Sunday, 25 March 2012

Day 18 - Wooli to Freshwater Beach

It rained again last night and was drizzling this morning as I packed up my tent and stuffed it soggily into it's bag. I had arranged yesterday with the local boat hire business to get a lift across to the other side of the Wooli Wooli River, another deep water crossing I didn't care to swim. Bruce agreed to pick me up from the park which was a way out of town in the morning.

I can see now how the confusion me romantic but when Bruce said "meet me out the front of the park at 9 am" my brain heard "meet me out the front of the RIVER at 9am". Which is where I was, eagerly awaiting my much anticipated boat trip up the river to the mouth. At quarter past 9 I thought I'd better find a spot of phone reception and give him a call. He had been out "the front" on the road......he wasn't very happy and didn't think my explanation was cute! The lovely girls from the Solitary Islands Park drove me into town to meet up with Bruce and his boat (this wasn't cheating because I'd already walked this bit). Bruce did then get me to the other side of the river, all without cracking a smile!

The tide was high and just on the turn as we came across the river which ment that I had to bide my time to make it further south as the tide made her way out.

This section of Yuraygir National Park is some of the most isolated country on the NSW coast. Lots of people have called me brave for doing this walk and for the first time I felt it! Immediately south of the river the path runs along a short beach then onto the rock shelf and cliff base for several kilometers. It really was wild and rugged country; contorted and folded rock layers of blue grey and oxidised reds with jagged stripes of crystalized history.

I made a recording of the lapping surf at the first obstacle I came to, a large she oak which had fallen across the pebbly beach and was tangled up with weed and water (good luck playing this file, let me know if it works, I'll do more). As the tide retreated I moved on.

At the next obstacle, a series of steep rock faces with rock pools at their base currently inundated, I hung my wet tent out to dry in a tree growing from the rock face and waited.........All this waiting for tides and basically living my life in rhythm with the tides got me wondering about what exactly tide is.

I knew that the moon's gravitational pull had something to do with it but thinking about it I  couldn't figure out why there were two highs and two lows in each day. I thought the moon would suck the oceans towards itself when they were nearest making a high tide, and leave a consequent low tide on the opposite side of the globe. But it's much more awesome than that.

So, according to Professor Google I was correct that as the moon circles the earth it's gravitational pull makes the oceans beneath it bulge towards it causing a high tide. But, at the same time the same gravitational pull affects the earth itself so that on the side of the earth opposite the moon there is also a high tide because the earth itself moves toward the moon and away from the oceans relatively speaking plus inertia keeps the ocean from following. The low tides are the two sides of the earth in between these highs that have had the waters sucked away from them. Because the earth is round this is a sliding motion never static. I don't admit to totally grasping these concepts but the part of my brain which is bending around them feels good.

The next part of the earth moon dance is the daily cycle, the highs and lows don't happen at the same time each day, they get later each day by approximately an hour, why? It's because the earth rotates on it's own axis as the moon revolves around it, so it take the moon longer than 24 hours to get back to where it started, 24 hours and 52 minutes apparently! So there is 6 hours and 13 minutes between each extreme of tide, four times a day which slides the tides along. This is good by me because it means I get to walk on a low tide at all times of the day.

The sun gets to join the dance too and does so most strongly when the three celestial bodies are lined up. This triple whamy at full and new moon causes big "spring" tides twice a month. That's what caught me out at Evans Head! 

Apparently these gravitational effects happen in small bodies of water too, like lakes by a few centimeters and it's measurable in tea cups even. Makes me wonder what dance the moon is having with each of my watery body cells......salsa or ballet?

As my tent dried and I watched the moon slowly release her watery dance partner I saw some Sooty Oystercatches up ahead. These rock shelves are perfect Sooty Oystercatcher territory. I find these pitch black birds very difficult to take photos of because they blend into their rocky environment so well and are even more timid than their pied cousins, so I was delighted when I got this fabulous shot! Unlike the Pied Oystercatches who live on beaches the Sooty Oystercatches live on rock shelves and have no where to run and hide when intimidated. They adopt a different strategy. When they see me coming they sneak behind a rock and hide, which would work perfectly except that the whole time they repeatedly make their piercing whistled calls. It kind of spoils the tactic!

After several hours of slow contemplation and slow progress I made it across the last of the rock shelf and onto Freshwater Beach. A more beautiful and wild beach I've never seen.

Day 16 - Brooms Head to Illaroo Camp Ground

I woke up late this morning to a blue day and a slightly reduced wind. Today was to be the first of the river crossings I'll need to hitch a ride across or swim, the Sandon River. Sandon is a beautiful 8km walk away along Brooms Head Back Beach to The Breakaway. The low tide today was at 3pm and to make the river crossing safest I'd wait till the river was low and slack, so I had a leisurely start to the day.

Wide sand and blue sky, perfect! It was good to be walking again! Just as I made it to Sandon a 4WD roared up beside me and stopped on the beach. A man thrust a torch out the window and said "You forgot this!"

It was Darren the Brooms Head Caravan Park manager who had just driven the 8kms along the beach from Brooms Head to bring me a torch which he assumed I'd left behind! Now that's service! Either that or he just wanted any excuse to go down to the beach! It made me grin from ear to ear either way especially because the torch wasn't even mine. I'd found it under the bed where I was looking for my sunglasses, which have a nasty habit of trying to escape, and left it on the bench but forgot to tell Danielle that I'd found it. Darren tried to give it to me anyway but it weighed a ton so was no use to me, I was mightily touched by their thoughtfulness though. Good people!

As I got to the river boat ramp I scouted out the potential for lifts to the other side. There wasn't a single boat on the river which was running out fast, pushed along even faster by the wind which was now being channeled along the river at a fine rate!

At this point I met a succession of people, all strangers to one another, who came together and triggered a series of events that not only got me across the river but that also gladdened my heart with the goodness of humanity, made me contemplate the transformative nature of pilgrimage and illness, taught me a bit about patience and the power of thought, gave me a few good laughs, some cold fresh fruit and a spring in my step for the next leg. My heartfelt thanks to Paul, Simone, Jane and their friends for a magical couple of hours. An extra big thanks to Paul for having a unique soul, the will to help out and a fishing kayak!

Safely across the Sandon River I continued south on the Sandon Back Beach. It seems all the most beautiful beaches are unnamed and get called "Back Beach". This one was no exception, wide hard sand with a roaring powerful ocean pounding the shore and sea creatures abounding.

Coming into Illaroo campground in the afternoon the wind picked up again and the gusts blasted my legs from underneath me as I took each step. The sea eagles were unperturbed, one bird was hovering almost motionless in the wind just above the dunes. An eagle hovering, what a sight! But it felt good to get to the shelter of the campground and get out of the wind!

One of the things people, usually women, often ask me when they realise I'm walking on my own is, "don't you get scared?" The honest answer to this question is, sometimes......

The way I deal with it is to be organised, realistic, cautious and systematic. I always know my tide times and I know what to expect with the terrain from topographic maps. I don't walk at night and I'm careful where I put my feet!  When I get to a new campsite I wander around and check it out, looking for a warm friendly couple or family to camp near, introduce myself and set up camp, then I sleep soundly. This night I met and camped near Dianne and Ken, a lovely couple who took good care of me. I've never failed to find warm people with a welcoming smile and interest in what I'm doing. Being out in the world the way I am right now reaffirms that there are good people everywhere you go!

Sometimes anxious thoughts come into my head, I just accept them and keep going, they always pass. Very occasionally I get a "funny" feeling, I trust it and move on. The only fright I've had on this trip was this night at Illaroo when I had an invader in my tent! As I lay drifting off to sleep I felt something run across my arm and back, it was a mouse that had chewed a hole through my tent and helped itself to my dried fruit! Little bugger!

Today was a glorious day full of amazing places and wonderful people, I feel so alive and grateful that I'm well enough to have this experience.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

All is well!

Hi from the beach!

I haven't posted for a while because I'm having some technical difficulties with my mobile reception, dropping it in the sand didn't help either!

I'm powering on though and will send more posts ASAP, thanks for all the concerned messages!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

B Day! Life's a Beach WALK begins.

Life's a Beach Walk begins!
What a fantastic day! I walked up to the lighthouse from Wategoes Beach with Nath, my chief support crew/boyfriend, and my pack was chauffeured to the top! (thanks J&J)
A bunch of our wonderful friends and family were there to cheer me on and a journalist and photographer from a local newspaper came to report on the fundraising for ME/CFS. I admitted I had butterflies but not about the start of the walk it was shyness at being interviewed! 
As we headed from the lighthouse we could see Tallow Beach curving away to the south in a crescent of golden sand and pounding surf, magnificent!
A quick swim and more goodbyes, then off to Broken Head along Tallow Beach, just 7kms away. An easy walk accompanied by Brahminy Kites and the delicious smell of the ocean. The pack sat lightly on my back the whole way (adrenaline does wonders!). Shortly after arriving the tent was up, dinner cooked, and only then the rain started.
Photos to follow once I make contact with the IT department, ie the part of my brain that wants sleep now!
Thanks to everyone for making this a wonderful day, to everyone that came to the lighthouse, sent texts, phoned or was thinking of me. An extra big thanks to my chief support crew (Nath) for making everything flow so beautifully and for not minding terribly that he will be without me for most of the next three months!