I have been off the beaten track quite a few times in my life, but rarely have I experienced being so far ‘off’ that there is scarcely a track at all. What an adventure!
The Pipeline Track is a rather uninspiring name for a walk. Don’t be fooled. This path delivers breath-taking views of soaring sandstone cliffs plunging down into hidden valleys and breath-taking climbs to match.
Cast your mind back to WWII when the whole World was turned on its head and everything was in short supply. In Australia two small, remote communities – Glen Davis and Newnes – were shoved into the spotlight mining shale and then producing oil to supplement petrol supplies in Sydney.
Shale was discovered in the area in 1865. With the war years approaching there was a sense of urgency to bring Glen Davis into production principally for the supply of petrol which was being threatened by shipping attacks in the Pacific Ocean. The plant was designed to produce around 38 million litres of petrol a year. The best production was around 1942 with a total of 9.5 million litres. Source
The industry was abandoned in 1952 when it became uneconomical to continue oil production. The community shrank and virtually disappeared from public view until large sections of the region were absorbed into the Wollemi National Park in 1979, preserving the area’s history and gorgeous flora and fauna.
Here are the Nuts and Bolts of this walk:
- Distance: approx. 10km one way – distances vary depending on which sign you believe.
- Rating: Hard
- Terrain: Predominantly steep ascents and descents, with some rock scrabbling required. Definitely doable with a medium level of fitness and plenty of time.
- Path: The path is pretty overgrown and can be hard to see in places starting from the Glen Davis end. NPWS has randomly marked the trail with small flags of pink tape.
- Mobile Phone Coverage: Mobile phone reception is patchy.
- Water: Take water with you. There are no formal watering points available anywhere along the path. This is even more important if you walk in Summer.
- Sun Protection: Wear a hat and sunscreen. Even though there is plenty of shade on the path, the Australian sun is unforgiving.
- Snakes: This area would be prime snake country in Summertime. Be careful where you step.
- Bushfires: Be careful with any cigarettes or naked flame. You are walking through thick bush with no real escape routes, so take care.
- Toilets: There are no toilet facilities out on the path, but comfortable facilities back at Glen Davis and at the finishing point, the Little Capertee Campground.
Getting to Glen Davis is a commitment in itself as it is a long, but exceedingly beautiful, drive through the Capertee Valley that then leads into another smaller valley on the very western edge of the Wollemi National Park. The road wends its way along the valley floor and on almost every side are stunning, soaring sandstone cliffs.
After a quick morning tea and comfort stop at the Glen Davis Community Park/Camping Area, we hopped back into the car for a short drive to the trailhead. I was thankful that our walk leaders had done a comprehensive reccie as I really had no idea where we were to actually start walking. Signage was fairly limited and what was there, was quite battered and overgrown. Oh well, that’s what you get when you sign up for an adventure.
We farewelled our shuttle vehicles and drivers (Bless ‘em) and peering up the rough trail, set off into the bush. While walking with a large group (10 people with varying fitness levels) has its limitations, I am always thankful for the opportunity to be exposed to new trails and adventures in the safety of a group.
And, I had never heard of the Pipeline Track.
As the name suggests, the trail roughly follows the path of the pipe that was installed to transport the shale oil from Glen Davis to Newnes before being loaded onto a train for Sydney. What an engineering feat! Not only is the terrain incredibly steep, in many places there are sheer rock walls and massive boulders. They make for fascinating walking, but how challenging would it be to construct the pipeline and then manage it to ensure consistent pumping and flow?
The path took us through undulating woodland before plunging us into heavily forested gullies covered in lush tree ferns and ferns of every species. Recent rains had topped up the streams and they gurgled down the rocky creek beds, adding some lovely background ‘music’ to our steps. These streams may prove a challenge after heavy rain, but we were able to leap across without getting our boots too wet.
Being in a large group, our combined noise scared most of the wildlife away. Luckily, up the front we caught the briefest glimpses of a pair of lyrebirds. What a joy. I was surprised to hear glorious Bellbirds ringing out over the gullies as I thought they were more coastal birds. Obviously they enjoy the climate of these mountains too. I was even more surprised to see how small they are – what a big noise for such a little bird!
As we continued to climb up (and eventually down again) we had to be super careful with handholds and footholds due to some seriously slippery sections. Luckily no one was in a rush and we had plenty of time to take our time, pause and look around, spotting a few late season flannel flowers and early wattles breaking the even green of fern, fern, and more fern.
The grey and damp weather didn’t slow us down too much and added an ethereal quality to the path and the views. Pockets of mist floated above the valleys and wrapped the cliffs. Yes, the colours would have been even more beautiful on a sunny day, however it was still a true joy to be out in the Aussie bush. It may sound a bit wafty, but I do believe it is a privilege to be able to enjoy such magnificent scenery and be out in landscape that is only accessible on foot. It gives a completely different appreciation of our Country.
Stepping ever so carefully down from the Pagoda Lookout, we eventually levelled out to stroll alongside the rushing Wolgan River. The rain had settled in a little more seriously and through the mist we were still able to make out the remains of the old Newnes village and part of the Works site. How different would the sights, sounds and smells have been 80 years ago? I know which I prefer.
Over the creek and around a bend we see the patches of bright colours through the trees of our waiting cars. Adventure time was over for another day and what a special day it had been. I had seen a whole different part of Australia that I never knew existed and, Yes, that is a privilege.
Do you have a favourite ‘off-the-beaten-track walk?
What: Wollemi National Park covers around 5,017km². Encompassing a large swathe of the Blue Mountains West of Sydney, there are numerous walking paths that can be accessed from all sides of the Park.
Where: Glen Davis is approximately 220km north-west of Sydney.
When: I walked in early May – our late Autumn.
Why: For the opportunity to explore an area little visited and definitely off the beaten track.
How: You will need your own car to get to Glen Davis. There is no public transport.
Who: This is not an accessible path for those with mobility challenges. You don’t need to be super-fit to enjoy it, just be prepared for the steep terrain going up and, of course, down. Take your time, catch your breath and enjoy the views that surround you.
Related Posts: For another splendid walk in the Aussie bush, this time with more clearly marked paths, check out my stroll up Mt Arthur near Wellington.
Related Blogs: Jo is also a keen walker and her steps take her to interesting villages, churches and to cake.
Read About It: Feel like a stroll in Australia? Lonely Planet has a comprehensive guide book highlighting their pick of the 60 best day walks in Australia. Grab a copy from Book Depository
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