Monday, 25 August 2014

The Caterpillar - Mount Kaputar National Park

A chance encounter, in the campground at Bark Hut, has us inspired and busily re-stuffing our backpacks with overnight gear. We have only just walked in from three days out in the bush and now this nice couple are telling us how beautiful the Mt Coryah Track is.  Our discussion also reveals that the track will take us close to an un-named mountain of rock we have seen from a distance and are keen to climb. It all sounds so enticing we can't be bothered with our planned rest day. Loading up again with food and water, we stride off up the Mt Coryah track with surprising speed and energy.

Not far from the road, the Mt Coryah walking track splits into a loop walk and we turn in the opposite direction to the arrows.  We want to follow the sign that says "exposed cliffs and danger" because in our mood of adventure and excitement it sounds like a great option.

The track winds through big grass trees and edges its way under the rock face of the summit before spiralling up the back of the mountain to a number of viewing points where we enjoy the scenery across Coryah Gap to Mt Kaputar, the Governor and north along the range.

It has been a late start so we don't linger but head off the track in a southerly direction, hoping to find a spectacular campsite for the night. Crimson rosellas drag their brilliant streaks of red and blue through the forest as we search along the cliff edges for somewhere to sleep. We find a campsite that turns out to have great views but is a bit rocky and uneven. Fortunately we are tired enough not to care and as the last light begins to fade we are joined by others who seem to like this outlook - a spotted pardalote rummaging through the trees and a family of white-browed scrub wrens chattering away as they pick at the lichen on the rocks below our camp. Feral goats in the valley below begin yelling at each other at dusk and the odd cockatoo goes screeching across the top of the forest. 

In the morning, tiny patches of frost lie nestled in the grass. The breeze is cold and it takes the sun a while to make it over the clouds on the horizon. Packing up seems slow as I am distracted several times by a flame robin perched nearby and two crimson rosellas sitting in the tree tops immediately beneath the cliff we are camped on. 

At 8:30am we set off walking and pick up a faint track that heads south towards Mt Micthell and Camel's Hump. There's an old National Parks sign, overgrown by shrubs and lichen, and soon the track peters out. This slows us down as we have to step carefully over fallen trees and around rocks and stumps hidden by grass and reeds. 

Arriving at a long, flat saddle we stash our packs, hiding them behind a log. We both fill a little dilly bag with essentials and then set off through the open dry forest. There is hardly any underbrush, so we make good time. It is beautiful, easy off-track walking. We stick to the eastern cliff edge for a while to enjoy the views but then wander across to an open area of grass and rock where two ridges diverge ahead of us. It's crunch time.

Looking at the Camel's Hump from near Mt Coryah

A view of The Caterpillar from Mt Yulladunida
To the left is the line to Mt Mitchell and Camel's Hump and the ridge to the right should take us out to our un-named rocky ridge. We like to make up names for our destinations. This unnamed rock we first spotted from across the valley on the summit of Mt Yulladunida. It appeared in the distance as a long, bulbous, slug-like rib of rock and so we immediately called it The Caterpillar for its shape. Both destinations are appealing and promise great views of the surrounding park and wilderness. Time is limited though and it would be too rushed to consider visiting both in one day. The Caterpillar or Camel's Hump, that is the question? 

We choose The Caterpillar, and when we arrive am hour or so later we are ecstatic about our choice - the rock is easy to scale and the views back to Mt Yulladunida and across to Mt Mitchell are amazing. We climb to what appears to be The Caterpillar's high point but then the next lump on its back beckons and we clamber across two or three "high points" until we see the rock falling away below us and realise we have finally reached the "summit". The whole spine of this ridge, or mountain, is bare open rock and so we pick our way down, covering the entire length of the caterpillar's back before turning around and climbing back up again to the summit.

View from The Caterpillar back to Mt Yulladunida

At lunch, hunkered down behind the rocky spine, we admire the expansive views. A strange noise behind my right shoulder makes me turn and I am suddenly face to talon with a wedge-tailed eagle coming in to land on the rock I am leaning against. We are hidden from its view until the last minute. It's shock and surprise in seeing us here leads to an abrupt change of tack and it struggles to beat its massive wings fast enough, altering direction at the last minute and lifting back into the sky with a thundering of feathers. It is one of those rare and wonderful "wow" moments that can only be experienced in nature. 

After two hours exploring and relaxing on our Caterpillar Rock we clamber back down into the forest and begin backtracking. We pass so many possible and wonderful campsites there is no doubt we will have to come back. Having seen The Caterpillar, next trip will have to be the Camel's Hump.


  1. Your caterpillar is known locally as "Mitchell Dyke".

    1. Hi Ruth and thanks for the information about the name. That's great. It's always good to know what locals call places. Thanks for dropping by our little blog.