Today I finished the Great North Walk. After so long in planning, trying to find a free weekend to do each bit, learning how to hike, learning how to camp, learning how to not overreach, it was amazing to finally stand before the Obelisk in Newcastle and achieve this crazy goal that I had set myself.
My final day of this 250km trek was a 25km flattish walk from Teralba to Newcastle. It was nice not to have any major climbs to worry about. I have come so far along this track that it now took almost two hours on the train to reach the starting point. The train, of course, was delayed. A teenager had drunk too much and also overdosed on something so an ambulance was called to meet the train at Gosford. His friends were also off their faces but one girl and a nearby stranger managed to get him some help. It was all just drunken noise to me (lots of laughing and swearing) and I was facing the other way so I didn’t realise there was an issue until the guards came on board. I hope he is well and learns from his error. I reached Teralba at 7:40am and was happy to start walking.
After a short stroll through the township, missing my turnoff from the road and backtracking a little, I reached the waters edge. I then followed a track around the edge of Lake Macquarie until I smelt bacon and stopped for breakfast after only 3km!
The track to Warner’s Bay was awesome in that it was well used. Lots of people were out jogging or cycling or scootering with their kids. There were playgrounds and gym stations dotted along. As I approached the Town of Warner’s Bay there was a short sculpture trail. I saw three artworks but there may have been more that I missed.
The walk became an urban stroll through the backstreets of Warner’s Bay and I was left with the impression that it would be a nice town to raise a family. I eventually entered a park with a playground at a trailhead and put on some sunscreen before heading off into the bush.
There was a number of tracks here and they seemed to be well used by mountain bikers, a point soon confirmed by a lad that shot passed me at high speed. I don’t know how they manage to stay upright on such a bumpy surface, but I’d love to give it a go myself someday.
The trail itself was nice enough. I’d forgotten my cap so the shade of the trees was much appreciated. The bushland soon narrowed as the road to my right became louder and closer and the area to my left became a golf course. Shortly after, I entered a tunnel and then was back into bushland for a short spell.
I then came upon Charlestown, which sported a giant Great North Walk sign but had poor directional signage. I had to rely on the map to guide me. One of the GNW signs had been vandalised but there was no sign of others that should have been there. I figured it out and after a bit of road walking was back in the bush.
This stretch was simply a creek that flowed behind some houses. Then it opened up a bit and I started encountering bike riders and I realised that I was getting close to the next track head. When I reached the road I saw cycleways, riders, walkers and lots of cars parked. It seemed to be a very popular place. I’d never heard of it outside of my GNW maps but I recommend visiting the Glenrock State Conservation Area as you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There was so much to do!
I ate lunch before heading off along the Yuelebah walking track. This was designed to be accessible to wheelchairs so it was easy walking. There was a raised walking platform and looking down I could see some caves in the cliff face and a creek. The trees were filled with birdsong and it was just a lovely pleasant walk. The track came to a bridge that passed over a river that was about a third full. There was a lot of exposed rock faces and people had made their way down to them for pictures and a paddle. I crossed the bridge and followed the track down to the river to snap my own pictures. I realised that The GNW track was actually on the other side and that I should not have crossed the bridge, but that was ok as I just had to follow a side track that crossed the river and met back up with the main trail again. I wondered where the other trail went and I think I’ll come back one day to find out! Lots to explore here so I’ll bring the family.
After a short climb the track led me to the Glenrock Scout Camp and I was worried I was trespassing, but all the maps said to walk through so I did. They had picked quite a spot for their camp. The river flowed by and met the sea so the rocky river turned to beach! Fantastic spot! I walked past a “human sundial”, which must have been a scout project one year and was very well done.
Soon enough I reached the beach. After I created a dune I watched the inlet to be sure it was safe to cross. The water never passed above the shoelaces so I trudged on through. There were only four other people on this part of the beach. There were no shells, only large pebbles. I walked up the beach until I reached an old coal mining spot. I realised some of the pebbles were actually coal. I paused here watching the waves crash against the cliffs further up and it dawned on me that it wasn’t safe to pass. I spent some time looking at maps and saw that I was definitely going the right way but I had managed to time it for high tide. I kept watching the waves and scanned the shore to see if I could pass but it really wouldn’t have been wise. So I backtracked and climbed up over the headland, using a network of tiny trails to make my way up and over then back down to the beach.
I walked along further and worried about the next set of cliffs. There did not seem to be a sensible way over the headland this time so I considered just having a sunbathe for a while. I walked up closer to where the waves were crashing and saw a fairly safe path up against the cliff that was very dry. The rock platform that jutted out into the ocean was taking the brunt of the waves with only a little runoff coming further in. The area where I thought I could walk was bone dry. The some kids walked past me and tackled the rocks with no fear so I just followed them through. It was perfectly safe with the waves crashing well away. There was quite a bit of rock scrambling but it was kinda fun really.
The shells here were amazing, all twirly and swirly, so I took a few for my children. I passed Merewether baths and walked along the beach some more until I came to a set of stairs that would take me to the esplanade.
Merewether Beach was beautiful. There were runners and walkers and cyclists on the esplanade and hang gliders and paragliders in the air. This would be a fantastic spot for a holiday! I stopped at a local cafe for an awesome and much needed coffee to go. I walked much slower now, taking he time to take it all in. I saw one of the hang gliders come in to land and I must say it looked incredibly difficult, but he brought it down with amazing precision.
I passed shepherds hill and could see some amazing dunes on the far shore of a beach leading away north of Newcastle. Looked tempting and could be an adventure for another day. Finally I spotted the white Obelisk and knew my journey was almost at an end.
The Great North Walk started at an Obelisk in Sydney and ended at this white Obelisk in Newcastle. As I climbed the short hill I couldn’t take my eyes off it and felt a grin spreading across my face. This was it! I’d done it. After 250km over twelve days spread out over three years, I had finally done it.
I felt a little emotional. I was shooting a video and said “I’ve done it. I’ve finished something”, and with that the emotions came and I understood that I had set a goal and seen it through. I had achieved something and it felt amazing!
I know other people knock off long trails like this in their sleep but for me it was a major achievement. I spent some time exploring the hill and noted that the Obelisk itself was an old ships navigational aid that was on the site of an old windmill. There was uproar in the shipping community when the old windmill was torn down as they relied on it to guide them, so the Obelisk was built in response to the community pressure. I’m glad they succeeded.
The final bit of my walk was to simply head to the railway station but it wasn’t there. There had been a lot of work in Newcastle and the main interchange was now a couple of kilometres away. There did seem to be an old station there but there was now tram tracks leading away from it. I was quite confused. There was a free shuttle bus to the new interchange however so I took advantage of it.
I then settled in for the two hour ride home. If you would like to see the full video of today’s walk I’ve posted it in my new YouTube channel here.
I’d like to thank everyone who has followed my journey, your comments and likes and impressions all motivated me to keep going. I’m not done walking of course, there will me many more adventures to come, including the rest of the hikes on this years 12 Hike challenge. But what should I do next year? Just random walks or start a section of a long trail? The Great South Coast Walk intrigues me (its not an official track) as does the area north of Newcastle. I’d prefer something with public transport access. If anyone has any ideas please leave a comment! I’ll do a wrap up post in the near future about this trail with my favourite pictures and what I would do the same or different. Thanks for reading!
Links: 1: Sydney to Thornleigh, 2: Thornleigh to Berowra Heights, 3: Berowra Heights to Cowan, 4: Cowan to Brooklyn, 5: Patonga to Wondabyne, 6: Wondabyne to Somersby Overnight , 7: Somersby to Yarramalong , 8: Yarramalong to Basin Campsite , 9: Basin Campsite to Flat Rock , 10: Flat Rock to Watagan Forest HQ ,11: Watagan Forest HQ to Teralba , 12: Teralba to Newcastle