Ah Jerusalem bay! This was quite possibly the most magnificent spot I have seen on the great north walk so far! The Cowan to Brooklyn leg was one of the great north walk sections that I was most anticipating, partly due to its passage through this amazing bay and partly due to it ending in beautiful Brooklyn and it’s amazing array of fish and chip shops!
As always, I headed out at dawn. The hourly train schedule to Cowan forced yet another high-speed dash to the train station – they’ll make a trail runner out of me yet! After crossing the tracks at Cowan the trail quickly descend down a series of steep steps into the valley.
There had been rain recently and the track had been turned to stream at some points. I had been warned of leaches and I did see some but managed to avoid contact.
The trail soon entered an enchanting moss lined gully. The sound of falling, trickling water filled the air as the creek that had appeared beside me carved its way through the gully. Ferns grew large and the rocks held thick mats of moss. When I found the little waterfall I wanted to sit down right there and just breathe it all in. I wanted to leave the trail and play in the stream. But I didn’t. I just carried on.
The trail began to flatten and I saw glimpses of yellow sand through the trees. It was low tide and the stream had widened to meet the bay and had become a wide sandy estuary with birds landing, exploring and taking off with their prize. I vied for the best view between the trees, unable to take a great photo that did the scene justice. One of the reasons I walk at dawn is due to the astonishing bird show that takes place in the early hours, and this morning was no exception. The sounds of yellow crested black cockatoo’s echoed across from the other bank. They make the most amazing sound and I love it when I find them so to find them here in this stunning place was immensely satisfying.
The walk soon met up with Jerusalem bay and I cannot express how breathtaking the view was in the early morning light. There was no one around, no one! Maybe there were some kayakers in the distance and a few boats, but I felt like I had the world to myself! The pictures below do not do it justice. They couldn’t.
After resting and taking in the view and carried on walking. The climb out of the valley was hard, essentially a vertical slog. I met the first of many folks training for the Oxfam trailwalker event. They looked suspiciously fresh which contrasted with the sheer exhaustion that must have appeared on my face from climbing this cliff! They must have come from Brooklyn and I couldn’t quite understand why they looked so well!
After the worst of the climb a well placed wooden seat appeared and I took a short break. The remaining climb passed between several slots in the rocks and up a metal rung ladder drilled into the rock face before finally levelling out. I passed a number of other fresh-faced teams along the way.
The trail soon became a fairly flat management trail and I realised that the rest of the walk was quite easy. No wonder the Oxfam teams looked so happy, they hadn’t hit the hard stuff yet and were walking in the easy direction! I must say I felt better. The slower teams started appearing and some of the members had a look of shock on their faces, clearly having never walked so far before and wondering what on earth they had gotten themselves into! I felt like telling them that the worst was yet to come but didn’t have the heart!
The noise from the freeway was quite load and a brief side trip provided a view over the freeway in the distance as well as the railway line. It was quite impressive a view but. I did not take a picture as the early morning fog was still present. Further along the view showed the Hawkesbury river, Brooklyn, Mooney mooney, west head and beyond. On a clearer day it would be stunning provided one could find an opening in the trees!
I was able to walk quite fast along the fire trail and soon descended toward Brooklyn dam. At first I found it quite unimpressive but as I circled it I noticed Lilly pads and heard the frogs and I began to quite like the place. There was a large campsite with fire pit (but no other facilities) that seemed like it could be a very pleasant place to stay and explore. I wondered if there were yabbies in the dam – missed opportunity if not!
The final descent to Brooklyn was a killer. It was steep and the back of my left knee began to twinge. There was a direct route to the train station and a scenic route so I took the scenic route. It took me around the headland where I saw a bay filled with boats and had an amazing view out to danger island (the subject of a future walk I think). Some steps led up to an old artillery station and the views were even better!
I walked back down then passed a small pool with a little beach, perfect for the kiddies, and a playground, posed for a photo near an obelisk commemorating the discovery of the Hawkesbury river by European settlers (which is apparently the thing to do) before finally heading off to the train station to catch the train home.
I highly recommend this walk to anyone of reasonable fitness. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone complete the magnificent Jerusalem bay walk from Cowan (2.5km each way). It was simply amazing. I kept thinking that I could have done that walk at anytime when I was living in the city but didn’t due to being encased in a bubble of organised activities! I feel very lucky to have a national park on my doorstep and to live so close to such a beautiful part of the world.
Total: 13km in 5 hours.
Links: Great North Walk 1: Sydney to Thornleigh, Great North Walk 2: Thornleigh to Berowra Heights, Great North Walk 3: Berowra Heights to Cowan, Great North walk 4: Cowan to Brooklyn, Great North walk 5: Patonga to Wondabyne, Great North Walk 6: Wondabyne to Somersby Overnight , Great North Walk 7: Somersby to Yarramalong