Big Hole / Marble Arch

Thursday 23 July 2020

Photos courtesy of Barry, Brian, Mary, Tom, Erika and Philip

After meeting in Braidwood on a cold foggy morning, the group drove in convoy to the walk start at Berlang Campground in the Deua National Park.

About 250m into the walk everyone had to change their shoes and wade through the icy cold, calf deep water of the Shoalhaven River. After changing back to our walking shoes, we continued on through a rolling heathland of Allocasuarina nana and then downhill to the huge open chasm known as the Big Hole. We stopped at the Big Hole viewing platform for morning tea.

Following morning tea we walked a little further downhill to where the track meandered over fairly flat terrain through dry eucalypt open forest. One large area of forest had many large fallen trees, all uprooted and fallen in the same direction. We assumed this extensive damage resulted from a not very recent storm event.  Most of the fallen trees were long dead but quite a few, whose roots had remained connected to the earth, had shot up again along the trunk, to live on.

After a while we reached the top of the spur that lead down into Reedy Creek gully. All walkers descended the steep track down until we reached a rocky fern lined area just upstream from the Marble Arch cavern. At this point we split into two groups. Those who wished to proceed through the tunnel/arch out into the slot canyon and then climb up the extremely steep hill on the other side, and those who wished to return to the top of the spur and wait for the other group. Six walkers chose to proceed and climb out the other side and seven walked back to the top of the spur to wait.

The group continuing through the tunnel took time to look at the marbled rock and the small dripping stalactite formations and then scrambled over slippery rocks until we reached a series of water filled pools. Once again we had to change our shoes and wade through icy cold water above our knees. Torchlight was required for a short section of the tunnel.

Once out into the slot canyon we were uncertain about the best route to take up the steep hill. The first route that two of us took was found to be very difficult, so the other four opted for a different route. However both routes were extremely steep with very few hand holds, loose ground and slippery surfaces that often required climbing on hands and knees. Closer to the top of the hill we bush bashed our way back to the formed track and walked back up to re-join the waiting group.

Getting through the slot canyon and climbing out took longer than anticipated which left the other group waiting for a long time. They had long since finished lunch so we quickly ate ours and all of us retraced our steps back to the start at Berlang Campground. Of course we had to wade through the icy cold water of the Shoalhaven River again, just before the walk finish.