The Red Rocks

Party: Tim Vollmer, Kosta Seiler, Mariacristina (Mary) Merlo, Tracey Bullivant, John Lieberth, Floor (Fleur) Frings

With the weatherman promising heavy rain and strong winds, it was only the hardiest of souls who dared make the early morning trek out to Newnes ready to set off and explore the Red Rocks.

Suboir president Bjorn “The Piker” Sturmberg had bailed the day before (claiming his decision was unrelated to the weather) following three others who did the same during in the week (although at least they were a bit more honest about their softness, hence no naming and shaming).

We’d squeezed into two cars for the trip, but unfortunately one was a two wheel drive. The dirt road didn’t disappoint, with plenty of potholes, a flowing stream crossing the road, and a slippery section that had even my Forester feeling like it was on a slip-and-slide.

Driving as far as the first private property fence in Little Capertee Creek we parked, did some last minute rationalising of pack weight, then set off along the creek.

It is a beautiful area. Through the rain and mist the cliffs towered above us. The leaves glistened with raindrops while the ferny undergrowth was incredibly green and lush. The wattles were in flower, giving some spectacular splashes of golden colour to the grey surroundings.

After about 500 metres the creek crossed the road, and we decided to ignore the earlier private property sign, assuming it was too wet and miserable for a redneck to be sitting on a porch stroking a shotgun anyway.

We climbed a lovely pass at a fork in the valley, with a nice dry cave half way up, and a spectacular lookout on top. We took a few photos, but the wind was cold so didn’t pause too long.

Only Mary had been in the area before, and her memory of a few years back was a little hazy, so there was some discussion about where we should head. In the end we decided to head towards The Room, hoping we could find this sheltered camp site which would protect us from the howling wind.

We skirted below the pagodas, which were shrouded in mist, before eventually reaching the top of the main cliffline overlooking the Capertee.

We moved down into a defile, following shale ledges under the towering cliffs for some time before reaching Point Nicholson, where we found a sheltered cave for lunch. Even in our spot, away from the main cliff line, the wind howled, convincing us that while a camp cave would be nice to avoid the rain, protection from the wind was going to be more important.

After lunch we headed up to the tops, walking north east along the ridge which was intersected by numerous deep canyons. From here we could see the impressive pagodas of the Red Rocks, along with the rugged broken cliffs surrounding Canobla Creek. Impressive as it was Mary was certain this was past The Room (which turned out to be a great call) so we started heading back to the south.

We found a slot that took us to the base of the pagodas (actually two slots, but Kosta’s was a bit too adventurous for the full group) and shortly after got the call from Mary that this was it. Up through an easy ramp, which has a deep dark slot shoot off, and we were in The Room.

We’d no longer arrived and made the short walk to the Western Balcony to admire the total white-out when the rain decided to set in again. The camp site’s one downside is a lack of decent overhangs, so we all went for a wander to look for somewhere to hang out while the weather cleared. Every cave we found was too small, too short, too sloping, too windy, too wet or too far away, so we instead rigged up a fly, got a fire going and decided to wait out the rain. The rain, being rather patient, decided to hang about and put an end to any further exploration.

Thankfully by nightfall it had basically stopped, the fire was chugging along nicely, and the wind racing over the pagodas made us thankful for this gem of a spot.

Out came the booze, diverse and plentiful, as well as meals that ranged from the basic to the gourmet (Tracey’s baked dinner and Kosta’s Thai curry probably the two standouts, not to mention John’s endless supply of delicacies). The usual conversations were had, which are not fit for polite company and would see this report blocked by the proposed internet filter, but needless to say we all got to know each other a lot better.

Encouraged by the appearance of some stars above, and the need to ensure all the drinks were consumed, we continued to an healthy hour before retiring to bed.

With the weather still less than impressive in the morning, and some slight headaches from the night’s festivities, we were slow to rise, with two unnamed walkers needing the threat of being left behind before they finally arose at about 10am.

With the weather steadily improving the cameras all came out, and our movement along the cliff tops was slow as each pagoda was climbed and each cave examined. Returning to the large defile from the day before we moved east, which was probably a mistake, although it did take us along an impressive shale ledge and eventually, after a couple false starts, down a lovely, lush green canyon that finished next to a small waterfall and stunning overhang.

We made out way to the ‘Pagoda of Death’ – which looks even more dangerous than in the pictures – yet turned out to be an incredibly easy scramble with spectacular 360 degree views from the top.

As we continued there were a number of impressive pinnacles seen jutting out from the clifflines. Mary found some interesting poo which she examined with a pair of chopsticks, holding it a little closer to her mouth than some of us were comfortable with. Eventually we decided to seek a sheltered spot for lunch before pushing on.

Even out of the wind the temperature was chilly, so there wasn’t much desire to laze about. A few plans were discussed, but realising we had more than one dodgy knee slowing us down we ended up deciding to return to the ridge we had come up on and head back to the cars.

On the way John, or “Doc” as he was dubbed, strapped up old lady Tracey’s knee, and before long we were back at the lookout from the day before, admiring the views vastly enhanced by the improving weather.

From here we were simply retracing out steps, enjoying the lushness of the bush without the rain, and setting a good pace back to the cars. By 4pm we were packed up, heading back out the already vastly improved road and thinking about a well earned beer.

Boycotting the Bilpin Apple Bar (I can only handle staff sending smelly bushwalkers out onto the cold balcony away from the respectable patrons so many times before black listing a place), we went down to Kurrajong Heights where the Cityview Bistro provided its usual quick, tasty, reasonably priced pub feed allowing us to undo all the physical benefits of the walk before hitting the road again.

Given the trip was to a place I’d never been, with appalling weather forecast, it was surprisingly good. Best of all it gave me a taste of the area, which is truly stunning, and will definitely inspire another visit in the not too distant future.

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