May 22, 2002

The Explore Sydney Series

Three day trips which skirt around the outside of the Sydney Basin, exploring the roads and tracks which surround the region.

Explore Sydney One – The Northern Loop

On Sunday the 25th of May, a group of Zooks (plus a Landcruiser) met at the Colo River Roadhouse to spend a day exploring the northern edges of the bush surrounding Sydney as part of the Explore Sydney One trip - a trip that would start at Colo on the Putty Road and work its way across to the Watagans SF near the Central Coast.

After leaving Colo, we headed back over the bridge and then looped back under it to travel along the road to Upper Colo where we found a wooden bridge that led us along a track to the Upper Colo Reserve – a beautiful camping area by the river which could accommodate a huge group of campers on flat, grassy ground.

Leaving the Reserve, we headed back up the trail to rejoin the Putty Road at Colo Heights where we turned right and did the short hop back to the Wheelbarrow Ridge turnoff, which we were proceeding along when we heard a call on the UHF from a delayed Ian and Sarah so it was decided that the main group should wait while the Betcher’s returned to the main road to get them and bring them back to rejoin the trip.

Reassembled, we made our way along the ridge, with the road turning from tar to gravel, until we eventually reached a turnoff marked Wheelbarrow Ridge Track so we decided to follow it; this trail stayed high on the ridge whereas the main road would have dropped us down along the banks of the Hawkesbury until it eventually climbed back to meet the ridge trail – a trail that had a few bumps and holes in it but was still a pretty easy drive despite the wet surface.

Eventually arriving at Webbs Creek Ferry via the recently constructed Bicentennial Road, we turned towards St Albans, where we stopped for a lunch break and a relax before continuing on our way north to Buckety, stopping to have a poke around in some rather narrow and overgrown trails not far from the Mogo campgrounds – another very nice open flat camping area which is well worth another visit.

From Buckety, we drove about ten kilometres to the turnoff known as “The Letter A” which forms a western entry point to the Watagan area – an area which was quite wet in places causing some of the tracks to be closed to all traffic so we took an alternate tar route via some small villages before turning up Bumble Hill.

Back on the dirt, we took the turn to Middle Ridge Road which would hopefully lead us out to civilisation near Ourimbah, but we took a fortuitous detour up to an electricity tower and while waiting for the rest of the group to ascend, we discovered a nice little hill which was very wet and rutty so Marcus, Hammo, Chris and Shaun decided to go to the bottom and see what was there.

Only Hammo was able to return to the top, and even that was with some difficulty as the steepness and muddiness of the hill afforded very little traction, but after a number of attempts the Hammo-mobile made it back to the top, leaving the Vitaras to take an alternative route back to the top of the hill where we regrouped for the final run out to the main road.

A few short kilometres had us at the back of the Palmdale Crematorium, where we said our goodbyes and then headed out to rejoin the F3 near the Ourimbah turnoff and fight it out with the traffic heading back to Sydney which was a little heavy due to the wet weather although it flowed reasonably well considering the conditions.

Participants for the day were the Betchers, the Cheungs, and the Hammos, Hedley, Marcus, Shaun and Ian and Sarah, making a total of seven cars and seventeen people.

PS, If you think this article reads a bit strangely, it’s because Tim Steele told me that a trip report only needs to be a minimum of 10 sentences… so I took him up on it. ;-)

Explore Sydney Two – The Southern Loop

Explore Sydney is a series of one day outings designed to explore what lies to the north, south and west of the Sydney Basin. Last month’s northern trip was good fun, so Part 2 of the Explore Sydney trilogy saw us heading southwards. We met at Engadine Maccas, before taking a drive through the beautiful scenery of the Royal National Park and down to Bald Hill, overlooking Stanwell Park. No hanggliders today – not enough wind – but the view from the top of the peak is still stunning, and it’s easy to see why it has been called “the most photographed view in Australia”. We added to the theory by clicking off a few pixels, before heading down Lawrence Hargrave Drive, perhaps better known as The Coast Road.

Upon reaching Bulli Pass Road we turned right and headed up the hill, blowing some of the carbon buildup out of the engines. The V6 Vit loves being driven hard uphill, so this first ascent up the escarpment was a great deal of fun. At the top, we headed down the freeway, before exiting onto Picton Road to head inland. From there, we followed a tourist side road up to Mount Keira Lookout where we had marvellous views right up and down the coast.

From here, we were treated to the tour guiding skills of Ian Harris as he pointed out many of the side roads, shortcuts and points of interest he has learned from the work he does driving buses for the old folks. We descended down the escarpment again, and a group decision was made to pop in and look around the Nan Tien Temple. It wasn’t the sort of destination that a club trip normally goes to, but all were keen to see it. Very interesting place if you’re down that way. It’s the place on the big golden rooves on the left as you head through Dapto, and is one of the largest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere, or so I’m told.

A few hungry tummies were calling, so we decided to cruise down to the Macquarie Pass turnoff and give the cars another fun ascent up the ‘scarp to visit the famous Robertson Pie Shop. I know that driving on dirt is more fun that driving on tar, but there aren’t too many untarred roads down this neck of the woods. We were musing on the UHF what it must have been like to travel the road back before it was tarred, but tar or no tar, it is still a really beautiful (and enjoyable) drive.

Lunch was taken at Robertson, and then we cruised up through Bowral and Mittagong back onto the Freeway towards Sydney.

Not a lot of 4WDing so far you might have noticed… so I perused some old maps which showed a few dotted lines off into the hills behind Colo Vale and Hilltop and a decision was taken to see where they went, if anywhere. The track on the map did indeed exist, and we aired down to see where it would take us. A couple of ledges, a few rutty bits, an interesting crossing of a stream (at the top of a fairly large waterfall drop) and we then wound up a rocky hill to see where it went. Tim found a log that seemed to want to jam itself under his front diff, but he was soon released with a bit of help from his friends, and we continued on, only to discover that the track dead-ended. Oh well, you’ll never never know if you never never go. Some further explorations of the area led to more dead ends, but there were still lots of lines on the map that had potential for another day. So although we only got a limited amount of offroad play, it was still a nice way to finish a fun day of touring around. The bottom line is that the southern region doesn’t have a lot that is untarred, or open, unless you travel a bit further south.

One last sprint down the freeway to refuel and regroup at Pheasants Nest and we said our goodbyes. The consensus of opinion for the day was that it was a good trip, and despite the lack of serious 4WDing, most of the crew said they had a good time.

The final west trip? Ah, now that’s going to be a different story! Be prepared to get a bit dirty on that one.

Explore Sydney Three - The Western Loop

The Explore Sydney series concluded on Saturday November 29 with the final western loop. As you may recall, I've been running a series of trips which were aimed at skirting around the edges of Sydney on some of the lesser road and trails. The original idea came from taking a turnoff on the Putty Road at Colo one day and just following it to see where it went. At the time I had no idea where it was going, but sure enough, it eventually led me to more familiar territory down near Sackville. It seemed to me that there must be lots of tracks, roads and trails around the outskirts of our city that we rarely use so I decided to run this series of trips just to explore them.

The first trip met at Colo River and headed along the northern boundary via Wheelbarrow Ridge and the Hawkesbury River , up through Yengo National Park and Bucketty, across the Watagans, emerging at Ourimbah on the Central Coast .

The second trip headed south, via Royal National Park and down Lawrence Hargrave Drive – the coast road – where we criss-crossed up and down the Illawarra escarpment a number of times before heading back up onto the Southern Tablelands at Robertson, then went via Bowral, Mittagong and a short spot of 4 WDing near Hilltop.

The final trip went west, meeting at Richmond then heading up the hill to Kurrajong with a peek at Wheeney Creek camping area, back to Bells Line of Road via Mountain Lagoon, then via Burralow Creek, Kurrajong Heights and Agnes Banks, before we climbed the main range again into Springwood. From there we drove down to the Blue Mountains National Park for lunch with the kangaroos at Euroka Clearing followed by a pleasant afternoon swim at the Jellybean Pool.

The aim of the series was not really to do hard 4WDing – there simply aren't that many places to go hard 4WDing close to Sydney any more – but just to poke around and see what lays beyond the city boundaries. We did manage to find a bit of easy fourwheeling on each of the three trips, and even if it was pretty tame it was still quite scenic. What was most rewarding to me as the Tripleader was that on each trip people commented on the fact that they had lived in Sydney for many years and yet were going places and seeing things that they never knew existed. We found lookouts with spectacular views, and shortcuts to places that we never even realised were there. Speaking for myself, I thought I knew Sydney pretty well, but I discovered a lot of new places, and connections between those places, that were completely new experiences. I'm hoping that if some of it was new to me then it was also new to others as well.

We had 11 participants for this final trip – a good turn-up I thought. I especially wanted to thanks Marcus for his suggestions and advice on this last trip, and for coming along to help lead parts of it. The feedback from the Explore Sydney trips has been very positive and everyone seemed to have had a good day out, even if we did make it up as we went along at times. One thing that did really strike me was just how many tracks we have lost over the last few years; it's a real shame and something we need to work very hard at changing for the future.

Chris Betcher