17 Jan 2016

Heading Down Under - Aussie Land by valeriepeltier

7/29

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I am proud to say that today I beat my record for top distance travelled on a hiking trail in one day. We completed a whopping 22 kilometres along the south coast of Australia.
Not only did we complete it we completed it in 8 hours!

Truthfully we walked closer to 25 km, although the extra kilometres we walked were in town in order to reach the trail.

Our journey for the coast trek began in Sylvania where we stayed the previous night to hiking the trail. We looked up the bus times and ferry times the evening before and set our plan for what the earliest time we could be on trail for.
The first ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena left at 8:30, and from the bus times we got online it said the first bus left at 8:22. Regardless we knew we wouldn't be making it onto the trail before 9 at the earliest.
We set our alarms for 7am and decided we wanted to be on trail by the latest at 10am.

When the time came for walking to the bus stop, we were early but we decided to set out anyways as to be sure not to miss it. Turns out because it was Sunday, the first bus didn't actually come until 9:30, we were an entire hour too early. Instead of waiting for the bus we decided to start walking towards the train station knowing that it was only about a kilometre and a half or so walk.
We made it to the station within 25 minutes, purchase our fare "student discounts" and proceeded to wait for the train to arrive. Looking at the time we figured we could make it on time for the 9:30 ferry and be there just in time and not have to wait.
The timing worked out perfectly and we ended up arriving in Bundeena off the ferry just shortly after 10am.
Knowing that we were running a little behind time due to the Sunday schedules of public transportation, we quickly stopped into the IGA for some extra water due to the messages online about there being little access to water on trail and began our walk to the trail head.

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We reached the trail head at 10:45am, snapped a few photos and were on our way.
As the trail started out it was mainly a path of sand running between a sea of low lying shrubs. Shortly into the trail it turned from sand to rock and we began to follow the coast line.
Our first stop along the trail being Wedding Cake Rock. The entire area was fenced off, although when we arrived there all of the tourists were on the opposite side of the fence, busy taking photos and exploring the area.
We dropped our packs and made our way over to take a few pictures and grab a snack. It wasn't too long before we were back on track, as we were trying to make up for our lost time in town.
The path stretched on and on, and knowing that we had a total of 22 km to complete we knew we couldn't spend too much time stopping off at various points on the trail. As different scenic moments came upon us we began to pick and choose which ones to take our packs off at and which ones to snap a photo and continue.
Around 11:30 we made our way out to a nice lookout and decided to eat lunch overlooking the ocean, the beach and the cliff side.
As we were packing up and getting ready to head back onto the trail, a nice Australian couple coming from the opposite direction of us stopped to talk to us and see if we were doing the entire trek. When we answered they told us they had passed a few others on the trail that were walking the trek as well. It was nice to know that there were a few others besides our selves, because the only people we had been passing all day were doing day trips either from the car park or their campsites.

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Moving on to the next section of trail, we crossed our first beach. I swear with every step I managed to get a little more sand in my shoes, and as the sand filled my boots my toes had less and less room. By now the sun had began to reach its peak, and from the weather forecast it was supposed to reach about 21 degrees and not a single cloud in the sky.
Not knowing how little the trail would be shaded, as we walked the sun beat down on us for almost the entire day making it difficult to find a shady spot to rest here and there.
Regardless of the fact that we continued to reapply sunscreen every couple hours, the amount of walking we were doing resulted in us sweating the majority of it off, therefore leaving certain patches of skin open to the sun, which I'm sure will leave us with some very amusing tan lines.

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As we rounded a corner the sound of a waterfall caught my attention off in the distance. As we approached it the sound booming louder and louder until we emerged from the bushes to find a gorgeous pooled area mid way down the waterfall.
Torn, we made the decision that Instead of taking too much time to change in order to go for a swim, I instead soaked my feet for a few minutes taking the heat from the day out of them momentarily. Before heading out I took my shirt and rinsed it in the water to cool my core temperature down and to keep it that way for a little longer and did the same with Lauren's.
About another kilometre down the trail it opened up to Watamola Beach, a little over half way.
There was when we finally had the chance to look at a map to see where we were in relation to our end goal. The trail was very well marked for where you needed to turn, but there were no mileage markers so it made it difficult to really know how far you had come.

Also knowing now that there was a least one water source we could have used instead of carrying the extra litre or two and treated it with our purification tabs. (Approximately located at the 11.5 km mark.)

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With only 9 and a half kilometres to go, we eagerly started back out onto the trail.
About a km in we were both starting to feel the effects of the sun beating down on us all day, so we stopped in the shade, grabbed a little bite to eat and kept on our way.
We only made it another kilometre before we were starting to drag our butts, so we briefly stopped again, ate some fruit and put electrolytes in our water bottles.
After that we kept motoring, we held a steady pace and pushed through until we were in sight of Garrie beach. It was a long stretch with a mix of full sun and metal grated track with shrubs lining the sides of the walkway. After a while the shrubs began to be a little taller and the metal grate track changed back to a dirt path. It was a nice change being on a partially shaded path again but by then we were both pretty beat.
The hill coming down to the beach was one of the hardest climbs we had done so far that day, and with tired feet and sore backs, we took it really slow. There were a lot of steep sections where you either lowered yourself down before making the step or trusting that your feet would land in the proper spot you aimed for.
The rocky obstacle of a path finally came to an end and we reached the bottom where it opened up to a partial field where people had chosen to pitch their tents. It looked tempting but we continued on to a North Era our proper campsite.
When we reached the beach we crossed it to the other side where a large cliff created a nice shady patch for us to rest under and prep ourselves for the last couple kilometres.

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Getting up off that rock was tough but we knew we were so close. We helped each other lift our bags onto our backs and marched on following the shore where the trail rounded onto little Garrie beach and up through some cottages. As we went to pass the last cottage, a lady came outside and offered to refill our water bottles for the hill we were about to encounter.
We said our thanks and began the lengthy climb.
Step after step my body just wanted to give out. Nothing like a major climb after walking 20 km, we struggled a little on the way up and stopped a couple times to catch our breath, but we made it.
As we crested over the hill the sight of the camping area was in our view. The feeling of being so close was exciting and delightful, knowing that the end was near and I could take my pack off for the final time that day.
The descend wasn't much easier than the climb, but when we reached the bottom we were so happy.
As soon as we found a flat spot for our tent we dropped our packs once and for all that day and laid in the grass for a few minutes.
We had arrived at 6:45 pm, making out 22km day in a total of 8 hrs.
We set up our tent so it would face the sunrise, then sat out on the grass to cook. It felt great to be sitting for longer than 5 minutes so even after dinner we continued to sit outside for a little while and enjoyed the sunset behind our next hill to conquer.
Over all it was a gorgeous day and an amazing hike, and to top it off before climbing into the tent for the night, I went to go wander off for a moment and off in the distance in a grassy patch I spotted a deer grazing and called Lauren over to show her.
Tired and sore we retired into the tent for the night, to rest up for our next day of hiking.