The night spent at Thurra River camp was the easily the best of the trip. After the previous evenings typhoon, it was nice to be in a sheltered area, away from the wind and any showers which passed through. Best of all, when I woke up I was greeted with clear, blue skies, which was a nice change from the previous day.
Another bonus was the fresh water. I made a couple of trips to the river and I made sure I indulged, with no need to ration for a day. I think I had more brews of tea and coffee in a few hours than I’d had all trip.
I may have had a quiet evening, but I must admit my knees were pretty sore. The combination of rock hopping and sand walking under a heavy pack was doing some damage, so I resorted to my standard cure of ibuprofen, plus codeine tablets with breakfast. They’re de rigueur for a slightly pain free day.
It as my first time along this part of the coast, so I had no local knowledge at all. As a result, I was following my walking notes quite religiously. Each morning I’d consult, ‘Walking the Wilderness Coast’ and work out what was in store for me that day.
The aim was to walk on the beach from Thurra River to Wingan Inlet, Croajingolong National Park. Passing Gale Hill on the way and also via Petrel Rocks. The notes suggested the next camp should be at Gale Hill, but that was only 10 km away. Even at my slow pace so far, it sounded a bit too short of a day though. So I considered continuing on to Wingan Inlet if I was making good time. Although the notes told me Wingan Inlet was about 21 km away, I had a feeling the distance might be out. Basing this on the previous day, which was a lot shorter than what the book indicated.
Gale Hill also sounded a little problematic as a campsite. Water couldn’t be guaranteed, which meant if I was staying there, I might have to carry two days worth of liquid. I opted to play safe, so I filled up my water bag, which meant I was now carrying ten litres. Yeah, it sounds like overkill, but running out of water is always my main worry.
Sure, the fluid gave me peace of mind, but my back thought it was a stupid decision, as suddenly the pack felt like dead weight again. It felt like I added an instant 5 kg to what was in there before.
I then made my way onto the beach and my first task for the day was to cross Thurra River itself. I wasn’t sure what it would be like at the mouth, but I needn’t have worried, as it was only ankle deep.
I also took some time to check out an enormous tree washed up on the beach. I’ve no idea where it originated from, but it was an impressive piece of driftwood.
Heading east, I was lucky, as the the sand was quite solid and I began to make good time with the wind, yet again at my back.
It was clear and sunny at this stage and walking was pretty easy. The tree I’d seen in the surf earlier, wasn’t the only one along the beach. A number of huge tree trunks lay amongst rocks and I always find the weathered timber quite interesting.
Wandering on, I was surprised to see a bloke on his own, fishing from the beach. I’ve no idea how he got to that spot, but there must have been a road somewhere, as I’d walked quite a distance from Thurra River. Anyway, I stopped for a chat and was intrigued to hear a strong French accent. He even had a beard and beanie, so he was like a walking French fisherman caricature.
In our discussion I enquired whether he had a current weather forecast. Even though the sun was out, there were some ominous clouds out to sea. He confidently replied, “No, no rain, wind only today.” It’s exactly what I wanted to hear, so I wished him all the best. He was pretty mellow and I was sure he was the last person I would see for the day. Probably the same for him as well.
My notes mentioned Mueller River, which also crossed the beach, so I was intrigued to see whether I’d have to take the boots off. When I came across it though, there wasn’t much to worry about.
I hadn’t put much thought into why the place I was heading to was named Gale Hill. It ended up being pretty obvious really, as even though the sun was shining, the wind was very strong against my back.
It seemed to be getting stronger, as gusts would lift sheets of sand into the air. A number of driftwood pieces were being concealed under sand by the constant onslaught of the wind. Again, I was glad it was behind me, as I continued to make good time.
Early on, my possible intention of staying the night at Gale Hill went out the window. Regarding the distance from Thurra River, it seemed the notes were out again. It wasn’t even midday when I reached Gale Hill, so it was a pretty easy decision to continue onto Wingan Inlet.
My decision to keep going had one disappointing aspect though. In order to reach Wingan Inlet, I’d have to do another session of rock hopping across a section called Petrel Point. The strong wind was creating reasonable surf and the sea was full of white water, as the Petrel Point rocks came into view.
As I approached the rocks, the sun was still shining, but out across the ocean the sky was ominous. A mass of dark clouds were forming and they were heading my way. Judging by their size and colour, it’d be inevitable they’d bring heavy rain. I began to curse the friendly, French fisherman and his dodgy weather forecast, as quite clearly, it sucked.
The apocalypse from the sea was also coming at the worst possible time (is there a good time?). There was no chance of scurrying along to reach Wingan Inlet in record time, as now I was facing a potentially slow crossing of the Petrel Point rocks.
I’d never seen them before though, so maybe they wouldn’t be too bad? Um… No, not really. My previous zippiness was gone, as the rocks were quite substantial and I slowed to my geriatric speed again. Climbing up and down rocks caused constant jarring on the joints and I almost considered a refill of medication. Instead though, I pushed on as rain felt quite close.
I wish I had some more time up my sleeve, as there were some interesting sights. The notes mentioned chunks of fibreglass from the remains of the catamaran ‘Windsong’…
…which wrecked there in 1984.
It ended up being slow going, as there were some sections where the rocks weren’t passable due to waves constantly rolling in. At times, I resorted to walking in thick scrub at the cliff edges. For the most part this was okay, but on some occasions, I had to crawl on hands and knees, as my pack was getting snagged by every tree I passed.
Someone had done a good deed though, by tying a rope to a rock on one particularly deep descent, which led from rocks to beach and back up to rocks again. That rope certainly made life easier in that section.
The intricate nature of rock hopping seemed to take forever. Eyes constantly scanning ahead, trying to find the easiest route. Occasionally zig-zagging and never being able to walk in a straight line certainly ate up the time.
The bad weather was getting close, so I stopped to put on all my wet weather gear and I was eagerly looking forward to reaching the beach sand again. In the end, I was so enthusiastic to get off the rocks, that as I stepped down, I promptly fell over. This fall was worse than my foam tumble the previous day, as I landed quite heavily on my side. Luckily my hip hit a soft rock, otherwise it could have been worse.
At least I was back on the beach, but the black clouds were upon me, as they loomed low across the ocean, dimming the light as they did so.
Then it hit and wow, did it really hit, as the wind turned icy and rain began to belt down. It was real hunch the shoulders, put the head down and just keep moving type of stuff. It was disappointing for it to arrive at that moment. I’d just stumbled across pieces of old, rusted metal on the beach, which I assume are from 100 year old shipwrecks?
They certainly had a ‘ye olde’ feel about them, but I can’t seem to find out their origin anywhere online. I’d liked to have fossicked a bit more, but the rain began to pound and during these times, I tended to keep the camera out of the weather.
I was now rapidly approaching Wingan Inlet, but I needed to do a little inland walking first. Before leaving the beach, I came across something else washed in. This happened to be a lot more modern. In the photo, I should have put something next to it for a size comparison, as it was quite large. It’s a pity I couldn’t lug it home to include in my ‘things found on beaches’ collection.
Rain was now heavy and constant, as this was no passing shower. I found Wingan Track, which I had to follow in order to get around an impassable headland. The track was quite overgrown, but easily navigable. Pushing through wet trees in the rain wasn’t making me any drier and at times I had to pause to look for the odd track marker. The topographic map on the GPS was handy here, as each track I needed to follow was clearly marked and was accurate when I needed to make a turn anywhere.
After climbing a short distance and walking through a forest, I reached a turn-off and headed back down towards the beach again. This inland stroll had taken me well over an hour and the light was starting to fade. The rain was breaking up though and as I stepped out onto Fly Cove, it was now only a short distance to Wingan Inlet camp.
It’s a pity I was rushing, as it was quite exciting to see fur seals, rolling in the shallows of the water. I guess they were feeding and if it wasn’t for the fading light, I would have observed for longer. I took a few photos, but they’re so average I haven’t bothered to post them!
I walked along the beach until I found a turn-off. Following it, I found myself on a boardwalk that continued inland with the calm waters of the inlet next to it. Eventually I made it to the camp ground. It seemed deserted, until I noticed two blokes in a boat coming in from the inlet. They were the only people in what seemed to be a fairly large camp area. It felt isolated, but I’m sure it’s a different story during the warmer months.
After setting up I walked to the nearby inlet to watch the sunset for a few moments.
Heading back to my camp I ate quickly and went to bed, as rain started yet again. It was another stormy day of walking, but as a bonus the distance in the notes was definitely not correct. There’s no way I’d walked 21 km. It seemed more like 15 at the most? Anyway, it was time to drown out the sounds of rain on the bivy. On went the iPod and I think the song of choice for the night was ”Meltdown’ by King Midas Touch…
Greg your photos are divine. What a story.
Thank you! All part of a crazy hike.