Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunday Paddles - Moruya River and Bar

Yes, there was a Sunday paddle.  No write up this week, just a short video.  

Two Paddles Down The Tuross River

The first east coast low of winter 2020 was a fizzler on the south coast. Although the combined sea and swell height peaked at 11 metres, there was little rain, so, although there had been talk among the south coast paddlers of doing a run down the Tuross River, 30 mm of rain was not enough to move the river height gauge significantly.

The second east coast low of the season however, was different. In two days, we got 285 mm of rain and the Tuross River peaked at around 8 metres. There was more talk of paddling the Tuross River.

A day after the river peaked, five of us put in at the Comerang Bridge, or I should say on the Comerang Bridge which at this river height was about 2 metres below us, and paddled swiftly and easily downstream to Lavender Bay in Tuross Lake. The lads had a fun time paddling up to the picnic tables at the cafe - obeying social distancing signs - to order coffee.

A couple of days later we went further up the Tuross River and put in at Wattlegrove and paddled white water boats down to the Tyrone Bridge. There were some grade 1+ rapids and a little bit of manoeuvring required around big islands of trees in the river. I was a bit worried about sweepers and strainers but the water was not very pushy and only one small tree was partially across the river.

A couple of fun local adventures made possible by a big rain event.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Saturday Is The New Sunday: Tollgate Islands And The Murramurang Coast

In a break with my tradition, I moved the Sunday paddle to Saturday as an east coast low was forecast for the beginning of the last week of July. The forecast was benign with light winds and no rain until late in the day. The swell, however, was a bit more than forecast (forecast under a metre, actual about 1.3 metres) and the period was still over 10 seconds. Nevertheless, we would try the cave tour.

First stop was the Tollgate Islands. It was not a blue cave day, but it was Adrian's first paddle out to the Tollgates, so we pottered around in the rocky bays. Then we sped straight across to North Head, and began paddling slowly up the coast, slipping in behind rocks and through gauntlets when possible.

I was hopeful of getting into the most southerly cave which faces north and has a sheltering reef, but a big bommie at the entrance to the gutter was breaking frequently. Next stop, was a hidden little beach which garners partial shelter from a rock islet to the east. There are two ways to enter and land, one involves threading a line through a series of rock reefs, the other, shorter and quicker, is to barrel through a gutter between rock islet and rocky shoreline.

We arrived during a lull in larger sets and four people paddled in through the rock reefs. Mike and I hung back thinking it would be well to allow space to land as we could see waves surging up onto the beach behind and kayak collisions in these conditions are common. Next minute, Mike and I were back paddling over a large set and the entire access closed out.

After the larger waves passed, neither Mike nor I could see any paddlers, so I paddled north to see if I could see the state of play through the gutter access. A couple of paddlers emerged and reported that everyone was upright and the landing was reasonable, so with adequate spacing between us, we all paddled in. Soon after Mike, who was coming last, landed, a big set closed out the gutter again.

It was a quick lunch with a few big sets coming in. I wanted to, at a minimum, show everyone where the last big cave was, as it is not obvious when paddling past, so we continued north to have a look. Nick, the cave weasel, backed into the entrance but did not go right into the cave due to the more powerful sets coming through. This cave goes back a long way, and opens up into a cavern when you get inside.

That was our furthest northerly point before we paddled back. The rain moved in after dark.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Dip Into The Ettrema Wilderness

When most bushwalkers think of Morton National Park, they think scrub, and that is not unreasonable. The Budawangs are famous for scenic wilderness bushwalks and for thick, almost impenetrable, spiky scrub. However, in the vast bushfires of 2019 to 2020, much of Morton National Park burnt. The Ettrema Wilderness saw extensive fires that rampaged across Ettrema Tops but thankfully seem to have spared the deepest creeks like Jones and Ettrema.

On a cool, windy, winters day, we walked north into the Ettrema Wilderness. An old fire trail, not driven since the area was declared wilderness and vehicles were shut out, leads north along the a broad plateau between a series of deeply incised creeks.

About 2.8 km in, there is a poorly defined fork in the fire road. Either option works and they meet up in a few hundred metres where the track continues north. After about an hour of walking, we happened to meet Marilyn, who's blog inspired much of this walk. Her group had been exploring Monkey Ropes Creek in some fairly extreme winds. 

The walking, post bush fire, is open and pleasant. Lots of water in all the creeks and signs of recovering forest, however, there was little fauna around. The usual kangaroos, wallabies and normally prolific bird life were sadly missing.

After a few hours of walking, we passed by Rodgers Hill where we dropped our packs and walked up to the top of this little hill where there are filtered views out to Jervis Bay and Point Perpendicular. Another hours walk and the track dropped into Tilly Anne Gap and faded out. We followed a small creek north until it joined Cinch Creek. A few hundred metres north (downstream) along Cinch Creek we found a small but adequate campsite. There were small sandstone bluffs above us to the east.

Days are short at this time of year and after a cup of tea and putting up the tent, there was only about 45 minutes of daylight left. I wandered along Cinch Creek until it became blocked with big boulders. I scrambled up through the small cliffs to the east and as darkness moved in, I walked back to camp along the top of the plateau.

Next morning we followed Cinch Creek south and then west for about three kilometres. There were small sandstone cliffs to either side and easy walking through light bush. Where Cinch Creek bends to the south again, at a point where the creek spills over flat sandstone slabs, we left the creek and walked a hundred metres uphill to some big slabs overlooking Rodgers Hill and Cinch Creek for a short break.

With the aid of a compass, we walked up to Billys Hill through open burnt forest and then dropped 20 or 30 metres down to the west where we left our packs and headed off to ramble up Hamlet Crown. Hamlet Crown bends Ettrema Creek to the west which is over 400 metres below in a deep incised gorge.

There are easy slabs to scramble down and then a simple steep slope leads down to Billys Pass where the land drops steeply away to the north and south. Hamlet Crown has a series of stacked up sandstone cliffs guarding the top, but it is easy to find gullies through the bluffs by traversing around the south side of Hamlet Crown.

We walked straight uphill from Billys Pass until we hit the sandstone cliffs and then walked south until we could scramble through one set of sandstone cliffs to a second set of sandstone cliffs. Another minor traverse and we found an easy, if scrubby ramp, up to the summit.

After scrambling onto a boulder to make sure we had tagged the absolute high point we wandered around to find the best view of the spectacular Ettrema Gorge. After another short break, we reversed our route and hiked back up to the plateau for a late lunch.

The next few kilometres of walking were simply wonderful. We walked right along the edge of the escarpment that drops steeply into Ettrema Creek on easy rock slabs. Grass trees were flowering and there were good views all the way of steep red and grey sandstone cliffs.

Around 4.00 pm, we found an excellent camp site by a creek running into a little mini gorge before it dropped over steep cliffs into Jones Creek. After a cup of tea, I wandered along rock slabs beside our little rock gorge until daylight faded.

Next morning we continued walking south along the line of the escarpment until we reached a faint old vehicle track which is labelled Jones Creek walking track on the map. The cliffs of Jones Creek soon pinch out as the track runs along the contour line to meet the main old fire trail we came in on.

The final walk out was quicker than expected and we reached our car in time for a late lunch.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Sunday Paddles: The Bay, The Bar, The Point

The east coast low that promised excellent rainfall blew in as forecast the day after last Sunday paddle and although the winds and waves were strong we got a disappointingly small amount of rain. The swell, however, was big, peaking at 9 metres off our coast. There were surfers at Caseys Beach which is well inside the Bay and generally sheltered, and the waves were actually tubing.

Usually, we go out surfing in the Bay when a big swell event comes through as we can get really long rides way inside the Bay, but this week, I was running and climbing and did not get out paddling until the regular Sunday paddle.

It was a bit of conundrum of where to paddle. The swell was still around two metres with a long period and there was a strong wind warning. In the end, I settled on a plan to launch inside the Bay and potter along the northern shore. We had a big group with nine people and a few newer paddlers who had not been out with the group so a more sheltered option was a good choice.

We got out to Three Isle Point and around in to the North Beach bay, turning around at North Head. I was tempted to keep going along the Murramarang coast as we had good conditions, but, with a mixed group of nine compromises have to made and some people were not comfortable with this.

So we paddled back into the Bay for lunch at Cullendulla. Lippy took a run up Cullendulla Creek and then we split the group in two with half going straight back to the launch beach and the rest of us heading into Surfside and over to the bar.

Nick caught a wave, and an edge at Surfside and ended up capsizing but rolled back up and I was none the wiser until after the paddle. The bar was breaking extensively and we got some good rides but it was a bit wet for those of us not wearing paddle jackets, and even wetter for Adrian who capsized, rolled up, capsized again, and rolled up a second time. I admit to having some dread about having to perform a rescue in the breaking bar as I was not sure I would not be in the same predicament as Adrian.

One more wave on the way back and I left the group at the launch beach and paddled the last couple of kilometres to my home beach alone.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Sunday Paddles Or There Goes The Forecast

Back in May, which in Covid time is an eon ago, we paddled north from our house under very calm wind and sea conditions and "found" a couple of big caves that a sea kayaker can paddle right into. Most of the other local paddlers I talked to had never seen or paddled into these caves, so I became quite obsessed with sharing them with the rest of my kayak squad. One similarly calm day, we paddled up with Mike and visited the caves, but since then, the weather conditions on the Sunday paddle day had never really lined up to access the caves.

Looking out of one of the caves we "found"

But finally, a calm day was forecast for Sunday and the cave tour was on. The initial forecast was for light and variable winds and an easterly swell below a metre, absolutely perfect. We could visit the Blue Cave, and then go on to the caves to the north.

In the Blue Cave

A small group was assembled and we met at our local beach around 9.00 am. Of course, in the few days since I had organised the paddle, the forecast had changed. I realise this is a common theme in this blog, and, if you live an outdoor life, it will be a common theme in your life too. As usual, the forecast was just slightly worse than the previous one, with southerly 10 to 15 knot winds, a rising sea state, showers and possible thunder showers, and a rising swell.

Paddling south into the clouds

Already the wind was tickling the water outside our local bay, and a wall of dark and ominous clouds were scooting north along the horizon. A tourist wandered by saying "what a great day for a paddle!" and looked shocked when we all cackled with laughter and said "not with an east coast low coming."

Ominous clouds at sea

So, the plan changed. We would go south instead, returning with the wind behind us and hopefully before the full brunt of rain hit. I was hoping to get at least as far south as Jimmies Island. That would make a return trip of around 20 km and I increasingly feel this distance is the minimum I want to go out for.

An impressive cloud bank

The wind gently increased as we paddled south, the cloud bank, however, increased with great vigour and became a great spreading blotch across the horizon which Margot thought reminiscent of the dementors in a Harry Potter movie.

Running before the wind

At Pretty Point, we all agreed we would go the next two kilometres to Jimmies Island and headed south into a freshening, but still light headwind. And then, one in the group decided that was far enough and he would land at Pretty Point. Number two went with number one, a reasonable decision, and the next time I turned around to check on the group, only Doug was left.

Catching runners

So we all went back and landed at Pretty Point on a tiny beach and had a short break. The cloud continued to build, but the wind dropped. It all started to seem a bit of a storm in a tea cup to me, but we were heading back. At our local beach, I headed north, the weather really seeming quite benign now, and tacked on an extra five kilometres to make it a reasonable morning's paddle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Riding With The Bugs: Donalds Creek

I had a dream.  Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go.
Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same.  

Somehow, I had forgotten how painful the last Monday bike trip I did with the Eurobug group actually was and here I was again, hucking a lung up as I struggled to keep up with the B group as the fire road we were on climbed up, and up, and up.

My rides with the Eurobug group are sporadic. I might do a Eurobug ride twice a year, hence the beating I take when riding with people who ride virtually every day. Every time I come the B group is bigger and there are more E bikes. It is the hills where the E bikes get away from the regular bikes. I am actually a fan of riding hills, because if you aren't riding hills, bicycling is basically sitting on your duff spinning your legs around.

With the hubris of one who has returned from hauling a big pack up and down real mountains in Canada and feeling pretty fit, I had approached the Tuross H Ridge ride with aplomb. Sure, it was almost 40 kilometres, I had not ridden a bike in half a year, and the wind was blowing crosswise at around 40 knots (actually measured by the BOM at 40 knots), but I envisioned all those extra red corpuscles bounding around my arteries and veins delivering oxygen to my working muscles at a great rate. I would barely break a sweat.

In fact, although I managed to keep up on the ride, the last eight kilometres back into Tuross Heads and my car was one of my most painful aerobic events ever. I swear that most of the riders "get the nose-bag on" as my Dad used to say, once the last regroup stop is over and the post ride cafe is announced. People speed off, fired by enthusiasm for cake and coffee in a truly Pavlovian response. I fell rapidly to the back of the group and was soon on my own, panting along the highway getting blown sideways.

Long before I got to Tuross my quadriceps had turned into hard knots of lactate seized muscle, my butt had blistered, and my back was spasming. I was convinced I was going to get blown into an on-coming car, so I took the longer but safer pathway route and found myself intermittently on and off the bike, forced by the blisters on my buttocks and my cramped up quadriceps to push the bike on flat ground hunched over like an old granny with a Woolies trolley. The final ignominy was being dive bombed by nesting magpies and taking three different strikes to my helmet. It was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

This week's ride was to Donalds Creek in Deau National Park and I had been waiting for it to reappear on the schedule so I could attend. I was a little shocked at the increase in E bikes since my last ride. I have mixed feelings about E bikes. It seems that most people get an E bike because riding uphill gets too hard. Riding uphill is hard because it requires aerobic metabolic capacity, strength, and power endurance. All of these are trainable, even in old people like myself, but it takes work, lots of consistent work, and I fear we have become a society that shuns hard work and prefers to take the easy option. The big problem with compensating with a motor is that the weak muscles get weaker in a mobius like downward spiral that is increasingly hard to recover from.

But back to Donalds Creek. I was last in the B group. Actually, I was second last but somewhere along the ride the real last person disappeared. The last time I was second last in the group, the very last person later went on to have a heart attack. I think it pays not to be the very last person, but, alas, I was. Actually, the ride was not too hard, and, the little mini-gorge and waterholes at the turn around point were pretty. I think if it was not for all the E bikes, I might not even have been last.