2012 Feb Down into Bendethra Valley - Deua National Park

Friday, Apr 06, 2012 at 21:03

Navigator 1 (NSW)

We needed a quick getaway so we headed off to the Bendethra Valley in the Deua National Park which is 320 kilometres south of Sydney and 100 kilometres south-east of Canberra. The Deua National Park is inland from Batemans Bay and Moruya on the NSW south coast. It is a wilderness of dense vegetation, limestone caves, deep valleys and pristine rivers. This largely untouched landscape is a beautiful place.
‘European explorers first ventured into the area in the 1820’s but settlement did not take place until the 1860s, when Joseph George discovered the Bendethera Valley. He took up a lease in 1863, settling with his wife where they raised 15 children. A few years earlier, gold had been discovered around Nerigundah, just south of the park which attracted not only miners but also bushrangers. The region’s rugged terrain ensured that the landscape remained largely unscathed. The national park was established in 1979’ From Explore Australia

There are three ways to access the Bendethra Valley: from Araluen Road, take the Merricumbene fire trail which is a serious 4wd adventure; from the west take Middle Mountain Rd, Minuma Range fire trail and then Dampier Mountain fire trail: and from the coast, take Wamban Road, Little Sugarloaf Road and Bendethera firetrail. Another way to join Little sugarloaf Road is to take Western Boundary Road off the Princes Highway which is a little further south of Moruya.
Outside Bendethra Valley there are three camping grounds along Araluen Road: Deua River, Baker’s Flat and Dry Creek camping area. On the western side of the park on Krawarree Road, and 41 km south of Braidwood, is Berlang camping area.

Our adventure .....
After lunch and catching up with our camping companions we left Moruya. The going was easy on flat land until we reached the steep grade up the escarpment on Little Sugarloaf Road. It was characterised by large drainage humps put in by parks management to direct the water off the track. We made our way up and down the steep hills until we reached the intersection of Little Sugarloaf, Merricumbene and Bendethra Fire Trails, just 100m from the trig point. Here we turned left onto Bendethra Fire trail and made our way down into the valley.
After several creek crossings we were in the camping ground. This is a huge area spread along the valley which in holiday times accommodates many campers. Being out of school holiday time there were only 2 other cars in the valley. We had picked up fire wood along the road (outside the park) and after a quick look around we were able to supplement our supplies with wood left by other campers. We set up camp, cooked dinner then sat around the camp fire until the dampness of the mist encouraged us to move under Hugo’s awning. Oh yes, we are so pleased we put on an awning.

In the morning we crossed the crystal clear creek and walked to the old homestead precinct first passing the former grazing land at Joey’s Flat. The only animals grazing now are the kangaroos.
Nothing remains of the old homestead except for the oven. It was positioned in close proximity to the original home located on the flat near Con Creek. When this building burnt down the second homestead was built near the existing horse yards. The oven consisted of two sections – the front for baking bread and the rear for scalding meat from pigs. Bacon produced at Bendethra was sold at the local markets at Moruya, Krawarree, Braidwood and Araluen. One of the family’s children, James Richard George, died in infancy and his grave is a stark reminder of the hardships the family faced living in such a remote area.
Not far from the homestead precinct the Bendethra Caves can be found. On one of our previous visits we explored deep into to cave until we were pulling ourselves through narrow spaces on our stomachs - our path lit only by our head lights. It was a great adventure!

After another peaceful night by the fire our friends headed back to Sydney leaving us alone in the valley. It’s amazing but we spent the day virtually doing nothing!
If you are spending a few days in the valley it is good experience to drive around the valley on the ridge trails. On a previous visit, this trek took up half the day. Travelling in an anticlockwise direct we headed back on the Bendethra Fire Trail to the intersection with Little Sugarloaf Road and Merricumbene Fire Trail. After a short run we headed west on the Mongambula Fire Trail to the N/E corner and the access track to the Wyanbene Caves. From this point we travelled on the Minuma Fire Trail south to the intersection withDampier Mountain Fire Trail and the east back to the valley.
To leave the valley we could have:
• Retraced our steps taken on our way in
• Take the Merricumbene Fire Trail north to Araluen Road
• Or, take the Dampier Fire Trail to the west.
It was this latter option we chose. It was all familiar ground as we had travelled all these trails in the past.

Climbing out of the valley in the mist on the Dampier Fire Trail was a wonderful feeling. With heavy rains that had fallen earlier in the year there was evidence of erosion on the track but nothing to cause concern. At the Dampier Trig we stopped to add a stone to the cairn and take a coffee break. A little further on we came to the intersection with the Minuma Range Fire Trail and the going got easier. The track became Middle Mountain Road then Snowball Road. At Krawarree Rd we turned north and headed into Braidwood.
41km south of Braidwood, near the Berlang Campground, is the famous Big Hole. In 1862 a foolhardy young man named Boxall rested four lengthy saplings across the edge of the hole, the bottom of which was beyond his view. To the bemusement of onlookers, he then fastened a rope between the saplings and his waist and leapt without hesitation into the chasm. After being lowered down further into the darkness, he reached the floor and lit a candle for those waiting above with great anticipation. Walking among the two-metre ferns and the rubble that carpeted the bottom, Boxall had finally satisfied his curiosity. He was 96 metres below the surface of what is now known as the Big Hole. This hole is definitely worth a look.

Braidwood is a thriving little tourist town with a magnificent stone church, hotel, grocery shop, Post Office, Library, antique shops, several little cafes and the most important, the Pie Shop. After walking around the little town, drinking coffee and eating some delicious pies it was too late to travel so we went just out of town to Warri Reserve on the Shoalhaven River. All the caravans were on the top level so we ventured down the washed out track to park on rocks close to the river.
Not being ready to head for home, we took a quick trip to Canberra to have tea and scones with the PM but, she was in Queensland. We spent the night on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and were amazed by the number of bike riders and canoists. They are a fit bunch in the ACT.
On our second last day we managed to take in a 4WD and camping show in Queanbeyan and then through Hoskinstown to Lowden Forest Park in Tallaganda State Forest.

It was very damp under foot due to recent rains but we were rewarded with a restored water wheel. It was originally constructed in Queanbeyan by William Hopkins and Spencer Hush and in 1952 it was brought to the forest and installed in its present site. The wheel, which is fed by water from a nearby holding dam, was used to drive a generator which provided electricity for the logging camp and to charge the truck batteries. Restoration of the wheel was carried out by the Forestry Commission of NSW which now allows a part of our history to live on. An old boiler is in the camping area and undoubtedly other pieces of equipment are now buried in the forest.
We had done a loop and arrived back in Braidwood (for coffee and a pie) and then on to camp at Wog Wog in Morton National Park. We weren’t long in camp before we were in the middle of an electrical storm but we were snug as little bugs in Hugo.
There was no point in hanging around so we made our way home through Sassafras, Nowra, Kiama, Wollongong and up Mount Ousley to The Sutherland Shire.
The outback calls
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