Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Day 61: Seal Rocks to Big Gibber

Lighthouse Beach
Again I was fortunate to share today's walk with another, Terry the lighthouse keeper. The morning being clear and sunny the mercury climbed quckly. After considerable consultation with national park staff regarding the intentions of my walk and the path which offered the greatest of sights, I made plans to follow the old gibber track which very roughly disected the park from south west to north east. This track would lead me towards Shelley beach on the southern shorline of Myall Lake then south west on to Myall Shore for restocking of water and supplies. However, Terry who had lived in the area for a number of years, assured me it would be far more enjoyable and quicker to follow the beach once again. The only obstacle was Big Gibber Headland.

Before setting off that morning I was under the presumption, based on Terry's advice, that the headland could be passed with little fuss. But as I was to find out this was not quite true. The large seas, a remnant of the significant weather system that had only started to clear yesterday, had driven the waterline further up the beach than Terry or I had ever expected. From an initial observation the headland could not be passed around the waterline as we had hoped. Terry first clammered around the relatively small rocky headland searching for a track across the top and I followed shortly afterwards, after attending to some pesky blisters. Terry soon discovered a very rough track leading towards the interior of the park but which soon disappeared. My gps maps backed up these observations but provided no definitive route around the headland to the southern beach. After 20 or so meters the track had been taken over by banskia, wattle, casurina, leptospermum and other natives along with the perenial pest Bitou bush.

My last view of Big Gibber
For the next two and a half hours Terry and I tried to find our way through the scrub. Early on in the piece we followed pink surveyor's ribbons but that only led us to the top of the headland and only 10m south of where we first left the northern beach. To get to the beach we would have to cut a path throuh the bush in a south westerly direction before turning easward again. For the next  hour or so I tried to imagine I was a green recruit at Puckapunyal completing my basic training, crawling on hands and knees, sometimes squirming on my stomach under branches to get through the obstacles course. For the small distance that needed to be covered progress was slow.  In some places the wall of vegetation made me doubt if I would ever get to the beach. At times I looked at the blockades for a few minutes quite certain I couldn't get through or around them. But I had come too far to turn around so I might as well call an end to the pointless deliberations, suck it up and just push on through it. Climbing, stomping, falling and crawling, under, over around and through the bush I did eventually step onto the sands south of Big Gibber. By my calculations this little adventure had taken near on 3hrs from the time I stopped on the northern side of Big Gibber until that moment in time I stepped foot on south beach. With an average walking speed of 5km/hr that little detour had cost me 15km of walking and a considerable amount of water and energy reserves.

A view south towards Hawkes Nest

After saying farewell to Terry, who had decided to return home via the trechorous waters edge, I decided to set up camp for the night. Although I had imagined I would have been many kilometers down the beach by this time there was little to gain from pushing the journey on into the night. Plus the forced encampment  allowed me time to enjoy the unique landscape and solitude.

Tomorrow I must get myself to Myall Shores to restock on water and supplies.

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Any donation great or small is sincerely appreciated.

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