1 January 2015

Mount Werong campground, Yerranderie and Wombeyan Caves

We decided to camp in a remote area of the Blue Mountains National Park, to visit two very interesting spots,  Yerranderie and Wombeyan Caves. The final push came from Frances, she invited us to a gathering in her home in Bowral with Rafael, a Spaniard that was visiting Sydney and that we didn't have any opportunity to meet. This was finally a big party with lots of Frances' friends. We planned everything to reach Mount Werong Campground by 6 pm, with time to set up the tent before sunset. Eva, Eladio and Eira were going to be waiting for us in the campground.
From Bowral, we drove west to Wombeyan Caves through Bullio, the shortest drive.

The route was lovely, but, unexpectedly, the last 40 km were unsealed. In fact, some areas were not very easy, with lots of washouts, corrugations, rubble, and blind curves, and driving, in many places, very close to the cliff. Fantastic views, enjoyable trip, and lots of adrenaline.
Crossing Wollondilly River
Our 4WD behaved very well, but we reached Wombeyan Caves later than expected... and the difficult part was ahead!
When we planned our trip, we decided to reach Mt Werong campground through a fire trail and other mountain trails: almost 36 km of 4WD driving. I couldn't find much info about this route, and we weren't sure how easy or difficult it was going to be (Google Maps couldn't map this route).
After a few km in a nice sealed road, we got into a flat wide dirt road, and, we commenced the unknown part of the trip. We turned right into Langs road, and left into the Range Fire Trail Road in our way up to Colong Stock Route (from 600 m at Wombeyan to 1200 m at the camp).

It was a good ride, with a fair amount broad-base rolling dips. I didn't realised how big these dips can be and we had a few hard jumps (lesson learned). This road was better and easier than expected and we arrived to the campground on time, greeted by our friends.
Range Fire Trail Road
The campground has a few buildings (only for emergencies), 2 covered picnic tables, rainwater tank, fire pits, a pit toilet, a few other buildings and some information panels. After the usual complains setting up the tent, we got organised for dinner and bed.

On the 2nd day, after a smoky breakfast, we traveled to Yerranderie, using the Colong Stock Route. A sensational route that crossed different types of forest. In some areas the road is very narrow (luckily we didn't meet anybody in these areas) with ruts and floodways.
Wallaby on the Colong Stock Route

Colong Stock Route

After almost 50 km, Yerranderie: an old mining town, once the home of 2000 people, and now a ghost town. There are ruins and photos of the good old days, and a few walking tracks to visit what is left from the old mines, and the Yerranderie peak.


Yerranderie Silver Mines Hotel, 1st building (top), reconstruction after the fire (bottom)

We didn't have time to climb to the peak, but we visited the Silver Peak Mine and the Bartlett’s Shaft No 6, and the buildings in the Ghost Town (after paying a fee to NSW NPWS).
Yerranderie Ghost Town


Yerranderie Ghost Town

Silver Peak Mine
We could have stayed longer, but after visiting the cemetery it was time to drive back.
Kangaroos on the road
Camping at Mt Werong Campground

Although we had plans for a good dinner, the rain changed our agenda. With no BBQ, we cooked in our Trangia hamburgers for all. With the rain still falling, we walked to the tent to find out that we had important leaks on our section. This is an almost 6 year-old tent, and probably it was the right time to fail (two of the poles are already damaged, and there are a few other issues). It took a while to get the rain out of the way (moving the inner tent to separate it from the flysheet, tighten the guy ropes,...) before getting into the sleeping bag. And at 2 am, a bite on my forehead woke me up... I removed a fleshy thing... a leech!! After a few minutes, with our headlights and mobiles, we found it and removed it from the tent. Stopping the bleeding took longer (such a good anticoagulant)... We couldn't find any other and there were no holes in the tent, and we conclude that  it got attached to my clothes when I was fixing the tent. Fortunately, I could get back to sleep soon.

On the 3rd day, I had to drive to Oberon to refuel. We forgot to do it in Bowral (there is an Spanish proverb that translates as "Who falls short in the head must be long in the heels"... or wheels in this case). At 7 am, the drive was superb. Easy road, full with wildlife until we got close to Oberon. On our way back, Victoria used a timelapse app to film part of the way. Almost no animals this time, but one of the two kangaroos we saw in our way, jumped in front of the car. No damages and a good movie sequence.

Everybody was quite slow this morning, and we changed plans. We decided to walk the Ruby Creek Mine Track, that starts at the campground and follows Ruby Creek to the old mine, close to a big 50 m waterfall (that we couldn't reach). Mt Werong was another mining area, home of 70 miners in 1935, and the place were the largest recorded diamond in NSW was found.

Ruby Creek Mine Track
The walk was very nice and the views from the lookout at the Mine site were breathtaking.

Views from Ruby Creek Mine
We wanted to go into the creek, but access was difficult (and all these signs about open mine shafts weren't very reassuring).

For our way back, the kids decided to use the road tracks and the Colong Stock Route. We found a couple of dead wombats by the road (the only wombats we saw in our trip), and we tried to find the noisy crickets (or we thought they were crickets) that were filling the evening.

Again another storm, that almost canceled our BBQ dinner, but we were happy waiting (no access to weather forecast) with a few beers and drinks until the rain stopped. We got back the blue skies and the heat. This is NSW weather.

The area got dry soon while we were cooking our steaks. Great fun for the evening that finished with burned marshmallows.

"Burning" marshmallows (not very Spanish)
We had a sunset walk, the opportunity to see more animals was worth the try, but we weren't lucky, only the random wallaby.

After an good night sleep, we woke everybody early to pack and leave for Wombeyan Caves. We were concerned as our friends had a 2WD SUV. Slowly we drove down the 36 km to the Caves (and we filmed the whole drive with our GoPro). The trip was uneventful and we reached the caves in time for the guided tour of the Wollondilly Cave. Before this, we walked the self-guided Fig Tree Cave. The Wollondilly cave is as impressive (or more impressive) that the Jenolan caves we visited last year. We had a great time with a very friendly guide.
Fig Tree Cave

Victoria's Arch at Fig Tree Cave

Wollondilly cave

Wollondilly cave - very steep steps, and narrow corridors. Great fun for everybody

Wollondilly cave

Wollondilly cave

Wollondilly cave

In the evening, we played with the idea of using the sealed roads (280 km) instead of the unsealed route (180 km) that we already knew to go back to Sydney. The decision was to drive back the unsealed road. It was better this time, but still not an easy drive. We were amazed with the number of 2WD we crossed and overtook. We can perfectly imagine how hard the drive would have been for them.

This was an excellent adventure that we are happy to repeat in the future.

Desde Enero de 2011, en Español y en Inglés
From January 2011, in English and Spanish

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