A Creek Hike and Things that Bite! Autumn in Brisbane Water NP
It’s March 2020 – the beginning of what will become an infamous period of lockdown - so my kids and I are socially-isolating in the best way possible, by going on an overnight walk along the Mooney Mooney Creek in a picturesque section of the Great North Walk.
SECTION-HIKING THE GREAT NORTH WALK
The Great North Walk is a 260km bushwalk linking Sydney to Newcastle and can be walked as an epic through-hike in around 18 days, split up into day-walks or into overnight sections.
The section we are walking this weekend is about 9km and starts from Somersby in the Brisbane Water National Park and heads south finishing after Mooney Mooney Bridge. Our team for the adventure includes my kids Daisy 10 and Mary 7. Joining us are our friend "Crazy" Chris and his kids Ava 12 and Rory 10. It's the same team from our adventure to Newnes last winter, but so much warmer.
We’re leaving our cars at the finish on Karool Road - near the Mooney Mooney bridge – then catching a ride to the start at Reservoir Road in Somersby.
The walk from North to South
We know we’re at the start when we see a big, serious looking locked gate blocking vehicle access to Reservoir Road. Tucked away in the bush to the left of the gate is the entry to the Great North Walk. We follow the road west for a hundred metres or so, before the track heads South (left) past some huge water reservoirs in an industrial looking area. Keeping the industrial compound on our left for about 600 metres, the track heads west (right) again into the bush and shortly after crossing a small campground, descends a steep rutted, downhill trail.
slideshow: the start of the walk
LOWER MOONEY MOONEY DAM
The track flattens out onto a wooded ridge with great views and eventually we see water through the trees, revealing the Mooney Mooney Lower Dam. This is a decommissioned dam that was once Gosford’s water supply. The old dam wall is still intact and below is a dark pool that looks like something from Lord of the Rings. We have a quick lunch break and imagine the creatures that may lurk in the inky depths.
slideshow: mooney mooney lower dam
OVER OR UNDER?
After lunch we follow the Mooney Mooney creek - our route for the rest of the walk. Recent storms have left huge tree trunks crossing the path and navigating the logs becomes a bit of an “over or under” game. The track is muddy and the rocks are slippery. Mosquitos have flourished since the floods and everything is generally damp and dark, feeling like a real adventure.
slideshow: over or under
MOONEY MOONEY PONDS
About 5km into the walk, the dark forest opens up to a sunny clearing and a series of very inviting rock pools. We dump our packs for a refreshing dip and explore the various rocks and waterholes. The ponds are part of a rocky plateau with the creek meandering in all directions. We see black cockatoos, lizards and little fish swimming around. The kids discover a large drop off and waterfall with a shady pool beneath - the place is really magical.
slideshow: mooney mooney ponds
We consider setting up camp but the mosquitos and leeches are on the attack. So Chris runs ahead and finds a better campsite about a kilometre downstream. Where there's a sandy clearing on the bank of the creek. With room to stretch our legs by the fire and just enough flat space for two tents, this will be home for the night.
slideshow: the campsite
This isn't one of the official campgrounds but we’ve navigated 6.5km of logs and rocks and everyone is hungry and tired. So we gather firewood and settle in for the night, relaxing by the fire to the gentle sound of the creek.
The kids hit the hay and Chris and I stay up later with a cup of whisky and observe a short finned eel by torchlight, slithering in the shallows of the creek.
Mary sleeping early in the morning
The kids are up at sunrise, ready to play after a night sleeping in the cool valley with the sound of Boobook Owls and flowing water. We start a fire and have some noodles and coco pops for breakfast.
As the morning warms up we have a dip in the creek and the kids explore the various pools and rock formations. Suddenly Ava - the leader of the kids - lets out a blood curdling scream and all the kids scatter, clamouring to get out of the water. Chris dives in and aids Ava while I help the other kids out of the water.
Ava's in a state of shock, two toes are bleeding and through tears she says she was bitten when she stepped into a deep gap between some rocks. The first aid kit is deployed and when Ava regains her composure, she describes in detail the feeling of the teeth and the tugging - to an engrossed and horrified audience.
The unanimous conclusion is the bite came from an eel... And nobody goes back in the creek again.
Ava recovering from the ferocious eel attack.
THE WAY HOME
After a memorable morning we pack up camp and hit the road for an easy 2-3km walk. We play more of the "over or under" log game. The creek begins to widen and becomes brackish and tidal. And after about 1km we arrive at one of the official GNW campsites.
We're glad we didn't camp here because the ground is swampy and the mosquitoes are terrible, but it looks like a great place to camp in drier conditions.
slideshow: the creek widens
The woods begin to clear and there are some interesting features and obstacles. The track also gets wider and starts to undulate and right when we think we're nearly finished we climb a steep hill.
Eventually we descend a wide firetrail and see the huge Mooney Mooney Bridge high above us in the distance. The track becomes Karool road and we see houses, boats and house-boats and realise we are back in civilisation.
slideshow: the end of the walk
THE END OF THE ADVENTURE
This walk wasn't as spectacular as some of the other places we've been - and it was by no means as remote. Australia has just been through an unprecedented summer of bushfires that devastated almost all of the wonderful places we've visited in previous articles. From the Blue Mountains, to Namadgi, Morton, Newnes, Wollemi... All impacted terribly.
But sometimes you've go to pack your kit and get out there - even if you can't get somewhere spectacular.
Despite the multiple bites, from Mosquitos, to ants, to leeches and one scary eel - and the general post-storm mess of the track - we all enjoyed it. And at a time when we didn't know when or if we would get away again we managed to squeeze one last adventure in before everything closed down.
The kids have had so many experiences in the bush now that they embrace the challenge, or they tend to see the positive and want to keep returning to the bush. And seeing them develop into confident kids who are able to laugh off an eel bite minutes afterwards is hugely rewarding.
Despite the fires and the pandemic, we will be getting the team back together for a winter adventure, for more ups and downs and new experiences. But no bites!
Daisy, Rory and me towards the end of the walk.
If you want to try this hike, make sure you bring plenty of drinking water as the water from the creek isn't fit for drinking. But bring some emergency purification tabs just in case. Don't forget your first aid kit and try to get your hands on a decent map or track notes. Wildwalks has a good set of track notes for a longer hike that I found useful while planning this trip. And most of all... look out for Eels!
For info on the Great North Walk check out the website here
For a great introductory overnight hike along another section of the Great North Walk check out the Benowie Walking Track
Or check out more information about the Brisbane Water National Park
The Author acknowledges the Darkinjung and Kuringgai peoples who are the traditional custodians of the land featured in this article
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