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The Lost City:
Spectacular sandstone formations on a 4WD track near Lithgow.
There are probably more ‘Lost Cities’ around Australia than Native Dog Creeks, and that’s really a big claim! In the Northern Territory, Litchfield National Park has a Lost City. There’s another in the Gulf. All have one thing in common: spectacular geological formations.
In recent years, finding good 4WD locations around Sydney has become progressively difficult.
For a variety of reasons tracks have been closed off and day trip alternatives shut down. But just out of Lithgow, a couple of hours’ drive west of Sydney, New South Wales’ Lost City is an easy 4WD destination and is well worth a visit. Join the Bells Line of Road at Richmond. Archibald Bell discovered this alternative route to Cox’s road across the Blue Mountains (now the Great Western Highway) in the 1820s. Stock and coaches had a nightmare stretch on Cox’s road: the descent of Victoria Pass, so the Bells Line, with its gentler descent from the Blue Mountains into Lithgow, became the preferred route for drovers and coachmen.
You’ll pass through small fruit growing centres like Bilpin and reach Bell, at the top of the range, where the Causeway road veers off left to Mount Victoria. Stay on the Bells Line and in 10 or so minutes, you’ll have reached Clarence and the distinctive top station of the Zig Zag Railway.
Turn right here, cross the railway line and take the gravel road that will see you pass the Clarence sawmill and Boral sand quarry. (This is part of the original Bells Line of Road.) About seven kilometres on, turn right at a T-junction to join the main Lithgow-Glow Worm Tunnel track. A couple of kilometres further on, you’ll come to Bungleboori picnic ground.
For the more adventurous, there is an alternative. To the left of the main track is a 4WD-only service trail for the power lines. This requires low range as it’s steep and slippery. Indeed, if it has been raining, look out for any steep mud sections in the area. Even highly experienced four-wheel drivers have come to grief here, sitting with all four wheels spinning and going nowhere. As with most things four-wheel drive, even the Lost City is an experience that should be shared with more than one vehicle in wet conditions.
After 100 metres or so, you’ll turn left onto another track. (If coming from Bungleboori picnic grounds, turn left into the Blackfellows Hand Road, then immediately left again.) Veer left at the next two Y-junctions, then veer right about one and a half kays in from the power lines. For the descent into the Lost City, you’ll need low range as you pick your way down the last 200 metres or so.
The spectacular weathered, beehive-shaped, Hawkesbury sandstone formations are quite a sight.
They are extremely brittle, so take care when walking around them to explore. The two dams you’ll find hidden deep in the gullies were the original Lithgow water supply.
From the Lost City, the quickest way back into Lithgow is by backtracking, then turning right at the Glow Worm Tunnel access road.
There are a few other day-trip style 4WD adventures in the area as well. One, to the Glow Worm Tunnel, is classified ‘4WD’ only after rain. The road, is however, heavily potholed and badly corrugated. You’ll need to walk the last 100m or so to the Tunnel. Remember to take a torch (and to turn it off when you’re in the tunnel, otherwise you won’t see the glow worms!)
Another is to go right through to the old ghost town of Newnes, where oil shale was mined at the turn of the century. It is possible to stick to the bitumen of the Wolgan Valley Road to reach Newnes. (It spears off the Mudgee road at Wallerawang). If you want to do some four-wheel driving, however, take the short track between Blackfellows Hand Road and Sunnyside Road. It’s steep, includes some fairly difficult rock ledges, and will definitely dictate low range. Eventually, you’ll come out on the Wolgan Valley Road.