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Monday, 13 May 2013

Wherein we go walking

The idea was to get a train to Gerringong, walk to Kiama, get a train home.  That's on the coast, a couple of hours' drive or train ride south of Sydney.  We were using the train, because we wanted to go one way only on the selected track.

That entailed walking to a ferry, riding the ferry, and walking uptown to Martin Place, where the train would pass through, almost an hour after we got off the ferry.

Three flies in the ointment: trackwork being done which meant the last 60 km would be in a bus (that was fly number 1).

Fly number 2, you can see on the right: fog, that slowed the ferries right down, but we still made it, even though the fog ate half an hour of our discretionary time. We met Lyn and Warren, with whom we were walking, got the train at 09:29, and shortly after noon, we were on the road.

The track is about 6 km along, winding over open country close to cliffs that look out over the Tasman Sea (a branch office of the western Pacific).

Third fly: there is about 3 km of walking at each end, before you get to and from the designated track, but we were up for that.

I plan to let the pictures tell most of the story, with a few comments about the geology and biology of the area.  For enthusiastic walkers, we started at noon, walked steadily, and got to Kiama station as night started to fall.  From Kendall's Beach onwards, it was suburban walking, but if I did it again, I would go on an earlier train,
Gerringong War Memorial Hall: after the Great War, they brought in a law that allowed communities
to erect memorial halls which, because they were War Memorials, were tax-free.
Looking to the south, a line of Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria heterophylla,
which I rather suspect are Australian natives.  They were certainly described
first from Norfolk Island, but some early views of colonial Sydney show trees
that are well-developed.  More research needed, but they are a typical coastal
tree in settled areas, and you will see a few more of them, if you look hard.

And these markers will help you relate the time stamps to distance.  This is being done on the assumption that a few walkers
will chance on this and need the raw data for their own sums.  This is it.
The track is well signed and marked, with good interpretation.  The coastal area was once rain forest, despoiled to provide cedar and then cleared to provide pasture.

The area is a weird mix of sedimentary rocks and volcanic flows (we will see more of that later) so the soil is rich, but a coastal fringe has been clawed back for the public.

The track is minimalist, apart from being slashed or mown, and there isn't much biology there.

But, the scenery is nice!

Keep in mind that this walk was done on May 12, in autumn, less than six weeks from mid-winter.  In Australia, that's still walking time!

The track officially begins as you pass the point where, in times of rainfall, Werri
lagoon breaks through to the sea. In Australian parlance, a lagoon is a dammed up
creek (which here, as in America, is fresh water, not an estuary, as in Britain, but
just to be contrary, Werri lagoon is quite salty.
Here is a section of the track.  We are off!
Reminder: this is the east coast, so this is a view to the south with what they call
a wave-cut platform.  Second reminder: this is Australia, so the sun is to the north.
A look north at a most peculiar pillar, 2 km from the start.  More Research Needed!
A small remnant of the original rain forest hangs on grimly at 2.5 km. We walked
inside to take a closer look at this fig. Those rocks are all volcanics of some sort.
In places, the track comes close to the edge of the cliff, but never dangerously
slow, and as you will notice, you can usually see a long way in front and behind.
This might be the place to mention that there is no water on the track, and no
toilets, either.  There are lots of pebbly beaches, most of which you can get to.
Like this one!
The left-over of a dyke, an igneous intrusion that pushed up through the sandstone
of the platform, but which has since weathered out.  We didn't have time to go and
examine it, but my guess is that there is contact metamorphism where the hot rock
touched the sandstone, turning it to quartzite, which sneers at mere waves!
Another view of that pebbly beach. There would be interesting stuff down there
for people who didn't need to get back to Sydney!
Almost at half-way, now, looking back at the track behind us.
Going down to the beaches, though, calls for a degree of wariness. Past half-way, now.
What is it about me and pebbles???
One of the better platforms, and the track, following the cliff line.
Another view of the same bay: this is when date stamps come in handy!
We have now completed 5 km, 1 km to go...
See how far you can follow the track.
This is an white-bellied sea eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, but we just call them sea eagles, and they don't seem to mind.

These are most ungracious birds: they always sneak up behind you at a time when you don't have your camera out.

The wing span of an adult is ~190 cm, more than six feet, and they are found all around the Australian coast line.

When I got this shot, we were just at the end of the official track, but with quite a long trudge over rather poorer ground in places.  The track is usually either clear enough or reasonably well signed, with one exception that I will come to.

Just across from the track's end, houses of ostentatious vulgarity abound. I took
this shot for the rocks in front, where waves break up onto them making pretty
little intermittent waterfalls.  We had to go around the head of the bay and along
the grass below the houses.
Looking back, the headland is composed of sandstone (the lighter rock) overlain by the Blowhole latite.  On the right, the top of
the sandstone goes below the sea.

Around Kiama, where the rocks were on offer, the early farmers made dry-stone walls.  Sensibly, somebody has built a stile here
so Mr and Mrs Public don't damage the wall.  On the right, there is barbed wire to underline the message.  Good!

I have always been fascinated by the way waves shape beaches and beaches shape waves.
With the light fading fast (there is a high escarpment to the west, we made it to the Little Blowhole.  Kiama is famous for its
giant Blowhole, but last Sunday, according to a lady who was there, it wasn't working, unlike the Little Blowhole.  It's all a
matter of tides, swell direction, wind and luck, but when a wave crunches into a cleft, water spouts, as you can see here.

At this point, the track is hard to follow. Take the path west, downhill and uphill, then find a paved roadway, over to the left, go up to the street, and obey the Blowhole signs to get to Kiama.  You turn tight at the road, right again at the end, and walk down into  a turning circle. On the far side, there is a right-of-way, going over to the cliff edge.

Once we were on that beach, we were in civilisation with concrete paths to follow.
All in all, the walk is a strenuous one, but well worth doing.  Of course, as four senior citizens, we all travelled on $2.50 all-day tickets that covered everything.  We got the 20:45 ferry to Manly, across a thankfully fog-free harbour.

Not a bad day out for the middle of autumn!

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