Exploring the Jagungal Wilderness Area

Over the 2016-2017 New Year’s weekend, my son, Zachary, and I headed over to explore the Jagungal Wilderness Area in Kosciuszko National Park, southern NSW, Australia.

We’d never been in this area before, so it was a chance to walk somewhere new and see some different sights.

It took us a little over four hours to get to the Round Mountain carpark, south of Cabramurra, (with a coffee stop in Tumut along the way).

The day was bright and sunny with no clouds in the sky whatsoever. It was forecast to be about 18 degrees C, so a great day for walking. At the altitude we were quickly feeling the bite of the sun on our necks, even though we had lathered ourselves liberally with sunscreen. Strangely, for such a remote spot, we met about 30 people on the first day of walking, and most of them wore long trousers and ligthweight long sleeved shirts with high collars. The long pants we can do without (too hot) but we will certainly adopt high  necked collars and long sleeves for next time we are down this way, both to stop the sunburn and to ward off the blowflies that nagged us the whole trip.

We set off down Round Mountain Trail, then turned left onto Farm Ridge Trail, passing Round Mountain Hut a few kilometres into the walk. The trail headed down steadily to the Tumut River, which we crossed before climbing the steep hill up to Farm Ridge.On the way down to the river, we met a father and his son of about 8 or 10 yrs who had to camp beside the Tumut River for a night because recent heavy rain had made the river too deep for the little fellow to cross safely. We also met a party of 19 walkers, all aged above 60 years! One of their party, an 80 year old lady, had gotten up at 6am and must have made it back to the car park early because Zach and I didn’t see her pass us that morning.


Photo: Zach on Farm Ridge Trail heading down to the Tumut River

Farm Ridge was a pretty, fairly flat walk, but neither Zach nor I had much enthisiasm that first day, just trudging along fairly silently. Usually Zach talks the whole time on a bushwalk and walks ahead of me, but today he stayed with me and was quiet all day. He had stayed up late the night before and I suspect he was very tired!

We met Grey Mare Trail and turned westward, arriving at O’Keefe’s Hut with plenty of afternoon left. At the hut Nunzio and Becky from Melbourne had just arrived and settled in, so we decided to set up our tent to give them the hut to themselves for the night. Zach immediatley got into this sleeping bag and slept for a few minutes while I made dinner (chicken flavoured rice and beef jerky). We ate on the grass with Nunzio and Becky and shared some stories until it was time to get some sleep.

During the night nature called and I exited the tent to the most spectacular view of the Milky Way I have ever seen. There were just so many stars! I guess being at about 1600 metres elevation and having a crystal clear sky helped.


Photo: O’Keefe’s Hut

We were told the next day was supposed to bring some late rain and it started overcast and stayed that way all day, but no rain descended upon us. We made our way from O’Keefe’s Hut to the track leading up to Mount Jagungal, where we stowed our packs, grabbed water, food, rain and safety gear and made the ascent to the summit. By now Zach had perked up considerably and was oohing and aahing as the mountain grew larger before us. He likes climbing mountains. As soon as we crested Toolong Ridge the wind started to buffet us at between 30-50km/h, or so the forecast had claimed the day before. It wasn’t too bad though and a steady climb from there rewarded us with a fantastic 360 degree view of the Snowy Mountain region and beyond in all directions.


Photo: The view west from the summit of Mount Jagungal with Zach in the centre of shot

We thought we saw standing snow below us, but when we ventured closer it turned out to be a series of huge, pure white quartz boulders and outcrops.

After roaming around on the mountain for about an hour, we walked back down, picked up our packs and headed for Dershko’s Hut for the night. We nearly missed it though, because walking north along Round Mountain Trail, you don’t see the hut unless you look back over your shoulder after passing it. I had told Zach that the hut should be just where it was, but he said he though it was over the next hill from his reading of the map, so it was lucky I looked back just when I did. We’d stopped to watch a big fox jumping head first into the grass ahead of us trying to catch his dinner and it was then that I happened to look back, thinking surely the hut must be just behind us.


Photo: Dershko’s Hut

We had the hut to ourselves that night and it proved to be warm and snug, but as it was our first experience of sleeping in a hut, Zach observed that sleeping on a hard floor or bench in a hut is less comfortable than sleeping in a tent set up on grass. We both conceded though, that we would probably rather be in a hut in winter snow than in a tent. Zach, by the way, wanted to go to sleep at 4pm, the time we arrived a the hut. He slept for about an hour while I browsed through some books and magazines I found in the hut and then made us some dinner (this time oriental rice, paella and beef jerky).


Photo: Zach asleep at 4pm!

The stars were not so spectacular the second night, even though we were at the same altitude and the sky had cleared, but they were still mighty nice.

Next morning, I woke Zach at about 6am and he proceeded to pester me about getting a move on, “Come on Dad, we have to go!”

Breakfast of vanilla porridge was scoffed down, pots were cleaned, teeth were brushed, I had a wash from a bucket because by now I was getting pretty whiffy from accumulated sweat and general body odour and then hwe cleaned the hut before hefting our packs and starting for our final destination, the Round Mountain carpark, about 14km ahead of us down Round Mountain Trail.

Unfortunately for me, I though it would be a good idea for Zach to learn how to use the GPS himself, so I gave it to him for the day. After about 200 metres of walking he looked at the reading it gave and declared “6km per hour! Cool. I’m gonna try to walk that fast all the way!” Now, I am a slow walker. On our last walk from Wee Jasper to Tumut along the Hume and Hovell track, there were sections we did at 2km/hr. Admittedly, it was hillier than today’s walk, but nevertheless I was never going to be able to keep up with a 6km/hr pace, so Zach walked ahead of me for most of the way to the carpark and stopped when he had lost sight of me, waiting for me to catch up. “I waited 8 minutes for you to catch up dad!” “I waited 12 minutes for you to catch up dad! You get the picture.

Yep, Zach was on fire again. He was keen to get back to the carpark and head home. He averaged 5.5km/hr and did about 14.5km in a little over 2 1/2 hours of moving time. Actually we started at about 8:30am and made it to the carpark just after 12pm, so with stops it took us a little over 3 1/2 hours. I staretd to fade as I climbed the last two steep hills, but was able to keep up a pretty good pace for me all the same.

That final day the weather was gorgeous. Bright, sunny, no clouds. It was warm, but we had a cool breeze at our backs every now and then and I couldn’t resist the sun sparkling off the crystal clear water in the two or three larger streams we crossed, so I unhitched my pack and kneeled down to drink deeply of the icy, thirst-quenching water (I told Zach that was why my times went out from 8 minutes to 12 minutes, he he).


Photo: The crystal clear water of a stream on Grey Mare Track just before O’Keefe’s Hut

To sum up we had a great three days of walking. The Jagungal Wilderness is a really awesome area to walk in, especially after good rains when the creeks and streams are bubbling with fresh water. The route we took was actually fairly easy walking, when compared to other walks we’ve done. Most of the time you walk along ridgelines and plateaus and don’t venture down into the steep-sided valleys much at all. We will probably visit again and explore the southern part of this wilderness, where it seems a lot of the walking can be done over alpine grasslands and where there are more huts to discover. Tarn Bluff seems to be a good spot to visit as well as Kidman’s Hut, Valentine’s Hut and Mawson’s Hut, so we will plan a walk sometime in the next few years if we can.








Tigran Hamasyan Trio – Mockroot Concert

If you’re into Jazz/Nu Jazz, you have to listen to/watch this concert by the Tigran Hamasyan Trio. Tigran plays some of his material from his new album Mockroot.

It gets pretty intense sometimes and I just love the bass line and the sound that the bass puts out, especially turned up loud with some really nice over-ear headphones.

You can hear what I mean really clearly in Drip at 58:58.

Tigran is an awesome musician and he always has top class musicians accompanying him.

His trio at one stage included the drummer Mark Giuliana, who has also played with Avishai Cohen and Dhafer Youssef.

You can also hear Tigran’s touch on the piano with Dhafer Youssef on his Abu Nawas Rhapsody album.

There’s another guy you want to get to know, by the way – check out this concert by Dhafer in Turkey from 2013.

The section from 10:30 is freakin’ awesome!

I get to chill to these tunes while I do my work – so cool!

A Very Friendly Echidna

A few weeks ago I was alone on a short bushwalk near where I live and I spotted something  moving on the track ahead of me.

I’d seen an Echidna at the same spot a few years ago with my son, and he’d been startled by us and hid himself in an earth bank, but we were able to tip-toe up to him and touch his spiky back. It was cool.


This time, though was to turn out to be be even cooler.

What a cheeky dude!

Echidnas are monotremes, that means they are one of only two mammals which lay eggs (the other is the Platypus).

They might look scary, but are very shy and even touching their spikes does not hurt, unless you poke your snout into them like a Dingo.

I once watched two Dingoes try to eat an Echidna, but it rolled into a ball and just sat there while they tried to roll it over to get to its soft belly. After twenty minutes they gave up and walked away because the spikes made it painful to approach with their snouts. Needless to say, the Echidna survived and just dawdled off after a while.

See the link here for more info about Echidnas.

The Castle Walk – September 2016

Well, it’s been a while since I posted anything up on Splat Kerplunk, but I finally have something worthy to grace the pages of this fair-to-middling blog.

I took my thirteen year old son on a bushwalk up The Castle in the Budawangs, in Morton National Park, NSW (Australia) this past weekend and I shall set down some photos and some thoughts on the trip right here.

Before the effort begins!

I have taken all three of my kids up The Castle now – it has been a sort of rite of passage for them entering into their teenage years.

Never mind that Zach, my youngest (13 years old), has already climbed Mount Feathertop from Harrietville in Victoria and done the Corang Arch walk, among others, I have set The Castle as my children’s initiation into teenager-hood. This is really just a concept in my own head, mind you. I just chose a walk and said that’s gonna be the teenage initiation walk. My wife had no say in it, so it’s not really a family agreed upon thing, or anyhting.

I think on this trip it is also a rite of passage for me – entering into my 50s!

As you can see from the picture above, Zach is a scrawny, fit walking machine and I am an overweight hairy old guy. This sets the scene for what is to come.

About five years ago I took my other two kids up this walk together on a day trip. I was then also a fat dude getting old (as opposed to now being officially old), but I made it up and down in one day despite the fact that my legs were cramping badly for the last third of the walk down.

Anyhow, this weekend we set off about 10am on Sunday and slowly made our way up the first ridge to the foot of the cliffs at the base of The Castle. Zach, it must be mentioned likes to talk while he is bushwalking. My wife asked me how I was handling his incessant chatter as we neared the top (we had phone reception near the top) and I said he was talking less as we got higher, but it turns out that I was misguided in this view. It was just that he scooted off ahead of me up the steeper pitches and I couldn’t hear him talking anymore – he tells me he still talked the whole way. The trees and birds of The Castle made a new friend that day.

View from 1/3 the way up

We snapped the picture above looking South from the small chain fence at the foot of the first set of cliffs on the climb, where we had  a short break.

With much huffing and puffing on my part we scrambled along the base of the cliff, over roots and rocks and ups and downs to the cool little cave just before the track turns more steeply upwards and had our second break where we filled our bottles with fresh water flowing from the mountain above.

The Cool Cave

The next section of the track to The Castle Saddle is the steepest and my extra stomach padding and less than ideal fitness levels meant that I stopped quite a few times with my hands on my knees to catch my breath up this section. My slow progress had me asking myself if maybe I was getting too old for this sort of thing, something I’ve never asked myself before. Zach waited at intervals along the way, to be kind to his ageing father, before we eventually reached the sign on the saddle- a good opportunity for a photo. It took us about 4 hours to get to this point. Slow for some, but at least we made it eh?

We made it to the Castle Saddle

I had been dripping sweat the whole way up and I’m sure my heart rate rarely went below 120bpm, but when I checked Zach, his heart rate was approximately half mine and he had no visible sweat on him anywhere. The carefree state of youth eh!

We made an attempt at the summit but were unsuccessful that afternoon and we decided to set up camp before it got dark and maybe try again in the morning.

Zach, the camp cook!

While we were making dinner, I was kneeling with a half open packet of freeze-dried Spaghetti Bolognese between my legs, when I felt something brush against my leg. With a yelp I jumped up and scared off a marsupial mouse or some such thing who nearly poked his nose into the dried food right under my legs! He had no fear of people.


Anyhow, he soon ran off when he saw there was no food to be had for the time being and we at up and settled in for a night’s sleep.

A Boobook Owl hooted all night long. I know because whenever I woke (briefly to turn and relive aches from my sleeping position) I heard him: boo-book, boo-book.

The next morning we found the nearby creek, filled our water bottles and had a quick wash in what must have been minus 400 degree Celsius water – BRRR!!

Our morning bathtub – very chilly

The view from the campsite was a beauty!

Byangee Walls with Pigeon House Mountain in the background

We thought we’d attempt the summit again before heading back down and we made it to the last section of rope before, for the first time in all of my years of walking and rock clambering I lost my nerve and could not get over the 1.5 metre scary spot that would have had me safely onto the summit path. Yep, I’m not too proud to say it: I was overcome with a fear that I have never experienced before and despite three attempts and half an hour of soul-searching, I just could not climb that last section of rope to the safety above. A gaping chasm below partnered with a sense of doubt in my  flexibility and the strength of my ageing limbs had me literally sick with fear for the first time in my life.

I lost my mojo at this point in the climb to the summit. Be aware below this point is pretty much empty space and a long, bumpy drop to the base.

I’ve been up here before – the last time when I was about 27, but this time I had to resign, to Zach’s disappointment – he was raring to go and showed no fear at all (although he did say “You go first, Dad!).

So we made our way back to the Saddle, collected the packs we’d left there and headed back down.

View on the way down
Looking up at The Castle

The walk down again had me occasionally doubled over catching my breath, but it gave me time to ponder my failure at the cusp of the summit.

Zach was disappointed, but also determined to return one day to finish the climb to the summit with someone more capable, so in a way I have planted  the seed for adventure in him, which was part of the trip’s goal. As an exercise in the rite of passage for Zach’s coming of age, the walk was definitely a success: Zach loved the whole walk, every second of it, and gave a me a tight hug to show it, when we eventually got home and he went to bed.

I have realised that I have limits that I have not faced before and that I am starting to get to an age where I could choose to just sit back and rest on my laurels and say I’m too old for that stuff now. BUT I have decided that I am not succumbing to such silly nonsense!

I will walk on into my fifties and hopefully my sixties (and beyond?) maybe I will return to The Castle at least one more time to try to conquer my new found fear of dangerous situations. Maybe I will bring some climbing gear and make the ascent safer for myself, I don’t know, but I guess I’d rather kick the bucket on the side of a mountain or cycling along a dusty road in the middle of nowhere than in a retirement home. We’ll see how that goes.

Mission accomplished!




Drool-worthy Bikes – Bishop Bikes – Henry’s modern classic road

Well, all I can say is Holey Moley!

I adore Bishop Bikes and this road bike is just a stunner!

It’s built up with mechanical Campy Super Record and Enve wheels, seatpost & bars – very nice.

Enjoy more of the photo stream on Bishop Bikes’ Flickr page.

OK then.

▶More amazing music from Josh Garrels – his new album “Home”

Home – Another great album from Josh Garrels

I love track 5 – “The Arrow”

Have a listen below, he hits some pretty high notes which make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Very cool!

Boorowa Ride

This past week I did my first 130km ride to a country town called Boorowa and back.


Old Butchery in Boorowa

I didn’t go super fast, but I had a really good time.

A couple of things I noticed during the ride:

  • country roads around here undulate endlessly: they go down, then up , then down, then up….when will it end?
  • my entry level aluminium road bike with 25mm tyres is awesome and MUCH more comfortable than I imagined it would be. Carbon/steel/titanium are apparently even more comfortable, so when I eventually upgrade I will have a lot of fun test riding some of my options.

Boorowa is a small, but very pretty town on the  south-west slopes of NSW, Australia. It is famous for its wheat and canola production and for being the home of the endangered Superb Parrot, which is a very brightly plumed bird. I saw quite a few Superb Parrots on my ride. I’ve seen so many around here and where I live that they don’t seem too endangered to me – at least not around here. But it’s good to make sure they are looked after eh?

Superb Parrot

Boorowa also holds its annual Irish Woolfest in October each year, which features “The Running of the Sheep”, Boorowa’s equivalent to “The Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. For a light-hearted look at the event, see the video below.

The most beautiful part of the ride is the road into Binalong on the way back from Boorowa, which is lined with green trees and shady patches.

The picture below is on the slight uphill before you get to the greenery. As you can see the day was bright and clear.

Hughstonia Road on the way to Binalong

The towns on the route include Yass, Rye Park, Boorowa, Binalong and Bowning.

Between Yass and Rye Park, there are about 10kms of gravel, but it’s mostly not too rough and was easily covered.

I recommend the ride to anyone who wants an enjoyable day on the bike.

Keep riding!

Short hikes in Bungonia National Park – White Track

After our adventure on the Red Track at Bungonia, my son and I decided to do an overnight camping trip down the White Track to camp on the edge of the Shoalhaven River.

The day was bright and clear as we headed down the slope to the River, once again quite steep, but not quite as bad as the Red Track.

BungoniaWhiteTrack view of the Shoalhaven from Mt Ayre lookout

The view from the top was awesome and you can make out our campsite right at the bottom of the slope.


We found a great little spot which was actually on Bungonia Creek, but also only 50 metres from the Shoalhaven River. The birdsong was just gorgeous – have a listen here.

We set up camp, then swam and explored the area before cooking some dinner and resting up for the night.

In the morning we explored some more by the banks of the Shoalhaven River and relaxed and watched the bubbles coming up from what we assume were turtles looking for food in the river.

By midday we had packed and were ready for the climb back up, which was steep, but we encouraged our efforts by counting our steps and guessing how many steps it would be to the top.

Bungonia White Track climb out

It turned out to be about 1500 steps or so to the first flat area.

On the way up

Once back at Mt. Ayre lookout we rested and then tramped back to the car and drove to Goulburn for a coffee and some cheesecake at Greengrocer Cyclery before heading home.

Bungonia White Track Mt Ayre Lookout

It was a great trip. If we do it again, we will spend a few days down in the valley hiking further along the river and maybe head up to Tallong at Long Point Lookout.