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