The Memory Sandwich

Have you ever had a memory sandwich?

Let me tell you what a memory sandwich is but first let’s walk to Crescent Head.

The east coast of Australia is one of my favourite paces in the world. From the Queensland border to Newcastle is my favourite section of the east coast. Between South West Rocks and Point Plomer is possibly the most beautiful stretch of coast in the world. In Australia 2 places draw me back more often than any others, Thredbo and Crescent Head.

As a kid my family spent summer holidays in Arakoon National Park near South West Rocks. We went walking around the headlands, beaches, bush but mostly played in the surf. It was here Dad taught me to count sets. He was a surfer in his youth and i occasionally watched him watching the ocean. He also taught me to let the salt water hold me and float over the swells when I was about 6 years old on a holiday at Noosa. I am not a surfer but I love watching the Ocean’s patterns, it is comforting.

The beach to Arakoon is littered with ruins from the convict gaol’s jetty and I found a big old ring bolt, possibly petrified dinosaur poo or a rusty croissant.

The walk from Trial Bay Gaol to Smokey Cape Lighthouse is spectacular. It is medium to hard with very steep sections for climbing and traversing. It passes some small coves and gullies on the way before finishing at the lighthouse picnic area. It is inside the national park so there are no garbage bins, please carry out everything you carry in to help keep the place beautiful for the next visitors.

By the time I finished cooking dinner it was dark and storms were coming in fast. There was a very brief spell when the rain lightened enough to get the hammock up. It was an awkward set up using two branches on one tree but I was warm and dry and nodded off watching the 3 beams of light rhythmically passing over like counting sheep. Youtube link to Smokey Cape light sequence in storm https://youtu.be/Te3HLpWpTpk

By this stage in the walk I was running ahead of schedule so it was possible to walk half days. From Smokey Cape to Hat Head was a half day, arriving at 11am. On the way I found a heap of huge ancient middens, mounds of white shells and bones discarded from Aboriginal camps. I stopped for an hour to watch the birds, gangs of seagulls walking down the beach catching sand crabs, oyster catchers sleeping in wheel ruts, scores of terns standing on their stumpy little legs, one leg, sitting on the dry sand crests of the scalloped beach looking out to sea waiting for a shoal of fish to swim by. After a while they behave as though I’m not even there.

When I arrived at Crescent Head I found an empty picnic table and laid out all my camping gear to dry. This is a ritual most days. If I start early my gear is packed away wet with dew and condensation which needs to dry before setting up that evening. A few people near by watching me were talking about how the homeless are ruining the place, with raised voices so I could hear. I thought of engaging them in conversation to chat about walking around Australia but chose to tune them out and enjoy the view instead.

I had an appointment in Crescent Head for a leg wax with Kate at Beauty and the Beach. It was still too warm for winter insulation. Kate transformed me back into an hairless ape again.

At this stage I hadn’t decided where I would camp but being familiar with the town I knew of a few places I could hang my hammock, quietly free camping where nobody would notice me. As Kate and I chatted, the plan to stealth camp came up, and Kate came up with a better plan. She invited me to be her guest for the night!

From being shamed in the park for being homeless that morning to being invited into the home of a compassionate human who was a stranger hours earlier. That was not how I envisaged the day to pan out πŸ™‚ I love these surprises and I love being reminded everyday that this world is full of kind, caring, generous people. The next morning Kate packed me a Memory Sandwich for lunch and some healthy wholesome snacks!

A Memory Sandwich is a sandwich made from dinner leftovers. As I ate the sandwich the flavours brought back memories of smiles, laughter, stories and great company. Thank you Kate! You are a Trail Angel!

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Meeting Supporters

Meeting my supporters is always a thrill. I love to say thank you in person, exchange a hug, smile into each other’s eyes.

Supporters often open their homes to me when I pass through their town and I often detour so we meet.

One of my big supporters is Heather from Fishermans Reach. Over a year ago I received a lovely message offering assistance and support in Stuarts Point when I walk through and lots of messages of encouragement. It took longer than expected to get there and meeting Heather and Bob on their patch of Paradise was a highlight.

The night before I stayed at Scotts Head and slept in the recreation hall. I stopped early because there was a section of road walking ahead I wanted to avoid at dusk and used the hall so I could pack everything away dry for a quick dawn start.

When I reached Grassy Head Holiday Park for a rest in the shade the owner gave me a Cola. I don’t normally drink soft drink, I think it is one of the most unhealthy things we can put in our bodies, but when it’s hot and I’m sweating like crazy and my body is craving sugar and caffeine I enjoy the guilty pleasure of Cola or Solo. I have staved off many coffee withdrawals with Cola.

I was getting closer to Heather and Bob’s, I couldn’t walk fast enough. Meeting Heather was something I had been looking forward to for more than a year. On the way she had posted on social media that I was in the area so I was getting lots of friendly local waves and toots. Later Heather posted a request for any boaties who could run me down the Macleay Arm and across the river the next day. A quick snack on lillypilly fruit foraged from beside the road gave me a spurt of energy.

The bushland is beautiful through here! 2 little dogs ran out yapping to greet me on the driveway. Heather and Bob warmly welcomed me to their patch of Paradise. I do not exaggerate when I say Paradise. Some years ago they bought this land after an aquaculture farmer’s dream failed. The tidal ponds now attract a wide variety of wildlife, especially birds. The lawn brings in wallabies and bandicoots.

But the most amazing part of their bush block is the diverse recovering ecosystems. On their land they have tidal mangroves, tea tree swamp, rainforest and tall dry eucalypt forest. We went for a walk through and every moment I was in awe of each and how perfectly they merged.

Understanding the conservation value of their land Heather and Bob work hard to encourage recovery of native plants and maintain a constant battle to remove introduced species. Their hard work rewards them daily as they wake each morning to bird song, the flow of tidal water through the ponds, clicking and slashing from healthy mangrove habitat and bushland more beautiful than many of us will ever lay eyes on.

The cultural value of this land and region to the First Nations of Gumbaynggir and Dunghutti is important to Heather and Bob. Over the years they have made themselves familiar with the stories and songlines of Yarrahappini and the coast, actively supporting conservation projects and strengthening culture within the community.

No matter how may times I am a guest, being invited into someone’s home, being nourished by their cooking and conversation, given their trust, their stories, their company, is something I will never never take for granted.

And the call out for someone to take me to South West Rocks across the estuary was answered by Alan. We saw dolphins on the way!

Thank you!

4WD or 4×4 Angst

Disclaimer: i used to be a 4WDer before becoming an human powered traveller. We had a Toyota Landcruiser. My ex and i prioritised best practice and joined a club for training and safety.

The night before crossing Nambucca River, it was the Easter full moon and turtles were coming ashore on Valla Beach and Gaagal Wanggaan to lay eggs. The next morning I saw 4WD tyre tracks over top of the nests, one nest was just outside a fenced off bird nest zone (also covered in tyre tracks) with 2 different sets of tracks over the turtle eggs. Throughout the day I watched more 4WDs driving over other nests. I tried explaining to the first driver that there was a nest up there but he told me he paid to drive his 4WD anywhere. The next one pleaded ignorance and said the parks should fence it off if they don’t want vehicles on it, how else were drivers supposed to know. I stopped flagging them down, it was wasting my time. I knew the turtles had nested because I saw the tracks but I also heard several people, locals, in Valla and Nambucca talking about the event.

Information about Sea Turtles and Beach Activity from the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

No 4WDs are permitted to drive on vegetated dunes, even if your bad planning finds you caught by the high tide you are still not permitted to drive on the dunes. I can walk along them because my feet cause very little disturbance compared to a vehicle. Sometimes, at high tide, I did this and saw the damage. Nesting birds, chicks and adults, killed under tyres, erosion, plants broken and killed, disease spreading from the tracks. Are you aware oyster catchers, terns, plovers and gulls like to sleep in tyre tracks on the beach because it gives them a windbreak?

It seems to be the visitors in 4WDs who care less about wildlife and beach conservation than the local drivers. They ignore the signage indicating the 4WD only zones. Short of locking off access to everyone or a massive expensive awareness campaign, how else can this destructive behaviour be curbed? I have thought about this a lot and wish there was a way to encourage all 4WD owners using the beaches to own responsibility individually and collectively, passing that on to the new and younger drivers.

The annual K’gari (Fraser) Clean Up is a brilliant event which has been running for 17 years. Get involved or create your own event to help protect what you love.

How do we make respect and conservation default values while simultaneously making drunk hooliganism and environmental degradation uncool? What are your thoughts and ideas?

Here is an excellent PDF for 4WD Best Practice produced by Griffith University in conjunction with 4WD Australia, Treadlightly Australia and Sustainable Tourism.

As I said in a previous post, I know most 4WD enthusiasts are responsible and practice sustainable activities so their access into the wild isn’t locked off. Unfortunately, I have witnessed an astounding amount of stupidity and illegal activity on the beaches, especially leading up to the seasonal fish shoaling events and during public holidays. From piles of rubbish left on the beach after a campout to driving endangering others lives. One day I was passed by a 4WD with people riding in the ute tray with the front passenger out of their seat belt sitting backwards like a water ski spotter. I thought that was stupid. The next day I was passed by another 4WD with 4 people hanging off the outside of the doors. Both were going at speed. All it takes is for one wheel of a speeding 4WD to hit a patch of soft sand, rock or buried log, steering failure, over correction, simple loss of control due to lack of training and experience, to roll. In both of these scenarios passengers would be killed. On the popular little beach at Port Macquarie north shore I watched 4WDs speeding through young families, each time a 4WD rushed down the beach the parents had to rush to gathering in the kids and pet dogs or yell for them stay still while the idiot in the 4WD charged through.

It was scary watching that but what is even more frightening is the sheep mentality, following other drivers doing the wrong thing or following tracks made by other vehicles in places they shouldn’t be.

4WD or 4X4 training is a great way to gain confidence and make your experience more enjoyable without harming anyone or the environment.

The Australian Offroad Academy is a good place to start (I’m not getting kickbacks, just giving you information)

Join a club and use popular forums like ExplorOz

Before I leave this subject, when you drive past a walker or cyclist on a dirt road, please slow down. It is mighty unpleasant being sprayed with stones and dust every time a vehicle passes, and it is happening 90% of the time. Few realise or care that they are about to cover the other road user in dirt or potentially take their eye out with a stone. The stones thrown up by 4WDs often hit me, in my face sometimes, a stone thrown up by a 4WD broke the lens of my glasses once. The common courtesy of slowing down is uncommon these days. Don’t get me started on making a walker or cyclist invisible to any following vehicle.

Use your noggin, that’s what it’s there for.

The irresponsibility of a few will ruin it for the greater 4WD community. If you don’t want that to happen do your part to prevent it.

If you are not already following I Got Bogged At Inskip Point on facebook go check it out!

4WD

Crossings

Three of the best things about walking alone around Australia are seeing beautiful places, meeting wonderful people and solving problems.

Rivers always presented me with several choices. Wade over at low tide, risk wading/swimming over during ebb or flood instead of staying in town overnight until next low, stay in town, camp rough in town, pay for a campsite which can be $25-50 unpowered p/n, go the long way around which can be a 15-60km detour, ask a boatie to ferry me across.

I never chose the detour or attempting to cross on the wrong tide. I rarely had the money spare to pay for a tent site and usually camped rough in town if there wasn’t enough time to get into the bush before dark. Some rivers were too deep, fast or wide to cross so i asked for assistance.

Between Coffs Harbour and South West Rocks I had a few more river crossings. The first was Bonville Creek at Sawtell. After walking down the beaches and arriving close to dusk it was nearly high tide. I had been told it was okay to wade across at low tide but I found the shallowest section and sat watching it, the speed of the water and eddies. While there someone else crossed from the other side and was up to their armpits. He looked taller than me so I decided to wait until the next day.

It was also the first day of the Easter long weekend and the quiet little town of Sawtell was filling up fast with holiday makers. I did a quick round of all the parks where I could hang the hammock and realised it was too busy and a security risk for me to sleep in the hammock with my pack and boots lying on the ground under me. I was not afraid of my own safety, I was afraid my stuff would be nicked while I slept. The holiday park was too expensive so I walked down river a bit, in the light of the Easter moon, looking for trees to hammock. There was human noise everywhere which makes me nervous when trying to stealth camp. The only decent places to hammock were back around the edge of the holiday park, a few long term park residents had already eyeballed me, the staff were doing regular rounds and the sites were filling up. I walked back towards town and slept on the ground under the vestibule of the arts hall using my pack for a pillow. It felt safe because they had security motion sensor lights. I set them off walking to the vestibule but then found the blind spot, which was the same length as me. Once the lights reset I figured they would wake me if triggered. Waking at first light, smiling out from the hood of my sleeping bag, a friendly local passing with her dog said a cheery “Good Morning”.

The next low was 2pm. I walked back at sunrise to reassess, it was too deep and fast. Iwalked to a cafe for coffee to have a think. Walked back to the crossing again before asking a local for directions to the boat ramp. A couple of young lads were about to head out so they gave me a lift across. I saw lots of stingrays in the shoals, camouflaged until stirred up by the boat.

The walk down Bongil Bongil was AMAZING! the only beach i had been on since near Diggers Rest that 4WDs cannot legally access. Don’t get me wrong, i know most drivers are responsible, i was in a Rovers (Scouting association not vehicle make) 4WD club a long time ago. Unfortunately, I see a lot of stupidity and damage caused by the bad ones.

After the lovely long beach I reached Bundagen Headland and met some people from the intentional off-grid community of Bundagen. In my life I have been invited to visit, stay awhile, live at quite a few intentional communities through Australia and overseas. It is my intention to stop at one, perhaps one day I will accept the invitation to rest at Bundagen. They make good chai.

After walking with one of the community members he pointed out an alternative track to Mylestom through the Bundageree rainforest. It was cool, shaded and quiet, a very welcome relief. Thank you.

Every day since I resumed the walk it has been over 30’C, some days were up to 38’C. Even in the brief breaks between rain showers back in the Northern Rivers it would suddenly steam up like a sauna. It was confusing me. I know when a new season is coming, it is a seasonal calendar in my brain just like intuitive orientation. The region I was walking through has 9 subtle season changes but it skipped one entirely. What we traditionally call autumn was 6 weeks late. My body could compensate for the heat but my brain or heart of something inside was alarmed by the change. I’m sure a few people spotted me muttering to myself about it. It’s okay, I am crazy πŸ™‚ This distressing climate change continued until late April.

In Mylestom I stayed with a beautiful couple, Georgie and Margie, who were also members of Bundagen. Georgie and Margie are WarmShowers members who host cyclists touring through the region in a granny flat beside the big vegetable and herb garden. I completely relaxed with them, I felt safe and at peace. Thank you.

The next river I hitched a ride over was the Bellinger. It is a very popular river for water skiing and sport boats and the opposite river bank was rock so the first few I asked explained it would damage their hulls. There is a small jetty at the oyster shed I wanted to avoid because it would be locked for the Easter holiday but it was my only safe landing point. The 6th boaties to launch at Mylestom gave me a fun and fast ride over to the oyster shed which I had to “break out of”! Somehow I managed to unlock a side gate into the mangroves and, locking it behind me, weaved my way to the edge of the fence and climbed over into waist high grass. Was I thinking of snakes? Yes, but trying to imagine only friendly pythons. It was snake country all the way up to the Urunga bridge and I spotted red belly black snakes. The highlight was finding a guava tree in fruit, eating a couple there and picking some for lunch.

The next few days went by in a bit of a blur, lots of long beaches and knocking out a solid 32kms walking on sand. One night I slept at Valla Beach where the tourist park had no unpowered sites left but allocated me a powered site at an unpowered off-season price and I could look around and put the hammock up anywhere that wasn’t on someone else’s site. Because the night dew was very heavy I found somewhere undercover and settled in for a night listening to 570 possums running back and forth between 11pm and 4am! I might be exaggerating a wee bit, it was only one possum but he was 10ft long with 32 feet, I’m sure of it!

Nambucca Marine Rescue gave me a lift across the River. When I arrived in Nambucca I had a look around for the town jetty or boat ramp, stopped for coffee and saw the Marine Rescue station next door so I thought they might like to do something a bit different. After explaining what I’m doing Graham agreed to help. I had enough time to walk up to the supermarket and buy a day of fresh food. During that time someone mentioned to Graham it was April 1st. If I was late back to the water I wasn’t going to get across, they thought they had just been pranked on April Fools Day. When we reached the other side I offered a donation but they refused. Thank you!

That trip across the river with Graham and Kev reminded me of the years I was with Southport Marine Rescue VMR400. It opened a flood gate of wonderful memories from that time living, working and racing on the water. For a few weeks I had been playing around in my imagination with an original concept for a future adventure and that ride across Nambucca River pretty much confirmed in my heart that it will happen. It has been 9 years since I had a severe concussion on the Sea Shepherd ship the MY Steve Irwin sustaining a brain injury which effected my balance. It might take another 9 years but I’m planning a return to the ocean.

As if this update isn’t long enough already without the detours! So let’s take a break, but before you go, here is a piece written by my old school friend, George Dunford, for Lonely Planet Newswhich was published on International Women’s Day!

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2018/03/09/first-woman-walk-unsupported-around-australia/

Cad Cadigan and Coffs Coast

This post is a little bit different. I needed to write about Andrew Cadigan. It’s a very brief flashback to the West Coast and Kimberley.

I stayed with one of the band members from the Sunburnt Celts while walking down the Coffs Coast. Mark and Denise Feeney hosted me for a night in the green rural hills behind Woolgoolga. Denise is an accomplished aerial acrobat. When I arrived at their place I thought someone had set up a training course for Ninja Warrior but it was Denise’s aerobatic gym. Very impressive! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imZEztLGdIQ

My nephew Brodie is in a traditional bush folk band called The Button Collective so that night I was able to swap music videos with Mark. Here’s a great little mashup from the Sunburnt Celts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loetrFOQMOk

The next day I dropped into the Woolgoolga Retirement Village and shared my story with the elders. They also shared theirs stories with me, which was much more interesting.

The Yuraygir Walk was catching up on me and I was getting very tired, physically and mentally. On a quiet beach I stopped for 2 hours of meditation and watching the surfers, the rest helped find enough balance and strength to get to my Aunty Lucy and Uncle Graham’s at Sapphire Beach. Lucy and Graham have been inviting me to visit for decades. I was so spoilt by Lucy, it was great to catch up with them after 30 years.

It felt so good to just sit back and enjoy the view and boy what a view. To get to their apartment I met Lucy on the beach and we travelled up in some kind of elevator, a little glass box pulled up the side of the hill. There is nothing buy pines and garden between them and a spectacular ocean view from high on the hill. The sun was out so Sapphire Beach turned it on!

Andrew ‘Cad’ Cadigan

Just before reaching Sapphire Beach I met an aunty and uncle of Andrew Cadigan. Andrew ‘Cad’ Cadigan was the 3rd person to walk solo unsupported around Australia.

Andrew Cadigan
Photo by Dean Osland for Newcastle Herald (2012)

Near Carnarvon I met Dan who U turned on the highway and drove back to have a chat while I walked the west coast. He asked if I had heard of Cad, I vaguely had a memory of writing to him while planning my walk. Dan told me of his meeting with Cad up north as Cad walked to Halls Creek and the memorial Dan and his mates set up for him. I had no idea that my letter to Cad didn’t make it because he is no longer with us. Cad was struck off his bike in Thailand just months after completing his circumambulation, while on retreat to write his own book from the journals he kept while walking.

Cad’s dad Neil Cadigan has written a book about his son’s walk, reflecting on it from a father’s perspective and transcribing many parts of Cad’s journals and videos. Dan sent a new copy of the book to collect at Karratha. The book is called With Every Step – A Man A Pram Two Feet and a Heartbeat

Andrew Cadigan
With Every Step by Neil Cadigan from Black Inc Books

I read it twice! It was uncanny how many similarities our walks had. In every one of his journal entries I was reliving my own early experiences, it was very weird while reaffirming I was doing it right. We improvised using the same techniques to overcome the exact same problems, simplified and relaxed into our walks at the same respective times. The most poignant part of Cad’s story was how much we shared in our struggle to capture the imagination and belief of those who could help us but wouldn’t, how our chosen charities ignored us and potential sponsors didn’t believe in us. I cried and cried when I read this. I thought I was alone in that struggle and the relief of reading Cad’s experience was immense, he unburdened me from that heavy weight.

From Derby Cad’s walk became a nightmare as he pushed on into the buildup to the wet season.”wet season” is deceptive because he not only did the heat and humidity hit him hard but he wasn’t getting enough water and became dangerous dehydrated on numerous occasions. For this reason I began practicing an old tradition I picked up trekking in the Himalaya years before. Before I drank any water or ate I sprinkled a bit out for Cad and toasted to his memory. I walked through the Kimberley in dry season while it was cool and carried up to 45ltrs of water in my barrow, I often reflected on how easy I had it in comparison.

Andrew Cadigan
Photo by Tony Martin for Mackay Daily Mercury (2012)

There were as many differences as similarities between our walks. Cad walked with friends from time to time (but never a support vehicle) I had company for 7kms in total. Cad’s walk was over 15,000kms with only one short break midway, I walked 17,200kms in seasonal sections. His walked a lot faster and a daily average distance almost double mine. His longest day was 126kms (3 marathons), I managed 67kms tops. He switched charities to one who appreciated what he was doing and raised a whopping $180,000, I stuck it out unsupported with Lifeline for 16,000kms. Lifeline’s fundraising team still haven’t bothered thanking me for raising $20,000 (i wish I had followed his example there too).

It often felt like Cad was walking beside me during some of the loneliest and hardest parts of my walk.

Funny thing, his Aunty Al was following my walk on social while I crossed the Kimberley and sent me regular little encouragement messages. And a few weeks ago I joined my Uncle Bill for one of his walking tours in Sydney and met another of Cad’s uncles, Will, who was part of the Central Coast Walking For Pleasure group. Hey Cad, you will always be a part of our lives.

Andrew Cadigan

Yuraygir Coastal Walk

“You choose to undertake this journey through the traditional homelands of the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl nations…you’ll never forget it.”

To write here about the Yuraygir Coast Walk I will refer back to my Instagram posts written fresh off the track with salt still in my hair and the roar of the ocean in my ears.

Day 1 Angourie to Broomes Head

We all want sunny days, not too hot or cold, shade for resting, a breeze to wick away the sweat but in Australia this is very rare.

It is usually stinking hot, raining or blowing a gale.
But without the inclement weather we can’t fully appreciate our awesome landscape.

I loitered around Angourie hoping for the weather to clear. Blue sky appeared just before lunch so i set out to walk as ar as possible before sunset.

The rain came back a few times and on the last beach, Grey Cliff camp to Brooms Head, a big greenish coloured storm helped me find extra energy to walk faster. Click link to watch little video πŸ™‚

Everything was shut when i arrived so put up my hammock under a shelter.
A few times during the night i was woken by a little stray cat bumping my butt as it rubbed against the hammock.
This first section of the walk is relatively easy and relaxed with great views and few camping options before Brooms Head.

Timing your walk around low tides is important and makes the beach sections far more enjoyable.
The first 8-10kms passes through coastal heath and melaleuca swamp. Pack insect repellent because the moment you stop to drink, eat, read the info boards or take photos the mozzies swarm.

Day 2 Broomes Head to Wooli

Day 2 of the Yuraygir Coastal Walk was a big one for me.
Most walkers will plan this as a 4 day walk. Because i lost a day last week resting an injury i took advantage of the easy grade and completed 31kms from Brooms Head to Wooli.

The sunrise beach walk to Sandon was on the ebb tide and firm sand all the way to the river.

I stood for a while watching the surfers before having a look at the river crossing.

The national parks usually have an inflatable you row over but it was away for maintenance when i arrived.
As i stood deciding whether to sit and wait for people launching tinnies or start asking around camp i started talking to John and Jude from Bangalow. They have 2 pedal kayaks and offered to help me cross. John crossed with my pack on his, i took Jude’s over and John towed it back. It was great fun and my first time using a pedal kayak.

I decided to try walking around the Sth Sandon point but the halfmoon tides are never very low so i became very aware of how close the waves were as i climbed the rocks. When the nerves got the better of me i went back to the track. It was certainly worth a crack because the little rocky coves were stunning.

On the way to Minnie Waters i met a young family from Newcastle swimming in one of the natural shallows which form along the beach at lowtide. A little further down i found another one and had a swim.

It was an hot sunny day and the surf was still rough so it was a wonderful treat to cool down!
At Minnie Waters i met a couple of well travelled birdwatchers who fed me heaps of watermelon. So sweet and hydrating πŸ™‚

I was stopping to chat too often and losing time. Leaving Minnie Waters the air was beginning to cool down but the beach remained firm almost all the way to the rock platforms.

Diggers Camp is a really nice place and each time i pass through i look forward to returning.
This time i didn’t stop and went straight over the headland to my final beach for the day.

The tide was supposed to be out but the beach was soft and scalloped. The deep gutter was throwing the waves up high and the scalloping was soft and steep. It was hard work.
The sun set just as i reached Wooli.
It was a good day!

Day 3 Wooli to Red Rock

On Monday i walked the final 12kms of the Yuraygir track from Wooli to Red Rock.

It is important to do this part at low tide as there are rocks to climb around before a rough goat track forms on top of the headland.
Bruce runs the local boat hire and can taxi walkers across the river from the town jetty.

I felt a bit nervous at times climbing around the rocks. The sea was still rough and loud and my imagination was having fun.
There were faint paths in the soft pebbly rubble between rocks where other walkers had passed in recent weeks. When i couldn’t see them i wondered if i had missed a detour and sometimes backtracked only to return and continue scrambling.

A few times i saw thin animal tracks uphill along the cliff edge but also saw human tracks in the next cove.
Eventually the rocks became too dangerous to do alone so i took the precarious goat track up. I wished a few times to be a goat instead of a clumsy human.

It was a relief to get to Pebbly Beach and chat with a few campers while the adrenaline drained away.

After Pebbly Beach and wading through Station Creek the beach became wide and firm all the way to the Red Rock river crossing. It felt so good!

Apparently you can wade through this crossing on a low low tide at the river mouth or further in through the mud but i watched a tree floating/rolling out the river to sea.

Nico is the boat taxi guy for Red Rock and does groups or individuals.
At Red Rock the Reflections Holiday Park discovered what i am doing and donated a tent site that night! I hammocked under a fig tree and had a lovely rest.

I haven’t forgotten Yamba. In fact, that post has already been written but there is a very good reason I’m waiting to publish it.

The Old Basecamp

From Lennox Head I turned west walking back up into the Byron Hinterland and stayed with my brother’s family for a few nights. They live on a macadamia plantation, surrounded by macas and tall native trees. All day the birds sing. It is a very relaxing place.

I call it Basecamp. It is also SoundLife Audio where my brother works as a music composer and sound engineer. Sil has a Nia dance and movement therapy studio down stairs, as part of I Am Strong , which is also the meditation room looking out at the trees through the floor to ceiling windows.

Chewy the dog, Pearl the cat and I spent a lot of time sitting in the sun on the balcony.

It was only a rest from walking. I had a lot of admin and PR to catch up on and send ahead. I was also lucky to be one of the judges for the Travel Play Live Women’s Adventure Grant. My brother showed me how to watch the video submissions in his studio. I tell you what! There are a lot of amazing women doing amazing things. I wish them all the best of luck in their projects. You can read about the winning adventures at Travel Play Live

While in the Byron Hinterland I was interviewed on ABC local radio and filmed by NBN Northern Rivers (click the link to watch the story). I scored the local media jackpot, so to speak, newspaper, radio and TV! This doesn’t happen very often, only once before and twice since.

I have described in past posts that I have a pelvic injury from the walk. It played up the day I left Lismore. It was aggravated by two things. Firstly, it was my fault but I’ll blame someone else, I stood for almost 2 hrs with the pack on while Ganja Gandalf wanted to tell me his life story, dance and play me a song, locals might know who I’m talking about without using his real nickname. I didn’t dare put down the pack in case he took it as a sign to keep talking and if I left the pack on I could grab the first opportunity to politely go which took almost 2 hours. Secondly, the balance of my pelvis is tenuous (pun intended) and a misstep on uneven ground is enough to trigger spasms. This happened several times within 5kms and by dusk I was in so much agony I thought I was going to collapse.

I stopped at a tiny church just out of Lismore on the river, stretched, took pain killers and had a look around for a place to hammock. As I shuffled back to my pack at the gate I saw my brother drive past. What! Just as I waved he spotted me and came back. Steve and Sil were looking for me, I had left my pen and very important notebook at Basecamp. The relief of having somewhere to go and recover for another 2 days was too much on top of the pain, the tears I was fighting flowed.

The coastline south of Cape Byron is familiar as I have previously walked most of it alone between there and Bairnsdale in Victoria. This area in particular was a marine mammal conservation walk from Coffs Harbour to Cape Byron early 2010. For this reason I made the call to skip a day of the walk and go to Black Rocks. I actually went to Evans Head to seek permission to walk the 12kms of coast past the Airforce bombing range if they were not practicing. They weren’t but were not going to make any exceptions either. Oh well.

Black Rocks is really beautiful! Did you know there are some walk in/paddle in sites up near the end of the Jerusalem Creek Walk? They are not maintained but the roos and wallabies help keep the grass down. There was a lot of wildlife along here including a distracted echidna and dramatically windswept trees.

The strangest (non-human) thing I have seen in a while were the leaning stones. The wind was fierce and the coast had been lashed by weeks of storms. The beach pebbles had been pushed up and the sand carved out to hold them all facing the same direction at the same angle. It felt like they were all looking out to sea waiting for someone or something. Fascinating.

There were many species of shore birds at the mouth of Jerusalem Creek who were reasonably tolerant of my presence. 3 different species of terns, both species of oyster catchers, gulls, dotterels, plovers, stints, sanderlings, snipes and a family of beach stone curlews. I could have spent all day watching them.

Black Rocks is named for the colour of the black rock outcrops along the receding dunes. These were formed by ancient decomposed forests. The rock is softer than sandstone and feels damp, the storm was eroding a lot of it away at the time I visited resulting in dark stained sea foam and tide lines.

There are places of incredible Natural beauty I look forward to visiting again. This is one of them.

To Byron and Beyond

WARNING! This update contains nudity πŸ™‚

I enjoyed Brunswick Heads after finding a safe place to sleep.

The night before I saw on Instagram that my mate from the Blue Mountains, Michael, was in Brunswick staying with family so we arranged to have morning coffee. Michael was in town for the Byron Bay World Naked Bike Ride to raise awareness about bike safety by using naturism, ie, “Do you see me now?”.

If I didn’t hang around too long I had a chance of walking to Byron Bay with enough time to check into the YHA and watch the bike ride. It was a wet walk down the beach with some of the heaviest rain I had experienced all week. Maurice and Em came down to the beach to say goodbye, part of me wanted to stay. Maurice sent me the feature photo he took as I left.

I knew the weather was going to clear up because I had friends from Seattle, Susanna and Patrick, joining me in Byron Bay for a couple of days.

For the last 2kms of beach the sky cleared and it didn’t rain again for nearly 2 weeks!

Byron is always wonderful! I don’t care what anyone says about Byron Bay. I don’t look for the changes or bad stuff therefore i don’t see it. The staff at the YHAs looked after me. A couple of weeks earlier I had made a booking and then I made a last minute booking. I didn’t know there are 2 YHAs in Byron, I had booked a dorm bed in both, but they sorted it out so I could stay in one instead of moving. In fact, an interview with Thredbo YHA manager, Bianca Bott, came out in their internal news while I was staying with the Byron Bay crew. It may have had some influence getting a 5 share dorm entirely to myself. Thank you Bianca and YHA!

Susanna and I met in the summer of 1988 in the Snowy Mountains. She came down to stay with my family when she was over from the United States. We hit it off immediately and filled our days with lots of adventure on the Kosciuszko Mainrange and the tracks around our place at Sawpit Creek. I lost a lot of photos of us when my hard drive broke but I don’t need them for the memories.

We wrote and exchanged photos, lost touch and found each other again on social media. 30 years later we meet in Byron Bay, Susanna and her husband Patrick! We had 1 1/2 days together so we walked up to the lighthouse, down around the beautiful beaches, out to Killen Falls in the hinterland and watched the sun set over Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head. We filled the day to the brim and pretty much collapsed into our seats at the Mexican restaurant. I tried a Mojito for the first time, it went straight to my head!

It was very interesting watching friends from another country discovering new and wonderful things about mine. Like spotting a wallaby on Cape Byron for Susanna would be about the equivalent of the excitement I’ll have when I see my first raccoon. Wallabies are animals I see almost everyday but when I see a raccoon it will be something exotic I have never laid eyes on before. I loved watching Susanna reacting to our gorgeous wildlife and bushland, she allowed me to see it with new eyes. Thank you Susanna.

Saying goodbye to friends is hard, but I had to put on the pack and continue south. I’m tearing up writing this and remembering your smiles, hugs and your big beautiful hearts.

That afternoon I walked down the beach to Broken Head picking up 2 bags of rubbish. A few people saw me picking up rubbish and gave me some more to carry which they “helped” me pick up (or in one case a guy kicked over a bottle I had missed). Good, but not good enough, giving more rubbish to a walker already loaded up with a big pack and full bags isn’t cool. Maybe I should start carrying extra reused shopping bags to give to people who try adding to my collection. There is a great initiative in Sydney by 66 Second Challenge where people can take a bucket down to the beach, collect rubbish and return it in exchange for a free coffee. Love it!

I had a rest on the deck of Broken Head Community Hall and refilled my bottles from their kitchen. When I saw the cost of camping in Suffolk Park and Broken Head I decided to illegally free camp on Broken Head, i simply couldn’t afford to stay in the tourist parks.

The walk across Broken Head is beautiful, even more so as the sunset. I saw about 40 wallabies and many birds including a lyre bird in the soft cool dusk light filtered through the rainforest. The damp evening air intensified the sweet smell of fertile red volcanic soil and dark decomposing plant litter. In the Byron Shire all you need is Nature to get high. You’re welcome πŸ˜‰

Camping that night was interesting. I found two good trees on a dune but very exposed to the exceptionally loud roar of the stormy surf, thick ocean spray and heavy dew. On the way I had passed other campers so I walked back and asked if they minded me camping close by in the trees. The disadvantage of hammocking in the dark is not being able to inspect the trees before setting up. The first one I tied up to was a burnt out dead one that nearly fell over when I sat in the hammock. Eventually I found a clear line between 2 of the stronger looking trees, tied up, set the fly and sat down. The trees flexed and slowly lowered the hammock until my bum touched the ground. It was okay, when I lay down, stretching my weight along the length of the hammock it rose to about 10cm off the ground. More than enough clearance πŸ™‚

In the early dawn light I had a look around and saw that I was camped in a new forest. The trees were young beech, regrowth from a fire. The tide was slack so the surf was not so loud but it still drowned out the morning bird chorus. When I can’t hear the birds it feels like something is wrong. It was also cold and the sun was weak.

On the way down 7 Mile Beach I found a big ice cream tub and filled it with rubbish then a bucket and filled it too. A large fish trap was washed up so I filled it also. It ended up weighing more than my backpack, walking down the beach was hard work wearing 14kg and dragging more. It was good to see a couple of people begin to pick up rubbish after walking past me. This isn’t a walk about litter but if my actions can influence others to do something small which can collectively make a big difference then I’m happy!

The Dog Who took Home the Stray Human

Just before sunset in Brunswick Heads I met Maurice and Em.

Em started bringing her frizbee to me to play.

Maurice and I started talking about the local area, I mentioned my dilemma. Maurice wore an old Australian Geographic jacket, seeing the logo of my sponsors suddenly put me at ease.

It transpired that Em’s owners (Maurice was dog walking while they were away on holidays) have an old Queenslander, a traditional timber house built in flood prone places on stilts. He rang them to check if it was okay if I hang my hammock under the house between the posts.

Em was pretty stoked with this arrangement.

We continued to play at home, then I read her some of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass before she retired to her bed on the balcony upstairs. An electrical storm brought her back down stairs so I lay my sleeping mat on the ground for her within arms length of my hammock so I could reassure her through the lightning and thunder.

I think we enjoyed each other’s company equally and I will always be grateful I met Maurice and Em in the rain in Brunswick.

Northern Rivers

Now, where were we…

After I crossed the Queensland/New South Wales border it began raining and kept raining for a week.

I didn’t mind it too much. Rain is nice, cool, refreshing and a free shower. It is what makes Northern Rivers so lush. Rainforests look as beautiful in rain as they do in sunshine. The flowing mountain streams provide fresh drinking water. The quick reveal of peaks hidden behind clouds is like a special magic show.

Haha! No, rain sux, especially after a few days. All the clothes are wet, the rain jacket and pants are as wet inside as out, possibly more wet inside. Things are starting to grow mould inside the backpack. The shoes squealch and begin to smell sour. Roads are flooded, the same road was flooded 5 times in 3 kilometres before it began rising into the mountains. You discover none of your dry sacks keep things dry. Walking through some of the most beautiful mountains and national park but can’t see it. Jacket hood begins causing claustrophobia as it cuts off all peripheral vision. Vainly attempting to keep your undies dry while trying to go to the toilet in the bush in torrential rain. Leaches.

It didn’t rain for an entire week. It stopped sometimes, during the night.

You know, the most ridiculous thing was that I told someone “it doesn’t rain when I’m walking through” the day it began raining.

During this week I met some amazing and beautiful people who opened up their homes to a stranger and invited me in to shelter.

Mad Dog from Norfolk Island (also living at Crystal Creek) invited me to stay in the most incredible house he built from the ground up. It is a cross between a castle and treehouse nestled deep in the rainforest.

Will and Kelly sheltered me from the rain in Uki and cooked the most delicious dinner. I don’t remember having eaten roast veggies with more flavour. Do you think the more exhausted you are at the end of the day makes food taste better? A combination of this and good company definitely. Will and Kelly are seasoned travellers understanding the needs of a fellow minimalist adventurer.

Walking through flooded creeks and over the spectacular Mount Jerusalem National Park, catching sneak peeks of Wollumbin through the clouds, listening to lyre birds and spotting a yowie (maybe) brought me to the Utopia of Kohinur. There was a meeting for the multiple occupancy communities at the hall so I asked if it was possible to camp on the verandah. They invited me to stay inside then went one better with the warm hospitality of Sam and Celia and the menagerie.

I had changed plans bringing me to the eastern slopes of the Byron Hinterland sooner than expected. This allowed me time to relax with Celia and the animals, meet a few locals including Yor, one of the creators of https://fundatlas.org/ and we all rescued a stray cow from the road.

Charlie and Claudia, long time locals and keen bike tourers, took me in and fed me a hearty curry made from scratch. I could have eaten ALL the leftovers if I hadn’t already had seconds. Like Will and Kelly, Charlie and Claudia have many stories of their travels around Australia and the world so we stayed up late sharing, laughing and planning our next adventures.

My all time favourite news publication, the Byron Bay Echo, https://www.echo.net.au/2018/03/roamer-trots-shire/ caught up with me at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market. I timed this little section of the walk for these markets. I used to spend a lot of time camping in my kombi here and walking to the markets every Friday morning for coffee and fresh fruit.

Both the camping ground and market are at the showground, very convenient then but not on this occasion. Because of the rain the ground was water logged so they were not allowing camping. I explained “I have a hammock so no problem” but they allow NO hammocks or camping under the trees. This is not a new thing, I am encountering more and more camping and holiday parks who refuse hammocks. In fact, some have even removed unpowered sites from their parks or made their sites too expensive for most travellers. This has often forced me to illegally camp rough in town if I arrive without enough time to walk out of town, or in the case of Byron Shire, out of the region.

I found myself in a predicament, my plans to stay in Mullumbimby for a few nights disappeared. There were not really any affordable options so I walked to Brunswick Heads instead. The holiday parks there also refused to let me hammock. The money I budgeted for Mullum I decided to use for one warm, dry, clean night in a single pub room with shared bathroom.

I’m getting good at changing plans, it happens all the time, but it is still tiring when it comes on top of physical exhaustion. Considering I was now 2 days ahead of schedule with no plans I slept amazingly well, deep sleep and slept in.

For the next 2 nights I needed to find somewhere to free camp. It was raining so I checked out all the sheltered picnic tables and the main shelter popular with local homeless people. Eventually I crossed to the beach intending to make camp in the dunes. The overcast showers became torrential rain. While waiting under the surf club I saw a lot more homeless free campers around and was told the dunes and bush were full of them. I didn’t know what to do. When I watched a couple of rough looking guys shooting up I decided it would not be safe to illegally free camp there. It felt like a bad place to be seen trying to hide.

3 hours later, still waiting for the rain to lighten up, I hadn’t moved and hadn’t a clue where I was going to sleep. Maybe walk down the beach in the dark and hide in Byron?