The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play. So we sat in the hostel all that cold, cold wet day and decided to go on an adventure and make our own fun.
The Royal National Park is a little south of Sydney, for a change within easy reach from civilisation by a train and boat ride. We had heard about a Coast Track along the edge of the park, one of those things that you’re supposed to do at least once in your life. The track can be completed in a single day if you are “very fit and an experienced bushwalker”. We’re usually pretty fast walkers, and the marathon-length hike across the Isle of Wight last year seemed like pretty good preparation. What could possibly go wrong?
We arrived at our deserted camp site after dark; no dramas, we’ve already put Harry the tent up in the dark by head torch before. More ominous were the pairs of eyes reflecting out of the night, often in groups. They would come and go from view, without giving hint as to what they were – species, size, level of hunger. We kept careful watch while putting up the tent and weren’t attacked.
On the way to the barbecue – the communal electric jobbies again but much hotter this time – we got up a bit closer to one pack of the eyes, and they turned out to be deer. We’re friends with a deer, so felt reassured until the smell of our beef burgers brought something else almost close enough to be identified. Could have been a dingo, maybe a fox, definitely not a deer. Regardless, we have no idea which of these it was that had a sniff around the tent later that night. We definitely feel like we’re in the wild now. We’re definitely on an adventure!
We set out early in the morning for our walk expecting it be long. We had as much water as we could carry and enough muesli bars to feed Goldilocks for a year. Trusty walking boots secure, camera at the ready.
There was finally some improvement in the weather, but having been raining solidly for so long the ground was pretty squidgy. We had had warning that some sections of the track were flooded, but we planned to walk carefully around those bits. It took all of five minutes and one wet sandy patch for me to lose my footing and get a boot full of wet sand. Track one, Jo(e)s nil.
So it was that our grand plan for the 40km return hike began to be revealed as over-ambitious in the extreme. Going was slow as the terrain showed us who was in charge. It was not rocky terrain that slowed our pace, or even the constant hill climbing – it was that the path had deteriorated into an assault course in the recent weather. Early on we had to clamber over fallen trees and part bushes that were covering the path. Then we came to the lakes that had formed over the path. We just about got over the first still dry thanks to some helpfully placed tree branches and the magic of Gore-Tex. The second was deeper, wider, wetter. We briefly considered trying to go around on another path (10km round trip) before deciding just to plough on. The socks stayed wet for the rest of the day, despite wringing them out repeatedly.
There is more. In a nice grassy meadow a patch of grey pebbles turned out to be a stream full of floating pumice, which claimed Jo with a splash and a squeal. We had to wade through a river that was apparently only there because the upstream lagoon burst its banks in the recent flooding. We crossed a waterfall with a good view of what awaited us if we slipped (though this one is actually the normal state of the track). A path that we had to descend had a stream running down it, and later we climbed up through the water. It felt like when I went gorge walking with school, when we were told to take trainers that we didn’t mind getting wrecked.
This was all on the first half of the walk, as the return leg was almost entirely along a road – boring but easy! The highlight of the trip for me was my first sighting of a kangaroo, bounding across a wider bit of the track a way in front of us. We heard it again shortly after, thump thump thump as it bounced away. I have no idea how they move so easily through the dense vegetation.
The views were incredible. For hours we were accompanied by the waves crashing below us. We saw the famous Wedding Cake Rock (but failed to take any pictures of us sitting on it, sorry mum!), purple and red rocks and the remains of a massive boulder encasing other rocks (groovy!). We befriended two caterpillars who attached themselves to our bags at lunch and a bird who liked our salt and vinegar crackers. The final tally was 31.1km in about 11 hours. After a quick barbecue I was asleep by 730.
That it seemed reasonable to assume that the rocks wouldn’t be floating sums up the luck we had on this walk. For all of that it was awesome. We’ve had an adventure and I’ll never let Jo forget that she got wet in a pile of rocks!