Thursday, April 12, 2018

Murray Gap to Honeysuckle Creek, AAWT, Namadgi National Park - December 2017

Sunrise at Murray Gap was pretty nice this morning.
I’d arranged for Sam to pick me up over at Honeysuckle Creek Campsite at 4 pm this afternoon so I had to get a shuffle on this morning, there was still around 30 kilometres and a couple of reasonably sized river valleys to cross before I’d get to Honeysuckle Creek, and then there was the rain. Listening to the weather forecast for Canberra while I was breaking camp and cooking breakfast it appeared that the storms were going to arrive around the middle of the afternoon and then it was meant to rain very solidly for the next two or three days. I didn’t think Sam would have any trouble getting in to pick me up this afternoon, but I was wondering how we’d go getting back out here first thing tomorrow morning after a night of heavy rain for me to walk the last section of the AAWT. I wasn’t keen to head home not finishing the last section now that I was so close to Canberra.
Murray Gap
Anyway that was all in the future as I headed off this morning, my more immediate issue was making sure that I picked up the continuation of Murray Gap Trail on the east side of the gap, being in the Bimberi Wilderness Area there was once again no track markers or sign posting and the track was pretty faint across the grassy tops of Murrays Gap. Once across the gap and into the forest though the old fire track was easily followable as it dropped, sometimes very steeply down towards Yaouk Trail and the Cotter River. I was now well and truly through the high alpine plains that I’d been walking across for days and the scrubby dry forest was a little claustrophobic on this warm humid morning, not that it mattered to me too much today, the day was all about making kilometres now.
The AAWT is pretty faint as it leaves Murray Gap.
Once in the tree line things were obvious though.
Although it was steep in spots, you'd be hard pressed to tell that from my photo though!
Hitting Yaouk Trail I kicked it into second gear and set off along the fairly level track towards Cotter Hut, crossing the cascading Bimberi Creek along the way. Arriving at the locked Cotter Hut (it’s a ranger outstation) the route ahead on the AAWT was a little vague for awhile, I had to climb a gate to enter the fenced off hut compound, cross the lawn in front of the hut (all the time thinking that I should be feeling guilty for trespassing) and then climb another gate to resume my walk along Yaouk Trail. Once back on the track again I took another track heading down towards the Cotter River, this was the first of two rivers that I’d cross today that had been concerning me with all the predicted rain on the way.
Yaouk Trail
Bimberi Creek, if I had a little more time this would of been a nice spa bath.
Cotter Hut
Heading for the Cotter River.
Arriving at the Cotter River this morning the ford didn’t look like it was going to present too many difficulties, after watching one of the local macropods ford the river it looked positively easy, although when you can hop around 3 or 4 metres at a go anything would look easy I suppose! Being not quite as agile as the fully grown kangaroo, (hard to believe I know!) I was looking for an easier option and thankfully I found one in the form of a half submerged log. Hey, hey, one river crossing down and one to go. Leaving the river I once again had to keep a close eye on the map as the old track crossed the open grassy river flats, but after a bit of zigging and zagging the old fire trail that is Cotter Gap Track (it appears that the Parks people in the ACT have a bob each way when it comes the old chestnut of track versus trail) started to climb and things were again pretty obvious.
Now this is the way to get across the Cotter River
Yeah, right. That didn't look too hard.
The Cotter River.
Climbing up Cotter Gap Track initially I got a couple of views back down to the kangaroos, grazing peacefully now, down on the green grassy river flats, before my valley started to close in a bit on me. I was now climbing up to Cotter Gap and even though I had a bit over 300 metres to climb it was all pretty cruisey really, no doubt the fact that the climb was spread over around 7 kilometres helped. After initially following a fairly easily distinguishable fire track the AAWT slowly deteriorated to more of your typical bushwalking track, still being in the Bimberi Wilderness Area there are no AAWT markers along here but the going is always pretty obvious (well it was when I went through). The easy climb is punctuated by a few grassy little openings that inevitably had a small creek flowing through them, Pond Creek Flats with Pond Creek flowing across it was probably the biggest and maybe the boggiest. Apart from the occasional creek the other interesting feature on this climb was the huge granite boulders and rocky tors scattered around the hills.
Cotter Gap Track
Pond Creek
There's plenty of big rocks around, always a good thing.

Cotter Gap is actually a bit of a non event as the forested gap is pretty hard to pick until you're past it really, it was only when the AAWT started descending in earnest that I was sure that I’d actually gone over the gap, hey I suppose I could of pulled out the GPS but where’s the fun in that? I was getting pretty hot by now, the day was getting fairly warm and unsettled so dropping off Cotter Gap I was pretty happy to find a bit of water in Sawpit Creek and to stop for awhile and have a drink. After checking the grass to make sure that I wasn’t going to sit on a snake (which would of put a dampener on my day) I kicked back using my pack as a backrest, my days of slowly ambling my way north were coming an end and it was nice to just relax for a few minutes and take everything in. Not only was I keeping a close eye on the overhead conditions today but I was also keeping an eye on the time as I was conscious that I had a rendezvous planned with Sam at 4pm. With the exception of the day Sam had picked me up at Smiggin Holes I hadn’t walked with any real time constraints since leaving Walhalla, still I was enjoying pushing myself a bit today.
Approaching Cotter Gap things got a bit boggy.
Sawpit Creek, time for smoko.
Arriving at Cotter Hut Road I was now out of the wilderness area so once again I had a few AAWT markers to help with navigation.
Emerging from the scrub onto the gravel Cotter Hut Road I started the long gentle descent down to the Orroral River. Apart from being a bit hard on my tired feet, Cotter Hut Road was very easy walking, although maybe because my feet were aching from the hard surface, but it seemed to take me forever to get down to the river valley. Like the Cotter River, the Orroral River snakes it’s way down the valley though a wide grassy plain and like the Cotter River the Orroral River flats are home a huge number of kangaroos. Leaving the hard surface of Cotter Hut Road the AAWT picked up a very old grassy fire track that meandered its way towards Link Track across these river flats. This old track was fairly indistinct in spots, although with the river below me and Cotter Hut Road above me just inside the tree line, I was hardly going to get lost.
Cotter Hut Road, easy to walk but hard on tender feet.
I look like I'm ready for a shower and a shave :)
The Orroral River flats make for very nice strolling.
Once again the locals were keeping a close eye on me.
There are a few remains of it's time as a grazing area (the historic Orroral Homestead is around a 1.5 kilometre side trip if you want to check it out).
Meeting up with Link Track I dropped down to cross the Orroral River, taking a photo of the last snake of the walk on the way down to the river. After dropping my pack on the bridge over the Orroral River I filled my water bottles from the slow moving water, looking around the looming black clouds confirmed that the storms that I’d been racing were pretty well running on time. I still had around 8 kilometres and two hours to go before I’d meet Sam over at Honeysuckle Creek, although the 350 metres climb was probably of more relevance this afternoon. Whatever way I measured it though I was now pretty sure that I wasn’t going to beat the weather. Safely over my last river though, a bit of heavy rain wasn’t going to worry me now. Grabbing my pack I set off on the last big climb on the AAWT.
Two hours to go, I'm thinking that I'm going to be getting wet!
The grassy pad along the river flats was a bit faint.....until I stumbled upon this 100 metre long board walk in the middle of nowhere.
That's Link Track behind the roos.
My last snake sighting on the AAWT, at least this guy was only a baby.
Dropping down Link Track to cross the Orroral River.
The climb up Link Track was not that bad in hindsight, as the track gained height the views through the open forest got more expansive and the occasional rocky outcrop added interest as well. Around 45 minutes after leaving the river Link Track levelled off and the walking once again got pretty easy, although with the rain imminent I wasn’t lingering along here. Five minutes before I arrived at Orroral Ridge Road the storms hit, away went the DSLR (not to be used again on the AAWT) and on went the gortex jacket, at least I’d more or less finished climbing for the day so I wasn’t sweating up a storm inside my jacket.
The Orroral River.
Climbing Link Track, at least the view improved as I climbed.
Link Track

Slipping and sliding I dropped down Orroral Ridge Road towards Honeysuckle Creek, my world now largely being confined to the narrow field of vision out of my storm hood. Now you might think that this was a bit of a downer but in reality my mood was sky high, I’d finished the last big climb and it looked like whatever the weather had in store for me tomorrow I should be still able to complete the AAWT, best of all though I was meeting up with Sam down the road. After climbing in and out a few side gullies I crossed Honeysuckle Creek and wandered into the expansive camp ground, happy to see that even though I was thirty minutes early Sam was there with the ute waiting for me. After changing out of my wet, muddy and smelly clothes we jumped into the ute and splashed our way down to Canberra for a nice comfortable night in town, although I was already wondering how I was going to pull on all the wet weather gear again early tomorrow morning to finish off the AAWT.
Link Track levels off a bit near the top.
Hmmm
The rain is just starting, this is the last of the AAWT photos with the DSLR unfortunately.

The Dirt.
I walked 31 kilometres and climbed 875 metres on another hard day on the AAWT. Over the course of my 38 days walking the AAWT I’ve walked 717 kilometres and climbed 28,145 metres. Camping today is only allowed east of Cotter Gap unless you have a permit to camp in the Cotter Catchment. The best spots to camp are probably on the grassy flats near the Orroral River and Honeysuckle Creek. There was plenty of water around when I went through but it looks like most of the creeks would dry up by late summer, the two rivers should always have water though. Navigation wasn’t too bad, although on both the river flats things can get a little vague. Cotter Gap Track is more of your typical bushwalking pad but it’s easy enough to follow. I didn’t try my phone today so can’t say with any certainty whether there is a signal or not, I suspect that there would be one from Orroral Ridge…maybe. I was using Mr Chapman’s notes and map as well as Rooftop’s Namadgi-ACT South Activities Map.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.
Yankee Hut, Namadgi National Park, 2016.

Dropping down Orroral Ridge Road towards Honeysuckle Creek in the rain.
Have I mentioned that I'm partial to big rocks.

Conditions were a bit slippery as I made my way down Orroral Ridge Road in the rain.

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