Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Does Not Simply Walk Into The Budawangs: Corang Circuit

Every time I do a walk in the Budawangs, I think of another walk I want to do. So, soon after we climbed The Castle, we were back to the Budawangs, this time entering from Wog Wog in the west. Our plan was to walk Corang Circuit in a day, which really is not a big deal, particularly if you don't misplace the track. Another group was camped at the campground the night before also planning to do the circuit but over two days. We thought they were doing it tough - enduring a hot and fly filled camp at Canowie Brook after carrying a heavy pack half the day - and they thought we were doing it tough - walking the circuit in one day instead of two.

Aptly named Christmas Bells

Before leaving we scanned a couple of personal reports from the internet, made a mental note not to lose the track along the way and, after packing two litres of water each and our bug hats, decided we had done all we needed to prepare for the trip.

Goodsell Basin

The phrase "one does not simply walk into Mordor (substitute the Budawangs)" comes into my head every time I go to the Budawangs as access to and egress from the area commonly seems to include dealing with thick scrubby bush and overgrown or non-existent tracks. But, when you enter the Budawangs from Wog Wog, you do simply walk in ... on a very good track.

Doug overlooks Canowie Brook and Profile Rock Hill

Leaving the campground, there is a short descent down to cross Wog Wog Creek on stones and then a gradual climb up the plateau that culminates in Corang Peak. The track is in very good shape for the first several kilometres and passes a few large conglomerate bluffs that allow views across the surrounding area. As you approach the old Snedden Pass trail (which we once tried to follow) encroachment of the surrounding scrub increases somewhat but never to trouser tearing proportions.

Goodsell  Basin and Corang Peak

As the track skirts Korra Hill, you start to get views down into Goodsell Basin and across to Corang Peak. We had both been up Corang Peak before so this time we took the track to the east that bypasses the summit. The views are actually better from the bypass track as the trees on the track that goes over the peak obscure all views.

Doug descending to Canowie Brook

Corang Peak lies on a rocky plateau and the vista down to Canowie and Burrumbeet Brooks is one of the best in the Budawangs. We had a short lunch stop in the windiest spot we could find as the flies were thick. This is the third time I have been past Corang Arch and the third time I have not found it - one of the hazards of not consulting a guidebook. Apparently, the arch is off the plateau to the west. We may not have seen Corang Arch but we could see a good track in open grassland following Canowie Brook down in the valley below.
Descending the conglomerate slope to the valley, we turned left at the first campsite we came to and followed a good track north along the course of Canowie Brook. The track starts a distance from the creek but as you follow it north the track and the brook converge until you are walking along the left hand shore of the creek. This is a very pretty place and there is another smaller campsite further along where a tributary creek comes in.

Corang Arch from Canowie Brook

My memory of what transpired next is a little hazy as to our exact location on the map so you'd do well to consult a more reliable source. After crossing the tributary creek at the small campsite the track continues along Canowie Brook for a short distance to a track junction amongst burned Banksia. Initially, we took the low track along the brook, but this soon ended, and, having some faint recollection of reading something about a short climb above the creek, we went back to the junction and took the uphill track. This is a cut track through burnt Banksia that follows the course of the creek and shortly arrives at a bigger junction marked by a large cairn.

The track along Canowie Brook

This is right around where Canowie Brook joins the Corang River and the more scenic route lies down hill (right fork) to the river where there are rocky pools and small waterfalls. Not knowing this at the time, we took the left fork which stays high and gives half obscured views of the waterfalls before descending to thick bush along side the Corang River. The two routes meet at this point.

Pool on the Canowie River

From here it is under two kilometres to Corang Lagoon and the Goodsell Track that closes the loop walk and we were striding along confidently, albeit a little disappointed at having missed the rocky pools along the river, on an increasingly well defined track. At this point, the track is again some distance away from the river and if you happen to bash down to the river you will quickly realise why - the area proximal to the river is very thickly vegetated and exceedingly slow, not to mention painful, to travel through.

Overlooking the rocky section we saw only from above

Somewhere around Broula Brook as we were following a good track with paint markers on trees we came to a good sized campsite and completely and utterly lost the track. This was exactly what we wanted to avoid so we scouted very thoroughly and systematically around the last point we had the track but, apart from another arrow painted on a tree pointing toward the river, we found nothing at all.

We had map, compass and GPS but when the track is not marked on the map, none of that stuff is actually very helpful. As the track was mostly away from the river, we attempted to head away from the river to intersect the track but the bush is so dense that we were unable to maintain a consistent bearing. When we just seemed to be thrashing purposelessly through the bush, we decided instead to use the river as a handrail and follow it downstream. An admirable solution but slow as we pushed through dense scrub and flood debris.

Canowie Brook

Progress along the river was clearly going to be excruciatingly slow so I came up with the idea of taking a bearing from where we were to the Goodsell track with the idea that we would intersect it somewhere south of the river. This would mean travelling pretty much due west and would keep us out of the immediate vicinity of the river and thus in thinner bush. Doug thought this was a good idea so we set off following a compass bearing. Away from the river, travel was easier and within about 15 minutes we actually intersected the track we had lost more than an hour ago. Of course, it was very distinct and easy to follow. About 10 minutes further on we were happy to reach Corang Lagoon where the first thing we did was jump into the river to cool off.

At last a swimming hole

We had about 8 kilometres left to walk, about half on the Goodsell track and the remainder on the track we had taken that morning. Although the map shows the track leaving the Corang River and travelling south along a small drainage, the footpad is actually on a small ridge to west of the draw. This section of the walk was a bit tedious at the end of a long hot day as the track descends into and out of innumerable small drainages before intersecting the morning track. It probably took us a full hour to walk this section and only about 45 minutes to cover the final distance to the campground.

There were a few flies about

All up, including stops (two brief breaks) and losing the track (long) we were about 8.5 hours. The section of the walk from Corang Peak to Corang Lagoon is the best but also the shortest and, if you are not careful, you'll miss the best part. After a hot fly filled day, I again thought that "one does not simply walk into the Budawangs."

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Joys Of Opting Out: Wimbie Beach to Mossy Point

After an extended lay-off from sea kayaking due to injuries, a day out on the water with a couple of friends was the best Christmas present a person who opts out of Christmas could have.

Looking out from a sea cave

A few days after Christmas, I left Doug with our two kayaks at Wimbie Beach and drove south to Mossy Point to catch the local bus back. The beaches and roads were packed with locals and holiday makers as it was already about 35 Celsius by 9 am. Mike called just as I was getting on the bus, and, somewhat against his better judgement was convinced to come kayaking instead of getting chores done and drove down from Nelligen to meet us at Wimbie Beach.

Doug and Mike at the incredibly calm Burrewarra Point

Amazingly, it was raining when we left Wimbie Beach, big drops pushed along by squally winds and nearby thunderstorms. We paddled south down the coast past familiar beaches and headlands. The sky behind was dark grey and a brisk off-shore wind was blowing. We quickly passed Mosquito Bay and Pretty Point, and kayak sailed south to Jimmies Island. While the beaches were teaming with people, the ocean was, as usual, empty. Lunch was taken at Guerilla Bay while the wind dropped steadily.


Coming around Burrewarra Point the ocean was glassy with hardly any swell and we paddled our kayaks into all the little sea caves, clefts and passages that line this section of coast. The water was so clear, our kayaks seemed to be floating on glass, and the forests of kelp and seaweed swayed languidly in the gentle swell.
Seaweed Gardens

Landing at Mossy Point after our half day adventure I thought that the best days of our lives are never spent in shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, or cars. The days we remember for ever are those spent out in the wild with good friends, new and old. Opt out when ever you can, you'll never wish you hadn't.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Castle

I think I have wanted to climb The Castle in the Budawangs for at least 30 years. That was the first time we walked into Monolith Valley and scrambled around the Seven Gods Pinnacles. My Mum, who was about 60 at the time, came with us, and we camped at Cooyoyo Creek. The day we walked out we woke up to thick mist and light rain, and my Mum, who somehow thought we would be "pinned down" by the wet weather, blurted out "Who is going to feed Skip (our dog) her tea?" All these years later, Doug and I still find that statement outrageously funny, which just shows you can grow old, without growing up.

Looking to The Castle and Byangee Walls from Pigeon House

The day before we walked up Pigeon House via the standard track from the south. This short jaunt takes only a couple of hours but offers great views of The Castle, Byangee Mountain and the other peaks clustered around Monolith Valley. We camped at Long Gully and had a dip in the swimming hole on the Yadboro River as it was a hot day.

Pigeon House and Byangee Mountain

Next morning, anticipating a long hot day we got away at 6.20 am and followed the track that runs north along Kalianna Ridge. A long time ago, NSW Parks did some work on this track rerouting the final steep section that gains the base of the first layer of cliffs on The Castle, but the track along the base of The Castle is as eroded as ever. It's amazing that some of the trees hang on, but they do.
The track gradually turns to the east and begins climbing up a series of high wooden steps until, perhaps 100 metres below the pass, a junction is reached with TC (The Castle) scratched into a rock.

Byangee Walls and The Castle

Taking the right hand branch, the steep steps continue and then abruptly end just before a short steep climb leads to a narrow passage between the cliffs of Meakins Pass. Sidling (remove pack first) and crawling through this tunnel, you emerge on the east side of The Castle. There is a tatty rope hanging down that I would not trust - there are a plethora of manky ropes on this route that you should not trust - but hand and foot holds are good so it is not really necessary.

Doug squeezing through the tunnel

The route heads south along the base of the east side of The Castle, but you should drop down a little from the exit to the tunnel to pick up a good track not stay high which we did. The high route works, but involves some awkward scrambling along loose ledges. Both routes soon join and head south until a piece of tattered flagging marks the start of the climb up the second and final cliff band.

Looking down on Meakins Pass from The Castle

There are sporadic bits of flagging, arrows carved into the rock, and a reasonable foot pad to mark the route. Mostly, it is pretty obvious if only by the scuffed off lichen free rock. In places there are fixed ropes, almost all of which are very dodgy and should not be trusted. After some scrambling we emerged on the north spine of the Castle where there is a fantastic view down to the rock gendarmes along Meakins Pass.

Doug floats on droplets of eucalpytus oil

A few last scrambly bits and we emerged onto the summit plateau. Considering this is the Budawangs, the summit is surprisingly open. Flat sandstone slabs separated by scrappy bush. There are foot-pads through the bush and it is relatively easy to walk all over the summit plateau. We walked right down to the south end where the view of Byangee Walls is superb and came back via the western cliff line which offers similarly good views of the walls of Mount Owen.

That view, it's priceless

There are small tarns on the summit so you could have a delightful campsite.

After about an hour, we scrambled back down. There are two sections where a short length of rope for a handline is very helpful, but everything else can be down-climbed. We thought about walking back via Cooyoyo Creek campsite, but by the time we got down to Meakins Pass we were too hot for that and simply crawled back through the tunnel and followed the track down. The swimming hole was extra good that afternoon. Our round trip time was about 8 hours, including an hour wandering about the summit. Coming down is not much, if at all, faster than going up.   

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tollgate Islands

Until I get around to a new blog post, check out this video we made recently.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At Least Try Hard

Seems the thing lately is when you get injured at your sport, even seriously injured, you become magically grateful for the experience. I'm not sure if this more Millennial nonsense, revisionist history, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it does not work for me. My minor elbow tendinitis drives me crazy. I have taken 8 weeks off kayaking, 4 weeks off lifting weights, 8 weeks off climbing - and counting. Two months in, as I get weaker and weaker, I'm still waiting to feel the mystic appreciation of the experience.

Pulling that try hard face

If I could do it all again, I wouldn't. I'd do the tedious overhead mobility and stability work that I am grinding through now, before doing all those dead-hangs, lock-offs and pull-ups. For sure not as exciting or immediately gratifying but necessary to remaining injury free and fully functional in the long run. The only thing I do feel grateful for is that I still like trying hard.   

Look at those rolled forward shoulders, no wonder I have tendinitis

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cafe Culture

There are two things that are so ubiquitous in Australian towns and cities that you almost have to wonder if they are related: cafes and people who are overweight or obese. Visiting the local cafe permeates most things Australians do: shopping, biking, paddling, walking, sight-seeing, meeting friends, these things all seem to end, start, or be punctuated with a visit to the local cafe.

Which is great, because loneliness and social isolation are bad for individuals and communities. Sadly, eating sugar, grains and industrial seed oils is similarly detrimental to health, and there is little or nothing on the menu at the average cafe that is not a toxic combination of all three. Left to our own devices, Doug and I would probably never visit the local cafe. We don't eat grains, sugar or industrial seed oils and our budget lifestyle does not run to $5 cups of black tea on a regular basis.

SMH file photo

But I do enjoy chatting with friends after a kayak trip or bushwalk at the local cafe. It is a tradition that is not common in Canada. Our trips in Canada generally started early, finished late, and virtually never included a visit to the local cafe afterwards. On some trips I felt I barely spoke to my companions if the trip was particularly long and arduous apart from grunting "your lead," while handing over the rack. So, I do support the cafe culture that Australia has embraced, but I do wonder if indulging frequently in the sort of food cafes serve does not off-set most of the benefit of social interaction.

A bit late for local cafe

So are cafes and overweight related? I think they are. The food they offer is highly palatable but nutrient poor. It all looks good and is hard to resist but it does not deliver that mix of nutrients (primarily amino acids) that signal satiety. If you've been exercising, there is little doubt that you have over-estimated your calorie expenditure and are soon to under-estimate your calorie consumption - that's just what we all do. You simply cannot out-exercise a bad diet which is why cafes are filled with cyclists who've just ridden for hours and hours, and are still over-fat.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Being Odd: Burrewarra Point by Sea Kayak

It is over six weeks since the Bittangabee weekend, the last time I did any significant paddling, and finally my elbow felt well enough to get back in the kayak. On Friday we went down to Tuross where the usual paddle around Tuross Inlet was subverted by a "bubble and struggle" session, although half the group eschewed the dunking and paddled the regular loop. If you only ever paddle on lakes and calm rivers there probably is not much incentive to learn to eskimo roll. 
Bubble and Struggle

Afterwards, we took our 20 plus year old Feathercraft up to John's place and spent a couple of hours in the sun trying to remember how to put it together. Pretty much every stage was accompanied by a statement in the vein of "Oh yeah, this bit is a tad tricky," and a minor domestic dispute between Doug and I as to what piece we should install next. Luckily, Peter arrived before we had gone too far as he had the all important flow chart which quickly revealed that neither Doug nor I was correct about the construction order. Once the whole boat was together it did look a bit sad, not wearing it's 20 years well, with the cockpit coamings a bit crooked, the ribs askew, and the entire boat faded and no longer really waterproof. John was trying to look positive but I suspect that Mrs Wilde will be less than impressed. 

The feathercraft on a circuit of the Palua Islands

Saturday a subgroup of the usual sausage contingent left from Mossy Point for a return trip to Guerilla Bay and I went along with the idea that if my elbow got too bad, I would come back early. We had an easy exit from the bar at Mossy Point on a very high tide and then headed directly for Burrewarra Point into a light easterly wind. I found that as long as I kept my elbows in and my scapulae engaged I had no pain paddling thus blowing apart any reductionistic theories about my elbow tendonitis being an overuse injury propagated by the conventional medical establishment. 

Heading for Burrewarra Point

When I tell people I have been going to a chiropractor who sensibly takes a systems approach and has been working my strength and mobility upstream (shoulders, neck and thoracic spine) and downstream (wrists and forearms) of the problem they look at me like I have a death wish, just the way I look at them when they admit following conventional medical advice. I guess we do have something in common after all.

Morning at Mossy Point

A solo kayaker caught up with us about half an hour after leaving Mossy Point and travelled with us for most of the rest of the day. Of course, the paddler was the holder of yet another sausage. Women are severely under-represented in the Aussie sea kayaking scene. We had a short break on the beach at Guerilla Bay and then headed back. The haystacks off Burrewarra Point were quite fun to bounce around in and there was a good following sea on the way back. A better kayaker could catch solid rides all the way to Mossy Point but I was fixated on keeping my shoulders engaged not catching rides. 

Guerilla Bay

The bar at Mossy Point looked a bit terrifying from the back with big swells rising up, but Mark had safely got in so I think we all figured it couldn't be too bad. I followed John in and only had to paddle hard for about 30 seconds. Mark had got out of his boat and was dashing along the rock reef trying to secure some astonishing video footage but, of course, on playback it all looked like nothing much at all. 

Now here's a guy who knows about tupperware

We repaired to the local cafe where Doug and I had our usual black tea/coffee, and Mark, in between frothing about paddling backwards over the biggest wave of his entire sea kayaking career let slip that our tupperware lunch containers drive him insane, which, is pretty much the story of our life. Being odd. Sometimes, you've just got to embrace it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Once Again To The Nadgee: Table Ridge, Daylight Ridge, Newtons Beach

After we lost Jessie, the house seemed haunted with her spirit. The routine of my days was disrupted. My morning walks were aimless wanders through the woods. I'd turn around expecting her to be behind me, but she wasn't. Riding home from town, I'd look up at the house, wondering if she had seen me and would be waiting on the water tank to greet me, but the driveway was always empty. Evenings, the "sock" stayed in the cupboard - no one wanted to play tug a war. As always, we went to the woods for solace

Sign at Harry's Hut

I wanted to go the Budawangs, but, four years later, Doug still has not forgotten our minor epic there, and, as the forecast was a bit mixed, we settled on a walk in the Nadgee where the forecast was significantly drier. In early 2013, only a couple of months after the Budawang incident, Doug and I walked from Wonboyn to Mallacoota through the Nadgee Nature Reserve. It was a wonderful trip taking us through dry eucalypt forest, wet rainforest, dense coastal heath, and finally along a wild and lonely beach. 

 On the moors near Mount Nadgee

Merrica River Crossing was familiar, although this time we drove into the Nadgee rather than walked. The reserve was, as often seems the case, deserted. We headed out on the main fire trail, but, instead of turning south down to Newtons Beach, we continued along past Tumbledown Mountain to Table Ridge. Table Ridge undulates up and down eventually climbing to almost 500 metres near Mount Nadgee. After a couple of hours walking through eucalpyt forest, the trail emerges into drier heath land and a view of Gabo Island to the south east, and Mount Nadgee to the west. There was a tremendous number and variety of wildflowers along the way. 

Wildflowers everywhere

Past Mount Nadgee, the trail turns and follows Daylight Ridge down into increasingly wet and lush forest to the dark tannin stained waters of the Nadgee River. A big log provides easy access to Harry's Hut on the south side of the Nadgee River. It's a quiet and secluded spot, but popular with mosquitoes, midges, and red bellied black snakes. Doug bravely took a dip in the river, while I gingerly avoided the sleeping black snake to get water for tea. The evening passed quietly, enlivened only when the black snake woke up, slithered under the door of the hut and went inside, right when Doug wanted to go in to read. I took refuge from the bugs in the tent, while Doug carefully crept into the hut making sure the black snake was not curled over the door frame waiting to drop on him. 

Well fed on the rodents that live in Harry's Hut

It rained overnight, and a drizzly mist was falling in the morning, the woods shrouded in wraiths of fog. In full rain gear, we followed an overgrown track out to join the main Wilderness Coast route near Impressa Moor. The track through the moor is getting increasingly overgrown and we were soaked through by the time we emerged on to the lonely beach near Little Creek. This is where we camped the first night on our last trip and it is beautiful as ever with a small lagoon behind the beach and a tiny steep sand spit wedged between rocky headlands.

Newtons Beach

The weather dried out as we walked through the forest and took a side track out to the south end of Newtons Beach. Walking out on to Newtons Beach was a classic Nadgee moment: dingo tracks ran along the beach sand, the hills behind the coast were shrouded in clouds, dark green woods backed the beach, the ocean was clear, and the only sound was the crash of the waves onto the beach. We had that delicious feeling of complete isolation that comes when you are privileged enough to enter a wilderness. We made tea at the north end of the beach on some sandstone rock platforms, then reluctantly re-entered the forest, hiked back up to Tumbledown Mountain and back to "real" life where a sociopath had become the most powerful man in the world

Crossing the Nadgee River on a huge tree trunk

Thursday, November 10, 2016


In the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, half of all Americans and most of the rest of the world - with the possible exception of Russia - is waking up to its morning coffee with the equivalent of a gigantic hang-over, head in hands, thinking WTF. Millennials, the generation who are either the best or the worst in history, depending on who you believe, have been quick to point the finger at the Boomer generation, who, according to Millennials are responsible for the just about everything that is currently wrong with the world from global warming to the rise of terrorism. It's an argument that is strangely reminiscent of most of Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric which somehow managed to find blame for all the problems experienced by the US squarely on someone else's shoulders. 


Stereotypes are troublesome things. We all want to be judged based on who we are and what we have achieved not on our inclusion in some demographic sector, and yet, stereotypes often contain just enough kernel of truth at their very heart to convince us of their legitimacy. Millennials are not all lazy, narcissistic, technology addicts, nor are all Boomers consumer driven anti-science pillagers of the environment. The irony of the new Trump presidency however, is that had Millennials actually voted, there would, for the first time in history, be a female in the White House, not just another old rich white guy adept at evading taxes. A nation historically divided along gender, racial and religious lines, is now divided by age. WTF, indeed. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Run Like The Wind Jessie, Run Like The Wind

Dogs, those furry four legged humans that worm their way into your heart through a tiny space in your ribs. Their joy fills your heart until suddenly they leave, and a big hole you never knew you had opens up behind them. You wonder, "how long has that space been there?" and realize just the short time that I knew you. Now you are gone but that hole will always be there. 
Jessie, with your one blue and one brown eye, you chased sticks enthusiastically but never knew you were supposed to bring them back, so I threw them, fetched them from you and threw them again. We swam in the river as the tide sucked in and out. You dug holes in the sand, while I rolled my kayak. Every so often, you'd swim out to me to check I was OK, then back you went to digging and sniffing, and looking for sticks.

When you crouched down I knew it was time to run like the wind. "Run like the wind," I'd say as I chased you, and you ran, with a broad smile upon your face, but never like the wind. You were 13 years old and your days of running like the wind were gone. But we didn't care. We were running like the wind.

Now the north wind blows, and you crouch down, spring, and run, on and on, like the wind. Run like the wind, Jessie, run like the wind. 


Monday, October 31, 2016

Deep Creek Dam Single Track

On Sunday I went out to explore the single track around Deep Creek Dam near the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens. It was not near as exciting as the previous days sea kayak trip from Bawley Point to Maloneys Beach - which turned out to be a sausage trip because my tendinitis prevented me from going. By all accounts, this was one of the best paddles of the year with breaching humpback whales, rafts of hundreds of shearwaters, cruisy conditions for the first half of the trip followed by white knuckled sailing on the second half; in fact, the superlatives used to describe the trip afterward outnumbered racists at a Donald Trump rally. 

Deep Creek Dam

I'd been told about a new single track trail around Deep Creek Dam by the local bicycling contingent and knew that the track originated somewhere near the Botanic Gardens, so I started there. Walking along the outlying tracks at the Botanic Gardens I had to backtrack a couple of times when I deviated down smaller tracks thinking they might be the single track only to find they abruptly ended. The smarter thing would have been to walk straight out to Deep Creek Dam, or even park at the end of Deep Creek Dam Road where there are bicycle gates (but no trail map). 

Trail Map

After various side tracks, however, I arrived at Deep Creek Dam but on the wrong side of the fence to access the track - hence the recommendation to start at Deep Creek Dam Road. In my best MovNat style I vaulted the fence and immediately got on the single track. 

Redefining garbage on the tracks

There is a ring of fire trails around Deep Creek Dam, about 60 metres above the dam and the track basically follows these keeping 10 to 20 metres below. About a third of the way around I realized I had missed Mogo Trig, and bushwacked up to Dog Trap Road and got on Mogo Trig Road. I can confirm there is a trig and absolutely no view. Where Dog Trap Road joins a more major forest road that originates in Malua Bay, I came upon a trail map which was handy.

Trig but no view

Around at the north end of Deep Creek Dam I took the powerline track which goes steeply up and down into a couple of gullies until I intersected the old road the mountain bikes use and popped out at Deep Creek Dam where a friendly fellow I had met biking the track offered me a cup of tea. From there it was an easy sidle back to the Botanic Gardens.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

All Kayakers Are Merely Between Swims

The story of the man, the kayak, and the crocodile is lore in Australian sea kayaking and Doug and I were keen to meet the man and the kayak, but not so much the crocodile. Meeting up with David Winkworth at Bittangabee Bay near Eden for the annual sea kayak whale watching weekend in early October, encounters with big lizards seemed unlikely. The late September blustery weather was continuing on into October, a month which local sea kayakers say can be "dodgy for kayaking" but Doug and I headed down to Eden hopeful of a couple of days good kayaking and company. 

Disaster Bay

As we had a dog with us, we were unable to stay in the lovely campground at Bittangabee Bay which looks out towards Green Cape over impressive sandstone cliffs but stayed instead in Eden driving out to Bittangabee each day. We drove down from Moruya on Thursday and, in the afternoon, we carried the kayaks all of five metres to Shadrachs Creek and paddled out into Quarantine Bay. A north wind was forecast so, of course, we paddled north around Lookout Point and Eagle Claw Nature Reserve to the south end of Aslings Beach. Although this section of coast is developed, there are a lot of big sea caves to explore. 

Big sea cave near Lookout Point

On Friday we drove out to Bittangabee and spent the day climbing some short trad routes on the cliffs north of Bittangabee Bay. The routes are short but good quality and the location - on a wide rock platform just above the ocean - is spectacular. We saw a few whales and also a few kayakers who had arrived early for the weekend. Apparently, there was an inadvertent swimming incident when a kayaker capsized in a rock garden and was unable to roll, proving what Terry later said "all kayakers are simply between swims." Before we drove back to Eden we met David who is a giant of a man and looks completely capable of grappling with a dozen crocodiles. 

Oman Point

We got back out to Bittangabee before 8 am on Saturday morning but were too late to catch Wildey and the A team who had already headed south to Green Cape. There was another swimmer in a rock garden, capably rescued by Wildey, before the group returned to Bittangabee later in the morning. Doug and I got signed up with the B team who were also heading to Green Cape under the leadership of Graeme. 

Heading south to Green Cape

After a briefing on the beach, the pod launched from the sand of Bittangabee Bay and paddled out to the headland and turned south. This was a good sized group of 11 kayakers but surprisingly well behaved as no-one wandered away from the pod despite the tantalising rock gardens along this section of coast. We were protected from much of the swell and wind by Green Cape so it was an easy paddle with lots of opportunity to chat. The coast is beautiful here with steep cliffs fringing the shore all the way to Green Cape and the lighthouse. We stopped just north of Green Cape where a line of breakers was stretching far out to sea. Whales were breaching just off the Cape and on the paddle back to Bittangabee Bay a curious seal followed along behind us. 

The lighthouse at Green Cape

A gale warning was forecast for Sunday and, although I thought that these guys paddled in all conditions, apparently they don't. By 8 am, when we arrived at Bittangabee, the sea was a seething mass of waves and white-caps. Some people went home early but the rest broke into small groups and went down to Bittangabee Bay to practice rescues. Everything I've learnt about kayak rescues has come from books and videos, a lot of which never made sense to me, so it was great to have an instructor actually teaching us in person. Doug and I ran through various scenarios all of which involved getting extremely wet and finally a bit chilled. After a couple of hours we repaired to the campground, a smoky fire, and hot tea. 

 Terry paddling the Maelstrom by Bugga

It was the end of the trip for Doug and I as an incipient case of tendinitis in my elbows flared up and I could not paddle any more. Three weeks later I'm still not paddling, but I am happily remembering the Bittangabee Bay days, the best part of which was meeting a wonderful group of kayakers, some new to the sport, some with a few decades experience, but all of whom share a passion for the wild earth and the even wilder ocean. 

 The pod paddling to Green Cape