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Published: March 20th 2007
Starting the Coastal Track at Otford
Keith and I set off on our first ever camping adventure this weekend to the Royal National Park, south of Sydney. The Park was established in 1798 and was the first gazzeted national park in the world. Friday night we hastily packed a tent, sleeping mats, sleeping bags and a very strange selection of food in to our packs and crashed in to bed, only to be woken six hours later by the alarm clock begging us to get up and away. We loaded up, our backpacks laden with 10 or more litres of drinking water and set off to catch a bus in to town. The journey to Otford was easy, just an hour on the train from Central Station. The train heads South out of Sydney and passes some awesome waterways. An hour later we jumped off the train, the only people to disembark and found ourselves under the canopy of a lush, tropical forest. A steep climb up some steps and then a hill took us up and away from civilization and in to the Royal National Park. Of the 1600 hectares that it covers, we only hiked 26kms on our journey. The scenery is amazing from
the start. It was not even 8am, the sky was bright blue and the sun reflected back off the wide ocean that stretched out beyond us. The track was well worn and yet we were the only people around for miles. The sounds of birds and insects all around us and the crunch of broken palm fronds beneath our feet made for a welcome relief from the humdrum of the city. Every few metres offered yet another beautiful opening from which we could see the ocean and the cliffs. We were high on a ridge and the path slowly wound its way down until we ended up at a stunning beach. The clear water beckoned and it wasn't long before we had stripped off our sweaty hiking gear and pulled on our bathers and run for the waves. The cool water was a welcome relief in the mid morning heat. We ate monkey nuts and protein bars whilst sitting on a brightly coloured sandstone ledge and admired the awesome beach which felt as if it belonged to us just for a little while.
The next leg of our journey took us on to North Era where we planned to
Taking in the scenery
Burning Palms beach, taking a rest from our packs
camp for the night. We knew the campsite was sparse but what we happened upon was merely a big, green grassy valley in between two steep hills with two little long drops strategically placed far back from the beach and the camp ground. Someone was watching over us that day as we were in two minds as to whether we should continue hiking on to the next camp ground as we had only covered just under 10kms of the 28km track. But something made us stay and we liked the remoteness of the camp ground and the feeling of being far away from anything civilized! It took us a while to figure out how to erect the tent, but we got there in the end and just in time as a he storm blew over just as we had hammered in the last tent peg. The skies literally opened, the thunder rumbled through the valley and the rain lashed down for the next 12 hours. It was then that we realised we had no books, magazines, games or any form of entertainment to get us through the next few hours. Not that they would have made much difference as our
tent was a very small two "man tent which is obviously only mad for sleeping in, as you can't even sit upright in it! Hence we slept for 5 hours on Saturday afternoon and woke only to peek out the zipper to see if the rain had did down. It was at this stage that Keith started to talk about dinner and his face was a picture when we realised we did not have a stove and so would not be having any hot steaming mugs of coffee or soup, but rather a can of baked beans with some stuffed vine leaves! We gobbled it down none the less and then it was dark and time to go to sleep again, praying the rain would be gone in the morning.
We woke before the sun was up and ventured through the mud to the long drop hoping that the various species of deadly spiders and snakes had not taken refuge there in the night! I survived the ordeal and we ate soggy weetbix in the dark, then packed up all the wet gear, rolled up the tent and set off on our journey. The scenery changes drastically from the
tropical forest to open bushland and heath land. The sandstone cliffs are brightly coloured in all shades of orange and red and beige. There are several small villages along the route made up of old fisherman houses passed down through generations, that can only be reached on foot. It must be great to own one of those little hideaways as it really feels like you have escaped everyday life. The fresh air and spectacular scenery really revives you. There were several steep climbs along the track as we climbed up and down headlands and along beaches to the next headland. Next time we plan to take longer to do the hike so we can stop and swim and enjoy the pristine beaches. The rain stayed on away on Sunday, but we were grateful for the overcast weather as we hiked non stop for 6 hours to reach our destination at the end of the coastal track, Bundeena.
A few wrong turn added on some mileage but we did well to do the remaining 15kms or so in 6 hours with packs. Our water rations lasted us and treated ourselves to well earnt cappuccinos at Bundeena whilst we waited for
Camping in the valley
North Era Camp Ground, rather wet underfoot, but a secluded place with nothing but the beach and the green hills around you...
the ferry to take us across to Cronulla. The plan was to take a train back to Sydney and the ferry across to Neutral Bay where we would shower and change to do the bridge walk with friends as part of the 75th birthday celebrations for the Harbour Bridge. We had not expected 200 000 people to be waiting to catch ferries across the bay and because the bridge was closed to traffic we couldn't catch a bus. Boy were we a picture in our sweaty hiking clothes and big boots in amongst all the tourists and locals squeezing their way on to ferries and trains to take part in the big walk. It took us a few extra hours to get home through the masses so we didn't get to do the bridge walk after all, but we watched the throngs from our balcony and enjoyed putting our feet up after a great weekend of hiking.
It never ceases to amaze us how such wild and beautiful places can be found within a couple of hours of Sydney. There are lots more places in and around Sydney that we have on our list of things to do. It
Stuck in the tent
Lisa peers out to see if the rain has stopped so she can venture to the long drop!
is inspiring to know that there are so many adventures and beautiful places just around the corner waiting to be discovered.
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Next time you will have to take surf boards - there is a very good wave at Little Era. We too are always delighted by the many special wild unspoiled places so close to home in and around Sydney