2007 Nattai - The Starlights Trail

summary: A nice close trip to home, and a good walk for building up stamina.
date: September 1-2 2007
region: Nattai National Park
distance: 26kms
duration: 2 days 2 nights
people: Graham, Eddy
tags: HIKE - REPORT - NATTAI - 2007
views: 3982

Day 0 - Friday

The Starlights trail is located not far from Wollongong, but is a trail that we had never explored before. So not knowing what to expect, we headed up the mountain early on Friday afternoon. To our surprise, we arrived at the park entry after only an hour of driving! Although we were told there was no camping at the park gate, we found a sufficiently flat area only 20 metres inside the park.

So camp was quickly established, fire was set, esky was opened, and we begin to relax for our weekend in the Nattai Wilderness.

Day 1 - Saturday

We were not up too early, but the day was well underway once we had packed up camp and headed down the fire trail to the start of the Starlights trail. The track was easy to follow and well marked, and we made it to Point Hill in about an hour. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. There is some camping at Point Hill junction if required, but no water.

The trail leads down the hill from here and into the valley. It is a well established track with some amazing views along the way, not the least of them what we labeled Holy Rock.

After an hour or so, we hit the very steep sections with all the switch backs cut into the hill side. Prior to this point, there were some amazing views back up to Ahearns lookout which will be a destination on another trip. The switch backs finish at the bottom of the valley as we crossed a small creek into a well vegetated river valley.

We arrived at the Nattai river flats after about 2 hours of walking. The area here was very large, with lots of camping spots and a huge fire pit in the middle. Certainly an excellent place to set up camp and explore the valley from.

We took a quick trip across the river to McArthurs flat where we discussed the idea of setting up camp due to its open sky vistas. In the end we decided the river crossing would be too difficult with packs on our backs! So we returned to the main camp area and sat down for some lunch.

After lunch we set up camp, packed our day packs and set off to find Russell's Needle. There was a tin tag indicating the direction to go, so we followed that and the track as far as we could. We then started to follow along the river bed of the dry side of the Nattai. The river setting is amazing here with some amazing pools, and small ecosystems. We even spotted a platypus along the river, at a spot that we will spend more time next trip! However, the walk was proving to be more difficult than we thought so our destination was adjusted to find the river junction between the Nattai and Rocky Waterhole Creek. Even that proved to be elusive! So by the time we stopped for a rest and a turn around to return to camp, we had failed on both of our destination targets! But we had had a wonderful afternoon in the Nattai Wilderness!

We returned to camp a little after 4:00pm via a slightly quicker track higher up from the river bed. Have to remember this for the next trip out here.

It wasn't long before we had a fire set up, and we were relaxing once again with port, schnapps, and a fine cigar.

Day 2 - Sunday

We rose early and planned a walk out to the west of the camp site to take in Emmetts Flat and the next river junction, which was about 3 kms downstream.

The weather was perfect again as we set off following another tin tag at the western end of the camp area. The trail took us out to Emmett's Flat, and an old homestead along the way. Some interesting old machinery can be found here.

The track continues out along the edge of the Nattai river and is very well marked and maintained. In fact it looked like someone had been along here recently and cut down a lot of the progress impeding new growth of wattle trees. But this didn't detract from the beautiful scenery along the river banks.

There was one spot where we did have to think twice about our progress, and it was here that we ended up crossing across to the southern bank of the river. There was a couple of simple places to cross, and we managed to keep our feet mostly dry. After a quick morning tea break, we continued along the track, still following the abundant tin tags attached to the trees. There was another good camping area we found along here, and it turned out it was only another hundred metres on to the river junction.

It was a beautiful area, some great camping spots, and places for to sit and watch the water flow past. We took some photos, and found the trail continued out of the valley to the west of the junction. We didn't follow the trail here, but assumed it would continue along the western bank of the Nattai as the river turns to the North here.

We then returned back to our camping area, and prepared for the hike up out of the valley. The day had warmed up considerably so we were going to be walking out of the valley in 20+ degree heat. Slow and steady was the trick and we kept up a constant pace until we rested once again at Holy Rock. Eddy had dropped off a bottle of water here the day before, so we were able to refill our water vessels and continue up the hill.

We stopped again at Point Hill for a late lunch, and a quick chat with another walker Ray, who was scouting the area for a trip later in the year. We eventually reached the car at about 3:00pm in the afternoon, to provide us with a well earned beer. And for the first time that I could remember, a short daylight drive back home

Final word:

This is an excellent place to visit with amazing things to see, and plenty of opportunity for further exploration. We will definitely be back again.

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