Main Range Loop Track – Mt Kosciuszko

Due to unexpected changes in the itinerary for my Great Southern Road Trip I was able to walk the Main Range Loop Track to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko from Charlottes Pass. It was a fine sunny day with an expected maximum of 19oC and winds up to 25 kph.

While Australia’s highest peak comes in at a little more than a quarter of Everest it is still worth the investment of time to complete the 22 km circuit. For a start you can do it in a T-shirt and you don’t need oxygen! Oh and there are toilets near the top!

At the start.

Three ways to the roof of Australia

You can reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko three ways ranging from super easy to harder then hardest. The easiest option is to use the chairlift from Thredbo. Next you can walk straight up the 8.8 km of the Kosciuszko Walk from Charlottes Pass and return downhill by the same route or take the chairlift back to Thredbo. This of course will only work if you are able to use a shuttle service to drop you off at Charlottes Pass.

A harder but certainly do-able option even for Old Chooks like me, is the more circuitous Main Range Loop Track. This track also starts at Charlottes Pass and the return portion from the summit is via the Kosciuszko Walking Track. The NSW National Parks website has some good information. You can find the map on AllTrails and ViewRanger. (Search using Kosciuszko Main Range Track).

Higher altitude mean higher fitness required

You need a good level of fitness for the longer walks as both have sustained uphill sections (as you’d expect to get to a summit) but also because for those who are not used to walking at higher altitudes there may be some increased difficulty due to less oxygen.

The shorter Kosciuszko Track is also very popular with trail bikers although you can not take your bike right up to the summit. The tracks are snow bound in winter so you should consider doing the walk in late spring to early winter, (September – June) although if cross country skiing or snowshoeing is your thing, the tracks remain open. 

Main Range Loop Track

The track is very well made and maintained as it is a very popular route. In some sections it is paved with actual pavers you’d use in your own yard. In other areas there are large granite flagstones, a metal boardwalk and plastic webbing on steeper sections which holds the loose scree in place. It is wide enough to walk two abreast except on the metal boardwalk and one short narrow section above Lake Albina. 

Lake Albina

Being a circuit track you could go either clockwise or anticlockwise. I would recommend going anticlockwise (and so does the signage) because the first section of the track is a very steep section heading down to a stream. The thought of doing this as your last kilometre after already having walked 21 km is not very inviting! The downhill walk using the Kosciuszko Walking Track is much more palatable!

At the very start of the track you need to cross a small creek. It is very clear and deeper than it looks! While there are stepping stones I still ended up with a boot full of water! (Given how well made the rest of the track is it is surprising that there is not a board walk over the creek?)

In season there are lots of delicate little wildflowers in the alpine meadows and around the gurgling streams. The views are expansive and the outcrops of granite add interest to the treeless slopes. There are no small shrubs or trees at this altitude, only low ground covers. 

Fees, toilets and that sort of stuff. 

You need to pay to access the National Park unless you already have an All Parks Annual Pass. The fee varies throughout the year and is more expensive in winter during the ski season. 

People at the Summit

The recommended time to complete the track is 7 – 9 hours so you will need to take food and water for a whole day. There is a lodge and cafe at Charlottes Pass where you can get a simple meal and coffee. 

There are toilets at Charlottes Pass and more near the summit. As stated it is a very popular walk so there are lots of people on good weather days. Along with the lack of vegetation this makes it a bit difficult to take a quick squat with your waste bag on the way!

Always be mindful that mountain weather can change very rapidly and it can get cold even in summer, so take layers! (And another pair of socks for when you get your boot full of water 500 metres from the start of the track!)

Wollongong Snapshot 3: The Active ‘Gong – a few free, fun outdoor activities when you visit Wollongong.

There’s plenty to see and do in my home town. People come here for holidays! You can easily fill up a weekend with active fun and fab food with very little effort. This post is about some free things you can do to keep active while spending time in Wollongong. I am not going to say much about accommodation or cafes etc. I will keep that for a separate post. This is certainly not an exhaustive guide but gives you a bit of an idea of things to do.

  1. Like swimming but not sand? Head down to the Continental Pools just on the other side of the breakwater from Belmore Basin.

    There are two 50 m pools side by side. They are filled with the sea water but not tidal and the bright blue pool shell makes them look like a regular chlorine pool. Entry is free! This blog post gives some more information about the pool. http://oceanpoolsnsw.net.au/continental-baths-wollongong-nsw-2529/ . The Wollongong Council website also has information about opening times. http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/facilities/beachespools/Pages/pools.aspx#gref

  2. Like swimming and don’t mind the sand? Wollongong has more sandy beaches than you can poke a boogie board at! From Stanwell Park in the north to “Farm” down at Killalea State Park there are all sorts of beaches.

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    Woonona Beach

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    Bulli Beach Sea Pool

    If you are in the CBD, you can easily walk to City Beach or North Beach. The Bathing Pavilion at North Beach has been renovated and has good change rooms and showers and there are some cafes there too.

    You can walk along the Blue Mile and around the lighthouses to get from one beach to the other. City Beach and North Beach are patrolled (by life guards) in season and you should swim between the flags. Belmore Basin is a small sandy beach on Wollongong Harbour. This is a great place for little kids and swimmers who don’t like waves. If you are a surfer have a look at this site for a few suggestions. http://www.backpackaround.com/things-to-do/destinations/new-south-wales/wollongong/wollongong-surfing.html

  3. Bushwalking. There are some very fine bushwalks in the Illawarra area.
  • Sublime Point Walk. If you are a bit of an extreme exercise enthusiast, you might like to try the Sublime Point Walk. It’s short (less than a kilometre one way) but it’s straight up (more or less) the escarpment. Lots of people try to beat their own personal best and get it done one way in less than 30 minutes. That’s easy if you come down the track but not so much if you start at Austinmer and go up. The National Parks website tells you how to get there and where to park. You can take the train and get off at Austinmer. This is also uphill and will take about 20 – 25 minutes. Take water and snacks. There is a café at the top but it is not open 24/7. Apart from trying to beat the speed record lots of people aim to get to the top by sunrise, so many start the walk in the near dark. Please note: the local residents will get VERY narky if you park in their driveway so play nice if you drive. You should be fit to do this walk – it’s a hard slog and will be tough on your knees. You need to be comfortable climbing ladders and there are lots of stairs. But the view!! The view is amazing!

http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/sublime-point-walking-track

 

  1. The Park Run: The Park Run is a global volunteer-organised running club. There are three places you can do the Park Run in the Illawarra if you are a registered member. One in Sandon Pont, another that starts from Fairy Meadow Surf Club and then down south in Shellharbour. These 5 km timed runs are all in great locations and attract lots of locals and travellers. http://www.parkrun.com.au/northwollongong/ . Links to the Sandon Point and Shellharbour runs are on this page. The runs are held on Saturday mornings.

 

  1. Bike riding: Fancy a long ride along the beach? There is a bike/walk path that goes from the just south of the city up to Thirroul in the North – around 10 km all up. You will wind your way past several beaches, Bellambi Lagoon and some urban areas. You can also ride around Lake Illawarra (about 31 km) http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/facilities/sportrec/Pages/CyclingGuide.aspx

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The Seacliff Bridge

In the future it will be possible to walk/ride from Stanwell Park in the north right down to Lake Illawarra.  http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/services/majorprojects/Pages/grandpacificwalk.asp Some sections are completed but it is not yet possible unless you ride on the road. You can walk/ride across the iconic Seacliff Bridge which features in lots of car ads. The bridge is on Lawrence Hargrave Drive.

6.  Wollongong Botanic Gardens. For those who prefer a more gentle walk the WBG are a real treat. Both Native and exotic plants are on display with picnic areas and secret trails. http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/botanicgarden/Pages/default.aspx. They also host a Sunset Cinema in summer (which is not free). You could also duck across the road and have a wander through the University of Wollongong’s grounds.

Need a rest?

The following ideas, while not active may also be of interest to round out your weekend!

  1. Feeling Spiritual? Australia is a secular country but there are several large temples and churches in the Illawarra area that are interesting to visit.

  • Nan Tien Temple. The Nan Tien Temple is a huge Buddhist Temple and conference centre. It has beautiful gardens and you can wander around and look at the interesting buildings, gong the peace bell and sit in on the free lectures about Buddhism. There is a very good vegan café. This page has information on how to get there and what to wear http://www.nantien.org.au/en/visitor-info/directions-and-dress-code
  • Sri Venkateswara Temple. This Hindu temple is in the northern most suburb of Wollongong; Helensburgh. While accessible by public transport and a 4 km walk, a car would make it much easier! It is closed between 12 – 4pm on week days. Once again you can buy vegetarian food here. Find more information here

 http://www.svtsydney.org/contactus.html

  1. Museums and Art Galleries:
  • Wollongong Art Gallery: There is a small regional art gallery in Wollongong’s city centre. It has a permanent collection as well as several exhibitions each year. It would be a great way to spend an hour or so on a very hot or wet day! http://www.wollongongartgallery.com/gallery/Pages/default.aspx
  • Illawarra Museum: This cute little museum which is run by the Illawarra Historical Society is right on the beach and in the old court building. It’s free to enter but they can use a donation if you would like to contribute. See their website for more http://www.illawarramuseum.com/

 

NOT FREE!

 

[1] This is for the full track – there are several paces to start so you can cut it down to 6 km one way if you wish.

Footpath of the Gods

The Footpath to the Gods is a series of walks around Amalfi in Italy. The final night of a small group walking holiday around the region was very nearly ruined by a good old fashioned fist fight!

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The Final Supper

My attention was suddenly snapped out of the pleasant conversation with the Kiwi’s and flew to the other end of the table. Angry words were flaring loudly around the pizzeria. The New York wife trying unsuccessfully to damp things down but it was too late.

The Yank couple and the Scottish pair were at it.

“…ya shouldna hev come then! Dinna ya read the brochure? This isn’t a gastronomy tour! If ya wanna  feed yer face you should’a picked a diff’rent package!”

This was the conversation we all had wanted to hear but in the confines of a shared “small group tour,” it needed to wait till the last night. When we could burst out and show our true selves without having to be polite. Without compromising. There would be no tomorrow for “us” as a group, only the “us” we came with on Day 1. Rosemary, the other Aussie, and I as singles, and the others as three couples. Tensions had been building. It was now or never.

Not up to the challenge

Leah and Nathan were clearly not walkers. They had been an anchor on the group for the whole seven days of our walking tour of the Amalfi Coast. Slowing us down; balking at the stairs every time. Wanting to get a bus instead of skirting around the scenic cliff face. In an effort to keep up, Nathan had fallen heavily and twisted his knee and this slowed us down even further.

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The Intrepid Travel brochure had labelled it as three stars for physical activity with ‘a reasonably good level of fitness recommended’. Leah and Nathan would have struggled with half a star.

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Nathan’s pushed his chair back and he pulled himself up to his very ample height. He bristled; his belly quivering. He was tall. But he was nearly as wide.

‘If you were all not such cheapskates we could have done both! There are plenty of good restaurants around here!’

Snap-01

“I am sick of paying for your extra tasting plates!” Eric shouted, standing a full head shorter than Nathan.

I had to admit that on the inside I had hoped to eat a bit better than the pizza and pasta we had usually settled on. The menù Turistico – cheap and filling with some Lambrusco or beer to wash it down. Maybe gelato at the end. But I was sick of splitting the bill; especially since they always ordered enough for four.

Tourists behaving badly!

I am not sure who pushed who first. An awkward pause followed. An imaginary spotlight shone on the two main actors; the orchestra came to a crescendo. The whole restaurant was focused on the misbehaving tourists as we waited for it to either subside or turn into an all-out brawl.

Snap-09

My money was on Eric. He might have had 20 years on Nathan but he was nimble and fit. He was used to tramping. Laurie stood up and moved between them. The spell broken by his quiet presence – they stood down. Leah and Nathan left and we spent the rest of the night gossiping about them.

Then the bill came. They had gone without settling up.

Touché Nathan!

Well played!