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Archive for the ‘Coastal Walks’ Category

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Afternoon view from Knoydart across Sandaig and Morar to the distant Cuillan Ridgeline on the Isle of Skye.

Who’d have thought you’d come to Scotland in winter to walk in your t-shirt and get sunburnt?  True!  It was 1C yesterday but it was blue, blue, blue and not a breath of air.  Mind you, sunrise wasn’t until 9am and I skated along the icy path from Inverie up over the hill towards Airor then bashed across the moors and hillochs further west past Glaschoille Loch for a view across to the impressive Cuillin skyline on the Isle of Skye in the distance.  It’s really quite hard to get a sense of scale of the mountains in Scotland – they are so large, but when you are out in the wild, there is nothing to compare them to to give you a sense of scale.  What looks like a half hour walk turns out to be 2 hours, and the going is harder as, for the most part, there are no paths: you pick your way amongst the bogs and burns and tussock grass.

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View east across to Inverie from above Glaschoille. Sgurr Corrie Choinichean is the big mountain above the white washed buildings of Inverie. The snow-capped munro, Laddher Bhein (“lar-ven”) is to its left.

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Concentric frozen puddles.

I did discover there are distinct advantages to it being so cold that all the water has iced over: when yomping across a bog (there are lots of peat bogs around here), as long as you are relatively fleet of foot, the crunchy ice layer gives you just enough support to race across instead of sinking in the mire to your knees, as is my usual habit!

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Well, here’s a bit of excitement (for me at least!).  My next guidebook, Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges (Woodslane Press) was finally sent off to the printers on the 19th October and should be in stores by mid-December, ready for you to plan some lovely Christmas walks.  It will retail for $29.95 and has 40 terrific walks to suit all sorts of abilities and interests. A big thank you to my terrific editors at Woodslane Press, and to my patient friends who joined me on many of the walks (Karen, Deb, Di and Fred – legends all!). Here’s a sneak preview of the cover, so you know what to look out for. Hope you enjoy the walks as much as I did!

Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges
JP Mundy (2012), Woodslane Press

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Mystery Island, Vanuatu, walking track

From one end of the world to the other! Imagine circumnavigating an entire uninhabited Pacific island on a walk. And imagine it only taking 20 minutes!  Yes, Mystery (Inyeug) Island, which is plonked in the middle of the South Pacific and is Vanuatu’s southernmost island, really is THAT tiny.  And THAT beautiful – somewhat like a film set to be honest.  A mere drop in the ocean, protected by a sheltering Intao reef and cared for by the neighbouring villagers of Aneityum Island, it has a little sandy track around it which passes under pandanus and palm trees, some fabulous snorkelling and not much else.  Except – did I mention a landing strip?  The neighbouring inhabited island is so hilly, that during WWII, the Americans built a grass landing strip which basically runs the length of the island and today still has 2 flights a week to the provincial capital of Tanna Island.

The WWII and present-day landing strip at Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Most visitors to Mystery Island arrive via Cruise Ship lifeboat tender, and bring much needed cash to the islanders who operate tiny market stalls for the day trippers, but it’s also possible to make your way here independently, and stay (you need to be entirely self-sufficient) in the very basic wooden bungalow which is sometimes open and run as a community tourism project by the Aneityum Islanders. For a serious walk though, you’d need to catch a boat with your hosts back to Aneityum, and think about doing the 2.5-3 day walk around the larger island and maybe even a walk up it’s 852m Mt Inrerow Atahein – definitely on my bucket list!

Market stall holders from Aneityum Island (which is in the background) heading home from Mystery Island at the end of the day.

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Well, now that the Geelong, Bellarine and Brisbane Ranges book is tucked up with the editors (it’s due out before Christmas!), it’s time to get going on my next two projects: Melbourne for Dogs (well, for their owners actually), and Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road and the Otways.  While it was pretty (err, VERY) cold this weekend, the forecast was for clear skies, so Indie (my furry companion) and I headed down to the Otways, for a weekend of dog-friendly turbo-walking.  Understandably, there are quite a lot of restrictions on walking with dogs in the Great Otway National Park, but there are some great areas you can take your dog – it’s just important to check with Parks Victoria before you head off.  We started off at Wye River, south of Lorne and took Paddy’s Path above the Great Ocean Road to Separation Creek, then clambered back along the rocks.  Not only was the sea calm, but there were two humpback whales making their way down the coastline, no more than 30 metres off shore – what a bonus!

Humpback Whales playing off the Great Ocean Road

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So, autumn is here already and I have been busy writing up the final chapter of the Geelong, Bellarine and Brisbane Walks book.  I love the rhythm of writing, but autumn is also my favourite walking time – mild days, crisp skies, fresh air with a bit of a bite, glorious colours, and fewer slithering friends to worry about. By June, I hope to be started on the next book, which will cover the Great Ocean Road and the Otways: I can’t wait!  I don’t know about you, but sometimes, my feet just itch to get out walking, and when I am wandering along, I think there is nothing more joyous than to be out walking in our beautiful land.  My walking buddy, Karen, epitomises this in a way my dodgy knees and hips can’t express: here she is on our recent walk to the Jarosite Headland near Point Addis. So what about you?  How does a great day out on the track make you feel?

‘This is how happy walking makes me!’ (Pt Addis in the background).

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Sweeping views back to Point Addis from the Jarosite Headland

Well, I am down to my last two walks for the Geelong, Bellarine & Brisbane Ranges book, which brought me back to Point Addis along the Surf Coast.  I couldn’t believe how quiet it is out here – even in the middle of school holidays we only passed one or two walkers along the Ironbark and Jarosite tracks.  The views really are stunning, with the rich reds of the jarosite in the soil absolutely glowing in the afternoon sun,despite the cloud cover.

Tracks are reasonably well sign posted, though the map on the information board at the car park was woefully inadequate and there don’t seem to be any Parks Victoria parknotes or maps to download online either.  Hopefully the two walks I will include in the book will help close that gap.  While walking here, it is important to stay away from the high cliff edges, as the soft sandstone and jarosite is rapidly and unpredictably eroding and crumbling away.

Seacliff erosion at Pt Addis

We took our two dogs along (both on leads) and it is critical that dogs (and walkers) keep on made tracks and are diligent about using the cinnamon fungus boot wash stations on entering and leaving the park to help prevent the spread of this devastating disease which is destroying large tracts of our beautiful grass trees.  A big unexpected bonus at the end of the walk was this fearless Peregrine Falcon, sitting right on the edge of the clifftop, surveying his territory.

I am heading off to Point Danger at the end of the week to complete the walks, then it will be head down and walking boots hung up for a while, to get the walks all written up for the publishers, hopefully with a view to the book being published by August.  I have posted the list of planned walks for the new book on its dedicated page.

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View North from Point Addis Clifftop boardwalk

Just past Torquay, and an easy day trip from Melbourne, is a wonderful pocket of bushland which boasts some stunning views from its sea-cliffs.  For some reason, which I can’t fathom, Point Addis seems to miss out on most of the tourist traffic, who are focussed on either Bells Beach or heading to Anglesea, Lorne and the Great Ocean Road beyond.  However, Pt Addis is a wonderful wild destination in its own right.  There is an excellent short Koori Cultural walk with interpretive information boards along the way, or a more challenging Ironbark Basin walk – you can see the distinctive slip of the basin from the main car park – which also allows access to an old jarosite mine site.  Finally, there is a great short cliff-top board walk from the main car-park which allows for fantastic views up and down the coast, as well as access down to the beach itself – though take great care even if it is low tide.  Despite it being part of the Great Otways Park, dogs are fine as long as they are on leads.  An added attraction (depending on your viewpoint!) is that the northern end of the beach is one of Victoria’s only four legal ‘clothing optional’ beaches – don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Bell's Beach, via the Jan Juc Clifftop Walk (part of the Surfcoast Walk)

Well, how beautiful is this early autumn weather?! 26C and blue skies meant I packed up and headed for the coast, along with 52 million other long-weekenders, but it wasn’t long before I found my stride away from the crowds.  The rightly popular cliff top walk from Jan Juc Beach near Torquay through to the world famous surfing mecca, Bell’s Beach, is an easy 8km return along a well made track.  There are stunning views from the top of the 35 metre high sandstone sea cliffs, and numerous opportunities to head down vertiginous stairways to the beaches to watch the surfers close up. The walk along the top is through beautiful fragile coastal heathlands, with grevilleas in full flower, and I was lucky to spot another echidna, right beside the track. Can it get better than that?  Dogs are welcome, on leads, though they are restricted on the beaches at certain times of the year, so check the signs before heading onto the sand with your dog.

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Old pier, Clifton Springs, Bellarine Peninsula

A recent walk took me to the quiet township of Clifton Springs, near Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula. The town is perched on the edge of red sand cliffs looking north-west across Port Phillip Bay, and I found a pretty little loop up from the marina, along the edge of the cliffs in front of houses with views-to-die-for, up alongside a ravine and then back down onto the lovely white sand beach. From here you can see the remnants of a number of the old piers which stretch far out into the shallow waters of the bay.  This photo, taken from Clifton Beach, shows the You Yangs in the distance, across the water.  A lovely late afternoon walk.  On Sunday I will leave behind the gentle gradients of the Bellarine Peninsula to tackle the 7 day Overland Track in Tasmania, from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Claire – a classic long distance Australian walk I have wanted to do for years.  Apparently it has stopped snowing (and you thought Melbourne weather was unpredictable!) – for the moment!  Needless to say I will be packing for all sorts of contingencies!!

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Samphire grasses on the salt marshes at Kirk Point, near Geelong

Well, I have just had a huge and fantastic weekend of intensive walking for the Geelong and Bellarine book  – the cloud cover and warm-but-not-hot weather we are experiencing at the moment is just perfect for getting out in the summer. On Saturday, I explored the saltmarshes and inter-tidal mud flats on the bay around Geelong.  My first, early-morning walk took me to tiny Kirk Point, near the bird-watching mecca of Pt Wilson, for a really out of the way short stroll along the shoreline with views straight across to the Mornington Peninsula – a perfect stretch out for walkers with dogs, though they need to stay on-lead.

Next I went for a drive past the quirky beach shack community on Avalon Beach, behind Avalon airport.  The newly born mosquito population (which numbered in the trillion billions at least!) kept me at bay there, but with plans to secure a permit to walk through the extensive salt pans managed by Cheetham Salt ….. in the non-mosquito season!

I then headed out to the Hovell Creek walking track in North Geelong.  This well-made combined bike/walking path goes all the way from the northern tip of Corio Bay, which is known as Limeburner’s Bay, through to the small town of Lara, and has the height to provide good views back across Corio Bay to Geelong.  While very exposed, there is a treed picnic rest point from where you walk down onto the Conservation Area saltmarshes via a delightful boardwalk, which takes you right out into the mangroves at water’s edge.  The track is not signposted from the main trail, so it was a real delight to stumble upon. I continued on to Lara and lucked onto the lovely Lara Lakelands Reserve – which is an absolute oasis for waterbirds in the middle of the harsh plain landscape: there were Royal Spoonbills, purple swamp-hens, coots and even two huge nesting herons – right in the middle of the town!

Inspired by the Limeburner’s Bay name, I finally drove into Geelong and past Eastern Beach to Limeburner’s Point to try and find the elusive Limeburner’s Kilns. Luckily, it was low tide, and a passing gent walking his dog helped me find them (thanks, Peter!), buried in under the cliffs beneath the golf club.  They are such an important national heritage treasure, and still in excellent condition, so I do hope the City of Geelong will get involved in upgrading access to them. Off to the You Yangs tomorrow!

Boardwalk into Limeburner's Bay Conservation Area, via Hovell's Creek Trail, near Geelong

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