Thought I’d set myself a bit of a challenge and do this 31km two-day track in one, sun-baked, sweaty and slightly stressful, but very scenic, rewarding and energetic day.
The Coastal Track weaves from Bundeena to Otford through the huge Royal National Park (second oldest national park in the world), south of Sydney. There’s no water available on the track so I started with a rather heavy pack with 2.5 litres of water, dehydrated nasi goreng for lunch, couple of bananas, and my heavy old SLR camera. My RX-100 is having large quantities of dirt removed from it after my Darwin to Broome adventures.
A jet lag enhanced 6am start got me on the 7.22am train from Central Station to Cronulla. As usual I’m amazed by Sydney trains, all comfortable double deckers and only $5.40 for an hour’s trip. It cost more to take the 20 min historic Cronulla Ferry over to Bundeena, past multi million dollar waterfront houses, complete with their own boat ramps.
In my early morning enthusiasm I decided to do the full track, rather than skip the first 5km, lured by the prospective of the Jibbon aboriginal carvings, a short walk from the start of the track at Jibbon Beach.
The next 40 mins were a real slog along a sandy, inland track, with little of interest to see and no escape from the sun (which continued for much of the day, thank you factor 50!). It got better though with interesting rock formations at The Balconies, and the Waterrun.
Wedding Cake Rock was understandably fenced off given the large cracks in it and warnings of imminent collapse!
Hid under a bush to get some respite from the sun and fuel up on a banana at Marley Head.
Marley Beach and Little Marley Beach were understandably as far as some of the other walkers on the ferry got, enjoying empty golden sand beaches. In general the track was annoyingly popular though, what happens when the population of New Zealand lives within a couple of hours of it. Clearly mainly day walkers, but unlikely to be doing my sort of day walking, more just sections of the track. My greetings of hi were met with a friendly reply about a quarter of the time. Is it really asking that much for people to acknowledge each other?
More impressive cliffs and coloured rocks before the strange site of a waterfall with a fence across it at the busy spot of Wattamolla, where their efforts to prevent rock jumping were clearly inadequate. Beautiful spot though at this stage realised that it had taken 3 hours 15 mins to do 13km, that wearing trainers rather than boots may have been a mistake, and 18km was quite a long way to go in 4 and a half hours to catch the train back to Sydney (from Otford they’re only every two hours).
Picked up the pace from here, though not that easy on sandy beaches in midday sunshine. The landscape changed from Garie Beach onwards, looking a lot more like New Zealand, in particular the Auckland West Coast, with similar bush covered hills, huge rolling waves with surfers, and rudimentary homes (baches in NZ), only with yellow rather than black sand.
The Palm Juggle was a pretty cool discovery half way between Burning Palms and Werrong.
At least there was some welcome shade but also a rather epic hillside to ascend, thankfully rewarded by rather epic views.
Otford station was a welcome if slightly unexpected sight emerging from the bush. An hour and $7 and I was back at Sydney Central Station slightly achy and looking forward to hydrated food for dinner.