Coast Walk – Royal National Park – March 14, 2010

Present: Veronique J, Tom M, Claire P, John P, Tamara C
Not present: quite a few

For me, at least, the Coast Walk is developing a bit of a reputation as a “safe fallback” when there’s no time to organise private transport to more exotic locations, or when the four hours of train ride for a trip to Katoomba is too daunting. Regardless I have enjoyed the walk every time, in all manner of bizarre weather conditions and (on a couple of occasions) pitch darkness and/or weeping inebriation. Allegedly.

There was quite a bit of interest in the walk, despite the standard warnings about it being quite a long trek, the best part of twenty miles. In fact the main challenge proved to be not the length, but the timing. I’d made what I regarded as a courageous, self-sacrificing decision in the fashion of Himalayan summitters and Arctic submariners to kick things off at half past six on a Sunday morning, and was nonplussed (if not particularly surprised) to be shivering alone at Central at that godforsaken hour. By the time the train reached Otford, however, we were a group of five and it was shaping up to be a marvellous sunny day.

It didn’t start off sunny, of course. Although the arguments in favour of doing the track from Otford to Bundeena are myriad and flawless, there is definite merit to ending a hot day in the cool shade of the littoral rainforest at the southern end of the track. In the morning this stretch of the walk is damp and chilly and — as it turned out — leech-ridden. Ah! blood and screaming on an early Sunday morning. It was just like a Tassie trip, or a retsina hangover. As the day aged and the lingering threat of “one or two showers” became a hollow lie, the leeches retreated and the jacky-jackies and skinks came out to sun themselves.

The very first stages of autumn are beginning to colour some of the leaves along the track, but there are still the gaudy trappings of spring on display with some very confused acacia and banksia remaining in bloom. The honeyeaters were going wild, and around Eagle Rock an eagle buzzed us several times while stubbornly refusing to pose on the landmark after which the bird is named.

Then morning turned to afternoon, and the predicted southerlies turned out to be gently suffocating northerlies, and the scrub pumped out heat at us from all directions to ensure that we were cooked all the way through, and there was a general appreciation of the smaller climbs nearer to the north end. Apprehensively appreciated was the recent re-grading of the Track north of Wattamolla, which has been done with all the graceful sensitivity that the NPWS is generally known for, and all the finesse available to a drunk driver in a half-width bulldozer with some sort of woodchipping device attached. Not appreciated at all was the last-minute dash for the early-departing ferry (“you won’t make it if you WALK, love!” “GET STUFFED, I JUST WALKED FURTHER THAN YOU DO IN A MONTH, FATTY”) which left John and Tamara stranded amongst the milk bars and twee bric-a-brac stalls at Bundeena, never to be seen again.

As always, an excellent walk. The only after-effects were sunburn, itchy leech bites, fatigue, muscle pains, and a vague feeling that 40% attrition at each end of the walk probably isn’t a sustainable practice.

A few photos at