Oh, how wrong can you be. A lot apparently. A couple of days later it was time to cover the remaining pieces of the jigsaw of trails, heading to the southern extremities on the loop trail and fording at River Oak Crossing. Knowing walking would be the only way I took a tablet to relieve arthritic pain.
No sooner had I dropped down the stairway through the rocks again, heading south, than the gorge started getting deeper, more dramatic and, the more you walked, the better it got. All manner of sandstone outcrops are here. There are vertical, undercut, slanted and triangular shapes. Some are draped with creeping vines while others are dappled with moss and orchids and the trail, for the most part, hugs the cliffs.
If you might want to chance your arm and get a shot or two of the stream, be prepared for a scramble, descending from the dominant spotted gums with their bulbous bases to the litter of the floods beneath. Down here, while you’re slapping the mozzies, you’ll be reminded of them with the coachwood trees. Named for its desirable use as a preferred wood for carriages, it was also used in the construction of one of the world’s most unique aircraft, the Mosquito. Used both as a fighter and a bomber it was faster than the most famous WWII aircraft, the Spitfire, and wood from this very area was used in its construction.
Finally, after just under two hours, the River Oak Crossing is reached. A series of large river boulders with a couple of metal grids placed across the tricky bits make for a noisy crossing as the partly unfastened aluminium flaps up and down on the solid sandstone base.
The trail ascends to more dramatic cliffs, causing me to continually rubber-neck to soak up the natural wonder of this place. Rock falls have created some tricky walking conditions after the mercifully flat section soon after the crossing. One outcrop is rent in two by a giant crack and a tall spotted gum in front has followed the line of the split.
Here and there the occasional fungi put in an appearance as they slowly decompose their hosts, trees that have succumbed to storms. Other remnants have been washed up on top of each other in river log jams that will temporarily change the course of the flow. Strangely, there are few birds around; surprising when they could be feasting on the mozzies.
Eventually the loop is closed and the bridge I’d crossed previously is reached. It’s one of the most dramatic walks I’ve been on in Australia, especially if you like sandstone formations.
Next day I returned late in order to get the western cliffs in better light. It worked and then, my final day I entered from the furthest listed point south, hoping for more but, it was only a couple of hundred metres from the rattily bridge of yesterday.
Having spent some time in the Blue Mountains recently, I have to say that this matches anything I did there in terms of gorges, just doesn’t have big waterfalls is all. The secret is out Nowra!