Sunday, 29 April 2012

Day 53 - Diamond Head to Crowdy Head

Last night was the coldest I've had on the trip, I had my sleeping bag zipped up and the hood pulled down well over my head. The morning remained chilled. I contemplated going for another surf but we had a big days walk ahead of us so we headed off early. We left the Diamond Head walk-in campground via the office to pay for the nights site and met Al the campground manager. Al was another of the many kindly souls I've met who said he thought I was nuts but waived the camp fees with rueful smiles and wished us well.
What a day it turned out to be!

Mikey and I had some of the most spectacular scenery of the trip walking over Diamond Head to Indian Head then down to Kylie's Beach. The headland is over 100 meters at its highest and has some very spectacular cliffs plummeting into the sea. We had our last look north at the sweeping curve of Dunbogan Beach and North Brother cradling it. Then we had our first look at the far distant hills above Forster. Between us and Foster was several days of beach walking including the longest single beach so far, Kylie's Beach running 18km to Crowdy Head.

We walked down a steep ridge from the height of Diamond Head to one of the natural rock arches. There was a surging swell creating water spouts through the rock. A strong south westerly wind added to the excitement and the salt spray.

We headed then down the path made by the hang glider flyers to get back up the cliff from Kylie's Beach. Kylie Tennant was a prolific author and journalist who spent a lot of time exploring this area in the 1940's. She wrote a book called The Man on the Headland inspired by the then owner of the land Ernie Metcalfe. Almost everything on the southern side of the headland is named after her including the long beach to Crowdy Head.

In the photo of Kylie's Beach above you can see Crowdy Head dimly in the upper left corner, a long walk. We set off as the tide was still rising but conceded pretty quickly to the soft sinking sand. We sat at the back of the beach out of the wind and cooked lunch on our metho burner and waited for the tide to turn. We had not just lentils but for entree we fried holummi cheese, the best haloumi I've ever had!

It took us a good many hours to inch our way toward Crowdy Head but the distance gave us time to sink into a rhythm and a quiet ease. We camped in the national park campground a couple of kilometers from Crowdy Head. Tired but satisfied!

Diamond Head to Crowdy Head - 20 km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 464km

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Day 41 - Trial Bay to South Smoky Beach

We were up early this morning and made our way through Arakoon Park to Little Bay and on into Hat Head National Park traversing the Smoky Cape Range. It's novel for me to have someone to take photos of and to have photos taken of me, so I was more snap happy even than usual.

We chose this section of the walk for Nathan to join me because it is mountainous and richly forested, Nathan's favourite things. This was great for me because Nath was happy to carry more than half the water up the hills and pointed out many interesting facts about the plant communities along the way. The most amazing thing was seeing delicate tree ferns and staghorns on easterly facing slopes with the wide blue ocean in full view. How these rainforest plants cope with the salt spray is a mystery. It might have been the height of the mountain we were climbing that protected them, Little Smoky mountain is 200 meters above sea level and we were well over half way up at that point.

We also walked past this amazing Grass Tree, in the photo above, with 7 active branches and two broken ones. These trees grow incredibly slowly so this one must be hundreds of years old if not thousands. Strangely enough with all this lushness there were almost no birds. It wasn't until we were back in the heath that we heard many birds again.
We had an option at one point to save ourselves some effort and skip Gap Beach, but, it was calling to us and we couldn't resist. The beach is fringed with tall Bangalow Palm groves and the beach itself is a gem. Neither of us were sorry we made the effort and a swim in the warm waters revived us for the 100 meters return climb straight up the mountain.

We then followed a path along the contour of 311 meter Big Smoky. It was a very narrow path that in many places has been cut out of rock with precipitous slopes above and below. It looked like it had been made in a generation less concerned with OH&S and may have been more handywork of the convicts and interns of Trial Bay. In one section Nath noticed all the large Blackbutt Eucalypts were dead and saplings he guessed to be a decade old were thick around the bases of the old tree carcasses. We found out later that a major fire occurred here in 2001.

The convict path brought us to Smoky Cape and the highest lighthouse in NSW. Smoky Cape was named by Captain Cook as he passed by in 1770, the entry in his log reads ".....a point or headland on which were fires that caused a great quantity of smoke......". This may have been bushfire or probably fires of the Dunghutti people of the area for whom Big Smoky or Dhung Bandung is a sacred men's site of initiation. It's a small reminder of how the coast was well populated prior to the English moving in and how an entire people's existence was irrevocably altered.

Due to tricky light conditions I didn't take a single decent photo of it the lighthouse up close with my phone, just this one of Nath at the lighthouse base where we made lunch and the last photo looking north back to Smoky Cape from the beach below. So, I have to express in words how magical this spot is. Put it this way, I want to live here! The problem is the only house is already occupied by Pat and his wife (who's name I didn't catch) who run the Lighthouse B&B and cottage accommodation. There's a running joke that the males here do the light-house work and the females do the heavy-house work. Pat didn't seem to think that tradition was continuing now the lighthouse is automated. Pat generously let us fill our water bottles from the tank and took us on a guided tour, very nice it all is too! With magnificent views north to little crescent beaches and Green Island and south along the long curve of shoreline to Hat Head. Pat says the storms here are spectacular, I can imagine! We'll be back for a visit soon at the very least.

Nath and I made our way then down the road to South Smoky Beach where we camped in the dunes, well before dark!

Trial Bay to South Smoky Beach - 12km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 328km