"There has been over 100mm of rain at Newnes in the 48hours to mid-day Saturday, June 9.
There are rockfalls on the road at several places and numerous patches of slippery wet clay.
In spite of obvious difficulties, some vehicles have still tried to come to Newnes and have now become stuck.
The river has risen. There is currently no access to the oil shale ruins and the Glow-worm tunnel from the Wolgan Valley.
Is your journey really necessary? Probably not, so leave your visit to Newnes until the weather (and road) dry out."

So read the Newnes information page. But that wasn't going to stop us - oh no. We hadn't read it.

Instead, we packed up Lucille, my faithful Land Rover Discovery, and headed west from Sydney, intent on reaching Newnes, 30+kms up a dirt track in the Wolgan Valley, in the utterly beautiful Wollemi National Park.

Being a less-than-veteran 4WDer, I attacked the expedition with more enthusiasm than sense, but did take one precaution. The dirt road is not dissimilar to Hat Hill Road to Perry's Lookdown, at least in construction, so we headed out that way to see how badly the wet weather had affected the trail. Conclusion: Newnes is go.

After a minor detour outside Lithgow (missed turnoff), we eventually hit Wolgan Road at around 4pm, a tad later than I may have wanted to hit the dirt, and I was immediately blown away by the views once past the '4WD only' sign. Megalong Valley is impressive, the Grose more so, but the Wolgan is another league again.


And so our expedition continued, to oooh's and aaaah's as the views unfolded. Pretty soon though it was getting dark. Ominously, just around the time we reached the 'traffic hazard' signs. Which was also about the time we first slid off into the ditch at the side of the road. This wasn't too bad, as we were heading downhill and a little deft power application had us back on track pretty quickly.

Moderating the speed somewhat, we continued, reaching the river crossing just before solid dark arrived and getting onto some seriously harsh corrugations and nasty clay sections shortly thereafter. The decision was made (unilaterally, by me, a voting bloc of one) to press on and reach the Newnes Pub (now an outpost kiosk), before deciding what to do next. And so we continued, dodging wallabies as we went, until the 'Welcome To Newnes' sign eventually hove into view.

At the pub, we had a quick chat with the local residents, who were sensibly warming themselves in front of the fire. We were tentatively offered shelter for the night in preference to heading back out along the fairly treacherous trail, but declined in favour of hammering back out in time for a swifty in Lithgow or Blackheath. In the dark. With rain threatening to close in.

It was almost a Very Bad Decision.

The first inkling that this was a bad decision came about 8kms out from Newnes, when we careened off the side of the track on some really bad clay, landing with front nearside wheel in a fairly deep ditch, close to wedged. A moment to collect thoughts, into low-range, engage diff lock and power on forwards, about two minutes' worth of effort got us out of that one, chastened and prepared to go a little slower.

We made the river crossing OK, though Esther had a momentary shouting fit as I headed towards it in what was described as a 'too fucking fast' manner. I'm told this is a technical Four Wheel Driver's term and I therefore have no idea what it means.

The Traffic Hazard area on which we'd nearly come a cropper earlier followed shortly after, uphill this time, and hey presto, we got into some strife.The surface was extremely slick, teflon traction and each effort to progress just pushed us sideways into the ditch. No progress was forthcoming and for a moment it looked like we were stuck. I stepped out of the car to assess the situation and found I was unable to stand up properly without holding on to the car, such was the slippery nature of the ground. Things looked dire for our heroes but again some nifty diff-lock action produced slow progress. Never before has 5500rpm produced so little forward movement, but with deft application of brakes and power, we managed to get ourselves onto some slightly grippier stuff and so made progress towards solid ground. It was about three minutes, but it felt very long indeed.

The good thing now? On the way out, the road only improves as you get closer to civilisation. Drama was now largely over, with only a couple of flattish clay sections and a long bitumen climb past rockfall and tree-blockage between us and the Castlereagh Highway, and there to Blackheath and a Pie at the Gardner's Inn.

Final score: Wolgan Road 1, Jason 1. Score draw obtained by the fact that some minor damage was incurred during my off-track excursions, meaning there's some serious vibration above 90km/h - assuming a bent trackrod for now.

The mud coating, however, is seriously cred for a Sydney 4WD owner:

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