Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bendigo Bonanza

As the name suggests, the Gangsters were off on another caching spree. However this time we wanted something different. The big cities had their appeal but so much had been said about the Bendigo/Ballarat area that we were keen to give this area a go.

A 4-day road trip was suggested and with that, planning commenced. Road trips certainly offer a continual change of scenery and a new destination each night which had its appeal. So on the 17th Aug after work, the Gangsters met at Sutton Forest for a gruelling road trip towards Bendigo. The weather had already taken a turn for the worse but that did little to dampen our enthusiasm as we headed down the Hume Hwy.

As the hours ticked by, the rain continued and so did the highway caches. Much of the drive was done with the wipers on full. As Thursday dawned, we driven beyond the rain but the evidence of its harshness was clear, many creeks and rivers had broken their banks resulting in localised flooding.

Our destination of Bendigo was reached and so the plethora of caches began. Our numbers quickly swelled as we made our way around the suburbs. The rain was never far away and at times it slowed our progress. As we moved into the afternoon we’d decided that the wet weather was conducive to camping and we sort the shelter of a cabin for the night. Food and grog were quickly consumed and weary bodies soon littered the cabin.

Friday greeted us with clear skies and a refreshed enthusiasm. We were soon on the road collecting the few remaining caches in Bendigo. From here we chose to head north towards Echuca and along the way we made many detours to pick up nearby caches. It was one of these detours that proved to rather eventful. As Jason crested a small rise on one particular dirt road, the recent rains had turned the already slick road into a skid pan. Our forward movement quickly became our sideways slide. Upon coming to a stop we realised that our extrication from this spot would be severely hampered due to a lack of traction. Help was sort from a nearby farm and any passing highway motorist. It was the later that proved successful and very nice guy pulled our car out of its bog.

On the road again and the caches kept coming. Echuca offered a great variety of tricky and well-constructed hides, but no sooner did we arrive and it was time to move on. Shepparton was to be our destination for the night, but there was still plenty of caching to be done before we’d reach there. Once again the soft option was chosen and we took the comfort of a cabin over the cold night air in a tent.

Saturday morning and after a good nights sleep we were on the road again. We were heading towards Wangaratta via various back roads, which looked spectacular, covered in flowering canola. Once in Wangaratta the caching density picked up and the finds flowed quickly. We opted to do two nearby mini power trails. These two runs resulted in 30+ finds in little over 2 hours and culminated in dinner and some exceptional backpackers.

After dinner we headed towards Rutherglen, stopping at a very comical cache which required us to walk a tightrope of planks suspended over water to the cache marooned on an island. Thankfully we all remained dry and were soon moving onto a winery series around Rutherglen which concluded with our first night in our tents.

The final day of our road trip was spent trucking up the Hume Hwy. Some short pit stops along the way resulted in a few more caches to the tally. After some 2500kms we returned home with an impressive 210 finds.

Thanks to my fellow Gangsters for a great road trip.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bonnum Pic - GC2XQF5

I will start by saying; this is what “The Rats” love about geocaching. The remote locations and hiking experiences we have had as a result of geocaching is what I love about this sport. So when Hoojar placed this remote cache at Bonnum Pic I was eager for another hike into the wilderness.

For those that don’t know, Bonnum Pic is just under 100km SW of Sydney in the Nattai National Park. It sits high above the Wollondilly River and offers amazing 360deg views with the Blue Mountains wilderness and Warragamba catchment to the north. The Pic is a narrow rocky ridgeline that protrudes out into the abyss. It’s a 16km round trip walk from the nearest parking spot.

On the 2nd Aug I left Wollongong ready for a hard days walk. The southern highlands had turned on a magnificent day, fog filled the valleys while a cool breeze filled the higher ridgelines. Leaving the Wombeyan Caves Rd I crossed a few acres of private property before parking at the National Park boundary. From this point there is very little signage identifying the route to Bonnum Pic. Numerous walkers over time have left a plethora of rock cairns which ensure you’re never too far off the beaten track.

The early stages of my walk hugged the nearby property and it was here that I seen the strangest sight of my walk. A ring-tailed possum had made the barb-wire fence its resting place for the day. Initially I though the possum was dead or stuck but he soon woke, checked me out before nodding back off to sleep.

Recent strong winds that had battered the region made my walk at times very difficult, large branches and fallen trees littered the ridgeline. My first glimpse of the Pic and the valley below certainly put the scale of this walk into perspective. 150m cliffs line the narrow ridge, which constantly reminding you of the perils around you. As you get closer to the Pic there are a few up and down climbs and a bit of boulder hopping. It is only when you are 130m from the end that the real rock scrambling starts. There is a short, very exposed climb down that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not being a good rock climber I opted for the safety line and was soon belaying myself down this tricky section.

Soon afterwards I had reached the end of the Pic and the vista from here was beautiful. Miles and miles of wilderness lay before me, it was magical. Having enjoyed the moment I set about retrieving the geocache and was glad to find a blank logbook.

My return route was back over the same country. The exposed climb seemed so much easier when climbing up and for every difficult boulder hopping route I faced there was always an easier path found upon inspection. Some 5½ hours after starting I had returned to the car, pleased with my walk and the FTF.

Thanks Hoojar for the cache.