Historic Merlya Pass trail guide

By Tony Rabbitte 25 May 2015
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Exploring routes made through the Southern Highlands of New South Wales is like stepping back in time

IN THE YEAR 1818, explorer Charles Throsby was commissioned by Governor Macquarie to find a route from Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales into Kangaroo Valley.

The route followed an ancient Aboriginal track. which could be navigated with the help of an Aboriginal guide called Timelong.

Years later, during the 1890s a road was constructed based on Throsby’s explorations. This road is said to have become the main highway between the Southern Highlands and the south coast and was used to transport commuters and freight.

The Meryla Pass/Timelong Trail is a step back in time and is of particular interest to any walker with a fascination for history.

Let your imagination run free on this walk as you begin to visualise the hustle and bustle to which this now tranquil trail once played host.

For those who‘ll take the time to be observant this walk also reveals more subtle signatures of those who frequented the road in the past.

There are rock engravings displaying dates along with scars in the cutting walls that were probably made by the axles of horse-drawn carts and wagons.

This is a walk that could be done several times and you would still find something new and interesting each time if you let it appeal to your sense of adventure.

Fact file:

Distance: 16 km return
Time: 5-6 hours
Start/Finish: Meryla Pass car park at the end of Meryla Road
Nearest town: Moss Vale
Terrain: Gradual slope; easy walking for the first 2.5 km; fallen trees on the Timelong Trail section; track may be easily lost in places
Best season: All year
Maps: Bundanoon 1:25000
Accommodation: Motels in Moss Vale and Bowral; caravan park in Moss Vale; bushcamping at Gales Flat and Yarrunga Creek.
Food/Drink: Pubs, restaurants and cafes at Moss Vale, Bundanoon and Bowral.
Getting there: 135 km/2 hrs drive from Sydney: Exit Hume Highway to Bowral and on to Moss Vale; left at roundabout at Moss Vale; right at Nowra Road; right at Yarrawa Road; left into Meryla Road; follow for approximately 13 km to Y-intersection and veer left. Go another 3 km until locked gate and car park is reached.
More info:www.treksandclimbs.com; Fitzroy Falls Visitor Information Centre (02) 4887 7270

The walk

1. Shortly after leaving the car park watch for an interesting coal seam in the left-hand side of the cutting. Continue downhill towards Gales Flat and enjoy the views over the Yarrunga Valley en-route featuring Mounts Carrialoo and Moollattoo.

2. Gales Flat is a large clearing with a magnificent backdrop of the surrounding escarpment. This location was once used by Arthur Yates, of Yates Seeds, to graze cattle and makes for an ideal rest stop on the return journey.

3. After inspecting Gales Flat continue down the track until you reach a junction at about 2.5 km from the start of the walk. Take the right-hand fork (which is basically straight ahead).

4. Approximately 1.5-2 km into the Timelong Trail the first of several tight bends is reached. It is on these bends that the most impressive examples of the road’s construction can be seen. Large rocks excavated from the surrounding landscape were used to build retaining walls to support the road on the lower side. These walls are several metres high in places and were installed by hand. Some of the larger rocks would probably weigh as much as a small car.

5. A short distance onward another tight bend is reached which features a beautiful, tranquil spot beside the track which would have been used by travellers as a rest stop.  This spot features high cliffs, boulders and palms and is said to produce a spectacular waterfall after heavy rains.

6. Continuing onward a variety of overhangs, caves and other interesting rock formations are encountered which would have proved valuable as shelter not only for construction workers and travellers, but also for the bushrangers who are said to have frequented this pass. The Aboriginal people who originally pioneered this route would have been utilising these formations for thousands
of years.

7. Approximately 6 km into the walk the first views of Lake Yarrunga come into view and a further 2 km along the route sees the road disappear below the surface of Lake Yarrunga – depending on the water level.