Our last walk for the season was booked long ago by two hearty friends and more recently by a lovely family keen to take their fit 82 year old mother for a memorable journey. As October broke, the heat was on (34 degrees!) and we had some concerns that things were getting a little too hot. Unfortunately, despite the baking of birthday cake, Madeline was unable to make it this time and the family was disappointed. Nevertheless, as we assembled and made acquaintance, the collective spirit was strong.
Uncle Ron met us on Monday morning and told us about his life as a Yaegl man, about culture and the landscape. He handed around some artefacts that demonstrated how differently Yaegl people once lived. He welcomed us to his country and wished us well for the walk and pointed out some bushfoods we might like to try. Several told me this brought the landscape to life, prompting visions of pre European scenes inhabited and managed by strong and clever first people.
Compared with previous walks this year, the wildflowers were somewhat less obvious overall, but plenty were there when you looked closely to attract honeyeaters and bee-eaters and a range of other birds. The day was brilliant, with a turquoise calm seascape that lasted 3 days. Swimming was a daily affair and the sounds of refreshed people whooping like kids as they rediscovered old body surfing styles was music to the ears. Dolphins leapt about behind the waves, and behind them, so many whales in dramatic breaches. Breathtaking sights for city folk who needed this retreat and reconnection to nature.
The group enjoyed three superb days of coast walking on clear warm days with light cooling breezes, but the sight of a lenticular cloud to the south on Wednesday afternoon suggested things were about to change. This was confirmed soon after as several hats nearly blew off and the southerly winds were on. They blew hard all afternoon and into the night. The morning was grey and the winds were still up as we crossed Wooli River for the final challenging day.
Unfortunately injuries meant that we were now down to 4 walkers, but excitement levels remained high. We entered deserted remote beaches and heading for the dreaded rock platforms. The wind pushed and the going was slow but we helped each other along and made great time getting to the designated sheltered morning tea spot. The sky and ocean were dramatic and white caps made it hard to spot the whales we knew were out there. Rain stopped and started lightly, but the pebbly beaches and roaring sea were beautiful and the day was perfect despite conditions.
Much praise went to caterers Karen and Lauren for the outstanding meals they provided all day every day. Lauren impressed our two vegans with unexpected care, nourishing them on the morning bus ride with delicious smoothies.
Following another superb lunch on the final day, we crossed Station Creek in ankle deep water, while Gina checked on the threatened shorebird nesting sites she has monitored for over a decade. We pushed down through the last section of open beach hunched down in jackets pulled tight against the winds, towards Red Rock, happy to have made it this far, but beginning to realise that the end of the walking would mark the beginning of the end of a lovely shared communitas. The wide open beach and oceans would soon recede as people made their ways back to workplaces and responsibilities far from here.
The walk had been especially important to the family group of four who reported their adventure regularly to their absent mother and they promised they’d be back with her next year. Her son later told us of his feelings about this walk in the following terms:
Our walk was a 65km treat with abundant wildlife encountered on both land and sea. Fittingly, they started it with an interaction with a representative of the local indigenous community that was personal and moving. Gina’s inspiring knowledge and track record with the National Parks and Wildlife Service continue to deliver new hope for some of the endangered flora and fauna that she dedicates so much of her energies to. The whole team is low-key and unimposing and they create many opportunities for an inspirational experience. Thank you all so much!
Such feedback from lovely people is always welcome. Great to meet you all.