Do you remember the previous post? About how it was windy and there was some rain about when I went to bed? It ended up being a bit of an understatement, as the weather went completely bonkers overnight.
After a few hours sleep, I woke up to the deafening sound of heavy rain, combined with an insanely ‘vigorous’ wind, ripping in from the ocean. Amongst this roar, sheets of sand were also being whipped against the thin fabric protecting me. Lying there in the darkness, I had a continual, nagging thought. I really hoped Gore-Tex actually works.
I was interested in what was going on, but frankly, I was too scared to put my head outside. At times the bivy would flap so loudly, it felt like it was ready to lift off. Even though this was improbable when someone just short of Yeti weight was inside. This cycle of wind and rain, combined with the roar of surf, continued through the entire night. In the end I had to admire its dedication.
I was awake for a long time and as soon as daylight arrived, I gingerly opened the bivy to look outside. The rain had stopped being continuous, but heavy showers would regularly sweep past. The wind had diminished slightly, but it was still pretty hectic. As a comparison, during the night it had been Old Testament style, but daylight had switched to New Testament.
The main thing I noticed, was the high tide mark was literally five metres from where I was sleeping. Yeah okay, now that would have been exciting if the water swept in whilst stuck in the bag. I think the bivy bag could have quite quickly become a body bag instead.
Overnight, when using the bivy, I’d put my boots, gaiters etc in a garbage bag and leave it outside with my pack in another bag. Well, the windblown sand had built up around the bags to such an impressive degree, they were practically buried.
There was one possible bonus to all of the overnight rain. Surely I might be able to get water from the creek? Doing a bit of taste testing, I eventually found a fresh trickle and filled up a bottle.
In the end, I timed my refill perfectly. As I stood up with full bottle in hand, a huge surge of ocean water swept in. I jumped out of the way and then watched with bemusement, as a wave containing pieces of wood, seaweed and a thick layer of discoloured foam passed where I’d filled up and continued on up the creek. This surge continued at least 50 metres from where I’d been standing.
It was a pretty bizarre sight and judging by where water had gone before, it probably doesn’t happen too often. Anyway, at least I’d filled one bottle and being cautious, I threw in a water purifying tablet for good measure. I’d rationed my liquid on the trip so far, but my destination for the day was Thurra River, where there was fresh water aplenty.
I packed up early, as my notes informed me there was a bit of walking for the day. Supposedly at least 18 km from Clinton Rocks Creek to my next camp at Thurra River, Croajingolong National Park, via the Point Hicks Lighthouse. With the soft sand and short day on my mind, I was a little worried about getting there before dark. For starters, my trusty guide informed me I had a one hour ‘rock hop’ across Clinton Rocks. It’s something I’d never really done before with a heavy backpack, so I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me.
Starting off, I learned one thing pretty quickly. Rock hopping with a small vehicle on your back is problematic. I’m a self-confessed, slightly clumsy walker, which I blame on my height, as my hips are too far from the ground. Centre of balance thing, right? The rocks themselves were a little tricky, but even worse was I kept descending into gullies of sand and then having to clamber back up onto the rocks.
This was a little tiring and even worse was the area amongst the rocks was covered in thick layers of yellow looking foam being washed ashore. Regularly, I’d have to step down from rocks into the foam, but I had no idea how deep the muck was. I’d prod with my trekking pole, but even then it was hit and miss, as on occasions I’d suddenly find what I was stepping into was knee deep.
I repeated this a few times and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Make sure you don’t fall over into this stuff’. Guess what?
Yep, I stepped off into the foam thinking there was sand underneath, but of course there was a rock at an odd angle instead. I immediately slipped and fell. Not just over, but essentially face first into this crap. The only bonus is I discovered why the soapy looking stuff was yellow. It was sand, as I now had the opportunity to give it a close inspection. Due to it being on my face.
I was now officially dirty, but otherwise uninjured, as I continued on. The rain was holding off at this stage, but the wind was still blowing a gale. Luckily for me, yet again it was at my back and not a face-shredding headwind.
The sound of the wind and crump of the surf was quite deafening. The water was particularly sinister, as the ocean took on a deep, green colour. I make full admissions regarding the sea. I love it, but find deep water quite frightening. It strikes me as a spot humans shouldn’t be in. I’ll always think this way as well, unless one morning I wake up with gills. Only then will I reconsider.
As I slowly shuffled along, I wouldn’t turn around too often, as it meant I’d get a face blasting of icy wind. Now and again, I timed my head swivel well though, as an impressive rainbow appeared behind me.
As I meandered along, I was glad I’d brought all my wet weather gear, as the wind was a bone chiller. Looking ahead, huge waves were pounding the rocks around me.
My notes indicated rock hopping Clinton Rocks would take an hour, but I think it took me double. My very average knees generally grind together and like the tin-man, it feels as if they could do with some lubrication. These days, my joints give out, long before my lungs. Stepping down at angles from the rocks were certified knee killers. Even though I was using walking poles to brace myself, I couldn’t get any rhythm going, so I was moving at geriatric speed.
All of those aches and groans though, were easily off-set by the environment and weather conditions. It had to be the most spectacular day of weather I’d ever had on a coastal walk. Showers swept though, but then pockets of sunshine would appear, creating a strong contrast in light, darkening the surrounding clouds considerably.
The wind and waves were constantly roaring, so it was a complete audible and visual experience. Sure, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I couldn’t imagine the same place on a calm day in the warmer months. Dare I say, could it be a little dull? All of my major coastal walks have been in winter and really, it’s days like this one, which make me not want to change the cold month approach.
Anyway, when the rain had passed, I’d get the camera out and there were plenty of photo opportunities. The next picture is one of my all time favourites, as the rock looked like a face, who was bracing every time a wave crashed over him.
There were sections where I was side-on to the ocean and it was an impressive sight, as waves of deep green surf, rushed ashore.
The heavy showers continued, but I felt like I needed a break. At one moment when the sun began to shine, I decided to sit down for a quick bite to eat and some rest. It ended up being only a short sojourn, as immediately I began to feel cold once I’d stopped moving.
I was soon on my feet and working my way towards the Point Hicks Lighthouse, which I could clearly see for most of the day. My camp for the night would be at Thurra River, which was on the other side of the lighthouse. What’s interesting is I was approaching my destination, but the GPS indicated I hadn’t remotely walked 18 km, which my notes mentioned. It seemed to be a stuff up and best of all, it was in my favour.
Eventually, there were less rocks to negotiate and I never thought I’d say I prefer to walk on sand. It was certainly easier on the knees though and I was also able to move a lot quicker.
Even better, the sand was slightly firmer than on any day I’d walked so far. There was only one section, which was a little tricky. Water was washing up to the base of large sand dunes, which would have guaranteed me getting wet if I stayed on the beach. I managed to clamber up to the top of the dunes and make my way along them. Not ideal, as they were pretty soft, but it worked.
At the end of the beach, there was some more rock hopping, before I reached the cliffs below the lighthouse. I found a track off the beach and I was able to confirm the distance of 18 km for the day, was out by about five. Either the book was wrong or my GPS was operating off satellites, using an abacus measuring Roman miles instead.
I do have a certified lighthouse fetish and I was eager to get a closer look at this one. Finding the access road, I strolled down to discover it really is in an exposed position (to be expected I guess!). Wind and rain were driving across the rocks and cliffs, so I wasn’t able to look around properly. On occasions, the wind was literally knocking me off my balance.
Near the end of the cliffs sits a weather battered monument. It commemorates the first sighting of the Australian east coast by Zachary Hicks on Captain Cook’s ship in 1770.
I wanted to get closer for a proper look, but it was quite a struggle in the wind, plus sheets of salty mist from waves breaking on the cliffs below would sweep across the rocks. I went to a lot of effort to get this photo, so I hope you like it.
I found being out in the exposed position quite precarious. After quickly snapping the photo, I quickly retreated. Finding a spot out of the wind was hard, so I gave up and sat down for a snack. It was only ever going to be a quick bite though, as it was freezing.
I found a spot near the lighthouse and I must admit, the accommodation looks fantastic. Two large houses, which have an open view across the ocean. I’m sure they’d be popular in the warmer months. Actually, considering the weather, I think they’d be even more enjoyable in the middle of winter.
It was way too cold to linger, so I left Point Hicks Lighthouse behind. Following an access road, I soon found the Thurra River camp area. I actually saw some people driving by, which were my first human sightings for the past few days. Without any trouble, I found an area set aside for walkers and decided it would be fine for me. The rest of the camp area was deserted, so I could have picked anywhere, but the hikers site was in a well protected spot. Definitely what I wanted after the previous nights entertainment.
Considering I was so worried in the morning, I’d actually made pretty good time with plenty of daylight left to stroll down to Thurra River and refill my water supplies. I even managed to fit in some exploring on the beach and I concluded that sand walking is easy without a pack on! Well, yet another eventful day was over and once dark, retreated to the bivy for hopefully a peaceful nights sleep. There was of course the iPod and I think ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ by Bob Dylan was perfect to conclude the day.