Touring the Blue Mountains

Tuesday, Mar 15, 2016 at 22:00

Baz - The Landy

Story and photos: Baz - The Landy


The Blue Mountains is an area familiar to most Australians, after all the story of the first European crossing of the Great Divide by explorer’s Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth in 1813 is well recounted in history texts and hopefully still taught in history classes as part of our school curriculum!

The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area has a number of natural attributes that attract many to this magnificent part of Australia and include spectacular mountain walks, rocky outcrops, deep gorges, canyons and underground caves, and a panoramic view of a wilderness region.

Over the years I have spent plenty of time exploring the area on foot, at times, and at other times on the end of a climbing rope.

Recently we travelled from Sydney into the mountains via the Bells Line of Road, our usual route west, and unlike the crossing that the early explorers’ made in 1813, we did it in the relative comfort of “The Landy” – a modified Toyota Land Cruiser designed for remote area travel.

Our route took us through the small hamlets of Currajong and Bilpin, an apple growing region close-by to Sydney that incidentally produces some very nice apple cider.

Whilst we had an overnight destination in mind, Dingo Dell in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park, the weekend outing was all about the journey!

It had been quite some time since we made the journey to Jenolan Caves, where we commenced this trip, before finishing it at Wombeyan Caves and without doubt the route we took will be familiar to many.

Having walked on many occasions from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves along the Six-Foot Track, a bridle track some 45-kilometres long that is steeped in contemporary Australian history, it was a pleasant alternative letting “The Landy” do all the grunt-work up and down the hills!

Starting at the stately Jenolan Caves House, 170-kilometres from Sydney, our route took us along the Kanangra-Boyd Road towards the Kanangra Walls before dropping down the moderately steep Kowmung River Fire Trail to the Kowmung River.

The Kowmung River is popular with four-wheel drivers and trout fishermen alike and a very pleasant spot to just wile away some time. And whilst only a small crossing it should be respected, especially if there has been rain in the area and it is flowing.

On this trip we didn’t make the short drive to the Kanangra Walls, a long rock formation facing westward that glows radiantly with the setting sun and accessible from the Kanangra Boyd Road.

Despite the weather forecast suggesting some cloud and early showers of rain, the low cloud and mist persisted late into the day and obscuring the sunlight.

As a pilot navigating an aircraft on descent towards Sydney I never failed to marvel at the sight of the Kanangra Walls as they faced off to a setting sun as it slipped below the western horizon – it certainly offered a different perspective on an ancient landscape; but too reminisce…

Our camp for the night was at Dingo Dell camp area which is nestled in a small valley a short 3-kilometre drive from the Kowmung River and preceded by a moderately steep hill climb after you exit the crossing.

This is a pleasant camp that has a long drop toilet and a grassed area behind bollards, but space is somewhat limited and would not be suitable for larger groups. Walk-in camping is also possible from a small car park situated at the Kowmung River crossing, however you need to leave your vehicle in a car park situated about 500-metres from the camp area.

Mind you, it would be a very pleasant place to camp, if you only have a small amount of gear to carry!

And isn’t that the beauty of daylight saving…

We arrived at our camp around 5:30pm and had plenty of time to set up camp, do some exploration of the area before setting a small fire that we could sit and relax around – a pleasant way to spend the evening, especially since the cloud had finally lifted revealing a blue sky, and later in the evening, the Milky Way cutting a swathe across the evening sky…

Wildlife abounds around the camp site and eastern grey kangaroos were frequent visitors during our short-time there and the skies rang out to the haunting cry of the majestic black-cockatoo.

…Now let me proclaim, how good is camp food?
Sunday morning’s to my mind are all about a lazy start, coffee and tea around the fire, before warming up a jaffle iron over the fire’s coals in preparation to cook a camp favourite of ours, bacon and baked bean jaffles.

But hey, jaffles are only limited by one’s imagination – even for the culinary challenged, and yes Mrs Landy, I can see you rolIing your eyes, we know, baked bean jaffles aren’t a favourite of yours, yet!

Breakfast rolled into morning tea when we arrived at Mt Werong camp area after a drive of about an hour-and-a-half along some ridge lines and on mostly well-formed tracks in State Forest.

The small stone hut at Mt Werong dates back to early pioneering days and as we wandered through, sipping on billy tea and devouring Anzac Cookies expertly baked by Mrs Landy, we wondered what early settler life might have been like. Perhaps they too would have been sipping on billy tea and devouring Anzac Cookies!

And after taking a short-stroll along the Ruby Creek walking track we pointed the vehicles towards Wombeyan Caves via the Range Fire Trail and a couple of other tracks.

Wombeyan Caves is a great destination in its own right and there were a number of caravans, camper-trailers and tents erected in a nicely grassed camp area when we arrived. And for those more inclined, cabin accommodation is available.

We settled on a traditional sausage sizzle for a late lunch nearby to a small creek, inhabited by a large monitor lizard, as day-trippers headed off to view the caves, which is only possible to do on a guided tour led by staff from the National Parks Service.

There are a couple of routes you can take when leaving Wombeyan Caves, one via Mittagong, which is along a meandering and winding road that isn’t suitable for caravans, or via Taralga and Goulburn.

Both of these routes provide access to the Hume Highway and we went the long way around via Goulburn for no other reason than just because we could…

If you have a few days up your sleeve then a side trip to Yerranderie, a small private ghost town that has a history steeped in silver mining and situated about 50-kilometres from the Mt Werong camp site is worth contemplating.

The town is accessible via Oberon or Goulburn along well formed dirt roads for those not wanting to trek via Jenolan Caves and the Kowmung River.

This Caves to Caves trip is a spectacular drive with some four-wheel driving required in the steeper sections and where low-range might be an advantage at times. And a vehicle with good ground clearance will make negotiating some of the conservation mounds on the fire trails just that little bit easier.

There are no facilities other than long-drop toilets along the route taken, but fuel and supplies are available at Oberon situated nearby to Jenolan Caves, or the township of Taralga at the southern end of the route.

For Sydney-siders looking for a weekend trip, or visitors to the region looking for alternatives to the Big Smoke of Sydney, this is a great way to spend a weekend or a few more days if you have time on your hands!

If in the area, please be respectful to the private property owners and private land dotted throughout this region, especially around the Dingo Dell area, by ensuring you do not deviate from the public access route.

Also, keep in mind that at an elevation that ranges up to 1,200 metres, weather can be unpredictable – so go prepared for unexpected changes in conditions.

And hey, don’t forget to take your camera, photographic opportunities abound!

And in case you were wondering… “Baz - The Landy” came about as a consequence of owning three Land Rover Defenders, but as you can see this has now changed and yes, thank you, I've recovered fully!

And whilst I'm reluctant to refer to the new vehicle as “The Landy” that’s for sure; the owners’ of either brand would never forgive me!

But “Baz - The Landy” reference has stuck, so “Baz - The Landy it is!

Cheers...Baz (The Landy)
“Those who don’t think
it can be done shouldn’t
bother the person doing it…”
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