The Happy Walk - Sydney Coast Happy Walk Pt2

Saturday, Apr 14, 2012 at 19:42


Day 1 Sunday 4th March Otford to Bundeena

The Sydney Coast Happy Walk didn't start smoothly.

The night before I went to watch the Mardi Gras parade but it was a washout, all I could see were umbrellas, so I went back to the YHA and settled in for an early night. I was sharing a female dorm with 7 other girls and had explained to them, politely, that the amount of noise I made while packing at 4.30 in the morning depended on how much noise they made during the night. That only works if your room mates are in their beds sleeping when you're packing. All night, every half hour or so they came in, made a racket, changed clothes, filled the room with hairspray and cheap perfume while drunkenly tripping on stuff and telling each other to "Sssh, someone's sleeping (giggle giggle giggle)". I was so naive, what else should I have expected in a share dorm in the centre of Sydney on a Saturday night after Mardi Gras. They all started coming back from their exciting night out in the city just as I had finished packing.

I went down to the kitchen at 5am with all my gear to eat breakfast and fill up the water bladders. It was locked and didn't open until 7am. I checked out early and had to ask the receptionist to fill up my water from the back office. Then I made my way across the road to the station. The station smelled of vomit, urine and burnt steel and only one ticket vending machine was working. I joined a line of very interesting characters, mostly drunk and off their faces but all clothed (more or less) in an assortment of carnival and bondage wear.

10 minutes after the train was due I started wondering what was going on because, according the Sydney transport website I used to check timetables, if I missed the 5.48 train the next wasn't coming for 2 hours. It all worked out okay in the end. I caught the next train to Waterfall where I intended to find a bus but the station guard told me the next train was going to Otford. I had time to relax and enjoy the sunrise and by the time I reached Otford and walked up to the track I was only 2 hours late.

At the track head a couple of runners stretching before taking on the coast track were attacked by leeches but a friendly fisherman about to check his cliff edge shack lent me his deet spray for my boots and trousers. Insect repellent with deet keeps leeches and tics from climbing into your boots and up your legs. I'm not a fan of spraying myself with toxins but I usually use it on my clothing when walking through tic country because a little bit of deet isn't as bad as being poisoned by a paralysis tic or contracting lyme disease. And it did work, until water covered the track and all that deet washed off.

Water on the track is no problem. I had fun as it turned from a few puddles to a chain of ponds to a creek and eventually deteriorated into a swamp and I found myself sinking deeper than my boots into mud and stagnant water. When I stopped to dry out a bit I also scraped a few leeches off my legs.

A very frightening thing happened only 1 hour into the walk. I had my camera attached to the hip strap on the pack so I could get to it quickly but a branch caught it and ripped the velcro open. The camera case is one of those made of thick spongy rubber, like wetsuit fabric, so when my camera fell off it went bouncing and bouncing and bouncing, gaining velocity, down a very steep hill, straight for a sea cliff. All I could do was watch and go into shock. Luckily, it thudded into a few trees and stopped 3 meters short of the cliff. Without thinking of my own safety I threw down my pack and scrambled down after it, slipping and sliding, grabbing hold of vines and trees on the way down. I also thudded into the trees and stopped 3 meters short of the cliff. I retrieved my beloved camera and scrambled 20m on all fours back up to the track. I checked over my camera, everything was in working order so chalked that up as another successful rescue. Only then did I take a look at what just happened and realised how insanely stupid I was.

By the way, the camera is an Olympus Mju Tough 8010 and it's not called "tough" just for a marketing gimmick, it really is tough. The camera case was covered in gashes and holes but the camera had only one ding on its body.

It is a great track with sweeping views from cliff top lookouts before the track drops off the plateau, meanders and climbs through eucalypt bush, thorny pandana jungle, strangler vines hooping across the track at ankle and neck height, fresh open coastal heath, clean quiet beaches and small communities living in the old depression shacks accessible only by foot or boat.

However, it didn't take long before I started feeling the physical effects of 2 years of severe mental illness, gaining over 30kg of body fat, carrying a 25kg pack, no sleep and missing breakfast. As each hill climb felt steeper and I was slowing down and sweating profusely I was silently thanking Life Express Fitness for their gym membership because I don't know what state I would have been in if I hadn't trained before this. Having been used to walking 4-5kms/hr in bushland and high altitude and 5-6kms/hr on flat clear ground it was a shock to find myself struggling at only 3kms/hr. I was not quite as fit as I had hoped.

From the top of the last hill I could see that there were many more to go before reaching Bundeena and at my pace it wasn't going to happen that day. At Garie Beach I walked up to the main road and made my way toward the Bundeena turn off. Just a few kilometres short it started raining so I stopped at a small carpark near a track and pulled out my rain gear. Just as I had my pack back on a couple walked out from the track and offered me a lift. Very timely and tempting so I accepted. So I cheated by 6km but I was pleased with the 20km I had walked that day.

Taking my boots off and watching the last of the weekenders packing up their Sunday picnics in the rain while waiting for the ferry was very relaxing. I called ahead to the YHA to confirm my booking was okay and then sat back listening to the birds enjoying the rain after an unexpectedly warm day.

Riding the MV Curranulla across to Cronulla was like taking a step back in time. This little ferry is beautiful, she's a timber double ender and has been running passengers between Cronulla and Bundeena for 73 years.

The rain poured down as I walked to the YHA but that didn't matter because the guy at the reception desk told me they were letting me stay the night for free. Yay! BUT because they were really busy they put me a 4 bed male dorm room with 3 men. I had made the booking requesting a bunk in a female dorm months ago and they had apparently been moving my booking around to make sure I still had a bed. They were fully booked too. It was a real test in diplomacy to say thank you for the generous offer of a free bed but no thanks.

Thankfully I had visited one of my cousins and his family the day before and they had offered me a bed if I ever needed one and boy did I need one (and a shower too). I arrived just in time for desert. Chocolate Cheesecake! It was wonderful staying with them for a night. It had been years since we had caught up properly. We had some good quality time together. I'm glad the YHA messed up my booking. And I slept like a rock, I don't think I even rolled over from the moment my head hit the pillow until getting up for breakfast.
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