Back when I was planning our BNT trip, I asked previous trekkers which parts they had enjoyed the most. However, I failed to get a straight answer.
“Victoria’s got awesome views, but it’s exhausting.”
“The Kunderang is nice, but the Guy Fawkes has a better river.”
Having travelled the Bicentennial National Trail, I now realise that its impossible to choose a ‘best’. In fact, different parts of the BNT are great for different things. Here is the first of a three part series on ‘The Best of the BNT’– this time for Hard-core hikers, fossikers and luxury trekkers.
THE ROUTE: BNT BOOK 12
DARGO TO THE BIG RIVER
TO PACK: Tiger Balm, Electrolytes
The sealed, steady climb from the Dargo river up into Grant gives you a chance to warm up the quads and glutes, giving them a little taste of the many trials to come. The next day, the trail drops down to the historic (and long gone) townsite of Talbotville, to make camp by the river at 280m.
The following day, you zig zag around and down the crooked river, before heading up the gnarly Station Track and onto Wombat Spur track at 1000m. And up, down, up down, you go, yo-yoing your way against the grain of the Victorian High Country, visiting places that look just as romantic as they sound- the Wonangatta Valley, Lazarini Spur, Howitt High Plains, Moonlight Spur, Mt Terrible.
Each night, the BNT will have you camped by an idyllic river, cozied up in a valley tight as a hug, before hurling you sky-high the following morning. By evening, you will once again be spat back down to the next river, to make camp at a more reasonable altitude and guaranteed water source.
Those monstrous mountains you gaze at as you rest your weary bones over a mug of billy tea will be the very ones you’ll need to scale the following morning. But for now, there is the warm hum of cicadas, the distant rustle of deer and an overwhelming feeling to tuck yourself away into this delightful river valley for good. The waters are pristine, the views magnificent and your thighs will burn like never before. Not for the faint hearted!
GOLD PANNERS AND FOSSICKERS
THE ROUTE: BNT BOOK 7-8
NUNDLE TO GLENN INNES
TO PACK: Lucky charm, gold pan
“Are you doing the Fossiker’s way?”, we were asked several times as we strolled out of Nundle one morning with our donkeys all packed.
We weren’t. We were on the BNT, of course.
But it got me thinking. Perhaps we could pack a gold pan and folding shovel in those panniers and spend our days seeking out gold and grass…
The Fossiker’s Way begins in Nundle and passes through Tamworth, Manilla, Barraba, Bingala, Waialda, Inverell and Glenn Innes, before culminating at Emmaville on the New England Highway. The drive provides an alternative route between Sydney and Brisbane and takes would-be fossikers through one of the richest gold and gem areas in Australia.
Although the BNT does not follow the fossikers way as such, it does indeed traverse that same part of country, on even lesser known roads between Nundle and Glenn Innes.
This is the perfect stretch of trail for those who would like to try their hands at gold panning or forsaking for gemstones, as the BNT treats trekkers to TSR river camps where gold has been found before. On this stretch of the trail, its not unusual to stumble across some gleamy-eyed chap digging around in a roadside ditch or nearby creek bed for that elusive nugget.
While Nundle is a gold town through and through (it even has an annual gold festival each Easter), Glenn Innes and surrounds is known as Australia’s sapphire country. There are also a huge variety of other different sorts of gems to be found, such as zircons and garnets. With well-fenced TSRs in abundance, your pack animals will be safe and sound while you hunt for something shiny to keep you on the road for another year.
THE LAP OF LUXURY
THE ROUTE: BNT BOOK 9
JENOLAN CAVES TO THE CUDGEGONG RIVER
TO PACK: Credit cards, glad rags
Heading north from Jenolan Caves, five trekking nights in a row can be spent in commercial accommodation. For those who hate to rough it, there’s no need to fiddle around with tent pegs or bucket water from creeks on this stretch!
For a trek on the BNT without having to forgo creature comforts, spend a night at the lovely Jenolan Cabins (horses welcome too, of course), perhaps with a tour of the nearby caves for those who are happy to play tourist. The following evening can be spent in one of Hampton’s B&Bs with an evening meal at the Hampton Halfway Hotel, overlooking the beautiful rock walls and valleys of the Blue Mountains. The following day finds you bedding down at the Rydal hotel for night three (yards for horses available nearby).
Next up is the town of Wallerawang, where there are a host of commercial accommodation and dining options. To really give the credit card a thrashing, take a short detour from the BNT down Wolgan Road the next day, where you can stay at one of Australia’s finest hotels. This is the Emirates Wolgan Valley, with a hefty price tag of $2500 per night.
On the other hand, If you feel like you might be up to roughing it for a few days, make your way along the BNT from Wallerawang through Gardens of Stone National Park and the Glen Alice Trail. When you finally emerge from the bush after a few days, you can treat yourself with a stay at the beautiful Wilderness Bunkhouse on Corricudugy Road, just south of the Cudgegong River. With a huge, grassy paddock and float access, the horses will love it even more than you!