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.


  1. hiya Rachel, sounds lovely- next best thing to doing it all myself is hearing about your exploits- i couldn't find a sound link for your ocean waves anywhere - but it's a really nice idea. When i first heard about you walking to sydney , i presumed you would walking along the road- what a far better idea to go along the beaches- absolutely brilliant! And the facebook link is working well too- telling us when you have posted another blog- thinking of you, and just a weeny but jealous!

  2. Wow! What an awesome shot! Beautiful bird!!!

    Oh crap, I can't post comments anyonymously!