Welcome back to the Great North Walk (GNW) Mach II.
It has taken a while to get back out onto the trail, but it has been worth the wait. It delivers equal parts physical challenge and outstanding beauty. It is also a bit unique for me in that I haven’t been able to walk the whole thing in one go – an approach that always appeals to my linear brain.
The wet weather on New South Wales’ East coast has meant damage to the trail continues to occur and parts are opened and closed with regular monotony. Maybe all these stops and starts are teaching me to be supremely flexible!
Fill up your water bottle, we are off on Day 3 of the Great North Walk, slowly working/walking our way from Sydney to Newcastle.
Date: Sunday 7 August 2022
From: Hornsby Train Station
To: Calna Creek North
Map #: Part 7, part 8
Official Distance: 15.7km Actual Distance: 18.2km
Time: 6h4m incl. rests, chats etc
Ascent: 338m Descent: 539m
Weather: Sunny and warm (where’s Winter?) and a few light sprinkles of rain to finish.
Stayed At: Calna Creek North Campground
Getting to the Start: I started from Hornsby Train Station and walked up Peat’s Ferry Road which turns into Galston Road. Yes, if I was a Purist I would have plunged down the hill from the station and picked up the trail in the bush. I figured I would have enough bush over the next couple of days and was happy to skip 1-2km of rough stuff. I easily picked up the trail again on Clarinda Street with the first marker posts telling me where this next part of the adventure would head. Regular train services connect Hornsby to the North towards Newcastle or South to Strathfield, or south-east to Sydney CBD. An Opal Card is handy for use on all public transport in Sydney and surrounds.
Finishing This Stage: I joined a couple of stages together, however you could finish this stage by continuing to walk past the Calna Creek North Campground to arrive at Mt Kuring-gai for train and bus services.
- I was lulled into a wonderful false sense of security with trail starting out as a wide management road. Reality hit though when the finger post said ‘go left’ and left I went plunging down my first of many steep, rocky and slippery ravines. At times it wasn’t really even walking as such, more like rock hopping, and rock hopping is not easy when you have a fully loaded backpack on your back. Anyway, the steep descent was rewarded with a gurgling waterfall and lovely rockpool at the very bottom of the gully. Now to get back up the other side…
- Being early on a Sunday morning, when saner people are still in bed or at least enjoying a restorative coffee and a slow read of the newspaper, I had the path pretty much to myself. As the hour crept towards a more sensible time a tsunami of mountain bikers and trail runners swept over me. By that stage the path had changed from endless uneven rocks back to the wide management trail again and they all raced past me with a cheery ‘Good morning’ and a bit of banter. No doubt they were thankful to be running just with a water bottle, but we all had to tackle the same ascents and descents, and they were doing it at speed.
- It is so much easier to admire the landscape when the path in front of you is fairly even and clear, rather than having to watch every step. I paused to admire some black cockatoos enjoying a noisy breakfast in the trees and a trail runner paused to watch as well. We are so blessed with birdlife in Australia. I keep telling myself to stop and take the time to enjoy these little sights rather than continually pushing on to my day’s endpoint.
- More friendly chats with runners, including one lady who shared her own experience of completing the GNW last year as a series of day walks. Yes, she is one smart lady.
- It was back down the steep gorges again as I got close to Galston Gorge. The legs were getting a bit tired and the tummy was calling for an energy hit. Imagine my surprise as I stepped around a boulder to see a series of metal rungs drilled into a sheer rock wall. Yep, I was to head down those very, very carefully. To top it off, this was followed by a series of concrete plinths lined up in a creek bed. They were really testing my balancing skills today!
- This walk has an unusual feel. You feel like you are walking remotely through thick scrub and then a jumbo jet flies over and you hear the growl of Sunday motorbike riders weaving around the sharp corners of the main road nearby. Not quite the serenity I was expecting, but then everyone has the right to enjoy their Sunday in whatever way floats their boat.
- By mid-morning the walking clientele had changed to more serious bushwalkers, complete with walking poles and day packs. I certainly did not have to worry about getting lonely as everyone was happy to chat.
- The main source of all the people was from Crosslands Reserve. It is a lovely shady spot with well-manicured lawns, toilets, BBQs and lots of happy campers. It would have been nice to call it a day at this point, but I had planned to push on for another couple of kilometres.
Top Tips for this Section:
- Rating: Today is rated Medium/Hard. When the map/guidebook rates a stage as Medium/Hard, they are not kidding. Frankly, I would rate the next few stages as ‘#@!$ Hard’, but I guess that is not a technical hiking term.
- Water: the path takes you across a number of water sources. I would not recommend drinking this water unless you really had to and you treated it first. While you are walking through the bush, that bush is surrounded by old industrial settings, military installations and firing ranges. You just don’t know where the water run-off is coming from. Fill up with clean water at Crosslands – there are taps at the toilets and located throughout the green space.
- Camp: If I was planning this stage again, I would definitely camp at Crosslands Reserve. Fees apply, but it would be worth it for the luxury of running water and toilets. Calna Creek North campground was fine, but there is nothing there other than a very persistent, hungry brush turkey.
- Poles: Walking poles are a must on this stage to act as a brake and stabiliser on the endless downs. They are handy on the ups too.
- Signage: GNW signage is good-to-excellent. Where there was no sign, logic took over and within a few hundred metres signage appeared again.
- Distances: Like other walks I have done, the distances marked on the signs are conservative to say the least. They certainly didn’t match the predicted distances in the guidebook or what appeared on my Garmin watch at the end of the day.
- Heights: If you are afraid of heights, this walk may not be for you. The path is very high and steep in places, and certain sections go close to unfenced cliff areas. I am not saying this to frighten you – just a friendly heads-up.
- Slippery Terrain: This path would be even more challenging if you were walking after periods of rain. The rocks would become very slippery and the watercourses you have to cross would rise. I recommend you check the Alerts section of National Parks and Wildlife before setting out.
Roll on Day 4.
- The Great North Walk – Learn more – HERE
- NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service – Berowra Valley National Park – HERE
- NSW Train & Buses – Plan your trip – HERE
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