25/26 Jun – Yalwal & Monkey Gum Fire Trail

Another old mining area, but gold rather than silver.  About 3hrs south of Sydney and 30km west of Nowra where the Dangera and Yarrramunmun creeks meet in near Morton National Park.

First discovered in 1852 the last gold discovery was the Fountainhead in 1938 before the town was pretty much destroyed by fire in 1939.  Mining then fell away until 1971 when the Danjera dam was completed and flooded most of the area.

Whilst much of the mineworkings were flooded some historic items remain, like the old stamper on the edge of the lake.  The lake itself is beautiful, and apparently good for bass if fishing is your thing.

Alongside the lake there is a free campsite, basic with just toilets but in a great location.  It’s a bit of a lottery though, as it is a popular weekender and can attract campers whose idea of the bush is noise and drinking rather than nature.  A second area, just before the main site, was a quieter option when we were there.

Being June it can be pretty cold though, so its lucky that fires are permitted. Best to bring wood in with you, though maybe not by dragging a tree trunk up the road behind your ute (yep, we saw it go past).  Even so, it was freezing.

Part of the attraction of this area is there are still trails open to be driven (unlike around Yeranderie).  These range from the cruisy to the insane.  Perhaps one of the better known is Monkey Gum, which was the target of our weekend.

It’s easy enough to find, just take Deans Gap Rd to Mintbush (on the right heading south) and follow this until it merges into Monkey Gum which ultimately winds its way through to Braidwood Road.

Mintbush is an interesting drive, lots of rocks and a bumpy descent down to the river.  Part way through there is a log bridge which provides a nervy crossing as one end is part washed out leaving just the width of the car the squeeze past a huge hole.

The landcruiser in the pictures isn’t me, it belongs to Chris.  If you followed the blogs from last year you may recall we first met Chris (and Rachael and their 3 girls) in the Kimberley and spent a fair bit of time travelling with them.  Lovely people.

Monkey Gum itself is quite a challenge.  I had looked at plenty of pictures and Youtubes of others on the trail, but it is always hard to get a feel for what it is really like.  All I can say is it really tested us, both in driving and also planning.

A fair bit of time was spent walking the route and building the trail to avoid some nasty panel damage, or rolling into crevasse sized washouts snaking along the trail.  Would I do it again?  Perhaps, but would be giving consideration to more aggressive tyres and perhaps a lift to make things easier.

Ultimately planning and elbow grease got us through without incident, or needing to winch, but it was touch and go in places.  On some of the trickier bits putting your wheels in the wrong place could end very badly.  Sorry, the photos don’t show the “best” of it, too busy wrestling cars to take photos at those points

Once you get through the last climb there is a great lookout on the right (look for the ladder propped against the rock), before the trail flattens out and the only hazard is the bog holes.  It hadn’t rained for a week or so but even then some looked deep enough to swallow the 110.

Had to feel sorry for the trail biker we met who had dropped his bike into a hole and drowned it – gave him a cam strap so his mate could tow him along, saw them again a few hours later still towing.  A couple of days later a shiny new strap turned up in the post, good on them.

Another well known trail in this area is Powerlines, which is exactly what it sounds like, a trail following the powerlines which run roughly north-south.  Depending where you join it can seem like a cruisy drive, but it sure has some surprises; a nasty rock step turned us around as the risk of damaging both 110 and trailer was too high.

Rejoining the trail further along there is an insane rocky climb.  From a distance it looks like a sheer cliff.  Close up it is not much better, but you can see the rubber marks on the rocks where someone has driven up it, crazy!
16-06-26 Powerlines 3