Saturday/Sunday 26/27 November 2016
Photos by Ian, Brian and Simon
Twenty kilometres directly west of Moruya lies the 18,000 hectare Burra Oualla Wilderness within the Deua National Park. This area has not previously been explored by the Club. Indeed, because of its rugged nature, and a massive rock barrier on its eastern edge which restricts access, few walkers venture into this area.
Seven Club members (Simon, Mark, Wendy, Brian, David, Martin & Ian) explored the middle catchment of Burra Creek using a route selected to sample the interesting topography and vegetation of the area.
If one studies the maps and aerial photos, a line of sudden change in topography, running north south, aligns with Diamond and Donovan Creeks. This is pretty much the Donovan Fault Line, running over 20 kilometres from near Hanging Mountain on Sugarloaf Road to north of Mt Donovan. To the west lies undulating to hilly country on mostly granite and it looks like most eastern escarpment foothills – a bit ordinary.
But, in stark contrast, to the east lies a 15 kilometre north south slug of complex solid rock formations up to 600 metres high, the remains of ancient volcanic activity. Any visitor to Moruya can’t help but notice the rocky peaks west of town.
This rugged barrier is broken only by Burra Creek. To the west of the fault line lies a broad basin of Diamond, Coondella and Donovan Creek catchments, all of which converge at the barrier to join Burra Creek which then cuts its way eastward through a gorge and on to the Deua River.
The selected route of our walk sampled three features of the area – the rocky gorge of Diamond Creek, with its waterfalls, the broad basin of Coondella Creek, and the rocky gorge exit of Burra Creek.
We started from the Coondella Fire Trail at Diamond Creek, well known to Moruya locals because of its easy 4wd access and its waterfalls. On this walk we visited the four waterfalls marked on the 1:25,000 map plus the cascades between. Compared to the central and north coasts, the south coast is relatively devoid of waterfalls, but to have four in quick succession on one creek is rare.
With the exception of the last waterfall, each fall required a scrubby detour to gain access to its lower deep, pool but in each case it was always worth the effort. Because of our intended exit route, we didn’t go to the bottom of the last waterfall, which is actually a fall of 40 metres in two drops, but we viewed its impressive dimensions from above and we were very impressed.
After an exhausting scramble up and out of the gorge over loose scree (two steps up, one back, another rest!), we soon hit granite and enjoyed a more open forest. We cruised northward down into, and across the Coondella Creek catchment and began a bush bash climb north to Burra Creek. It was here we ran into heavy undergrowth. We found the remains of an old pack horse trail and followed it in sections but the overgrowth was thick and we often lost it.
Over the saddle we entered one of the densest patches of Burrawangs known on the planet until, late in the afternoon, and after 8 hours of hard walking we were in the open forests of the Burra Creek catchment and, with relief, plopped into our camp on the Creek bank.
The camp needs special mention. It was nearly a “10 out of 10” – a large flat area beside a large creek with short green grass under open forest. But it was also obviously the site of a past horse riders camp. There were remains of a primitive shelter, bush furniture, pots and pans, old horseshoes etc, even a crowbar and axe! We did wonder though, that a six pack of Tooheys Old unopened cans of beer had mysteriously emptied over the time since abandonment.
The site appeared to not to have been used for many years, and nor was there evidence that anyone else had visited the site since. Nevertheless, it was a very pleasant camp site.
Next day, within a few hundred metres of leaving camp eastward, we entered the gorge where the Burra Creek punches 5 kilometres through the rock barrier’s portals. Through frequent crossings, we were able to rock hop and walk its banks all the way. And, there was more evidence of an old horse trail. After the Coondella Creek junction the gorge tightened, the rock walls became higher, the creek bed changed from small boulders to solid rock bars, and the pools between became longer and deeper.
Toward the gorge exit the old horse trail climbed steeply up the southern bank, apparently to avoid a rocky pinch in the creek bed. Soon after, we also exited and panted up the remaining 300 vertical metres to Coondella Fire Trail which then required a further walk back to the cars.
Notably, very little wildlife was seen in the two days – not even a lyrebird or wallaby. However, there was plenty of evidence of feral pigs wherever there was granite geology or sandy creek banks.
The remains of the horse trail are of heritage significance. It linked Moruya via the Coondella ridge with the Burra Creek area and then onto the Coondella Creek area which subsequently linked on to the Georges Pack Track. Collectively, they all linked Bendethera with Moruya in the early 1800’s. The following web link shows old trails in the Deua and Monga National Parks http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/protectedareas/horseriding/140326hrwildddmongofs.pdf . Efforts to restore these heritage trails are ongoing.
This was a hard walk, particularly because of scree slopes and undergrowth on the first day, but overall, we sampled a variety of topographys and vegetations, saw some lovely creek features, and I feel satisfied some more exploration of this area is warranted.
Route (Bendethera 1:25,000 sheet):
Leave cars at 611171, descend Diamond Creek to top of last map marked waterfall, climb westward to ridgetop, descend north to Coondella Creek at 600199, proceed north over saddle to Burra Creek camp at 601219. Second day follow Burra Creek downstream to 627213 and climb ridge southward to Coondella Fire Trail. Walk fire trail to cars (or, if you have more sense than us, leave a second car at the exit!).