The last three days went by in a blur.
Until April 30 I had not taken the time to walk the Tomaree coast track between Fingal Bay and Boat Harbour. It is extraordinarily beautiful, wild and rough. I saw only 1 other person on the track until Samurai Point. It is an easy track with regular bench seats and picnic tables and the landscape changes around every bay. You should be warned of 2 things. The track passes the sewerage treatment plant so there is a stinky bit but if you force your mind to look for Nature’s beauty it helps reduce the olfactory offense. Part of Samurai Beach is nudist butt don’t worry, they’re used to people walking through from the track.
I’d say it is a fast half day walk if you start early or make it an easy full day walk with lots of photo stops on the way. The walk can take you the whole way around the coastline to Nelson Bay with a climb up spectacular Tomaree Peak and that would be a big day of walking. There are small tracks but no single track which joins Boat Harbour to Anna Bay, there is a shared pedestrian and cycling track beside Gan Gan Road. Pack everything you will need including water and food as there is no kiosk or store between Boat Harbour and Fingal Bay. It is 9kms between Fingal Bay and Boat Harbour, 13 to Anna Bay, 21kms from Anna Bay to Nelson Bay with Tomaree Peak and 25 with a detour to Shark Island at low tide. Shark Island and Point Stephens Lighthouse should only be attempted 1hr either side of low tide when the spit is above water otherwise it is too dangerous.
That night I met the wonderful Monique and Hurricane from Elemental Adventures. Monique had been following and supporting the walk for a long time and until that night I had no idea we already knew each other. Back in 2008-10 I was involved in marine conservation and actively promoting Sea Shepherd through fundraising, film nights, awareness walks and as crew aboard the activist ship MY Steve Irwin. Monique and I had met through Sea Shepherd 10 years ago. Elemental Adventures are also supporters of the next expedition!
As I write this you will not see any mention of First Nation’s history on the Tomaree National Park website. This is a shame because the Woromi Nation lived here. Birubi Point is a place of significance and Worimi National Park all have a rich history and protected land.
The last big physical challenge of this walk of this walk was Stockton Beach. This beach is 32kms long with a large dune system. Camping is not allowed because the privilege was abused. Some campers simply couldn’t respect the land so now nobody can camp there. The mess behind the front dunes is pretty bad and would require a massive clean up initiative.
The easiest way to walk the dunes between Birubi Beach and the start of the conservation area/quad bike park is in the dunes. There is a vegetated zone between the front dunes and the big ones and the dunes through there are mostly an easy climb and the sand is not so soft. It is very quiet as all the traffic is on the beach. The dunes look intimidating but they are not too high and there is always a good ridge or set of smaller dunes to use to get to the top.
The wind blows clean the dunes of tracks so you can easily imagine being a brave solitary explorer crossing a desert, until you reach the top and see the ocean and Newcastle only 20kms away.
Monique packed me a yummy vegan lunch which I enjoyed perched up on the highest dune like an eagle watching everything to the horizon.
Until that moment it hadn’t fully sunk in that I had walked 17,200kms around Australia alone without any support vehicles. I looked toward Newcastle wondering what I was supposed to feel. I felt proud of myself for never giving up and returning to the walk after every set back. I felt a sense of relief that, after more than 4 years, this pursuit was finally coming to an end I could start preparing for the next. That was all I felt. Some fighter jets flew over low, returning to Williamtown RAAF Base and I continued walking through the dunes, studying animal tracks and markings, observing old WWII barricade ruins and enjoying the surreal shapes formed by rain and wind on the sand.
That night I was a guest of Alwyn Garland a long time resident of Tin City and Jess. We drank a little whiskey, shared some yarns and I learnt a lot of history about the place. If you are ever passing through, ask after Alwyn, he is a wealth of knowledge and a good story teller. Did you know some of Mad Max (1979) was filmed at Tin City, you can still recognise the corrugated iron shack they used.
I set off early across the dunes, setting a good pace. I had a schedule set for the afternoon and phone interviews with radio and TV stations throughout the day. I’m glad I started early and walked fast because once I crossed from Worimi National Park into the Conservation Area the sand was too chopped up and soft to walk faster than 2-3kms an hour. The beach was too steep and soft for walking so I tried to find lines through the front dunes between those stupid noisy quad bikes and the water. It was exhausting struggling through all that soft sand with the noise pollution of recreational vehicles surrounding me. I just wanted to turn around and walk back to the sanctum of the silent dunes and stay there.
The fighter jets were out doing exercises again, they flew past so close I could see the pilots and I waved, just like a kid. Colin and Dad joked later it was a fly by just for me.
That day I learnt how to do live facebook and instagram videos but also learnt I need to do them wearing glasses because I can’t see the phone screen without them.
When I reached Stockton I was running a bit ahead of schedule so I had a few rest breaks. Each time more people joined me and by the time we reached Nobbys Beach there was a small group of us walking together including Andrea who flew over from Western Australia, an old school friend Jason Kimberly, Colin from Nelson Bay, Dad, Steve, Sil, Jayde and Linda. Complete strangers started recognising me.
I was wondering what feelings I would experience and a little perplexed that I was feeling nothing more than stress about running early and relieved I wasn’t walking the last few kilometers alone.