20-21/05/2000 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Lisa McGinnigle, Fiona Macrae, Craig Turnbull, Nicole Footer

Fiona, Lisa and I drive to Cronulla Station on Saturday morning, and park the car there. We have to be at training by two o'clock on Sunday, so we need to catch the twelve o'clock ferry from Bundeena tomorrow. We are aiming to reach Curracurrang tonight, but will still have to get up early to cover the twelve kilometres to Bundeena by midday.

Lisa and I check Fiona's pack. It is ridiculously light, so we find all the heavy items of food and redistribute them a bit more evenly. Fiona complains that Lisa and I are heavier than her, so we should carry more. Lisa and I offer to swap packs with Fiona. Our generous offer is declined. Catching the train to Sutherland, we meet Nicole and Craig at the station, and change trains to get to Otford.

We reach Otford station just before midday, and fill our water bottles from the tap just beyond the fence. Heading straight up the hill, I quickly find a stout walking stick that should last for the walk. We quickly reach the main road - Lady Wakehurst Drive - and are already lost. The carpark and lookout is not to our left as it should be. The maps come out, and we find that we are several hundred metres south of where we should be. We have to walk alongside the road for a while to reach the start.

The track follows the cliff tops for just a few hundred metres before heading inland. We stop several times to catch the great views, both back down the coast and straight down to the ocean. Following that is a short section of fire trail, only a kilometre or so, before the Coastal Track turns off to the right. Another half a kilometre brings us to the lookout over Werrong Beach, where we stop for a snack. Werrong Beach is the only official nudist beach in the National Park. "Official" is not a distinction that bothers us much while camping. However, the water looks particularly chilly at the moment, and we don't expect that there will be much call for swimmers...or lack of them.

The path leads into the littoral rainforest, heading fairly steadily down for the next few kilometres. I find myself a second stick, which makes the walking even easier. This is pleasant hiking, and would be pleasant even in summer, as there is a dense canopy keeping the track well-shaded. It is only a couple of kilometres to Burning Palms Beach, although it takes us quite a while. Nicole is still recovering from a knee reconstruction and the steady downhill means she has to be quite careful.

Climbing the headland at the north end of Burning Palms, Fiona and I see our first wallaby for the trip. Craig spots a deer, but we are some way behind and unable to sight it. Due to our late start, we decide to stop for lunch. Nicole is feeling rather sick.

By the time we finish lunch we have almost decided that North Era will be our campsite for the night. In some ways this is lucky as it is the only campsite that we have a permit for. However, it does mean that Lisa, Fiona and I will be hiking 18km tomorrow before midday. That is a bit of a hassle, to say the least.

It is not long from our lunch spot to North Era, just a walk across the headland, along South Era Beach and around the point. It takes barely half an hour, and we ditch shoes and run around on the beach throwing the frisbee for a while until the sun disappears behind the cliffs, and the sand gets too cold.

North Era campsite is a large grassy area with a stream running down the middle, just above the beach. Unfortunately it is covered with thousands of little pellets of deer dung. There are also enclosures that have been fenced off to see what will grow if the deer are kept out. Looking at the mess the deer make, I will be happy when the NPWS gets around to eradicating them.

We immediately bump into the rangers who ask us for our permits. At least camping here we have no hassles. The rangers are pretty friendly and we talk for a while about the impact of deer on the park as the light fades.

What little warmth there is rapidly disappears into the clear sky, as the stars come out. A much better view than Sydney. We all manage to see a shooting star, although not all the same one. I see a very faint red glow on the horizon directly out over the ocean. All of us turn to look and after thirty seconds the top edge of the moon begins to climb out of the sea. It is a very reddy-orange colour and looks almost bloated and evil. Absolutely fantastic - I have never seen a full moon rise over the ocean before, and this is quite spectacular.

The wildlife at the campsite is obviously used to being fed. Dinner is disturbed first by several deer, and then by a fat, scarred wallaby that pokes around our bags and stares accusingly at us, as if we have conspired to keep all of our food out of his reach.

Being in the Royal NP, there are no campfires allowed, and the cold pushes us into our tents earlier than usual. Of course, the fact that three of us have to reach Bundeena by midday tomorrow could be a contributing factor. Lisa sets her alarm for five in the morning.

Morning comes around all too quickly. The water is on the stove for breakfast shortly after five. The light rain doesn't help packing up at all, particularly since parts of my tent need to go in the bottom of my pack. The rain thankfully eases, although the forecast for the day is for coastal showers. We take until after half past six to get on the road, leaving all the remaining water for the others, but taking the filter just in case. We expect to be able to fill up at Garie. Less than five and a half hours to get to Bundeena.

The first section to Little Garie is across the rocks. They are quite slimy and despite my two walking sticks for balance I almost immediately slip and soak one of my feet, stumbling quickly back to dry land. As is turns out, this is lucky, as it means I am out of the way as a big wave soaks Fiona.

Another twenty minutes of walking brings us to the amenities at Garie. "Water not for drinking" say the signs. Damn! We unpack the water filter and pump a couple of litres each. This takes some time - not the quick refill we had planned.

After the water stop we are already behind time leaving Garie. Our six hours to get to the ferry is already less then four and a half, and we are not even two kilometres from our camp. We ascend the cliffs above Garie, a bit of a climb, and set off along the cliff tops at a cracking pace to Curracurrong. Our much anticipated view of sunrise over the ocean is spoiled by the cliffs and the fact that the sun at the moment rises so far in the north. Try again in summer, I guess.

The 3.5km fly past, aided by a very strong southerly breeze, and soon we can see the waterfalls where they drop over 40m to the sea. A strange sight greets us. What looks like a waterspout from a distance turns out on closer inspection to be one of the waterfalls. Amazingly it is flowing backwards, being blown back up the cliff by the force of the wind, before landing in the stream and starting again. As we are leaving, I almost miss the distinctive outline of Eagle Rock until Fiona points it out to me.

We continue north-east, ignoring the Curra Moors track, towards Curracurrang. This secluded little bay was our original aim for last night, and we decide that when we do the walk again we will book a site here early. We pass several groups getting ready to set off, and wave our good mornings. We have been on the road for almost two hours.

From there it is only a short walk to Wattamolla, our only scheduled rest stop for the day. We throw our packs down and break out the scroggin and sugar hits. The ten minutes we have allotted quickly turns into twenty-five as we stuff ourselves. We justify it by telling ourselves that this refuelling stop has to get us to Bundeena. We each shove a handful of Snakes into our pocket, and pull the packs back on.

The path crosses Coote Creek and then alongside Wattamolla Creek to a nice swimming hole. No time to stop, but too cold anyway. A unmarked fork in the track not too far ahead causes some confusion, but we have to head back to the cliffs so we turn right. Good choice. The track gets sandy underfoot, and this slows us down. The narrowness of the path makes it difficult to use my sticks. Nevertheless, we soon reach Little Marley Beach, although Lisa is some way behind having stopped to use her fancy new camera several times. It is almost ten-thirty by now and we are still line ball to make the ferry.

Crossing around to Big Marley we wave to some illicit campers in the corner of the beach. The waves look ferocious. It is obvious why there are warnings against swimming here.

Climbing up Marley Head I look back and cannot see Lisa or Fiona anywhere. Where are they? They are the ones who really need the twelve o'clock ferry. I can catch the next one and still be back in time. As it turns out, Lisa has her camera out again and is trying to capture some of the great views back down the coast. They are indeed fantastic, but now is probably not the time to be getting them on film!

The path up Marley Head is quite indistinct, and the further we head away from the ocean the more worried I get that we are on the wrong track. The map and guidebook come out again, and we puzzle over them. It appears we are on the Big Marley trail, and have to cut across country to get back to the coast. Luckily we quickly pick up another trail and have not lost too much time.

It is not too far to go now, but the track to the Waterrun is just sandy dry watercourses. This slows us down and we still seem to be behind time. We drop down into the Waterrun, where a small creek drops sixteen metres into the ocean. A brief look, and then onwards and upwards.

On climbing out the other side, we can see Bundeena in the distance. Suddenly we appear to be within striking distance. With forty-five minutes til the ferry we figure we are now pretty safe. There is just a bit more fire-trail before we finally hit the bitumen. Along the streets of Bundeena we notice that the fences of the houses that we pass mostly have lengths of string along the top. I hazard a guess that it is to stop urban wildlife from grazing the plants in the garden. Fiona asks one of the residents. It turns out to be to stop the deer from jumping the fence.

We eventually reach the wharf with about fifteen minutes to spare. What a morning! As we collapse in our seats on the ferry with vacant, drained looks on our faces, we resolve to do the walk again under slightly less trying conditions so we can take in the views that we rushed past this time.