You must know by now that I have an affinity for breaking rules. In general, I’m a good girl. I don’t do drugs, I rarely drink, I feel like I have a pretty good moral compass when it comes to supporting companies and practices that don’t oblige with my ethical code. And yet when I see a ‘danger, do not cross beyond this point’ sign…
All the official national park guides have a path you can follow which gives you a pretty cute view of the falls from a nice, safe distance. Then there’s the secret path I heard about that leads you to the base of the falls. That was the one I’ll be doing. I didn’t do my usual trick of researching the hike before I went on it. Instead I decided I’d simply wing it, surely it couldn’t be that complicated?Unfortunately ‘winging it’ has never been my style for a reason. Not only could I not find the unofficial hike, I couldn’t even find the official hike that the national park wants you to do. When I got to the car park, I ended up walking for about half an hour down the road where I saw absolutely nothing other than trees. I decided to turn back when I realised the hike wasn’t even supposed to take half an hour.On the way back to the car park, I noticed the walking path to my right and it lead right back to where my car was parked. Ah, so that would be why I couldn’t find the start of the route. My van was blocking it. Lovely.On the way back to my van I spotted a heavily graffitied ‘danger. No access past this point’ sign. So, I obviously went past that point to see if my inkling was correct in assuming that this was the path to the waterfall.I walked to the rock then turned right. I saw from the official route that the waterfall was to my right. It only made sense to turn right, right? Wrong. There was a huge drop from the cliff face. Yeah, there was no way I was jumping that and risking losing a limb. So I returned to the car and decided to do what I usually do and research how to get down to the waterfall.
It turns out I was correct in assuming that this was the starting point of the hike. However, my assumption in turning right was the wrong choice. When I reached the rock, I should have turned left and I would have seen a makeshift staircase that eventually follows down the rocks and veered right. I found this almost comical that I had been so close the first time and didn’t even think to look behind me to see if that might have been the way. Sometimes I worry that my lack of common sense will get the better of me one day.
So I set out again and followed the path to the left. It wasn’t exactly an easy hike, although it was a short one. It required a lot of climbing over fallen trees, ducking under rocks and getting rained on by condensation. Luckily, someone else had done this hike shortly before I did and I had their shoe footprints in the mud to let me know I was on the right track.
Before long, I reached the base of the waterfall and yes, it was magnificent.It’s possible to jump in from a rock and go swimming in this area as the sheer amount of rocks make it impossible for you to drift off the edge of the waterfall and be plunged into a certain death. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my swimming costume. I have a habit of not doing that. I was alone, so could have stripped off if I wanted to but I’m not that confident. Besides, I’m not a strong swimmer and don’t enjoy it.So I watched the falls from a close but safe distance from the pool. Then, like the most awkward solo traveller I am, I propped my camera against a rock and posed for the ‘gram. Here’s some of the failed attempts…It was getting late so I didn’t stay long. It was a good job I decided not to as I somehow managed to lose the path on the way back. Before, the path was simple enough to see, despite the fallen tree branches you had to clamber over. On the way back, I didn’t really know where I was going. All I knew is that there was a path and I was certainly not on it.
I remembered Amanda’s warnings about Australia when I visited Melbourne in May. Stick to the path because there are dangerous snakes and spiders that hide in long grass. And here I was with my feet buried in old autumn leaves definitely not on the path. There could be anything beneath my feet right now. I headed back to the waterfall to try and retrace my steps from before and that’s when my foot slipped.
Well, it didn’t ‘slip’, per say. It simple fell through the earth into a huge hole that went up to my thigh. Oh no. I scrambled out as quick as I could, hoping I didn’t destroy the nest of a dangerous animal and almost ran back to the waterfall. There, I found the path, not sure how I could have possible missed it the first time.
On the way back to my van, I met another solo traveller doing the same unofficial hike. She told me she saw me from the top of the waterfall wandering around down there. My first thought was ‘lucky I didn’t get naked then’, not that I would have done anyway. I felt the need to warn her about getting lost on the way back, even though, if she had made it all the way here on her own so far, she couldn’t possibly be as stupid as me. Only I could miss the obvious path three times on such a short journey.Finally, I reached my van. My knee was hurting a lot from the fall and I was ready to have a couple of days rest on the next leg of my journey in the city of Wollongong.