The Great North Walk stretches from Newcastle to Sydney, more than 200km of walking trail that is definitely not for the faint of heart. I’ve never been inclined to do the entire trek, but there are some great smaller legs that give you a taste of what the whole walk is like.
One of those is the Cowan to Brooklyn walk. From Cowan Railway Station, you cross the F3 and head down to spectacular Jerasleum Bay before commencing a long and difficult hour long climb to the high ridge above. It’s not so much the length of the hill or even it’s steepness (although both add to your problems!) but the condition of the trail. Unlike the Wentworth Pass walk we did a few weeks ago, there aren’t neat steps and ladders, but uneven rock steps that’ve clearly been worsened by erosion over the years. It’s quite a challenge! And there’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you get to the high ridge and get your first views of the distant Hawkesbury.
From the top of the first ridge, you head steeply downhill to cross a small creek, then back up again to where the bush track intersects with a fire trail. That’s where you realise you’ve only completed 5 of the walk’s 11km (0r 13km, depending on which of the signs you choose to believe!) and still have half the distance to go.
Luckily, the last half along the fire trail, from which you are treated to wonderful views of the magnificent Hawkesbury River, is a “quick” 6km on a well-kept trail, rather than the narrow, winding, twisting bush path of the first leg. We covered it in about two hours, give or take ten minutes, but took nearly four hours to descend from Cowan to Jerasleum Bay and come out at the beginning of the fire trail.
The walk ends in Brooklyn, near the Hawkesbury River train station, close to the pub and a great fish & chips restaurant. We availed ourselves of the former – beer never tastes better than after a long and strenuous walk – before catching the train back to Cowan and a well-deserved dinner.
[Note to all: be in the rear 4 carriages to get off at Cowan. That information wasn’t particularly well broadcast on our train, so we had no idea. Which meant we weren’t able to get off at Cowan, and had to go onward to Berowra. Not an ideal way to end the day!]