I was pretty sore after my last jaunt into the mountains, so I’ve decided to do some ‘gentlemans’ walks for the time being. Hiking doesn’t always have to be about smashing oneself all the time does it? Does it?! Anyway, I thought a few casual trips to the coast are in order, especially during the hot weather we’re having in Melbourne right now.
I decided the best place to start my coastal pilgrimage was a bit of a combo walk at the Surf Coast. Bells Beach and Ironbark Basin Reserve would be a 14 km circuit with beach walking to Point Addis and then a return inland along the cliffs. It sounded fine and it’s sourced from my trusty Glenn Tempest book, ‘Daywalks Around Melbourne’.
I’d read that the beach section isn’t passable unless it’s extremely low tide. Mm… We’ll see, but I can say the one reason I’ve skipped this hike in the past is due to the tide. If it wasn’t in favour, I declined the 100 km drive in case it was a journey for nothing.
Ah, but this time I was fired up to give it a go. If the tide’s not in favour? Well, I’d be a daredevil and go anyway to see what would happen. I arrived on a clear, sunny day an hour after high tide and really I shouldn’t have worried too much. The beach was clear for walking from Bells Beach all the way to my first destination being Point Addis.
Bells Beach is certainly well known, judging by the international flavour of the voices I heard in the car park when I got there. I did get bailed up though by some Australian bloke who asked me, “Where are the changing rooms?” I said, “I’m pretty sure it’s not one of those beaches. It’s surfing only.” The bloke then replied, “There must be, it’s a famous beach.”
Clearly he didn’t believe me, so all I could do was the traditional shrug of the shoulders and say, “I dunno” as he left to accost someone else. Mind you, about 10 minutes later I realised I was talking crap, as I sighted the comfort station at a distance. Oh well.
Anyway, whenever I think of Bells Beach, I’m always reminded by the worst attempt at an Australian accent in the history of cinema. Without doubt, this dubious award goes to the bloke who arrives at a fake ‘Bells Beach’ (it was filmed in Oregon) at the end of Point Break.
The ‘Australian’ policeman who appears has an accent that’s so mangled, it sounds like a combination of a leprechaun with a vice around his nuts and a squirrel on helium. I’m actually being generous as well. Why do they even bother? You know what’s worse? Let’s look at a photo and see.
Yep, there’s the culprit above. Forget the voice though, the one thing I’ve also wondered is how the hell does he even see, with the visor of his hat pulled down to his nostrils? He ends up with some sort of weird, ‘chin way up high’ system in order to see under his hat. It’s real roofing nail stuff. I can say though, this unique hat wearing method can be pulled off if you show a bit of élan. One that comes to mind which looks okay is Ian Hendry in The Hill. He proves the roofing nail look is not always the end result.
Walking? Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Well, I headed down to the beach and was off and racing. The coastline is magnificent on such a clear day, especially as part of the walk is lined with red coloured cliffs of jarosite. First of all though, there was a bit of beach strolling and I was feeling a little annoyed I was wearing runners instead of sandals. The water did look inviting for a wade.
The beach was very clean with no driftwood to catch my eye and you know what else? Shoes. My ‘shoe sighting on beach visits’ is pretty high, but I can say I didn’t see any washed up. There’s a first for everything I guess. I did see some old rusty pieces of steel and wondered where they’d come from. An old shipwreck? A large pair of scissors?
Things were going great, but it was inevitable something would happen to spoil the fun. I was happily wandering along, when I felt a sharp spearing feeling on my calf muscle. I knew from experience what that pain is caused by. I turned to look and sure enough. Bloody March fly!! I’d gone through some March fly trauma on my last hike to Mount Howitt.
On this occasion, the fly was so well and truly attached, I had time to angle my leg. Then whilst shouting ‘bastard’, I swiped my hand at roughly the speed of sound to connect square on top of the insects noggin. The fly dropped dead on the beach, leaving my leg with a smear of my own blood and plenty more on his smashed body.
At least I killed him and a size 13 shoe stomp was thrown in for good measure. Two things about this. One is I was wearing shorts and I still don’t know why I do that, and the other is I didn’t have any insect repellent. How do I forget these things? The whole area had quite a few March flies and it was the start of a day of swatting and checking I wasn’t getting bitten, which is the problem after being munched once. I became acutely aware of every feeling on my legs, as if the senses were heightened. “Oh my god, there’s something on my leg!!” I’d swing around to look and it would be a bit of sand instead.
Oh well, on I continued and the story about needing low tide to do this walk was turning into a bit of a fallacy. I began to pass some cliffs with no hint of getting my feet wet.
This is a nice change from destroying myself up a mountain. Being a beach as well, there’s always the chance things will be a little bit out of the ordinary. I guess I realised this when I saw the following sign.
I do like an option and although it sounded like a good idea to hurl the threads into the bushes, I was too scared of sunburn to think about disrobing. Not the bloke who was walking in front of me though. Quickly catching (I wasn’t trying. He was walking extra slow. Just thought I’d tell you this) up to him and noted the only thing he had on was a hat. I suppose he was being ‘sun smart’? I felt a little uncomfortable, as I was walking with a camera in my hand, so he did check me out as I passed him by. Understandable really. I’d be perturbed if I was strolling along with my tackle swinging in the breeze and then got overtaken by a bloke with a whopping big DSLR and telephoto lens. Especially in Swanston Street.
The photos stopped for a little while until I passed the nudists, but upon entering the vast expanse of sand on Addiscott Beach, it was business as usual.
A bit more walking and I reached Point Addis itself. I now had a couple of options of either heading straight up to the top of the cliffs via stairs, or walking around the point to another set of stairs as per the walk notes. This is where low tide is needed though, but I figured the water was out far enough to give it a go. A sign informed the cliffs are unstable, which is always what you want to see when you’re walking under, well, cliffs.
I rock-hopped a little and then reached a point where the water was up to the cliff. It was shallow and calm, so I thought it was easier to ditch the shoes and go for a bit of a wade.
I was being extra careful here not to slip. It was not me getting wet I was worried about, but the camera. I understand dropping a DSLR in salt water is not the most desirable thing to do, so I was making sure my feet were firmly planted before taking another step. In my slow water walking I happened to look behind me and see a number of paragliders back in the direction I’d come. I may be short of sight, but I’m positive they weren’t there when I walked through initially.
During my wading I came to small cove, which I accessed by an interesting looking rock arch. Mindful of the sign I’d seen a few minutes ago, I thought to myself, “Now’s not the time for the cliffs to collapse”.
I survived under the arch and within this sandy cove was the set of stairs I needed in order to climb to the top. Umm… There was a slight problem though (of course there was)
With the track closed, I could either backtrack or continue on. I knew some more stairs were ahead, but first I’d have to negotiate another water covered rock shelf. I was on a roll with this wading business, so I thought I should continue. Using the same method, I started, but the water was a little deeper with rock pools evident. It was time to give it away. Really, I just knew I’d be pushing my luck with the camera in my hand. If only I was in my three-sizes-too-small speedos, I could have successfully strolled around.
So, it was time to backtrack to Addiscot Beach and I thought I should do some fossicking whilst at it. The ‘find’ of the day so far was part of a fishing rod stuck in the rocks. That would have been one crap fishing trip to actually come home with not just no fish, but no actual rod as well.
I continued my retreat and I noted how sensitive my feet were when walking on the rocks. I was uttering a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as I gingerly strolled along.
Like a wild man, I tempted fate by heading under the arch again. Twice in ten minutes. Amazing. The foot pain was starting to take hold though, so I thought I’d try a new approach, called ‘ocean walking’. It was sandy and shallow, so it seemed okay. Although I repeated a mantra in my head, ‘just don’t drop the bloody camera’. It was comfortable, but the worlds smallest waves had me jumping to keep the salt water out of my electronics.
I continued my ocean walking until I reached Addiscot Beach and finally it was time to head up the stairs I’d passed an hour earlier. I took one last photo before ascending.
On my way up the stairs I noted a seat with a plaque attached. I do like a seat with a story and this one was quite nice.
Actually, on the subject of seats with names, I remember my brother who thought the lyric in the U2 song, ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ was actually, ‘Where the Seats Have No Name’. When he realised his error he didn’t like the song any more, as he thought the concept of a city where there are no names on seats was a better idea.
Anyway, I got to the top of Point Addis and followed a road to its end. There were some nice views from the lookouts and I happened to come across a rather ‘generous’ sized gent. I greeted him with a stock-standard, “G’day”, and he repeated likewise. Except he had a strong American accent. That took me a little by surprise, but clearly he was getting right into this local lingo business.
Now for a change of pace. Inland walking. The next section was through the Ironbark Forest and although my plant knowledge is pretty minimal, I do know enough that an ironbark is a type of eucalyptus. I contemplated just returning on the beach as it was very relaxing, but then I thought of more March fly attacks, plus potential random wanger exposure, so I elected to finish the walk as per the notes.
It starts off following the Koori Cultural Trail, which is a short walk through the bush with a number of information signs along the way. The shock of this though was I actually had to walk up a hill.
The beauty of coastal walks is generally the hills are little and there wasn’t going to be any ‘1000 metres climbing in a day’ shenanigans. A number of nice lookouts were on the way as well.
Now, from this point on I’ve no idea which track I was on at any particular time. I knew which way to go, but signs for multiple named paths kept appearing. Such as ‘Nature Trail’, ‘Jarosite Trail’ and ‘Ironbark Track’. At times they all seemed to appear one after the other, so I lost interest into which was which. I relied on the book to get me through. Oh yeah, the GPS as well.
Through the odd gaps in trees I could see the coastline and the paragliders were now a little closer.
I passed an unusually ‘green’ looking dam, which didn’t look very appetising. I think one would have to be mighty thirsty to contemplate putting any of that green water near the lips.
I’ve neglected feathers in the last few posts, but don’t worry, I’ve been keeping my eye out.
A few more kilometres of undulating walking and the track opened out onto a nice wide path with some views of the ocean through the trees.
This track was very comfortable walking, but one can never relax too much, as I felt a sharp sting to my ankle of all places. Can it be? Yes, it can, as I looked down and a March fly was attached to my sock. Now I know why they hurt so much when I did some research and read, “…they slice off the top layer of flesh, which feels like needles pricking into the skin and then lick the blood…”
I’d being munched on again, but I managed to raise my foot and deliver with my hand a resounding blow to the fly, which left it mangled on the end of my finger. It was worthy of the photo below and it was close to being a perfect kill in regards to the finger it ended up on. This will have to do though, as I give the fly the ‘ring finger’.
Man, this walking caper can be full-on at times. I continued monitoring bare patches of skin for flies, as I followed what I believe is the Jarosite Track. There are the remains of an old jarosite mine in the area and I can tell you this. Jarosite was used to make red paint pigment. Oh, sorry. I make full admissions. I actually stole knowledge directly from the walk notes.
Anyway, the path has plenty of red colour to it, but I’ve no idea if it has anything to do with the jarosite. The contrast in colour did look good against the numerous green grass trees in the area though.
The track made a descent down to where the old mine was, but there wasn’t much to see. I’m not sure if there’s anything else hiding in the bushes, but all I found was this disused well…
…and a dam which was accessed by possibly the deadliest set of stairs I’ve seen on a walk lately. These were real ‘ankle snappers’ and I can see why everyone avoids them, judging by the amount of footprints on either side.
My March fly phobia continued, but I did come across some of natures victories along the way. There was the odd victim in spider webs across the track and one web in which the flies had been wrapped up for lunch at a later date.
I was well and truly on my way to finish the walk, as I returned towards the coastline again. I came across a Cinnamon Fungus cleaning station on the way. I don’t see many of these on my walks, although I remember a couple on the Great Ocean Walk. I make sure I do the right thing and give my shoes a good scrubbing over and dunking.
There’s not much else to report now, as the path continued on the top of the cliffs…
…before popping out on the road I drove in on. This is a true ‘road bash’ to end the walk, but it was short and who cares with the views available.
Another few hundred metres and I was back at the car to end a thoroughly enjoyable walk. It’s enjoyable to get back to the coast again and I should be making the most of it as autumn approaches.
I didn’t find low tide really necessary, but it was going out the whole time I was walking and the sea was pretty calm. It’s probably a different story with a big swell rolling in. How about a final look of the ocean?
The last photo was meant to be the last of the post, as it’s a good display of the brilliant blues and greens of summer ocean. I couldn’t though, as I really think the final photo should be a look at that Ian Hendry hat again. This is what I’m talking about…