The Pass of Sabugal

It’s amazing what history lies almost on our doorstep. Yesterday we set off along a fire trail in Barden Ridge. A very steep path, mostly stone and gravel with sections of asphalt leads down the slopes of a valley to the Woronora River, past sandstone boulders, termite mounds, Banksias and tall Gymea Lillies. Trail bikes motored up past us, while a mountain biker gave up on his attempt to pedal.

At the bottom of the valley a concrete ford crosses the river. Should we have wished, we could have, with wet feet, crossed over into Engadine.

This was the Pass of Sabugal, so named after a place in Portugal by Thomas Mitchell, who had surveyed this path and used convict labour to clear it in 1843.

We had walked down a now disused section of Old Illawarra Road, which extends back to our old suburb, turning into the now renamed Old Ferry Road. There, like the Woronora River, it meets the Georges River. As the name suggests, a ferry once crossed the river at this point before the Alfords Point Bridge was constructed.

This was once the path between Sydney and Wollongong. Though the ferry lasted until the 1970’s, the Pass of Sabugal was superseded by bridge across the Woronora to the north and the south. Now it remains for fire truck access and as a strenuous, though very pretty, walk that feels a million kilometres away from the city around it.

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