It’s been quite some time since my last post and if you detect a certain laissez-faire approach to my next few posts here’s why: I’ve recently been placed on gardening leave. After resigning from my job I was told to go home for the next four weeks, suspended from work. I have no access to emails and have no scheduled meetings. I’m literally paid to answer the occasional phone call whenever troubleshooting may be required. To an adventurer this is quite literally a golden ticket to cram in as much as possible over the next twenty eight days.
After a very fortuitous catch up with a dear friend from Melbourne, I went home reflecting on just how to spend the next four weeks of my life. And just how to make the most of it. A fellow adventurer herself (we actually summited Annapurna Base Camp together back in 2010) she gifted me something that could not have been more perfectly timed. A book. She gifted me a ‘Top Walks in Australia’ guidebook by Melanie Ball. Happy thirtieth she blurted just as she revealed what was soon to be my inspiration source for the next few weeks, months… years?
As I flipped through the pages under New South Wales and mentally calculated how many walks I could fit in, my phone is instantly put to use with multiple safari tabs open for various train and bus timetables. I didn’t get past page eight until I found something to suck my teeth into. The coast track, in the Royal National Park just south of Sydney would be my first epic day hike. I say epic because it should really be tackled in two days at 28.7kms. But this wayfarer is heading off to trek 800kms in just under five weeks time and is in need of some training. And so, the goal was set. Week one of gardening leave goal: Master the epic day walk!
Read on for my tips on how to tackle this epic day walk:
What is it? What are you on about?
Starting in Otford and wrapping up in the picturesque town of Bundeena. Admittedly you can walk in either direction, but this way felt more natural for me. Also! Did you know the RNP is the second oldest national park in the whole world? That’s pretty darn jaw dropping if you ask me!
How did you get there?
Not wanting to be stranded with the car 30kms away, I opted for public transport. I caught the direct train from Central to Otford (about one-hour and a half)
What did you take with you?
A heck of a lot of water! About three and a half litres was suffice. I wasn’t looking so I can’t be too sure now, but I don’t think I saw anywhere to refill water bottles. Lunch accompanied fruit and energy bars. I took a rain jacket, first aid kit for sore feet (the real saviour) and headphones (second saviour)
Did you use a map?
The track is very well signposted, so no I wouldn’t recommend you take a map. Full disclosure, I did get lost and headed inland to Garrawarra Farm right at the start which added significantly to my day’s step count. This unfortunately meant I missed out on walking along the coast past South and North Era. I walked on tarmac for a solid hour to get back onto the coast track not wanting to retrace my steps. I popped out onto Garie beach and continued north from there. I’d like to blame NSW parks for re-developing the footpath which was disorientating for me…But let’s be honest, I only have myself to blame. Stick to the coast and you can’t go wrong!
Any POI’s? (Point of interest)
So many! If figure eight pools doesn’t take your fancy, how about the famous Wattamolla rock jump? Ever heard of Wedding Cake Rock? Do you like chasing waterfalls or hopping over sandstone rocks? This walk is absolutely beautiful with so much to see and soak up.
How did you get back home if you started in Otford?
Easy! Take the quaint ferry from Bundeena to Cronulla (thirty minutes) and then the train back to Central from there (one-hour)
Are there toilets along the way?
Yep! Every tree is a lava-tory (that joke may not translate, but is obviously hilarious.) There are bathrooms at Otford, North Era, Garie, Wattamolla and Bundeena.
Sounds good, but also hard! Did you want to quit at all?
Ummm… Absolutely! Like, three times to be exact. I think the hardest part mentally was knowing that once you started and had passed Era beach, there are no other options than walking; no train lines, no buses or coaches. You are literally in the middle of the park with no-way out (unless hitchhiking takes your fancy) without making it to the end, which made it pretty daunting. I first wanted to quit when I’d made the wrong turn at the beginning. After an ugly tarmac walk I finally reached Garie beach having already eaten my lunch and all my snacks, I here realised that I was only a quarter of the way done, ouch. I wanted to quit at Wattamolla, knowing I was only half way done and it was already two in the afternoon. Here is where I saw a helicopter land (delivering infrastructure for the new foot path) where it took all my strength not to ask for a lift. I wanted to quit at Marley beach as the sun was beginning to set and my legs and feet were burning, increasing with every step. My body was starting to feel weary and I was pushing too hard to get to the Bundeena ferry wharf for the 5pm shuttle, not wanting to be stranded for an hour with sore feet, smelly clothes and a hungry stomach.
What got you through?
Music, the jaw dropping coast line and the feeling of achievement (super cheesy, but true.)
Download a podcast or two before arriving (phone signal was patchy), take more food than you think you’ll need and have a back up plan if you can’t continue. It is without question that this would be more enjoyable over two days instead of one. But I felt pretty damn accomplished once I’d made it to the end.
Overall it took me eight hours to complete the 32kms and I can’t imagine ever wanting to walk another step further. I took frequent but short rest stops however I wished I had more time to take a dip at one of the many tempting watering holes. One in particular where I felt compelled to loop back on myself to witness the famous figure eight pools (just near Burning Palms, our feature image) which ultimately added to the length of the day.
Any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
All in all, I guess this gardening leave thing is pretty darn fun after all! Looking forward to what hike I’ll tackle next, and by all means, if you have any suggestions they will be greatly appreciated!