The South Coast of NSW is idyllic in that it is not so far from the big centres of Sydney or Canberra yet seems a whole world away from the hustle and bustle of twenty-first-century living. More than that, there is a plethora of tiny bays and hideaways all along the coast between the small town centres that provide the necessities of everyday life. It is in one of these places that I have come to relax and recuperate.
In this crazy world we are living in, with pandemic conditions calling everything we have known into question, I have found myself living in this perfect place for self isolation. Someone suggested that this is really an excuse for me to indulge in a reclusive lifestyle and there may well be some truth in what she said.
As I write this, I am lying back in a hammock, over looking the garden, and watching the parade of parrots, pigeons, and other birds that come to feed from the seed feeder hanging from the rafters.
The news that keeps popping up on the banner headlines is almost exclusively about the Corvid-19 virus and what we may or may not expect over the next few weeks. As the reality of it all begins to sink in, I find myself thankful for this place and it’s quiet solitude.
One thing that is a positive is the time it gives to catch up on all those things that procrastination has allowed me to put off…. writing this instalment for example.. with just the birds for company, I can sit back in the hammock and write away to my heart’s content
I can walk on the beach, bush walk or simply stay at home mowing the lawns or doing some online courses that hopefully may pave a new pathway forward for me. Contrast this with the lives that so many others have to lead, particularly those in the health care field, putting themselves in harms way on a daily basis, and one gets a truly different perspective of what life is about.
If I should find myself in a country wide lock down I can think of few place that would be better to be than where I am right now. Keep safe people and take this thing seriously. It may not be you who feels the effects…. but it may be someone close
It’s strange how we can travel a stretch of highway time and again, yet so often miss hideaways that sit just off the main roads as we hurry from one city to another. For me, that stretch of road was on the Pacific Hiway between Sydney and Brisbane. I have travelled that road several times, but never had the chance to drop in on the beaches and bays along the way.
I had heard about a place called Bluey’s Beach, just north of Newcastle, and on my previous attempt to stop here, my travelling companion, a massive storm, forced me to keep on driving. I now had an opportunity to take a more liesurely drive down to Sydney to deliver a car to my son. I took a week off work and slowly made my way south.
While I had covered this distance often in a semi-trailer on an overnight run, because there were a few things I needed to fit in and it was two days before, just after dark, I drove into the little village of Tuncurry looking for a motel to stay the night. I checked out a couple in Tuncurry and over the bridge in the twin town of Forster before continuing on down to Bluey’s Beach, some twenty kilometres south. Here, Vodafone fails badly, and so having some internet work to do I was forced back to Tuncurry and settled on the first place I had looked at. It was a small motel with small rooms, but big enough for me to spend the night and was well priced for a short stay.
After an early start I made my way down by the river where the early folk were going about their morning routines. The council workers were busy cleaning and clearing after the people who has spent the last evening in the park. There were joggers and walkers and those who just seemed out for a stroll. The river was pristine and sparkled under the rays of the early morning sun. All in all, it was a pleasant atmosphere.
I decided a nice breakfast in the sun was in order and I crossed the bridge into Forster to hunt down a cafe in the main street. The town centre is reached by doing a U-Turn at the first round-a-bout and then slipping down a narrow street on the left. The street is one way with shops and cafes spilling out onto the footpath, bathing the scene with a friendly ambiance.
At this time of the morning, the narrow street was shaded and it was impossible to find a table in the sun. I selected a cafe and settled down to choose my order. Coffee was a given but the food selection did little for my appetite. I finally chose pancakes and was soon served up a lovely looking dish.
Sadly, that was the best it got. The first taste was dry and super sweet. Even the syrup did little to moisten the pancake mix but I struggled through wishing I’d stayed with my usual mundane poached eggs on toast. The coffee was nice tho, so all was not lost
With no plans for the day, other than to make my way south towards Bluey’s Beach and I wandered out behind the shopping strip to where the river made its way out to the ocean. What a tranquil scene….. the breeze, just barely kissing the water, smudged the reflections and shadows under an impossibly blue winter sky. Such a pretty scene hidden away where so few would ever see it.
Back on the strip I checked out the shops, many of which were just opening their doors for the day’s trading. There were stands to be wheeled onto the footpath and cobbles to be swept. It was here I ran into a reluctant stranger. You may recall my “100 Strangers” project where I am making a point of meeting strangers from all walks of life and writing a small piece on who they are. Well “Tracy” was my first stranger on this day. We chatted a while and I explained my quest. It was then that she became shy and asked to remain anonemous. While this gave her an aura of mystery, I believe it disqualified her from the project. We agreed on a fictitious name of Tracy and she happily allowed me to shoot a few photos of her going about the morning chores.
From Downtown Forster I headed up to the Forster Town Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand ran out beneath the seawall towards the headland from the cafe and surf club at the northern end. I was beginning to rue the choices I had made for my breakfast after seeing the fare available here and the veiw from the tables.. I stood and watched people being people while a whale watching boat, loaded with eager nature lovers headed out to sea in search of that plume of spray as a whale breached and gasped a breath of air.
My meanderings took me south to Second Head where a rocky shore mixed with the sands across the wide bay. Standup Paddle Boarders made their way out past the out crops, maybe searching for their own inshore whale. A broad pathway wound its way along the forshore and there were more than a few out taking in the morning air.
The rocks along the bay had an almost tesselated structure, as if they had been stacked in rows, one apon another where sea birds rested and preened their feathers in the cool morning breeze.
The next stop at Bicentennial Park reunited me with the whale watchers, albiet these were onshore spotters who seek the elusive spray plumes through powerful binoculars before radioing the boat with directions to get them close. I wonder how long it will be before these jobs are taken over by the drones that are beginning to fill the skys these days
From the road to the shore, there are boardwalks that take you through woody scrub where the air is filled with bird song and if if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of a robin or wren.
One of the sites of this area is the Dune. This massive wall of sand, falls to the sea much like a flowing waterfall, and indeed, more than a few surf this wave on boogie boards or simply just roll their way to the bottom.
At ElizabethBeach, a short but steep walk took me to the look out at the top of the headland. Here a two storied structure provides a grand view from way north to way south. From here the size of the dune is given its true perspective.
I passed by some of the bays as the days was getting late and soon found myself on Bluey’s. By now the wind had freshened and the onshore breeze was bringing in some larger swells from the Pacific Ocean. There were rock buttresses here that stood firm against the waves as the tossed their spray in frustration at not being able to drive on inshore. High on the headland the tall tower of a lighthouse at Seal Rocks stood proud against the sky line.
From Buey’s Beach, it is necessary to head inland around Smith’s Lake and, craving a coffee as I sometimes do, I followed a sign to Frothy Coffee on the waters edge across the bay from the Sandbar. This hard to find gem was well worth the wrong turns I took on my way. Broken signage provided ambiguos directions as I navigated my way through suburbia until, quite unexpectedly, I came upon a blue shed set right on the edge of the lake. The deck was built out over the water and it was a very pleasant hour spent sipping coffee and watching the occaisional fisherman as they cruised passed on the lake. Across the water you can see the sandbar which, is a narrow strip of sand that cuts Smiths Lake off from the sea.
From Smiths Lake I headed further south to Seal Rocks where I found a set of rocks that may well have given this place its name
I followed Kinka Road, past Boat Beach, to it’s end where I took to walking up the path towards the lighthouse I had seen earlier in the day from Bluey’s Beach. The path was wide and for a time I wondered if I was headed the right way as the direction I was headed seemed to have the lighthouse over my left shoulder and falling away behind me. Slowly the track began to swing around and soon enough the lighthouse was dead ahead again. I was hurrying now as the signage had said the grounds closed at sunset, and the sun was getting perilously close to the horison behind me.
I passed a bunch of sugar loaf rocks, seperated from each other by deep and narrow cuttings that had been weathered away by the sea over the ages. Behind me the sun began to burn the horison as it dipped ever so slowly towards night. I hurried on and arrived at the precinct with the shadows casting long and low, but the lighthouse, sitting atop the headland, was still bathed in the soft evening light. Ahead of me was a steep path with a few steps to ease the way. It was a breathless climb. With time running out, I was determined to get some sunsets shots before they closed the facility.
I stayed at the top, watching the light slowly fade as the sun cast it’s final rays of the day across the land. I was joined by a group of backpackers who climbed the stairs around the lighthouse tower to get a better view. Finally, the light gave way to darkness and we all trooped back down to the buildings below.
The old keepers quarters have been renovated to be able to take overnight tourists. My back packing companions, it seemed, would be staying here this night and so I set off along the dark pathway, retracing my steps to my car.
It had been a long day and I made my way back out to the main road to look for a place to rest my head for the night. The next day would take me into Sydney where I would meet up with my son and deliver his car before flying back to the Sunshine Coast and the grindstone that earns my daily bread…Ah well….
In the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast lies a range of mountains….. Well, hills really, called the Blackall Ranges. They run from South to North and are dotted with some great walks of all grades.
Today I walked the Kondalilla Falls Circuit track from the top to the bottom and back. These falls are a part of the Kondalilla National Park and form a part of the Great Australian Walking tracks.
The carpark is really just a large cul-d-sac at the end of the street and from there, one heads down to a grassy area dotted with barbecue facilities and table/chair benches. There are also toilet facilities here which it is wise to take advantage of as there are non further down.
From the bottom of this area a sealed track take you down a few hundred metres to a small bridge. This is wheelchair friendly but the bridge is as far as you go. There are stairs at the other side which would make it difficult
Here there is a fork in the path. The left leads down to the top of the falls and is perhaps the easier track to take. It is also a part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track. The right fork, a part of Kondalilla Falls Circuit, also leads to the falls but is perhaps a steeper path, although easy enough to traverse.
I took the right fork, and would recommend this, as the return journey is easier if you come back the other way. The track wanders through rain forest and you will see Piccabeen Palms and Bunya Pines growing along the way. You may also see some examples of Pink Ash trees which grow in some interesting shapes.
Just above the top of the falls, these two tracks merge before you head down a series of steps to come out at the top of the falls. Here I met a couple who were resting after the long slog back up the side of the hill from the falls. We chatted for a while about the effects of climate change on the forest before we each continued our respective journeys
At the bottom of the next section is the top of the falls and there is a popular swimming hole, just before the water tumbles over the cliff. There is space here to eat a picnic lunch or relax in the sun on the flat rocks around the pool.
For many, this is the end of the trail but I headed down the side of the cliff face following the well formed Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track to the bottom.. Along the way there is a look out where you can see the whole of the falls although on this day, after a long dry spell, there was no water to be seen tumbling down the cliff face.
At the bottom, the creek bed is strewn with huge boulders and here and there are small rock pools which are home to the beautiful dragonflies that hunt here.
Heading on I came to another fork. It is here that the Kondalilla Circuit branches off and returns via an easier grade to the top of the falls. There is a saying that what goes up, must come down. In the this case the reverse applied and, having made my way all the way down from the car park, I now had the climb back up to the top.
The route is around 4.7 kms and doing it the way I did, the return journey was just a little easier. Even so it pays to carry plenty of water as the hard bit is at the end. I had two water bottles and had just opened my second when I started my climb. It slipped from my hand and split open on a rock and I watched as it all soaked away into the dry soil.
From the top of the falls there is a section of over 100 stairs and this is perhaps the most punishing part of the trek. Without water, I was in trouble by the time I reached the top and was thankful that the path had levelled out somewhat for the walk back to the bar-b-que area. The real kicker for me was the short walk from there to the car park. I was dehydrated badly and the track seemed almost too steep to tackle.
A short drive down the road to Mapleton and I thankfully pulled in to a service station to top up my water levels, the first bottle barely touching the sides as it went down
All said and done, it was a great walk and I recommend it to anyone with an afternoon on their hands and wondering what to do with it. Just head up the Blackall Range from Nambour or Landsborough and you will find the turn off at Flaxton.