Location: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Last year Siu On and I brought you an article about our trip to Canberra, and whilst we had a great time in Australia’s capital city, we still wanted to see more of the surrounding areas of Australia’s Capital Territory. Canberra is surrounded by rolling hills, grassy plains and some remnants of bushland that are home to lots of animals, hiking and mountain bike trails. And with time running out for our favorite third wheel before he jets off on his adventure, Siu On and I headed out to Canberra to tick another item off Tim’s long bucket list: a hike out to Canberra’s bouldering country in the Namadgi National Park.
Getting there and away
Namadgi National Park is a scenic hours drive from Canberra city, where you’ll pass some beautiful farming land toward Tharwa, and soon start climbing the ridges into the national park. Like many places in Australia that are a little off the beaten track, you’ll need a car (or even a bicycle) to get here as there are no buses direct from Canberra out this way.
Namadgi National Park
The information centre is a real gem. The ladies were extremely helpful in pointing out and explaining the track to the area that we wanted to visit, although we did end up buying a park map which was pretty cheap at $4.50, since Tim has a bit of am Australian hiking map collection going.
Australia’s role in the moon landing
Who knew that a little patch of earth played such a vital role in relaying the first images and steps on the moon to the world! Although the site of this crucial trading station is now no more than concrete slab markings and educational signs, it has been recently awarded heritage status; though a real pity that it was left to decay and later be demolished.
The Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station was responsible for receiving signals from Apollo 11, including the moments that Neil Armstrong took his history making first steps on the moon’s surface, and relayed them to NASA’s headquarters in Houston, USA. Those very images were later broadcast around the world – because if you don’t have photos, it didn’t happen!
I did enjoy reading the signs and retracing the rooms and imagining what it might have been like in those days, and was really inspired by it all – especially when you consider how clear the skies would have been back in 1960s and 1970s Canberra, and the technology with which they pulled the landing off with. Despite the original tracking station being demolished, as well as the second station at Orroral Valley (also within Namadgi) also being dismantled, NASA does maintain a Deep Space Communication Complex in Canberra.
I didn’t take any photos of the ruins since I was filming for an upcoming Youtube episode, but the ruins really don’t do the place any justice. So here’s a photo of the Honeysuckle Tracking Station in its heyday here.
The main reason we came out to Namadgi was specifically to check out these huge granite boulders that Tim had heard about. As rock climbers, the allure of topping out on highballs and running about caves is almost intoxicating – especially with word that there was potential climbing development going on around there. We had to check it out for ourselves.
Although the map does tell you to start from the Honeysuckle campground, the lovely ladies at the info center did tell us to drive further up until we hit a dirt carpark, to shave some uphill walking off our hike since it was forecast to rain that day. From the carpark, the hike to Legoland is super easy and very straight forward, I think it took us about an hour round trip from the carpark. Though it’s not really marked, the path is well worn and you’ll know when you get there as you’ll see the boulder fields. This site really helped us with checking out the ins and outs of the hike, so to save me repeating what is already a masterpiece of explaining the Legoland trail, you can read it here.
The boulders were incredible, and even Tim was dwarfed by them! We ran about them, between and under them like kids in a candy store, whilst trying to climb and get on top of the tall boulders. Legoland is also a great viewing point out to the Orroral Valley, and we loved messing about on some of the short boulder problems, even having a go at a potential off-width!
Camping in Namadgi
There are three campsites in the national park, of which we checked out two (Honeysuckle Creek and Orroral Valley) but you will need to book them in advance of your planned stay (no more than $8 per person, per night). Since we were visiting in winter we decided to day trip it out to the park and avoid camping in sub zero temperatures!
The Honeysuckle campground is the closest to the old Tracking Station ruins and has great facilities including a shelter with a communal wood fire place and gas BBQs, picnic tables, wood fire places and drop toilets. This place looked beautiful and I think Siu On and I will have to come back in the warmer months to camp here. Camping at Orroral Valley is similarly set up to Honeysuckle campground, but is more suitable for traditional tent camping, with large open spaces and room to get a bunch of friends together. It has all the same facilities as Honeysuckle campground.
For a short day trip out of Canberra city, Namadgi National Park is a must do! It’s a great place where you can get out in the Australian bush, see native wildlife and plants, play amongst the boulders, and learn a little about Australia’s role in the original space race. Namadgi packs a punch, and like I said, Siu On and I loved it so much that we’re already planning a trip back once the weather gets warmer to try the other longer hikes.
Canberra is such an underrated place, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing, if it means that those in the know get to keep it to themselves. Don’t forget you can follow along with us on Instagram (search for @thetravelleur) for up to date images, and also leave comments over on our Twitter or Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you!
Another #teamPumpedUpTrike trip success!
Jelena and Siu On (and Tim)
Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.