Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Woolgoolga Whale Watching

We headed off to Woolgoolga to have lunch and see if we could spot a few whales off the headland.  We dropped into Bom Bom State Forest for a mountain bike ride on the way  The guys from Grafton have really been extending their trail network, well done, we're enjoying the trails !

Then off to Woolgoolga, "fish 'n chips" on the headland, just as we walked down to where we intended to sit, we were rewarded by having a pod of feeding dolphins cavorting just of the rocks... all before I could get the camera out of course !  After watching the dolphins I headed over to the southern side of the headland for a panorama shot

Looking south from the headland

On the walk back down I spotted a whale breaching in the distance.  I let Toni know and she followed it enthusiastically with the binoculars, while I set the camera up.  We saw the Whale breach a few times, lost it, found it and then lost it again.

Toni's whale !

While I had the magical experience a many whale sightings in the past, including this unforgettable experience, this was Toni's first encounter.  Unfortunately we only saw one the time we were there and it was quite a ways off the headland.

Of course we had been rewarded with an incredibly gorgeous day

Looking towards South West Solitary Island

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RAFT: Nymboida Village to Buccurambi

Decided to have a go yesterday, 22km of rafting.  Right near our front door.  The river is up from all the rain, so there was some trepidation but we had been advised that most of the rapids where C1-C2 in this section.

Trip Map

The first bit above the weir is full of Platypus, we must have seen over a dozen, of course trying to photograph them is near on impossible with a little p&s while sittiing in the raft, by the time the camera focuses, they are down again !  Unfortunately the crappy swirl below is as good as it gets photography wise.

Platypus Swirl

Maintenance in the one of the hyrdo station intakes

The river is full of wildlife, as are the banks, pulled over to stretch the legs, nearly trod on a goanna.

a surprised Goanna

It's an easy portgage left of the weir

Nymboida Weir

Getting back in the rafts at the bottom

Getting back in the raft

and looking back up

Weir from below

Even the normally slow parts where running swiftly

swift water !

In the wilderness

Miles of Smiles

Finishing at Buccurambi Bridge

There were plenty of trees (mostly Calistimons) overhanging the river, and acting as strainers, one nasty incident saw me being smashed in the side trying (unsuccessfully) to get away from a thick branch that was overhanging !

Friday, November 26, 2010

HIKE/SWIM: Clarence Rv Gorge

We had been thinking about heading out to the Clarence Rc Gorge for some time now, so having some time off on Thursday, that's exactly what we did.  There are a couple ways to get there, we cam from Copmanhurst, across the Clarence Rv at the Lillydale bridge
Only just low enough to cross !
because of all the rain, the water was just under the crossing, allowing us to get through

and then followed the winding road further up into some beautiful country.  This was to be an exploratory trip, to decide if it was worthwhile coming back and spending some time there, kayaking or rafting.  We approached from the western side oft he river, through the private property called "The Gorge" , rather then on the western side via "Wavehill Station".

The country was incredibly green, the colour almost luridly vibrant
Verdant famland

The drive slowly snakes further and further up the river, with glimpses of the river around nearly every corner, along with some wonderful River Red Gums
Massive river red gums
Old power pole on it's last legs

After speaking to the properties owner, we parked the Ute and started the hike up the river, it's only about 3 - 4 km up .  The "track" follows the river up at the bottom of the high bank, river left and is a partly obscured cow track, a little difficult to follow in places but it get's you there.

You pass numerous massive fig trees,

Fig trees lining the cow track you follow up the Rv
all the while being able to hear the river but not see most of the time, it as it crashes through the baslat rock, having carved it's own path over millions of years.

Eventually you come around the corner, spying Rainbow Falls, the last of the falls (numbered coming down the river)

Rainbow Falls
from there we continued up the river.  Unfortunately, the rest of the falls are near the bank opposite and because of the rain we have been having, the usually low channel on our side was too high, proving impassable, oh well, I guess it means we will have to come back !

We knew we would be doing a few water crossings, so Toni was keen to try her Vibram Fivefingers out on a true hike

Toni stepping out in her" Fivefingers" !
We found a great spot beside the river to stop, swim have lunch and relax before heading back

There was plenty of fauna, the highlight being two wedgetail eagles and a huge goanna, as well as interesting flora
Fungi on a log

After the walk back, we jumped in the river to cool down with another swim, then headed back out home, coming back out onto the Gwydir Hwy, before Jackadgery.

There are plenty of paid camping spots right beside the river, as well as a cottage to hire f you're looking for something a little more salubrious and they will even arrange to take you up the river in a small boat if you're so inclined.

Well worth the trip, next time we need to take the rafts !

Friday, November 5, 2010

RAFT/MTB: Packrafting the Boyd Rv

This was to be a full day adventure, and a full day of adventure it turned out to be.    One of the huge advantages of the Alpaka packrafts is the size they pack down to, that versatility, combined with a great design was one of the main reasons we chose these as the best solution for us.   This versatility was to come into it's own on this trip.  While mountain bike riding was our primary passion, being in the bush was where it was at.  Combining the Mount Bikes with rafting in a single day promised to be everything we were looking for.

We had planned to start at Buccarumbi (the confluence of the Mann and Nymboida Rv's) about 15 minutes from our place, ride our mountain bikes to Dalmorton, (a once thriving gold mining area, long ago abandoned), just to the west of the Chalendui National Park, some 19km's up the river, with the rafts on the bikes !  I had recently acquired a Freeload rack for my bike, from Ground Effect
Freeload Rack for bicycles

the perfect piece of kit to carry something the size of the packraft.  I mounted it on my Specialized Epic 29er and had Toni jump on to grab a pic with it all kitted up.  While I had the raft strapped to the Freeload, Toni had everything in a larger backpack, not quite as nice to ride this way but easily doable.  The breakdown paddles easily fitted in the pack, my lightweight carbon fibre Sawyer paddle is shown in my Camelback  HAWG for comparison.

Kitted up ready to go

Some research had led us to believe the best time to kayak the Boyd Rv was when the flood level gauge was at about 1.5m at Jackadegry (the closest food gauge, further down the system on the Mann Rv) ,  we were just under 1.5m, the sunny weather from the last two days had deserted us but while it was overcast, there were still sunny patches.

We  left the vehicle at Buccarumbi at about 8am, then started riding taking us 90mins to ride to Dalmorton on the old Grafton - Glenn Innes dirt road. 

View Larger Map

While the road is a 4-WD road and not the single track nearly all mount bike riders lust after, it's a superb ride as it follows the river for nearly the entire 19km, there were no difficult climbs but several long gentle ones followed by a few fast descents.  We were continually gawping at the great views as the river broiled along side us, taking note of some of the trickier rapids, a couple of the rapids looked to be approaching Grade 3 with the extra water from the recent rains.

The Freeload performed superbly in it's inaugural outing and didn't miss a beat as we rounded the last corner and spied the Dalmorton sign

Arriving at Dalmorton

We unpacked the gear, I inflated the rafts with the bag inflation device and topped it off with the mouth valve while Toni organised the gear.

Inflating the seat with the mouth valve
Pack secured with the Alpacka pack-latch system

Ready to rock 'n roll !
 After securing the bikes, packing the rafts and doing a final check we headed off

and so it begins
Putting in at Dalmorton is right on a race, so you are into it from the first paddle stroke, before you get a chance to settle down

enjoying a respite between rapids

and make the final small adjustments.  The top half of he river for this trip seemed littered with mostly grade 1 and 2 rapids, the extra water adding a little more challenge making the grade 2 rapids a little harder, this made the  going swift and a lot of fun , with the stability and superb control of the packrafts providing sense of relief

when heading towards boulders in the middle of the rapids.  We paddled for about 2 hours

before stopping for lunch on a some sun warmed boulders and enjoying a swim

not long after lunch the weather turned, and alight shower started, this gave me the perfect opportunity to try our my mew Arctyrex rain jacket, which worked to keep me both warm and dry.  Toni had her jacket and being very fashion conscious, it even matched her raft !

Rafting through a rain squall

After lunch we started won river again, unfortunately in my zeal to start rafting I had forgotten to un-clip my Garmin Edge 305, that I use on my mountain bikes and transfer it to the raft.  I had loaded up several waypoints to give us an indication of our progress, DOH !

The river quietened from here, with several races and smaller rapids but none of the excellent grade  2 rapids we had encountered before lunch.  On the upside this gave us more time to enjoy the prolific wildlife, especially birdlife from the ubiquitous cormorant and blue beaked ducks, to the more exotic eagles and Azure Kingfishers and the occasional tortoise and eastern bearded dragon sunning themselves and the plethora of fish swirling about.

Paddling one of the slower sections

We had planned on getting in somewhere between 3-4pm,

so we were surprised when 5 rolled around and we still and not spotted the Nymboida Rv, after 7 hours paddling the body was starting to get weary and when we finally rounded the bend at 5:30 and spotted the confluence of the Boyd and Nymboidia rivers (Buccaurambi) it had been a full day but still, a part of you never wants these wonderful experiences to end.

We still had to pack up and drive back up the road to retrieve the bikes but that seemed a doddle after the hours we'd spent riding and rafting.

A thoroughly enjoyable day on a beautiful wild river,right at our back door.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

RAFT: Packrafting Goolang Ck

Rapids on Goolang Ck !

Goolang Ck is where the outflow from the local hydro station goes (after taking water from the Nymboida Rv) and is the site for the Nymboida Canoe Centre, some 4km (as the crow flies) from us.. We have been getting fairly heavy rain (150mm in 3 days). Oddly, they close the inlets for the hydro station (and thus no extra water goes into Goolang Ck) when the Nymboida Rv is either too low OR too high. Apparently at the moment it is too high, so there was only minimal inflow from the hydro power station but that's okay as this was only our second time packrafting, it allowed us to get some more experience before there is too much water in the creek !

There are so many creeks and rivers here to explore in the rafts. Lucky though, with brown flood water, no one can see if I shi_t myself !
Go baby, go !

The canoe centre has free PFD (lifejacket) and Helmet hire for locals (no banjos, unfortunately !), so we took advantage and put them on, just in case.

The very height of fashion !

Pics here

Thursday, September 30, 2010

RAFT: Packrafting the Nymboida Rv

If you live in an area called the "Northern Rivers" you would expect there to be a good scattering of rivers about and you would not be disappointed.  We live near the banks of the Nymboida Rv and so it seemed appropriate that this was the location for us to use our newly acquired Packrafts. 

Taking it back a step.  For some time we had been tossing up what  to do in terms of enjoying the many local rivers that abound around us, along with a low environmental impact.  The initial obvious choice was either a single person kayaks, we then changed our thinking to a 2 person canoe as the best solution and then coincidentally while reading a post on an Australia Bushwalking Forum, I was intrigued by a concept called a Packraft.  The concept immediately appealed, simplistically they are small rafts designed to be backpacked up the river, then inflated and raft down the river on them/  They were small, stable in white water, could be packed down into a backpack, loaded onto a mountain bike, in a small car, or just onto your back.  Some more research, a few questions to a local Aussie user (Steve) on the Bushwalking Forum and the obvious leaders in the field are the Alpaka Brand.

Visiting Youtube and chatting to others users on the forums, we decided these were for us so we put our order in.  Toni opted for the "Denali Llama" and myself for the "Unrigged Explorer"

They arrived i two packages over the last few days, we practised inflating them with the inflation bag, then headed out the next day.  Starting at the bridge over the Nymboida just up the road from us.  Toni went first, ostensibly so I could take a pics, so I did...

Inaugural Launch !
and we headed down the river...

Heading down the Nymboida Rv.

The rafts don't handle the best in flat still water, no skeg or rudder sees them acting a little skittishly but that's not why we got them.  In their element,  fast flowing water, they were superb, extremely stable.  Toni was a little nervous of the first set of rapids,so she jumped out to watch me.
Approaching the first rapids

The rafts are so incredibly stable and handle rapids and low water easily.
Into the first rapids

Doing the business !  This is what it's all about
or is THIS the business

We saw plenty of wildlife, that most gorgeous of birds the Azure Kingfisher made an appearance, as did a Platypus and a plethora of lizards soaking up some sun.

A Water Dragon enjoying the Sun

We spent about 2 hours for the first trip, hopefully the first of many !

More pics can be found here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HIKE/MTB: Cathedral Rock National Park

With the offer of "Giant boulders, sculpted rock and distinctive granite tors make striking subjects for photography and keep an eye out for wedge-tailed eagles on the wing.Cathedral Rocks NP was on our list of close by Parks to visit and walk.

Cathedral Rock NP Map

It's only an hours drive from us, we'd planned to do the longer walk from Barokee Camping Area through to the Native Dog Creek Camp area, about a 12km trip including the walk up to Cathedral Rock and Woolpack Rocks.

The plan was to walk one way and ride our MTB's back to the Car, we wanted to walk "downhill", so we dropped the bikes off at Native Dog Creek camping area, hidden in the scrub and drove around to the Barokee Camping Area to head off.  On the drive back, I noticed a couple of climbs on the road that we would need to ascend after the walk, adding a challenge to tired legs.

The walk is all on formed trail,

Typical Trail

 with no steep or challenging bits except for the climb up to Cathedral Rock itself, even I suffered vertigo going up there ! but wow what a view

The spectacular view from atop Cathedral Rock

The walk starts off through low lying country, with hardened crossings to protect the fragile wetlands, gently ascending alongside a picturesque stream, with smaller granite boulders all around us.

Typical moss covered granite boulder

 After a few km's you turn off the trail and head up to Cathedral Rock, a steep crawl up steep boulders, with one stretch so steep there is a chain available to help haul yourself up !

Using the chain is a must to ascend/descend Cathedral Rock
Banksais of all sizes abound
This nifty ladder helps scale Woolpack Rocks
After enjoying the view and taking the required pics, we headed down and continued on the trail towards Woolpack Rocks.  The trail rises gradually, ascending to the top of the range before beginning a gradual descent.  Banksias of all sizes abound as you walk through Banksia Forests Once you get to the descent, the country changes somewhat, with more granite boulders, and a small flowing creek bubbling along beside you. 

It's not long before you get to the Woolpack Rock turnoff.  A 250m diversion that sees you once again scrambling

though and over rocks to be rewarded by magnificent views from the top.

This was an excellent spot to stop and have lunch and to take time to explore some of the knocks and crannies to be rewarded with a glimpse of the local wildlife 

and distinctive weathering patterns on different rocks


After lunch we headed down to the main trail and kept walking towards the Native Dog Camp Area, with plenty of flora and fauna to admire on the way

We had hidden our bikes at the other end of the trail, at the Native Dog Camp Area earlier in the day, so when we had finished the walk we had an 18km ride back to the vehicle.  The smaller climbs which would normally be no problem on the bike started to look like the mountains of the Tour de France after the long walk, and it felt great to finally get back to the Car and give the legs a rest.  All in all a superb walk, with lots of interesting features I would recommend to anyone. 

If you have limited time, I woudl suggest doing the 4,3km loop from the Barokee Camp area (access is on an unselaed road) out to Cathedral Rock and back.