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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wimbie to Oaky Beach and the Tollgates

There was talk of a weekend camp/paddle but an iffy forecast on Sunday meant that instead we settled on a day paddle on Saturday. Only a day or two before the Batemans Bay wave height had been up to 6 metres but fell surprisingly quickly. Sometimes that happens, and sometimes it does not. 

The Dart surges ahead

We met at Wimbie Beach and headed out to the Tollgate Islands. Mark and I managed to get separated from the other three and Mark had to endure my rant about my Mum's recent medical malpractice adventure. It was lumpy on the east side of the Tollgate Islands with a lot of current. We continued on to North Head Beach where Neil wanted to land. It was easy to land, probably the easiest spot today, and we had lunch there. 

East side Tollgate Islands

I thought it was far too early to go back as we would have a tail-wind on the return trip so we continued on around North Head - lumpy - to Oaky Beach. Mark was miles out to sea and straight-lining for New Zealand and we all deafened ourselves blowing our whistles to get his attention. I was too slow to get far enough in to Oaky Beach to see how it would be to land but it looked like quite a shore dump. 

Mike passing the Tollgate Islands

Once we got back around North Head, the sails went up. I took the top off my sail but should have left it on as the wind was not as strong as I thought. Both mine and Doug sails were cavitating a lot which was annoying. Mike was trying to teach me to catch the wind waves but every time I speeded up the kayak, the sail cavitated dreadfully and my boat felt like it was getting shaken by a large shark, so the lesson was not a great success.

Kayaks and ocean, all you really need in life

Back at the beach, I took the Dart for a spin and found it quite comfortable to sit in, except I could not use the pegs or braces. The boat feels strangely stiff compared to a plastic boat and catches waves exceptionally easily.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Durras to Clear Point Around Point Upright

Here are a two things you need to know about Durras. First, say Duhhras with a long Australian drawl, not Dewrass. Telling the locals you are going to Dewrass will provoke gales of unstoppable laughter. Secondly, if you plan to walk the beach from Duhhras South to Duhhras North, prepare to swim the outflowing channel from Durras Lake. 

Point Upright rock platform

A couple of hours before low tide, Doug and I strolled north along Durras Beach confident that we would be on the rock platforms around Point Upright while the tide was still falling. After about 40 minutes, we got to the outflow of Durras Lake to find a deep swift moving channel running out to sea. I stripped to the waist and tried to cross the channel right where it meets the surf holding my pack over my head, but the water was too deep to cross without committing to a swim and we had no dry bag for our packs. A look at the map, confirmed what we both knew to be true, there is no bridge, so we scurried back down the beach and drove out to the highway and north to Durras North.

Grasshopper Island off Point Upright

We found somewhere to park that was not in the National Park (who carries $8 in 5 cent coins to insert into park ticket machines?) and took a track down to the beach on the north side of the channel. A quick walk north along the beach and we were on the rocks heading around Point Upright. The next two kilometres to Depot Beach is some of the best rock platform walking you'll find anywhere. A broad flat rock platform, accessible only at low tide, butts up against steep cliffs capped by sandstone roofs. There are deep sea caves and huge boulders. In some sections, the platform feels wide and spacious, in others, the waves are almost against the cliff walls and you have to hurry by between waves. 

Caves and cliffs

Depot Beach is a small bay of sand between rock platforms and continuing north you cross another broad rock platform and then walk along a pebbly beach to reach sandy Pebbly Beach. We had planned to turn back at Pebbly Beach but there were more rock platforms north of Pebbly Beach so we continued around the next headland north, across the head of a rocky bay, and then along more rock platform until we were almost at Clear Point. 

South along Point Upright

Heading back south, we followed the Durras Mountain track back to Pebbly Beach and then spent half an hour going up and down between between the streets of Depot Beach and various forest tracks until we found the track that heads back over Point Upright headland to Durras North. Hint, find the track at the top of Carr Street. A steady climb uphill through Spotted Gum forest leads over the Murramarang Range and then steeply down to Durras North.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Walking Mystery Bay to Narooma

One of the nicest short segments of coast to paddle south of Batemans Bay is from Narooma to Mystery Bay. There is only one section of long beach, the rest is rocky islets and coves, sea caves and tunnels, and tiny pocket beaches tucked between headlands. While I've paddled this stretch a few times, I've never walked it. Much of the coastline is in the Eurobodalla National Park, but some sections are private and some of the coast is inaccessible by foot even at low tide. I had found some information on-line that suggested that walking from Narooma Beach, just south of the golf course, to Mystery Bay was passable entirely along the coast. Turns out walking from Narooma Beach to Mystery Bay is not exactly that simple.

One of many sea caves near Mystery Bay

I dropped Doug at Narooma Beach and drove south to Mystery Bay. I had a large drybag to enable a wet crossing of the channel draining Corunna Lake and hoped to meet Doug half-way to pass off this necessary piece of gear. Starting from Mystery Bay, I wandered through the campground - much larger than it appears from a kayak. There is no single foot track through the campground, you have to walk along the various roads that give access to campsites. At a couple of places, side tracks lead out to the cliffs, the most prominent of these goes to "whale watchers point" where there is a life buoy and a grand view out to Montague Island as well as up and down the coast. If you walk north a short distance along rocks you can stand above the slot which cleaves off a tiny square island and look down into where we had paddled a few weeks before. 

 At high tide you can paddle right through this arch

At the north end of the campground, Eurobodalla National Park starts and a wide mowed track leads north to Corunna Point past another couple of lookouts. The channel from Corunna Lake was rapidly running in, but was only about hip deep so I did not need the dry bag to wade across. Between Loader and Fuller Beaches there is a small headland which is impassable at high tide. It was easy to bush-bash around through open forest and slither down a wombat track on the north side. 

Looking north from Bogota Head

I met up with Doug coming south of Bogota Head. His morning had been somewhat more convoluted than mine as he had been chased off the beach by aggressive dogs near Glasshouse Rocks and had been forced into a lengthy detour inland. The dogs came out of the "cottage" just above the beach which sold a year or two ago for almost $8 Million. Ideally council would negotiate some right of way here as this is the only section of coastline (once past the golf course) that is not publicly accessible. At low tide, you may be able to skirt around on the beach, but that also depends on whether or not the marauding dogs reappear and try to chew your leg off. 

Rocky cove at Barunga Point

After exchanging information with Doug, I continued north where there is public access on a rough track around Bogota Head as this sliver of coast is part of Eurobodalla N.P. I had lunch on a little beach tucked in between the rocks before continuing along the right of way to Barunga Point. The outflow from Nandudga Lake was dry when I passed (Doug had waded it a few hours before) and I strolled up Handkerchief Beach and then out to the highway to wait for Doug to pick me up.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Bouldering and Better Than Nothing

If you looked at my blog you would think all I had done for the last three weeks was scroll through Instagram selfies and watch bouldering videos. And, while I have watched some bouldering videos (I have kind of a girl crush on Alex Puccio), my loathing for social media has not changed all that much. Mostly, my blog has been dead because I've been out doing stuff and don't seem to have had a sufficiently long space of time to write anything up. 

Tidal river in the bush below my Mum's house

So, I looked back at our trip database - what, you don't have a trip database - get one immediately, if only for the "this day in history" nostalgia you can indulge in - and looked at all the things I had been doing. Most of them are short little mini-adventure trips that I'll group together in the next couple of blog posts. 

Doug on one of the Shire crags

Fairly recently, I spent about 10 days in Sydney rescuing my Mum from a wacky medical system where life-style illnesses are treated piecemeal with various medications and no actual life-style change. Yeah, roll that around in your head for a while. Science has worked out how to send people into space but our brightest doctors still prescribe one or more medications for each symptom of a single life-style induced condition instead of just changing the circumstances that produced the symptoms in the first place. Frankly, if you get out of the medical system in just slightly worse condition than you went in, you are doing extraordinarily well.

Jannali bouldering: Puccio would make short work of this

Anyway, while I was in Sydney, between wrangling with medical professionals, I went bouldering. My Mum lives in the Shire, not the one from the well known Tolkien series, but the Sutherland Shire and there is a lot of climbing and bouldering in the Shire. No big walls, just lots of little sandstone cliffs scattered all over the place, many within easy walking distance of where my Mum lives. Most days I would get out for an hour or so of bouldering which was terrific fun and probably where my girl crush on Puccio started. 

A problem real boulderers would not bother with

On a similar theme, I finished up work on what I call, Bogan Wall. It's a small granite area nearby named after the three or four wrecked cars at the base. It's not Puccio style, being slabby rather than powerful, but it is within walking distance and it is climbing, and I call that better than nothing.