Thursday, 10 May 2012

Day 64 & 65 - Yagon to Mungo Brush to Hawks Nest

Last night at Yagon was the coldest I've had on this trip, I woke up shivering in the early hours and struggled to get warm again. The skies were crystal clear, the dew heavy and the condensation on the inside of my tent was running in rivulets. I must have fallen back to sleep again before dawn because I woke again with the sun shining and when I stuck my head out of my tent I was surprised to see the campground entirely vacated.

I got up and started to pack and a pair of dingos trotted past like they owned the place. They ignored me completely as they did the rounds of the vacated sites. They were in marvellous condition, strong, glossy and well fed. The female had white socks on her fore feet and a white tip to her thick tail which she held aloft unlike any dog breed. The male dingo finally looked my way when to attract his attention I squeeked at him from a distance. He paused for a split second, gazed at me briefly, then continued on his path up the dunes and away. I have never seen wild dingos up close before, this pair were magnificent animals but I'd prefer to see wallabies and roos relaxing about the place but here at Yagon there were none.

I set off then on my two day odyssey south along the beach to Hawks Nest, forty five odd kilometers away. I had my pack laden down with my ration of water and food and the question mark over Big Gibber on my mind.

The quality of the light over these two days turned out to be like two sides of a silver coin, one dulled and tarnished, the other polished to a blinding shimmer. Today was the dull day, soft and rounded. Good walking weather. All colour was bleached from both the land and the sea and their edges merged in shades of grey. The only colours I did see were the flash of scarlet on the beak and feet of the Silver Gulls as they periodically flew by me and a blob of vibrant purple from another of those strange unidentified jellyfish. Today's jellyfish was twice as big as the one I saw at Racecourse and was in better condition with a thick tangle of tentacles still attached to its underside. The vividness of its purple bulk intensified by the subtle hues all around it.

I reached the much anticipated Big Gibber a few hours after the mornings high tide. I sat on the rocks eating a lunch of cheese, corn chips and fruit and surveyed the situation. Big Gibber was barely a headland, more a series of tall steep knolls made of a layered conglomerate rock which had been fractured and weathered to resemble the ancient pagodas of Cambodia or Thailand. I could almost imagine the faces of smiling Buddhas carved into the textured surface.

As I sat and watched the sea come and go I discovered that getting past the big issue of the Big Gibber was going to be a big anticlimax! I didn't even have to take my shoes off and only had a small amount of rock climbing to do to get past. With respect though I could see that in different sand conditions and a big swell that this spot could be dangerous, but, I got lucky. I scrambled over the rocks happy to be able to do so and headed for the beach again.

Just beyond the Big Gibber I came upon what turned out to be the only people I saw that day, a fisherman and a boy. The boy was up on one of the knolls, we waved at one another. The fisherman, like fisherman everywhere, didn't take his eyes from the ocean, but as I passed by he said over his shoulder, "Long walk...." and I said "Yep" without breaking my stride down the grey beach.

There was a further 10 km of beautiful solitary walking until I turned off the beach at the 4wd exit. I crossed the empty road to get to Mungo Brush campground where I pitched my tent for the night. I made lentil soup and ate it with leftover corn chips as the sun started to sink over the Bombah Broadwater. Sitting on a big old Tea Tree branch which dipped into the tannin waters I watched and listened to the creatures ending their day, five Black Swan warbled their bugling calls across the still lake, three Little Black Cormorants bathed vigorously in the shallows, two Black Ducks paddled about asking for bread but refusing my corn chips and one Sea Eagle flew high above the lake like a giant butterfly on an updraft. A good day!

The following morning brought a flip of the coin to land a scrubbed and polished day with a sparkle so bright that it actually hurt my eyes! I set off early on the 23 kilometers along Mungo Beach toward Broughton Island and Hawks Nest. It was sheer delight to walk this shimmering coast!

The turquoise waters rolled into perfect tubes surfed only by the Gannets using the air pressure to help power their take off after a dive. I followed the tracks of three dingos along the base of the dunes for several kilometers and could see how they had run and leapt along the high tide mark looking for an easy feed of exhausted Shearwaters. The strewn feathers and concentrated footprints evidence of their success.

Each beach rolled into the next as Hawks Nest drew nearer with 228 meter Yacaaba hill marking its position. This mountainous sentinel acted as a beacon of distance, enlarging as I made my way south. After about 5 hours of walking I was in the shadow of Yacaaba and out of drinking water. I made my way through Hawks Nest to Jimmy's Beach. Sarah at the Holiday Park there gave me a nice discount and I set up my nest for the night.

I was in bed by dusk, tired, but glowing with the beauty of the day and feeling satisfied to have stuck to the beach the whole way through Myall Lakes.

Yagon to Hawks Nest - 43 km

Life's A Beach Walk total - 593 km

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Day 59 - Cape Hawke to Elizabeth Beach

Back on the road again this morning......I caught a taxi from Forster town center to take me along the route I walked yesterday to the intersection of The Lakes Way and Cape Hawke Drive. It felt odd being in a car but I didn't want to walk that section of road again and there wasn't a bus going when I wanted it. The taxi driver was chatty, I asked him for his thoughts on Forster, he said "it's heaven's waiting room!" He was no spring chicken himself and looked like he was getting ready to queue up. He said business was tough because there were too many taxis on the road in Forster, seven during the day, and not enough work to go around. That ratio makes for good service though, when I called for a taxi I waited less than a minute for not one but two cars to turn up.

I had three or four kilometers to walk on The Lakes Way before I could turn off onto the gravel road that cuts through to the beach. The speed limit on this stretch was 100 km/h and the road verge was small and thick with weeds. Not the most fun 45 minutes I've had on this trip! The looks on the faces of the drivers as they sped by me seemed to say "What are you doing you nut case, get off the road!" I tried to counter this by arranging my face into a look that said something like "Hey, slow down, fill your case with nuts and come to the beach!" In the end though I had so much debris blow into my face that when a car passed I turned my head away grimly.

I was very happy to see the gravel "escape" road leading east to the beach. I don't know if it was just the contrast but Seven Mile Beach looked like the most beautiful beach I've ever seen! The sand here is white with an extra shimmer of something silver in it which makes the clear waters radiant colours of turquoise and aqua and ultramarine. I wandered onto the beach with my shoes off and noticed something odd about the was blank, faultless, there were no footprints on it, none at all, on the entire beach as far as I could see! I've walked on a lot of beaches these two months with no people and few footprints but because the overnight tide here was a high one it cleared Seven Mile like a massive etch-a-sketch. There were no animal tracks either, until I showed up.

Seven Mile Beach is part of Booti Booti National Park which is the traditional home of the Gathang people. For them Booti Booti apparently means "lots of honey". I love this, I think it should be adopted into English, ie, "What would you like on your toast, sweetheart?" "Booti Booti please!"

To get around to the next beach, Elizabeth Beach, there is a wonderful track which winds its way around Booti Hill. The forest here is like a fairy glen, with all types of palms and ferns, bonsai trees and lichen encrusted rocks. Every growing thing has been trained and twisted by the sea winds into curlicues and arches with an oblique stunted canopy. I needed Nath with me to identify most of the trees but I could recognise one of them, the Brush Box, by its smooth salmon bark with a rough base and big glossy leaves. In inland forests the Brush Box is a tall and elegant tree but here by the sea its form is entirely altered. The tree's natural urge for upward growth to the sun is challenged by the forces of the prevailing winds resulting in a flowing tangle of branches much like seaweed or hair in a current of water. Even on a still day the trees form is sculptured evidence of the irresistible power of the ocean.

The Booti track led down onto Elizabeth Beach, another gem. I made my way to the caravan park and was given my first ever "single" discount on the price of a site for the night!

Cape Hawke to Elizabeth Beach - 16 km

Lifesabeachwalk total - 529 km