Archive for the ‘Coastal Walks’ Category

Have just spent the past week getting out and about with the Geelong Walks book – so exciting when all your work comes to fruition and people start to use it! Now, though, my plate is clear so I can knuckle down on Melbourne for Dogs, which is due to the publishers at the end of April.  From that point, it is still around 5 months of editing, designing, cartography etc until it reaches the shelves – I find the whole ‘hidden’ processes behind books quite fascinating.


Indie, Seagull Lookout, St Kilda Marina

Meanwhile, my co-author on Melbourne for Dogs, a.k.a. Indie, is just kicking back and contemplating the seagulls from her window seat on the front of my kayak, down at St Kilda marina yesterday – a great way to cool off after the longest lasting run of 30C+ February days we’ve ever had in Melbourne.  Needless to say, we’re enjoying doing the beaches chapter of the book just now.  West St Kilda Beach is a favourite – close  by and off-leash for dogs all year round – plus the kite boarders who favour it provide endless hours of entertainment for dogs who run after their enormous, colourful kites in the shallow waters. Dog heaven.

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ImageBack to Planet Oz to find my new book waiting on my doorstep. Yay! A year in the making and it feels like an elephant pregnancy, but finally Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges is here. I think it looks great – but I would do! It should be in bookstores, newsagents and Tourist Info Centres in the region before the end of the month – let me know what you think!  You can also buy it direct through Woodslane’s online bookstore or other online booksellers.  It retails for $29.99 and includes 40 great walks. Alternatively, if you are in a cafe or other outlet and would like to stock it, let me know and I will put you in touch with the publishers. Now, finally, onto Melbourne for Dogs….

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Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, above the forests of Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland

Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, above the forests of Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland

Well, the night before this glorious day, the water pipes froze in the ground here, it was THAT cold.  But in the end, despite it being the second week of December and the rest of the UK wallowing in the wettest year on record, I walked in t-shirt sleeves under blue skies and above expansive views across the sea to Skye.  In fact, it was so picture-perfect, that I can’t help but include lots of photos in this blog, to give you a sense of why this place is so special.

Though the sunlight hours are very short up here in the Western Highlands (around 5 hours in all), I decided to have a crack at a hill walk up Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean (it rhymes with ‘heineken’ apparently: ‘sgurr korry na konniken‘). It is the big hulking hill that rises above the tiny town of Inverie (reached by boat from Mallaig), but is often overlooked for it’s more glamorous neighbouring munros, which were topped with snow. However, it has some hidden surprises – and it also gets the sun for most of the day, which is incentive enough in winter!  A beautiful start steeply up through the mossy forests above Inverie, over the deer fence by way of a vertiginous stile, then a pathless clog up and up, and up some more through heather, mud and icy bog, with Inverie becoming progressively smaller below.

Looking across to Eigg and Rhum from above Inverie (c) JP Mundy 2012

Looking across to Eigg and Rhum from above Inverie.

The sky was brilliant blue and the iced up heather spectacular, as you can see:

Jet stream above the slopes of Coire na Choinneachean, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

Jet stream above the slopes of Coire na Choinneachean, Knoydart

Icicles on winter heather, Knoydart, Scotland (c) JP Mundy 2012

Icicles on winter heather, Knoydart, Scotland

After a lot of puffing up the boggy hillside, you lose sight of Inverie below and make your way around the rim of the impressive hidden gully/gorge of Allt Slochd a’Mogha (seriously, don’t ask me how to pronounce that one!).

Allt Slochd a'Mogha Gorge, Knoydart, Scotland (c) JP Mundy 2012

Allt Slochd a’Mogha Gorge, Knoydart, Scotland

Looking down the Allt Slochd a'Mogha gorge to Long Beach, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

Looking down the Allt Slochd a’Mogha gorge to Long Beach, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

At the head of the gorge, you reach a totally unexpected high level pasture-land/bog, which gives you 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and lochs, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein, Bhein na Caillich and across to the Cuillins on Skye.

Benn na Caillich, from the plateau on Sgurr Coire na Coinnichean (c) JP Mundy 2012

Benn na Caillich, from the plateau on Sgurr Coire na Coinnichean

The final pull up the two summits of Coire na Choinnichean was not for me this day, sadly, as with the sun going down by 3pm and the rocks and ridges hanging onto their ice, I had to turn around and save it for another day.  SO tough with it close enough to grasp….

The tantalising but icy summit of Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, with the snow-covered summit of Laddher Bhein peeking above the horizon (c) JP Mundy 2012

The tantalising but icy summit of Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, with the snow-covered summit of my favourite munro, Laddher Bhein, peeking above the horizon

Totally wild. Utterly spectacular. Very, very hard to leave.

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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.


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.


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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