Mid-winter restlessless and a hankering for warmer weather than Katoomba , I jumped at Ian Brown’s suggestion of a trip to Mt Kaputar, near Narrabri.
We tossed around a few options to extend the trip: Washpool Wilderness west of the Timbarra River; Binghi near Torrington, and a loop through both Bald Rock and Girraween national parks. Most of these options were ruled out by fire severity mapping for the 2019-2020 fires. Yuraygir National Park was considered. It was undamaged by recent wildfire and contains two protential wilderness areas (Sandon and Wolli) , but was rejected for a winter trip, as up to three mid-winter swims might be required. It was also a long way from Mt Kaputar.... So we settled on four day circuit of the southern half of Sundown National Park as a second option, just over the border in sunny Queensland. It didn't disappoint us.
To remote camp in Queensland national parks you must book, although that’s rather odd, because you’re unlikely to run into anyone. You must create a Queensland parks account, then, when you know exactly when and where you are camping, access your online account and book camping and vehicle access permits (big brother really just wants your money). The Sundown National Park cost for two people was $43.50 for three nights remote camping and $14.50 for camping a night at the Broadwater campground (the southern park entrance).
Ian had nutted out a 3-day circuit of Grattai Wilderness. As I have a NPWS vehicle pass, I thought leaving the car in the Waa Gorge carpark and heading off into the wilds would not pose a problem. Wrong. A local ranger raised concern about my [abandoned] car with the police. This led to amusing conversations with the Narrabri and Katoomba constabulary. I don’t like leaving a trip advice note on the car dash, but it seems to be a necessity. I have previously advised the police/NPWS of big trips; but a 3 dayer is hardly a journey to the outer limits, although by pushing through scrub for hours I came close to my limits, but that’s another matter.
Anyway our 11 day escapade started on July 16. Leaving Katoomba at the sensible time we arrived at Waa Gorge in Mt Kaputar National Park at 4pm. From July 17 to the afternoon of the 19th Ian and I completed a Grattai Wilderness circuit, and had plenty of time to reach the Royal Hotel, 51 Hope St, Warialda (2 star, $60 per room with free clothes washing!) well before dark.
On July 20 we took it easy so visited Kwiambal National Park in NSW to reconnoitre future walk options along the Macintyre and Severn Rivers and car camping options, then drove over the border to the Broadwater camp in Sundown National Park again by 4pm (no border patrols or even a border sign). The Sundown National Park circuit took from July 21 to lunchtime on 24 July so that we arrived at Barraba Caravan Park well before dark ($140 for a 2 room cabin). Barraba was interesting, but Bingara seemed to be more welcoming with more accommodation options. The stop over made a leisurely return drive taking in “the Drip” in Goulburn River SCA (a must see if you haven't visited it) before lunch at Mudgee and home by 4pm July 25.
By drive sharing, having breaks, keeping a steady pace and selecting an interesting route, the trip was part of the holiday. We visited out-of-the-way places, including Berigal, Terry Hie Hie and Ashford, and drove through extensive woodlands of white pine and silver ironbark trees on reasonably well maintained dirt roads. The central western slopes of northern NSW are definitely worth a visit, and the walking was spectacular.