Isn’t it amazing how you think you can’t walk another step and then you wake up in the morning, ready to do it all over again?
I must be a slow learner.
Grab your hat, we are off on Day 4 of the Great North Walk from Sydney to Newcastle.
Date: Monday 8 August, 2022
From: Calna Creek North
To: Ridge Top, above Berowra Waters
Map #: part 9, part 10, part 11
Official Distance: 11.02km (full day) Actual Distance: 10.7km (shortened day)
Ascent: 486m Descent: 316m
Weather: Sunny and warm.
Stayed At: Ridge Top campsite.
Getting to the Start: You could access these stages by train or bus from a couple of different directions – including paths from Mt Kuring-gai and also Berowra. Add a couple of kilometres and you could also start from Crosslands Reserve.
Finishing This Stage: On the remotest possibility of you having any energy left at all, you could push on to Cowan for another +5km. Regular train services connect North towards Newcastle or South to Hornsby. An Opal Card is handy for use on all public transport in Sydney and surrounds.
- OMG! What a day!? The views had to be seen to be believed and the climbs matched!
- I was surprised when I woke up this morning that my body didn’t hate me more. It was a big day yesterday and I finished the walk loaded up with 6kgs of water. Boy, my tired legs and hips knew about it then! But, other than some stiffness and a slight lack of vim and verve, I was all set for another day on the trail in the Great Outdoors.
- Today combined a number of stages as the paths intersected, into one thru walk. This contrasts with the option of completing each full stage as a day walk, starting from civilisation and heading back there again. Oh, how attractive that sounds.
- I looked longingly at the Calna Creek timber boardwalk crossing the marsh and hoped and dreamed that it would continue for some distance. There’s nothing like being an Optimist. Of course, it disappeared within seconds and I was back to placing each footstep with care.
- Up, up, up I went. Down, down, down I inevitably went again.
- As I struggled up the next serious hill, I could hear a man singing. I pulled over to the side of the narrow path (any excuse for a chance to catch my breath) and around the corner he came. This man was out for his morning constitutional and he was happy to stop and chat for a while. With a great sweep of his arm he described the landscape as ‘God’s Gym’. I like that description and it beats a workout indoors any day. He sang his way off down the hill and I struggled upwards yet again.
- I knew I must be getting closer to Berowra Waters as I glimpsed through the trees the calm water and boats at mooring. As I got even closer, I was surprised to see so many substantial homes built on the other side of the creek and so many boats (bundles of floating money?) tied up. I didn’t realise it was such an established community tucked away down here.
- Berowra Waters is a gorgeous part of the world. Picture mirror-like waters, gently bobbing boats and an air of serenity. How privileged are these people to reside in this little pool of Paradise?
- Yet another knee-busting rock scrabble down to Berowra Waters and it was time to psyche myself up for the next stage. Before I did that, I rested a while at a shaded picnic bench and used the sparkling clean toilets. Luxury!
- Filling up my water bottles in preparation for the next section and tomorrow’s stage, I wondered what was ahead of me. So far, the ratings had been Medium-Hard and now I was setting out on just plain Hard. Gulp – here we go.
- Before I got too carried away on the path though, I halted to watch some Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos feeding on seed pods in the trees. I would have missed this very rare sighting, but a couple of Council workers had paused from their work and were staring up into the canopy. Like them, I needed little encouragement to stop and watch. A real joy to see this type of birdlife.
- From Berowra Waters onwards would have to be some of the most physically demanding countryside I have ever walked/climbed through. And it was more climbing than walking. I am not afraid to admit there were times when I wondered if I could physically haul myself up onto the next ledge and sometimes had to resort to hands and knees scrabbling for foot and handholds, and then sliding down on my backside. I am a tall bird and even I struggled to step from rock to rock, ledge to crevice.
- The ‘path’ varied from sheer sheets of rock with the now-familiar rungs fixed into them, to narrow gaps in between massive split boulders that I had to drag myself and my pack through. At any moment, one false step would have seen me plummeting to the depths of the scrubby gorge below. I was so glad my Mother couldn’t see me as she would have had my ‘guts for garters’ if she knew where I was and what I was doing.
- I’m not doing a very good job of selling this path to you, am I? No doubt it would be easier as a day walk, but still very hard.
- The weight in my backpack, now fully-loaded with water again, made me even more conscious of my centre of balance and placing every footstep on the most solid purchase I could find. I do admit to sending some evil thoughts to the sadistic designers of this route, but no one forced me to set out on this path and I just needed to ‘suck it up Princess’.
- Again, a reprieve came in the form of two older gentleman who were out on a training walk and were more than happy to stop and chat for 20 minutes or so. All the people I have met in the last couple of days have been super-friendly and happy to share their knowledge of the terrain. One of these chaps has completed the GNW and he reckons that this stage I was battling with was the most difficult of all the +30 stages. How good am I going to feel when I complete it??
- By now I was pretty much done in and it was 10 steps and then rest for 10 seconds, 10 steps and rest. Definitely no records broken today as I knew that on tired legs, I needed to be extra careful.
- FINALLY, I made it up to the top of the ridge and a beautiful, wide management trail opened up leading me past Ridge Top Camp. I took little convincing to call it a day, even though it was only lunchtime.
- The original plan had been to push on for another couple of kilometres to be closer to Cowan and enjoy a shorter stage tomorrow down to Brooklyn, but the body was saying ‘ENOUGH’! Instead, I unpacked my tent and draped it over the bushes to dry out after last night’s rain and condensation.
- It turned out to be very social up there. It was a very popular walking, hiking, mountain biking and dog walking area. Most people stopped for a chat as no doubt they were wondering what this very dirty, smelly and insane woman was doing sitting there surrounded by a small mountain of hiking/camping gear.
Top Tips for this Section:
- Rating: Hard, or in my description, #$#@! Hard!
- Water: Load up at the tap near the picnic bench, to the right of the toilets at Berowra Waters. There is a large stream to cross before the massive uphill climb/scramble, but there is no guarantee that it will be running.
- Camp: Ridge Top Campground is a large open space with a number of cleared areas for tents. In the last week they have built a picnic bench and have nearly finished building a composting toilet. You had me at ‘picnic bench’.
- Distances: Even though I cut today’s walk well short of my planned destination, I still walked about 4km longer than expected. Do not trust the signs or the guidebook. Just know that whatever distance you walk, it is guaranteed to be longer!
- Tips from Day 3 about distances, heights and signage apply here too.
Boy, what a day!
- The Great North Walk – Read more about it – HERE
- NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service – Find out more about Berowra Valley National Park – HERE
- NSW Train & Buses – Plan your trip – HERE
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