I walked for a good hour or two along the hard flat sand at low tide before my curiosity led me into the heart of Stockton sand dunes. What lay before me was mesmorising. Some fellows I had spoken to previously likened the dunes to those in the Sahara desert. Such a comparison indeed seems fitting given that the movie Sahara was apparrently filmed here. And yes amoungst the largest of the dunes where no life appeared to exist, not hint of ocean or of trees, I certainly did feel like I was in a vast desolate desert. The vastness, the size and colours were captivating. Every dune had been individually sculptured by the wind. Colours and patterns on the faces appeared to show signs of the moisture content. The peaks of the dunes, at least one side, were defined clearly by a firm crisp edge almost like that on a solid block of wood. In some places the sand was hard and firm. In others it was soft as a fresh fall of snow. Regardless of how keen the eye was in its analysis, the difference in colour or texture of the surface gave very few, if any, accurate clues of it's structure. Only by trial and error could one determine the profile.
I thought about turning around but had no hope of doing so without falling down in the process. If I did fall I didn't like my chances of moving much further with the heavy load and nothing firm to hold onto. I dared to take a third step. It too sunk to my knee but no further. That was a bonus and a tentative permission to sludge on. After 8 steps, all as deep as the previous, I was out of the quicksand pit. Shoes, socks and feet were completely soaked. Perfect conditions for blisters. Impatient to finish the leg and/or just too lazy to change footwear I walked on. As anticipated, blisters arrived not long after. I did not stop.
As I had experienced a couple of days ago the first hour went really well. During hour number 2 discomforts nagged and threatened to halt progress. I pushed on. Hour 3 and 4 the senses became somewhat numb. I was beyond caring about how far I'd come or, have to go, or about the discomforting backpack. But by 4.5hrs I cracked and had to stop. I had discovered that 35km of sand is a bloody long way to walk in a day. At one point I imagined that an enormous hour glass so large it contained all the sand on the beach was the actual timer being used to measure today's journey by. The previous 4hr cycle continued but with much shorter intervals.
I passed a sea snake and a ship wreck on the beach as the sun began it's decent towards the horizon. Light grew longer and weaker and a noticeable cooling began. F/A-18 Hornet jets from the nearby Williamtown RAAF base seemed to stalk me for most of the afternoon. The huge dunes blocked out the roaring sound of fighters tearing through the sky and so concealed their presence until the last second when they were already upon me. The squadron practiced dog fights and landing and take off sequences. When two jets simultaneously commenced a take-off it sounded like they were tearing the very fabric of the atmosphere apart. What a hair raising thrill it would be to pilot one those jets. Time ticked by and as the last grain of sand trickled into the lower bulb of the hour glass I had at long last conquered Stockton dunes.
Only a hop, skip and ferry to and I'll be in old Newcastle town tomorrow.
Please donate by following the link:
By calling Oxfam Australia on 1800 088 110.
Any donation great or small is sincerely appreciated.