20th 21st June 2015
I’d read that the Zig Zag Railway had been burnt down during the October 2013 bush fires that ravished the area, well image my surprise when I pulled up early Saturday morning to find that wasn’t the case, the top station at Clarence is intact complete with an open loo block; what was destroyed was the depot shed, offices, storage area along with some of the rolling stock, let’s hope there’s a future for this great little railway.
Ten trucks braved the cold on that Saturday morning all keen to explore the Newnes Plateau. Lachy led us through some fun tracks on the way to the Lost City, I don’t know why it’s called that because I know of at least three ways to get to it, if you haven’t been to this particular Lost City it’s an interesting valley of Pagoda shaped layers of Ironstone and Hawkesbury sandstone formations, we had morning tea here and the kids scrambled over the rocks.
We headed out towards the Glow Worm tunnels along a route I’d never been along, Lachy had found the original train line from Clarence to Newnes and we followed that through some of the old railway workings and buildings, there were numerous suggestions as to what one particular large round clearing could of been, I think most of us assumed it was where the Locos were turned around, Tony says not, he’s from a railroad family so maybe not. I did a little research when I got home and the complete line with all workings, two tunnels, everything from Clarence to Newnes took just over twelve months to build, I think the country could do with engineers like Henry Deane who built this marvel today.
At the Glow Worm tunnel car park we had a quick lunch before the walk down to the tunnel itself; it was the usual “Shush, Quiet, turn that torch off” while we waited for the Glow Worms or rather our eyes to adjust. The wait is worth it when the magic happens; nature turns on this grand display, first the roof then gradually the walls start sparkling like the Milky Way, thousands of little blue lights. If you have the patience and time you can walk out guided only by the glow these larvae produce, apparently they are the larvae of the fungus gnat.
Now as the crow flies Newnes is probably ten kilometres from the Glow Worm tunnel car park, by road it’s eighty three and all but twenty of them are on pretty ordinary dirt roads, I think poor Diedrie and her Suzuki Jimny with its smaller wheels felt every bump and hole, don’t worry about the little Zook it’s time will come. Two hours later after dodging all the mud holes on Black Fellows Hand Track, and how many of them were there; we roll into camp at Newnes. No word of a lie this camp ground at Newnes has to be in the top five in Australia, it sits at the end of the beautiful Wolgan Valley in a spectacular amphitheatre of sandstone cliffs, there’s plenty of room and basic facilities plus it’s full of history, well worth a weekend in itself. Everyone had bought a bag of wood which is pretty mandatory on trips now and we had a big warm fire for the cold evening, along with a couple glasses of Jackie’s witches brew, very warming.
Sunday; brrrrr!! Yes there was a frost, and a couple of trucks needed coaxing into life but we were in no hurry, Lachy gave us time to explore the shale mine ruins and have a leisurely pack up and a big cooked breakfast, I knew what the day had in store we’d need it. As the sun came over the top of the escarpment we pulled out of camp and cruised up the tarmac (bliss) to the junction of Black Fellows hand Track, we drove about a kilometre back in and had morning tea and an explore of the rock art, Lachy also had everyone air down some more for the next track.
Back at the main road we turned right then immediately left, although it’s not sign posted most people would probably call this Baal Bone Gap Track, we negotiated the major mud hole and the trucks playing in it (why?) and started the climb to the plateau. The climb is basically sandstone and a bit of a scrabble in parts, at the half way point there is a big rock shelf and a steep climb so we got out of our trucks and had a good look, I could see by the look on a few faces this was a bit more than some had driven before, so we discussed plans and lines to drive and our trusty leader Lachy drove it first to show the way, everyone then drove the climb successfully and I’d say Diedrie and the Jimny got the biggest cheer, Woohoo! Way to go Diedrie. The views along the top of this escarpment it would be fair to say are nothing less than awesome; we had lunch at a spot with views down the Wolgan Valley towards Newnes where we’d camped the previous evening, spectacular. What goes up has to come down, and the climb down from the plateau was every bit as daunting as the climb up, this time there was a huge slab of rock to drive down with a step off the bottom, once again we looked and chose a line, Lachy drove it then we all followed his line, it’s a good job most of us have tow bars, they save the back end of your truck big time. From here it was an easy fifteen kilometres to the end of the track at Ben Bullen.
A huge thank you to Lachy for putting this trip on, it was his first club trip and he pulled it off with aplomb, more please Lachy. I don’t know how many favours Lachy pulled in or with who but we had wild life galore along the Wolgan Road including a mother Wombat taking her baby out for a stroll who stopped so we could all get a photo, very cute. It’s also great to see so many newer members getting out on trips.