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Up with the Eagles

dirt road dawn

GREAT OCEAN WALK: Day 4

Got started at a positively tardy 6:05am. The best sleep yet, all the way through to about midnight, from which point I woke pretty much on the hour every hour. Allowed myself the luxury of a starter coffee in the shelter as I packed, then I was off into that jet-black night.

Old Coach Road, upper centre, the previous evening

Moonset preceded my departure. Spent a while climbing the “Old Coach Road” into the hills, the old, rutted dirt road with its puddles and muddy spots and cow pies and farm gates. Made quite a bit of elevation, with just a couple of distant house lights, the glow of the rumbling breakers meeting the shore far below, and a couple of alarmingly bright lights up above which turned out to be cars swinging round the bend.

I thought about the old days, passengers making this journey — to where? — by horse-drawn vehicle. Then I reached the trees… ~ journal entry

A real dirt road, deserted, gum trees on both sides, a fresh breeze in my face. I enter a kind of rhythmic ghost-walk.

6:50am, first hint of sunrise beyond a far-off ridge:

And it is:

The coast walked yesterday

A dozen big sheep lying on the grass, rising apprehensively as I passed while two kookaburras watched on from a fence. Then the best of all as dawn, true dawn, broke out: a pair of wedge-tailed eagles soaring and sailing on the whooshing currents of wind buffeting the hilltops…

For an exhilarating minute the birds swoop and plummet above me, riding the offshore gusts. Turns out they’re not merely out for a morning joy-ride:

Wikipedia: As the breeding season approaches, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles will…perform dramatic aerobatic display flights together over their territory. Sometimes the male dives down at breakneck speed towards his partner. As he pulls out of his dive and rises just above her on outstreched wings, she either ignores him or turns over to fly upside down, stretching out her talons. The pair may then perform a loop-the-loop.

I enter private land for the descent to the beach:

A glassy ocean, ships inching across Bass Strait:

As I approach Milanesia Beach, a mob of wary kangaroos watches, dispersing into the trees as I get too close for comfort:

An old stone cottage just in from the beach, straight out of some English smuggler’s cove. Lace curtains and an unambiguous “PRIVATE” sign: I scurry back to the beach.

A beach that may well be my favourite, anywhere:

Grateful again for my morning start, I roam the sand and rock, examining rock pools and the heaps of flotsam.

I’m sorry to leave, but the next section is described as the toughest on the walk. A steep climb out, a last glance back revealing a pair of distant surfers heading into the swell…

All those footprints are mine.

..and then a lot of climbing and descending. The sun struggles to break through the gloom, and the rain pants and wind shirt stay on for most of the morning.

Three or four times I surprise a black wallaby on the path. In seconds they bounce into the undergrowth and vanish.

The construction of steps and staircases of wood and stone is flawless. It’s a joy to walk this section:

Lunch and a hot drink in another deserted shelter — this one Ryan’s Den, fishing-net floats swaying in the stiff breeze:

The view stretches all the way back to Cape Otway and the tiny splinter that is its lighthouse:

After lunch I headed out into the coldest day yet…

A huge dairy spread, cows evenly spaced on a vast treeless series of green paddocks overlooking the sea at Moonlight Head, an ugly modern farmhouse a jarring addition to the horizon…

Then beautiful stringybark forest again for 4.5km, with tall, slender white gums shooting up from the gullies…

I emerged at The Gable, hungry, spent a while there eating on the lookout platform.

I decided to abandon my planned walk along Wreck Beach as the tide was at its highest; instead it was back on with the gloves and wind shirt and fleece neck-gaiter for a long exposed stretch along dirt roads…

Stopped in at Moonlight Head Cemetery, dating from 1906, for a sombre perusal of the couple of dozen graves in one forlorn corner of a large mowed paddock. Got typically glum looking at the run-down graves of these forgotten people, pioneers of an almost forgotten corner of the world…

After that it was a road-walk for another hour — a fast walk and a muddy, pot-holed road, the Old Coach Road again. Man, they covered some distance on those days…

This sandy goat track is more pothole and puddle than road. Finally, I leave that deserted farmland behind and return to the wind-rounded coastal scrub. A winding track towards the Devil’s Kitchen Campsite, and a view of its spectacularly situated privy:

Devil's Kitchen toilets, left, camp somewhere behind.

And the view from the toilets:

Nobody else at camp. Again. Another killer day’s walking concludes. But missing that stretch of shipwreck-littered beach today is bugging me.

Writing in my journal later, dinner bubbling away, I conclude my account of the day’s 28.3km journey:

I dumped my stuff here, set up my tarp in site #7, and started on the long descent to Wreck Beach to see the rusted anchor of the “Fiji”. Partway down, however, I changed my mind and came back. I’d done enough walking, seen enough beach for one day.

Back here, I “showered” and cooked and house-kept. And now, for the final time on this amazing little adventure, it’s almost time to weave through the wind-battered trees to my little shelter and hopefully a decent several hours of sleep…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

Next post: Day 5, the conclusion of the G.O.W.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Loving your blog! Great to read how much you appreciate all the walk has to offer. Your early starts enable you to get the best of of your days. Great going!

    June 28, 2011
    • Cheers! Yeah, loved every day on the GOW, and didn’t regret a single early morning. A magical time of day on the lovely coast.

      June 28, 2011

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