|Ghosts of Yerranderie - Quick Facts|
We'll begin our trek at Goulburn. (We could also start at another Southern Highlands town - Mittagong - but the picturesque and also potentially dangerous Wombeyan Caves road adds hours to the trip.) Get an early start and take the Taralga road, continuing north past Taralga township until sighting the Mount Werong Foretrail. Turn into this and look for Limeburners Road, which will lead you down to a valley floor - Limeburners Flat. Here, a little creek meanders through the valley, and the trail parallels its course. It ploughs through a couple of deep mudholes before crossing the creek and climbing out the other side.
You'll be in four-wheel drive already, but will need low-range to make the ascent. Picking the right line and judicious wheel placement will also be necessary to avoid high centering on rock ledges, possibly leading to underbody damage.
If not too much time has been wasted negotiating the trails so far, you'll have time to visit Yerranderie - a ghost town from old mining days. Turn right onto the Oberon Stock Route and follow the signs.
There's plenty of gates to open and shut, so make sure you have a 'navigator'! In less than 40 km you'll be in the old gold town.
Yerranderie is a remnant of a once-thriving community founded in 1871. In its heyday between 1900 and 1914 it had over 2,000 residents and services included a school, three churches, two butchers, one hotel, a police station and court house and a silent movie theatre. At the top of the hill was the small 'Government Town' (where one of the churches, the court house and the school stand rather forlornly in grassy fields). Below it was the more populous 'Private Town'.
The outbreak of the First World War led to mine closures, with most of the miners going to war. This was followed by a period of unrest in the 1920s with miners regularly on strike. After WWII there were several attempts to re-open the mines but they ended when the Sydney Water Board flooded the Burragorang Valley to provide water for the Warragamba Dam development.
'Private Town' is now owned by conservationist and architect Val Luehde, who has spent a great deal of money on restoration projects. The Post Office (built in 1907) has been converted to bunk style accommodation, S C Meldrum's tailor's shop is now a gift store, the bank is a museum and the bakery is an Aboriginal artifacts gallery. There is also a well preserved boarding house. Lheude's restorations are tasteful and authentic and a chat with her about the history of the place is well worthwhile.
There's plenty to see and do around Yerranderie - swim in the river, pick through the old mines, explore the town by foot, bushwalk to some of the great natural vantage points that offer stunning views of this extremely rugged part of the Great Divide - it's up to you. Camping is possible at a number of sites: in the township, for a small fee: on Water Board land, or rented accommodation in one of the restored buildings.
Unfortunately, there's no alternative but to backtrack out of Yerranderie. Once, there was an eastern escape route, but the waters of Warragamba Dam - the final nail in the town's coffin - cut it.
Go as far as the main (dirt) Goulburn road and turn right. The route will take you through Shooters Hill and on to Edith, where another right turn leads to Jenolan Caves.
If you have more time, or, at another time, use conventional roads to reach the Oberon Stock Route, more four-wheel driving is possible.
Following the Banshee Forest Road through Gurnang State Forest, the track along Boucher Ridge and some low-range descent will eventually lead adventurers to Dingo Dell, an idyllic, lush green camp site. There's a pit toilet there, but nothing else.
Further on, after crossing the creek at Dingo Dell and another ascent and descent, the Kowmung River waits. If it's running high, do not attempt a crossing, but if it's not, ford the river, climb up towards the Kanangra Walls Plateau, and, using the Kowmung Firetrail and the Kanangra Walls Road, eventually you'll emerge at the tarred road that leads off to the right to Jenolan Caves. A diversion to Kanangra Walls Lookout is worth the time and effort.
These are not easy trips. Take emergency food and water, and if at all daunted, companions in another vehicle. However, if you're venturing out on a weekend, you should have no trouble in finding help if you come unstuck. This is a popular 4WD haunt!
The adventurous Limeburners Fire trail in and out from the delightful and grassy Limeburners Flats (a great place for a cuppa and a break on the way to Yerranderie), is steep and very hairy. So hairy that the word is that the trail might soon be closed. So if you want an excellent and exciting trip, do it soon. Derrick, Collaroy
While popular during the weekends, this can be a quiet place during the week, if venturing out alone take emergency supplies. You can even rent ELT's (Emergency Locating Transmitter) from NPWS if you're worried about finding help. Ameila, Oberonb