Wednesday 26 April to Friday 28 April 2017
Lunch at Red Johnny’s Cave
A rare fire trail
Photos by Brian M
The Endrick River is an eastern tributary of the Shoalhaven River. Its upper catchment is bounded by the Nerriga/Nowra Road and Endrick Fire Trail and it’s within the 70,000 hectare Budawang Wilderness Area.
This is an area of solid rock plateau sandstone geology, broken only by cracking and sculpting of wind and water and mostly covered by a thick blanket of heath and woodland vegetation, periodically rejuvenated by high intensity wildfire. Nevertheless, some large areas of solid rock persist, and it is these features which draw the tourist.
But because of the restricting nature of the dense understorey, very few will venture into the central area. One of the few public records found of previous recreational visitation was for rock climbing by the Shoalhaven Bushwalking Club in the 1970’s.
Four Batemans Bay Bushwalkers – Simon, Bronwyn, Brian and Ian – spent three days, and walked 26 kilometres, in the area. Because of wet weather on the first day, and an aversion to pushing through wet bush, we approached from the west by walking a circuitous 15 kilometres of the Endrick River Fire Trail from the Sassafras car park. This allowed us to see the well known features along the way such as the upper Clyde Gorge, Red Johnnys Cave, the Vines rainforest and the pure and handsome Brown Barrel regrowth forest, an artefact of the once busy local sawmill, down the Vines Creek valley.
Breakfast, Endrick River Camp
At Battleship Rock
We left the firetrail at 451044 and bush bashed two kilometres up the banks of the Endrick River. We found our planned campsite of two nights at 469457, fortuitously later proving to be the only comfortable campsite in the area (apart from the many solid rock platforms in the area!).
The next day we ventured upstream through the river gorge but were soon tired from pushing through thick undergrowth and scrambling over boulders. Instead, we cut through the low clifflines to the south and explored the rock massif between the Galbraith Plateau and Battleship Rock. There were some fine views, particularly from the Loaf at 477047, so named by us because of its resemblance to a loaf of bread. It was perched on the lip of the gorge just across from the imposing Battleship Rock.
Bronwyn, Simon and Ian
Ian indicates a point of interest
Overhang beneath the ‘Conning Tower’
On the third day we cut eastward across the Endrick River headwaters. This was a very tiring route, with very thick undergrowth in places, climbing and descending rock platforms. Navigation needed to be of pinpoint accuracy to find the few narrow passes between the valleys and clifftops.
However, it also proved to be the most enjoyable day. A forensic examination of the 1970 aerial photos had indicated there were some scenic payoffs along the way and the photos proved valuable in finding the few rocky passes between clifftops and valley crossings.
Brian at weathered rock
Brian at Endrick Valley lookout
Working our way to the clifftop north of Battleship Rock rewarded us with long high rock platforms with speedy walking. It gave us wonderful views southward across the river gorge to Galbraith Plateau and we had a close up view of the appropriately named Battleship Rock. Nearby, another lower rock of similar, but smaller shape, menaced the valley. In keeping with the local marine monicking, we named it Submarine Rock.
Further east, from a clifftop point at 481049, we gazed upon the Endrick River’s confluence with Newhaven Creek and admired the rugged nature of the surrounding valleys and gullies.
We crossed the river upstream at 484050, not only because it was one of the few river crossings available, but also to see the small, but delightful, narrow rock ravine in which the river has dropped and cut through the solid rock. After examining its large and peaceful waterhole at the exit we climbed the surrounding rock platforms and walked the inlet with its numerous potholes of various sizes. We also gazed further upstream where long waterholes curved through rocky troughs.
We had enough time to drop packs and bushbash our way a half kilometer to the south where the river drops a second time through the rock platforms. It proved to be a cascade with a towering overhang but from our high vantage point we decided not to venture further. Instead, we explored a natural arch and nearby, on a small cliff ledge, a large and healthy Diamond Python was curled up in the warming sunshine keeping a close eye on the intruders.
Diamond Python sun basking
Cave near Upper Endrick Falls
Ian by Endrick Falls
We headed to the firetrail, uneventful except for very heavy undergrowth between the few rock platforms that we stumbled upon and could saw into our intended route. At times, the heath was 2-4 metres high and, too often, we had to backtrack a few metres to try again. It was equal to the heaviest experienced in the Budawangs with a speed of less than a kilometer per hour.
Exhausted, mid afternoon, we suddenly popped onto the firetrail, exactly where we intended, and slogged home.
In summary, most walkers of the Budawangs Wilderness stick to the few tracks and routes available. Few venture into the intervening chunks of broken rock and clifflines. The Upper Endrick River area is one of those areas. In three days we saw evidence of previous visitation of only a possible old rock cairn of decades age plus a small iron fragment near the fire trail, an artefact of previous use for military training centred on Bhundoo Hill.
The view of Battleship Rock and its surrounds from the clifftop was worth the trip. The solid rock bed of the Endrick River upstream of its confluence with Newhaven Creek is worth further exploration, as is possibly the nearby Middle Creek. From our sampling, the base of the clifflines have some, but not many, overhangs of interest. Despite checking all overhangs and rock platforms encountered, we saw no evidence of previous Aboriginal occupation.
We saw very little evidence of fauna – a bit of wombat on the creek banks, few insects, no fish, no macropods, no raptors, not even an owl call at night – only honeyeaters on the plateau and of course, the python. In contrast, the vegetation abounds in heath and understorey species.
A wild and interesting place, best visited after a bushfire.