The savvy reader will notice I’ve already written about this walk before. This post isn’t a rehash of that previous entry though, as this trip to the Cape Woolamai Circuit Walk is more about the weather.
Last week I was suffering from a meltdown due to the balmy autumn heat, but come Monday, what happened? Yes, glorious biting wind and heavy rain showers had me high-fiving myself in the mirror. I like Melbourne to have Melbourne weather, so winter is my favourite time. The only thing the place lacks is icebergs in the bay. How great would that be?
Anyway, the fickle weather contained the best combo for photography. Showers. A sky of grey is pretty plain to photograph, but if showers are rolling through it’s a different story. At the last minute I decided to head to Phillip Island, as a coastal area is always my first choice once the weather turns. Cape Woolamai stood out as I knew what sort of clear views I’d have as I climbed the small peninsula.
So, there you have it. Within an hour or so I was donning a day pack and heading off towards the beach in my wet weather gear. The heavy showers around were encouraging…
…as I walked towards a rock feature, the Pinnacles, which stand alone next to the cliff-line. They were lit by the sun, as a rain cloud passed by.
I was still in sunshine, as I trudged along a narrow stretch of sand with high tide receding. What I noticed straight away though, was the amount of corpses on the beach. There’s a colony of Short-tailed Shearwater birds on Cape Woolamai and I assumed these were the remains of a few who didn’t make it.
I’m telling you, it wasn’t one or two dotted on the beach, but hundreds. See all the black lumps in the next photo? They’re nearly all individual birds.
It was a feathered graveyard, but that wasn’t all. There was even a dead wallaby lying on the sand. I assume he’d fallen off the cliff above? Anyway, I guess there’s always casualties of birds when they breed, but this was something I can’t say I’ve seen before. Amongst the dead, juvenile Pacific Gulls wandered around…
…including this one who strutted in front of the water…
…before a wave took out his feet. That’ll teach him for being so confident.
Zombies were at it, as horror of horrors, dead birds were being eaten.
Plodding along watching my step, the weather wasn’t too bad, but potentially rain was to come when I glanced behind me.
I left the beach and began strolling the marked path which circles Cape Woolamai. A bit of sunshine broke through, as I continued the casual climb…
…but looking back where I’d walked indicated something was brewing. Talk about a photo exposure nightmare, with the bright reflections off the water and black clouds overhead.
It was quite windy and I was expecting some solid wave action at the Pinnacles. When I got there though, it was choppy, but not epic. Huh? Obviously the wind was coming from the wrong direction? This is a weather post anyway, so I concentrated on photos of the sky. Looking beyond the Pinnacles there were some nice clouds out to sea…
…combined with rain.
The initial part of this walk is very exposed and I was certainly feeling a bit of windchill. I couldn’t even think of the last time I felt cold? A year ago?
I continued to climb, passing a lookout which gave a good view of two sea caves. I’d like to row a kayak into them for some exploring, but the trade off would probably be being torn into pieces as the waves dash me against the rocks? What a bummer.
On I climbed…
…whilst frequently looking behind me, as that’s where the weather action was. The rays of light from Gnowee pierced the clouds.
So far I hadn’t felt a drop of rain, even as I seemed to be surrounded by it. I must say though, I was feeling a little perturbed as the light faded dramatically due to a huge, black cloud slowly making it’s way towards me.
I was approaching the beacon, indicating the highest point of Cape Woolamai…
…and its most exposed point.
Finally I stopped for a breather. After a dry run, surely I wouldn’t get soaked now, just as I reached the most unprotected position of the place? I looked around and this was in the sky, with your humble narrator in its firing line.
Talk about an impressive sight. Clouds fascinate me and this pendulous beast was definitely an amazing sight, with the sun lighting the rain falling behind it and the dark mass slowly soaking up any light until it was almost dark. I couldn’t have been at a better spot to capture it and it was something you’d expect a spaceship to come out of.
So, one of two things happened next. Can you guess what it was? Out of the cloud came this…
…or was it rain like this?
How did you go? Yes, unfortunately it was the latter.
Isn’t it sad though, that it’s not the former? As a lover of all things mythical, whilst crouched down under the soaking rain, I thought up a worthy scenario if a spaceship had flown out of that black mass and landed next to me. Remember my Beeripmo Walk post and how I’d treat a Yowie if I came across one? I don’t like to discriminate, so any aliens would also cop the same treatment.
Just think of it though, as a lesson for any intergalactic traveller. Through my actions I could give the alien a, ‘History of mankind in only ten seconds’. You know the drill.
Approaching the alien whilst moonwalking (popular culture) I’d reach out whilst smiling to shake hands (human interaction) but just as we do, I pull him towards me whilst clasping one hand on his shoulder (betrayal) and raise my knee at such a velocity, there’s an audible crack as the sound barrier is broken (science) and is driven into the alien doodad (humour).
Whilst his eyeballs pop out of their sockets (cartoons) I then lift him above my head, pause for a second and scream, “Booyah bitchez!!” (language) (Is it possible to have some brackets after brackets? Anyway, remember, if you want to stay hip with the young kids, always replace ‘s’ with a ‘z’. You know, ‘drugz’, ‘trollz’ and ‘potatoez’.)
Then bodyslam him to the ground (gravity) whilst combining an elbow drop (violence) and immediately slipping into a step-over toe-hold (wrestling). After he taps out, hop up and walk away whilst removing hiking wig and beard (subterfuge). If Gort strolls out to investigate, I’d stick to my lifelong work philosophy, ‘Say nothing, deny everything, demand proof’ (how to stay out of the shit). There you have it. The history of mankind in only four paragraphs.
Don’t worry, there’s no more mythical creatures to confront on hikes, so you’re safe from me waffling about them. Not unless I go to Scotland and visit Loch Ness. Mm…
Whilst marooned next to the Cape Woolamai beacon, I’d stored the camera in a dry-bag and then hunkered down under my raincoat until the worst of the rain passed by. The cloud continued on, leaving a morsel of a rainbow behind it.
In its place was lovely sunshine and numerous cumulus clouds out at sea…
…and rays of sunlight over Woolamai beach.
Rain was within sight, but it didn’t appear to be heading my way.
Late afternoon was fast approaching, so it was time to head back down. I strolled down an inland track, passing numerous wallabies who always appear here as the light begins to fade.
I’ve done this walk twice before, but usually ignore a sign to an old quarry which lengthens the walk by a few kilometres and return straight to the carpark. Not on this occasion. It was time for something new, so I peeled off the main track and made my way down to Cleeland Bight where the old quarry is situated.
A short walk later and I was down on the sand and it’s not a bad spot either. Pink granite was the aim of the quarry and remains of it sit on the beach.
This section of the cape was also protected from the wind, so I now had a comfortable walk on the sand for a few kilometres back to the carpark. Oh yeah, if you think of doing this walk, there doesn’t seem to be much of a mention that this beach section can’t be completed at high tide. I didn’t know this and in sections there was only a narrow strip of wet sand to walk on, which happened to be soft as butter. Real boot sucking stuff.
Talk about a slow slog, but there were plenty of weather related delights to photograph. This rainbow was colourful…
…but no matter how much I tried, couldn’t capture the entire thing in the frame. A 24 mm lens on a full frame camera just wasn’t enough and it had me dreaming of something a little wider.
I continued on, passing trees sticking out of the sand which under the setting sun, made nice photo opportunities.
Wandering on, passing showers of light rain had me scrambling to protect my camera, but I still managed to get a few shots when I could.
After quite a slow struggle through that sand, I reached an inland track leading me back to my car. I was soon crossing Woolamai Beach Road with the sun set and rising sliver of moon in the sky. Actually, I was reading something the other day and this bloke was getting all poetic, but he kept calling it the ‘slither of the moon’. Huh? Isn’t that what snakes do?
Then I was back. A short walk of some pretty intense weather was completed. I took a couple of shots from the carpark of clouds out to sea off Woolamai beach.
Then, before I knew it I was back at the car and reflecting on the previous few hours. I think it’s the best inclement walk I’ve ever been on. All that and more in a wander which was less than 10 km. One day, if I ever get out of the suburbs and live near the coast, I may never sleep due to weather photo opportunities!
Wow beautiful photos and barely a fiasco in sight!
Wow, is all I can say, well done on the night photos, especially the last, what camera settings were you using?
I wonder why all the dead birds… Don't be surprised that the gulls were eating them. They're doing an important job in helping to clean up the beach.
No waving wallabies? Maybe it's not in their contract on the island, or maybe they'd clocked-off by then ; )
Love all the sky photos. You really captured those dark clouds nicely.
Thanks mate! The walk was under 10 km, so even I can usually stay fiasco-free in such a short distance!
Thanks! The last one is a tricky one, as I wasn't sure if it looked better in colour or black and white. I still don't! I'm going to look at a few of those again on Lightroom, so they may reappear when I get around to a night post.
I read somewhere from this bloke who takes very handy night shots that his default setting for stars is 3200 ISO at 20 seconds, at largest aperture possible. He does have a lens at 2.0 or 2.8 though. That last photo is at those settings, but the lens I have is 4.0 which is why I think I might need something a little faster.
Not sure though, as right now I'm only experimenting and it's extremely time consuming! In an hour I think I took about eight photos? It felt like being back in the film days 🙂 Also, I don't usually go anywhere near ISO speeds of 3200! In that last photo the noise is really noticeable, so maybe I'll just spend some time experimenting to find what suits me. It's all about controlling those star trails, so I'll keep at it for a few more weeks and see what I can come up with!
Thanks! Yes, I guess the gulls were doing some house cleaning. I've no idea about the birds dying either and even a little freakier is that none (and I mean none!) had heads. Yep, it was that gruesome!
I can understand a lot of birds dying in a very large colony, but I couldn't work out they all seemed so big? They'd grown a bit of size before dying. Mm… I might have to do some bird research on that one.
No, the wallabies were short on waving during this walk. Actually, that was the only one I could remotely photograph, as the others went running upon sighting me. That cape has lots of them at twilight, so one day if I have a longer lens I might return there. Nothing beats a decent wallaby photo!
Thanks Linda! It was a perfect day for photography. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time 🙂 Usually when I see a weather like that, I'm stuck in the office looking out the window without a camera in sight.
The granite was mined by drilling holes, putting wood plugs in the holes and letting the tide come in. The wood swelled with the water and broke the rock into slabs. I think there is some Woolamai granite sculptures outside the entrance to the Exhibition Buildings or Museum in Carlton.
Hi Ian, thanks for the info. It sounds like it would have been pretty back breaking work! The granite is a lovely colour, so I'll keep my eye out for it on any buildings in the city!
Love your amazing photos!….sooo jealous. I had a few days off work and planned to go that way myself with camera in hand…didn't happen. Great to see it was as good as I thought it would be and you got to enjoy it with no fiascos
Love the photos. I never seem to get the kind of weather you do. Then again, when the weather looks like that. I usually bail. 🙁
Thanks Linda! Pity you couldn't get out with the camera. It was a pretty special day weather wise. I tried to do something similar a few days later in another coastal spot and the photos are rubbish 🙂 It was quite grey and uninspiring, whereas this day at Phillip Island had the perfect weather of sun and passing heavy showers.
Don't worry, I'm sure there will be other days of average weather to come! Thanks for dropping by.
Thanks! What can I say? When the weather forecast is lousy, I get excited! Inclement winter weather is what I like the most, especially on the coast. It does mean I'm pushing the fiasco-limit though regarding equipment. My speciality is drowning cameras 🙂
Thanks for dropping by!
Regarding the 2 caves on Cape Woolamai, I was nearly killed with a friend when we climbed down the cliffs. While we were in the largest cave (which is substantially larger than the one on the left in your picture) the tide changed. Huge waves began crashing over the cave entrance pushing us back & for nearly 30 minutes my friend couldn't get out. I swan back in 3 times & eventually got him out but as I exited a huge wave picked me up & smashed into to cliff-face. I then crashed into the foam & became wedged at the bottom of a very deep rock pool 10 meters deep & full of kelp. It took forever to get up to the top & as I surfaced & massive wave again hit me & I swallowed a lot of water. I've never been so close to drowning. My friend thought I'd drowned as I was down fore such a long time.
I recovered after 30 minutes of treading water & we swam back to Woolamai Beach which too about 90 minutes in heavy swell. I was 18 & my friend was 16 at the time,
Warning, don't go down to Cape Woolamai caves,
Hi Rodney, that's one hell of a story! Even in my derring-do days of youth, I think I would have been wary of heading down into those caves. Glad you made it out to tell the story! My thought of the kayak was to paddle around at a distance, rather than heading right in. Definitely a scary looking place.
Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment.
Great images and narrative. Shame about the shearwater 'wreck', it was a very bad year for them.
Thank you! Yeah, I've done this walk a few times and that's the first I've seen so many dead shearwaters. Quite a depressing sight!