite.

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