Friday 15 July 2016
Canberra gets a raw deal. People are quick to heap on the so-called country capital (thanks to our cabbie for that one, too!) for being boring, but if you love the outdoors, then there are few better places to live or visit. You probably don’t need me to tell you about the excellent network of bike paths that crisscross the city and it’s outer suburbs, nor the great parks and reserves that are very close to the heart of Canberra.
A little further afield, though, is the glorious Namadgi National Park, and if you’ve never driven out there, you’re missing out. From Tuggeranong, we took the Tharwa Drive (which becomes Naas River Road) out towards the tiny town of the same name, which you enter (from the Canberra side, anyway) by crossing a wonderful old bridge.
Nearby Tharwa is the Namadgi National Park visitor’s centre, which is well worth a visit if you’re a first-time to the area. There’s handy information on camping spots, walking trails and lots of displays showcasing the history of the park, and how to get to many of the old homesteads that litter the area, relics of a hard, cold past.
Veteran visitors will tell you that there are few better vistas in the park than the one from Booroomba Rocks. From the Naas River Road, you take the right-hand turn onto Apollo Road, which very quickly rises into the highest peaks of the Namadgi, a narrow but easily accessible asphalt road that clings to the edge of the mountain as it winds it’s way higher and higher with each turn. It’s as spectacular a road as you’ll see anywhere.
I’m a rookie when it comes to the Namadgi. My cousin found the trail to Booroomba Rocks by Googling ‘Canberra bushwalks’ or something similar before we came down here for the ANZAC Day weekend, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the entire national park. It reminds me of my favourite place, the Kosciusko National Park, and has quickly become one of my favourites.
Trevor and I headed up Friday afternoon, about forty-eight hours after a pretty big snowfall swept through Canberra, but we weren’t prepared for the volume of snow that remained. Turning onto the dirt road that takes you to the Booroomba Rocks car park, we were amazed by how much white stuff remained. At times, the entire road was covered in white. Slow going at times, but not impassable, and incredibly beautiful.
The carpark/trail head sits about forty-five hard minutes’ walk from the rocks themselves. I won’t lie to you: it’s straight uphill for just about the entirety of the journey. We were going through snowdrifts and across unhelpfully icy patches of rock in the shadows, and the snow was more prevalent the higher we got. It was cold, but by the time we reached the top, I was almost sweating. That’s what a walk almost straight uphill will do for you!
The tough hike is definitely made worthwhile when you scramble up the last few meters and come to the edge of the valley – the Booroomba Rocks sit right on the edge of a vast tree-filled crevice, with more rugged mountains in the distance. On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles, and if you have a particularly good eye, you can see Telstra Tower sitting atop Black Mountain. As you can tell from my photos, the panorama is absolutely stunning, and it makes you forget all about the huge uphill slog you’ve just completed.
I’m happy to report that the downhill portion of the walk is much quicker, and far less strenuous, although we were taking things pretty easily given the prevalence of snow and ice. We passed a few groups of people heading up, and assured them that the view was worth all the effort. Most of them weren’t really prepared for walking through the snow, and I was pretty glad that I had my Columbia boots on for the occasion.
Heading back into Canberra, you can take a different route from Tharwa, turning left up Tidbinbilla Road before a right-hand turn onto Point Hut Road. This will take you across a low flood crossing, so check the signposts at the Point Hut Road/Tidbinbilla Road intersection to check that the crossing is open and clear.
A bit of a tour through the outer suburbs of Canberra brings you onto Drakeford Drive that becomes the Tuggeranong Parkway, and before long you get great views of Telstra Tower atop Black Mountain, and you’re back in the heart of the city.