Monday, May 30, 2016

Around Snapper Island

None of the regulars were paddling despite it being a sunny weekend. Doug and I, however, were still keen and decided to paddle out from Corrigans Beach for some rock gardening. The marine forecast was a bit messy, a moderate swell with a mixed sea on top, and windy conditions but in Batemans Bay you can always find somewhere to paddle. Just as we were launching a large group of other kayakers arrived from Jervis Bay Kayaking Company. The guides and kayakers were very friendly and it's always awesome to see other people out paddling. 

I caught a couple of easy waves off the beach while I waited for Doug, just big enough to wet my spray deck and trickle cold water down onto my legs and seat. We could see a decent sized wave breaking over at the entrance to the Clyde River so we paddled over there to try surfing. Everything was kind of arse around, however, as, instead of a series of regular sized waves interspersed with 3 or 4 larger waves, there were much more larger waves interspersed with smaller waves. 

Around Snapper Island

As usual, Doug spent some time getting a feel for the waves whereas I jumped straight in, but, on one of the smaller waves. This didn't work all that well as I caught a bit of a ride but fell off the back just in the spot where the bigger waves were cresting and threatening to break. Some evasive action was required to avoid getting smacked down. This happened three or four times and resulted in some desperate paddling to avoid having a large wave crash on my head. Pretty soon, both Doug and I decided it was too chilly for possibly taking a swim at the beginning of our paddle day and decided to head off to Snapper Island.

Both Snapper Island and the little island nearby have plenty of rock gardening opportunities. We had a great time weaving in and out of gulches and gauntlets timing everything with the swells. Next we wandered over to Observation Head and paddled some more passages and finally off to the little rocky islet off the north headland of Sunshine Bay. There is a really good gauntlet here which you enter then make a 90 degree turn to paddle along a passage and exit out into the swell again. The first time I went through all was well as I waited for some smaller swells to paddle through. The second time I was rushing through before the bigger sets arrived and got caught near the exit by some larger waves. My kayak got washed up the rocks in a surge and I was pretty sure that I was going to get banged about in a nasty capsize, but somehow I managed to push off the rocks, drop down into a hole, brace in the hole, draw-stroke out, and finally paddle desperately forward before I got wacked into the rocks again. Doug, as usual, was watching this and wondering what would happen next. He was probably equally surprised when I exited safely. 

In some of the protected rocks

I was starting to feel like the archetypal avalanche victim who pushes further and further out on to a ski slope with each run until they eventually get caught in an avalanche, only in my case, I was going to get caught in a rock garden. We played around in a few more easy gardens before heading back to Corrigans Beach for lunch. Of course, we should have practiced eskimo rolling but the chill water and air was a major and definitive deterrent.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Strange Day On Mount Gulaga

Captain Cook called this old volcano situated near present day Tilba Tilba Mount Dromedary as it has two humps easily visible from the sea, but, to the indigenous people, the mountain is Gulaga. Back in the late 1800's, gold was mined on the slopes and, common with mining practices up to the present day, the rainforest was cleared and streams polluted. Tilba Tilba is now a sleepy little town surrounded by lush green farms and the National Park is managed jointly with the indigenous Yuin people. The track from Tilba Tilba to the summit actually goes to the slightly lower (797 metres versus 806 metres) southeast summit and uses old gold mining tracks. 

When I drove into the small parking area at Tilba Tilba, a young woman seated by the track sign waved enthusiastically at me. I had no idea who she was but returned her wave, albeit with somewhat less gusto. Immediately I parked the car, a young man in shorts, a tee-shirt,but with nothing else at all, also pulled in, parked and strode off with the young woman. Meanwhile I dragged my overstuffed pack from the car, wedged in a few more items, and also began to walk up the track. I had thought about bringing just a litre of water and a light jacket, but then the old mountaineer in me had re-emerged and I threw in a pair of gloves, some long underwear, a puffy jacket, a sun hat and beanie, a pair of shorts, some dried salami, a bag of nuts, a first-aid kit, raincoat, and, finally the litre of water. The problem with being an old mountaineer is there is just no end to the nasty things you can imagine happening while out in the wilds.

The first kilometre follows a gravel road past a series of small farms and properties. Ahead of me the young couple was rapidly disappearing from sight and I fought that instinctive desire to speed up to match their pace, or preferably overtake them. This social instinct is hard-wired in all of us, and is frequently the cause for much annoying jostling on narrow tracks. By the time I had got to the National Park gate they had disappeared from view. 


I'd read a few trip reports that described the track as hideously steep requiring multiple rest stops. It's not and it doesn't. Instead it is a steady gradual climb up through second growth eucalpytus forest. There is little in the way of views, although there is one spot where you can see Wallaga Lake and Bermagui. After about 1.5 hours, I reached the saddle where an access road comes in from the north. There is a toilet, a picnic bench and some interpretive signage. The young couple were having a short rest, but, social instincts kicked in quickly and as soon as I had finished perusing the interpretive signs they were off walking briskly along the track. The main track wraps around the south side of the peak before heading uphill to the summit through some old growth rainforest, but, a steeper short cut track heads off about 300 metres from the saddle and allows a circuit of the summit. 

The short-cut track is very faint, unsigned, and is reached about 5 minutes after leaving the saddle. I encountered the young couple again deliberating at the track junction. When I said I was going up the steep track and down the main marked track they decided to do the same. Initially, they were right on my heels, but, the higher I got the further behind they lagged, even when I had to backtrack because I had lost the track momentarily (it is very faint). I, of course, was feeling good now, as, not only had I overtaken them but I had left them far behind. No doubt they, particularly the young man, were now suffering from social angst that I was faster than them. Such is the power of social instinct. I actually was a wee bit concerned that they would lose the track so I called down to them a couple of times to make sure they were still coming up the right way. The summit is only about 100 metres higher from where you leave the main track so it does not take long to reach the trig station. 

The best view from the track

There really is very little view from the top, but I sat down, had a drink and chewed on a bit of salami as I had not had breakfast. The young man wanted to know exactly how long it had taken me to reach the top and they were off down before me. Of course, this put me in that awkward situation where I had to either linger long enough for them to get well ahead of me, or catch them again on the way down thus rendering another blow to their egos. I didn't want to linger so I started off and very soon passed both of them again. This, of course, spurred the young man to speed up again behind me and I had a passing vision of that annoying track jostle playing out for the next several kilometres. 

I, however, wanted to check out an old track marked on the map which led out to the higher northwest summit so I spent about 15 minutes bashing along what might have been a very overgrown road or might have been nothing, searching for this track. A note to other people looking for this track, the rainforest track is not shown correctly on the current topographic map. Although this was ultimately unsuccessful, it did allow the couple enough time to escape beyond my orbit. 

 Granite tors

Once back on the rainforest track, I spent a little time wandering around the granite tors just off the main track before starting a rapid downhill trot to my car. Between the start of the track and the saddle I must have passed at least 50 people hiking up the track. All except the Batemans Bay bushwalking group who were notable in being as well equipped as I was, were in various states of distress. The lower I got the more distressed people looked. 

Coming down one section of track I was quite confronted to see ahead of me a middle aged guy taking a piss with his wife standing by - right in the middle of the track - which, given the hordes of people passing by was analogous to standing on the corner of Pitt and King Street in Sydney taking a slash. My downhill progress was rapid and could not be halted that quickly, so I was upon the couple before they had even woken up to my presence. His wife tried to block my view and the guy shuffled around while I averted my eyes. With any luck he pissed on his own shoes which would serve him right for standing in the middle of the track with his tackle hanging out. 

Luckily, I had no more obscene encounters, and got back to my car three hours after starting out. The young couple had disappeared, probably into the local pie shop.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Surfside Beach to Archeron Ledge

It was another inauspicious start to the Eurobodalla kayak paddle from Surfside Beach in Batemans Bay, the 30 cm swell was causing havoc for one hapless kayaker who had somehow managed to capsize three times trying to egress from the beach. Eventually, after being dragged out to deeper water by the "beach master" B finally escaped the pounding surf and joined the rest of us on the glassily calm water. 

The destination for today was Archeron Ledge beach, unnamed on the topographic map but situated just east of Maloneys Beach. Doug and I headed over to Square Head where there are some fun rock gardens to play in, while the others were straight-lining for Archeron Ledge beach. Doug and I wove in and out of some easy rock gardens, then paddled into the narrow slot that Mr Honey calls "the pool". I almost got washed side ways up a rock platform but my new shorter paddle made it much easier to do draw strokes and pull myself off. We popped out at the far northern end into a half metre swell and A saying "I feel like a coward now," as he had not paddled in. 

Heading for Archeron Ledge

The swell was rapidly dropping as we headed east and by the time we landed at Archeron Ledge there was not much left. For some reason, perhaps they thought it was more sheltered, the group landed at the far eastern end in the shade instead of down the west end of the beach in the sun. I was wet from taking a couple of waves chest on and it felt quite cold. B had capsized again coming into the beach and must now have been thoroughly wet and chilled. Doug tried to give him some tips for getting off the beach - just simple ones like "paddle, don't just sit there," but B was having none of it and J had to walk him out into waist deep water off the beach again. I doubt I would be so patient with someone who obviously needed some instruction but refused to accept any. 

We tried to hit "the pool" again on the way back but the tide had dropped too much and it was impassable so we had to back out again. A, Doug and I paddled into Cullendulla Beach to practice some eskimo rolls. My rolls did not feel as smooth as they did a couple of weeks ago but I was still getting up consistently and did not have to bail out. The air and water is getting colder and spending much time practicing is taking more mental energy. By the time we got back to Surfside Beach even the larger swells were not big enough to ride in.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Kayak Spearing: Maloneys Beach to Mossy Point Via The Tollgate Islands and Black Rock

Due to various commitments, I was unable to make the last two weekend paddles, although Doug managed to join the boys for an overnight trip from Bawley Point to Wimbie Beach which involved a pleasant night's camping at Snake Bay and a minor tangle with the rock walls in the Blue Cave on North Tollgate Island proving that no sea kayak trip can ever be incident free. 

Under the gum trees down by the river at Thompsons Point

Doug and I had a fantastic week clipping ring bolts at Thompsons Point and off the Braidwood Road enjoying fabulous autumn weather and crowd-free (people free) climbs before coming back to Moruya in time for Saturday's paddle from Maloneys Beach to Mossy Point. It was another one of those weekends that are supposed to be a bit windy but turn out glassily calm. 

The age of the electronic guidebook at
New Nowra

At first glance this promised to be a rather long day due to the car shuttle involved, but various partners of kayakers were pressed into service ferrying cars about and we ended up in the very cushy position of only having to drive to Maloneys Beach once and having our car waiting for us at the end of the day at Mossy Point. 

 Some kind of mine is longer than yours competition

Apart from P getting drug tested on the drive between Mossy Point and Maloneys Beach - do older bearded men wearing (spray) skirts really profile as ice users? - the car shuttle was rapidly dispatched and only ten minutes after our scheduled departure time we were all on the water and heading out to the Tollgate Islands. 

 Near the Tollgate Islands

I, of course, was at the back of the line, as the lads sped away on the five kilometre crossing to the Tollgates. With a swell up to two metres running, no one seemed inclined to approach the Blue Cave and we paddled past heading for Black Rock another three kilometres south. Last time I had paddled to Black Rock we stayed on the sheltered western side as my companions were a wee bit anxious, so this time I wanted to paddle around this tiny island. It didn't take long to convince the lads to add this extra bit of paddling so around we went before heading into Mosquito Bay for the ubiquitous Aussie bakery stop. If pie eating (or even grain eating) is required for becoming an Australian citizen, Doug is in trouble. 

 Heading around Black Rock

PL joined us at Mosquito Bay so we were seven as we headed south and a light northeasterly wind came up. I had my sail up and down all the way to Burrewarra Point and occasionally got within a few hundred metres of everyone else. PL, of course, was in and out of half a dozen gauntlets sometimes luring other paddlers in with him. We paddled inside Jimmies Island which I have not done before and had an easy passage past Burrewarra Point. 

At Mossy Point

After that it was pretty much a straight-line for Mossy Point where a small wave was crowded with surfers and SUP'ers. MS was exceedingly gentlemanly and waited for me to paddle into the channel at Mossy Point perhaps fearing that as the lone female I might somehow go astray in the final stages of the paddle. The day was almost over and incident free until, in a tussle over a wave, M managed to pitch-pole down a steep wave straight into the side of P's Mirage driving a hole through the fibreglass and almost making P an involuntary kidney donor. The final, and most spectacular scene came when M's five metre long white kayak flew vertically out of the water in a maneuver reminiscent of a great white shark feasting on a seal. 

Celebrating the demise of another Mirage

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Potato Point To Mystery Bay By Sea Kayak

One of the kayak lads suggested paddling from Potato Point to Mystery Bay over the weekend. Apparently, this isn't a big ticket paddle like the Nadgee or even the coast south of Tathra but, I had only paddled a short section - from Bogota Head to Mystery Bay when we went out to Montague Island - so I was keen. Apart from Mark, who pulled the trip together, there was me and Mike from Nelligen who seemed to be a veteran of many sea kayak adventures. I knew both the lads would be in their light home-made boats while I would plug along in the heavy Prijon, hopefully not too far behind. Optimistically, I packed the sail.

We were supposed to meet "in the park" at 9 am, but I had no idea where the park was. Potato Point, however, is not a large metropolis so I figured I would work it out. Luckily, as I was driving south I saw Mark's car in Bodalla so I pulled off on the Potato Point Road to follow him into Potato Point. We drove down a dirt road, through the park, to a pull-out behind Potato Point Beach. The beach looked easy to launch from with the type of surf you read about in kayak books but never actually see. A wide swash zone where you could hang out waiting for the smaller swells to paddle out. 

The lads heading out from Potato Point Beach

But, of course, we still needed to find Mike. Back we went to the park, where upon Mike went whizzing past. So, off we went, catching up with Mike as he was turning about to catch up with us, and we found our way to the boat ramp. I've been to this boat ramp a couple of times before and it always looks like a worse place to launch than the beach so we went back along the dirt track to the first pull-out.

It was a bit embarrassing hefting my heavy boat off the roof compared to their featherweight jobbies, especially as I proceeded to fill mine with all manner of kit. After the boats were carried to the beach, Mike and Mark set off to Mystery Bay to leave a car for the return trip. They optimistically announced they would be back in half an hour, but I had done the Google maps thing the night before and knew it would take an hour.

On the beach, I faffed around and then spent the time stretching. The sun was beating down and, despite a forecast 10 to 15 knot wind, there was nothing at all. It felt like north Queensland. Just as I was beginning to develop heat stroke, the lads came back and we moved the boats down the beach to launch. Usually, I just plunge out and end up getting smacked in the face by a few waves. This time, I waited patiently for the smaller swells and then paddled easily out. The lads took the face smacking approach. I saw the underside of Mike's boat early on but he rolled up very quickly. 

Looking back at Mike from my brief lead

I knew I would be the drogue on this trip so my tactic was to straight line the entire coastline to minimise the waiting the other two would have to do. Once you pass Potato Point and Jemisons Point there is the long straight Brou Beach at the south end of which is Dalmeny. There are some nice rocky coves around Dalmeny but I just kept paddling straight south past them all while Mark and Mike wandered closer in. Occasionally, I would put my sail up just in case there was a tiny bit of wind that might make me a bit faster but it just sagged in sun.

When we got past Kianga, the lads started looking for somewhere to land but nothing really obvious appeared until the breakwater at Narooma which was easily navigated on a rising tide. I guzzled the 750 ml of water I had brought and wondered why I had not brought more. It was frightfully hot out on the calm sea with no wind. A stout fellow from Orange ambled down the beach and engaged Mark in a long and detailed conversation about sea kayaking. Eventually, we extricated ourselves and with our new friend waving madly, paddled back out to sea. 

Impressive thunderheads

Narooma to Mystery Bay is the most interesting part of this trip but I saw little of it as I continued with my straight line policy. Looking towards land I would see Mark and Mike weaving in and out among rocks and little islands. It all looked like great fun but it would have made me even slower. As we neared Mystery Bay, some big thunderheads starting building out from the hills behind the coast making for very scenic conditions and my straight line policy finally bore some fruit as I got ahead of the lads for the first time all day. I was congratulating myself on sticking resolutely to my plan when I heard the faint trill of a whistle. It seems I was overshooting where the car was parked and I had to turn around and come back thus loosing my hard earned lead.

We had a swim off the beach which actually felt great on achy muscles and then embarked on a forty minute exercise in loading three kayaks on to a roof rack designed for two. Strangely, a feisty red pair of men's underwear seemed to feature frequently in this endeavour. Eventually the kayaks were wrestled into submission, stray underwear was stowed away and we were on the road back to Potato Point.