Nearly There

Now I was getting into very familiar territory, places I visited as a kid. Growing up in the Newcastle region with parents who enjoyed driving around the countryside on the weekend we explored the area in which I was walking. Myall Lakes and Port Stephens were also places we went camping and swimming in summer as a family.

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It felt good walking through here during the final days of the walk around Australia.

After leaving Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse I wandered on down the beach toward Yagon where I planned to continue following old closed vehicle tracks and the beaches all the way to Hawks Nest for 2 days. At the Yagon camping area I planned to fill and sterilise water from the water tank but the tap was broken. This presented a dilemma.

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While trying to collect a trickle of water the tarp dried out in the warm breeze but the smell of bushfire smoke was getting stronger. As I walked to Yagon camp it was strong enough to hurt my throat but dissipated closer to the beach. My logic was to continue and stay close to the beach where I would be safe if the fire came close. There was a weak phone signal from the surf viewing platform so I checked the fire map but there was nothing in the area or close enough to be creating that much smoke so I called it in and was advised there was nothing. I was standing there in smoke!

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This started agitating me and I was getting nervous so the most sensible option was to return to Seal Rocks, this I did with the help of some lovely people visiting Yagon at the same time.

Reflections Holiday Park Seal Rocks was booked up with Anzac Day long weekend holiday makers but they found me a quiet spot up the back to hang the hammock. The storms that night were spectacular and I was reminded how great my Tier Gear Goshawk hammock with Torrent tarp are. I stayed dry! Between storms I needed to get out and re-peg a couple of tarp lines in the sand, the wind was pretty fierce and I almost lost another peg. The secret to a dry night under a tarp is to keep it clear from any object, if the inside of the tarp is touched while the outside is wet it is no longer impervious. This rule applies to most tarps and tent flies.

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The next day Plan B was implemented, walking down the Mining/Old Gibber Rd. This is a 4WD road closed off to all traffic except national parks vehicles and permits are given to some commercial fishermen to access the lake. It has been made an official walking and riding track between Mungo Brush and Seal Rocks. From 9am it rained for 2 days. It rains every single time I walk through here. Rain brings a different kind of beauty to the landscape.

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I had no idea where I was going to camp that night. I was not going to make it to my favourite camp, Stewart and Lloyds, but I wanted to explore the Mungo Track through tea tree swamp track to Brambles Green along Myall River. My topographic map indicated it was a through walk with a closed track back out to the public road.

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If you’re looking for a wonderful short walk from Mungo Brush try Tomboy Firetrail to Myall River and then the Myall Track all the way to Brambles Green. Wear insect repellent or cover up as there are long sections of boardwalk above the swamp. It is spectacular, surprisingly picturesque even in last light. Along the track to Brambles Green you pass an old ruin where a small logging camp stood many years ago. The big old boiler and rail tracks are still there but be careful where you step, it is over grown and uneven ground.

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Before I could get as far as Brambles the rain came in heavier so I camped in the swamp between a couple of old tea trees. It poured rain all night and I was glad to have found a rise of slightly less damp ground by the light of the headlamp as it became an island overnight. The next morning I was packed up and back on track before sunrise. It is always a special experience walking through the bush at sunrise, listening to everything waking up around you.

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From there I made my way across to Dark Point, discovering a large anchor buoy, torn free during a storm, washed up on the beach. I’m not talking about the kind you see at yacht clubs, this was a car sized buoy, probably beached overnight because the barnacles were alive. I find many fascinating things on beaches, natural and human-made.

In Hawks Nest I was suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion after walking down the beach on high tide, against the wind and through several small storms. My intention was to get across to Nelson Bay that afternoon and have a day off so I turned it into 2 easy half days, watch the dolphins and rest at Reflections Holiday Park in Hawks Nest. Hawks Nest is just far enough away from Newcastle to feel like a small seaside community but close enough to have all the facilities like a surf club, cafe, supermarket and pub. It is a very popular summer holiday destination and pleasantly quiet between school holidays.

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The Port Stephens Ferry Service runs between Nelson Bay and Tea Gardens, a very scenic journey down Myall River and across the bay past the shoals and sentinels of Yacaaba Head and Tomaree. I’ll let you in on a secret, it is the best way to see dolphins, much cheaper than the dolphin watching tours and a higher chance of seeing them. I have caught this ferry numerous times and always see several dolphins, sometimes turtles, stingrays and sharks.

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Disembarking at the boat harbour in Nelson Bay someone called out my name! Colin and Lyndal were following my walk and come down to say “Hi!”. That half day I had planned turned into an awesome day with new friends drinking coffee, climbing Tomaree and ending the day eating the most delicious wood fired vegan Mexican pizza at Cartel Pizza Co, sipping Laphroaig whiskey and sleeping like a rock in the guest room. Thank you!

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