Kiama Coastal Walk

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Spectacular scenery, sweeping views, sumptuous sunsets and the great Australian tradition of sun, sand and surf await hikers on the Kiama Coastal Walk, on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia.

The stunning hike meanders through beautiful bays and beaches and offers the moderately fit hiker a perfect escape from city life, as well as a fantastic opportunity for contemplation, nature appreciation, wildlife viewing and photography.

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Hikers can walk from north to south or south to north along a selection of different, connecting trails on a relatively easy, undulating path. There are some uphill sections, but the path is not too strenuous and the stunning scenery will encourage breaks for rests and photographs.

Furthermore, hikers can reward themselves with a refreshing dip in the ocean, or an exciting bodysurf, at one of the many stunning beaches which dot the route and are rarely crowded.

Hikers can choose from various routes.

Minnamurra to Gerringong – about 20km in total.

If you’re feeling fit, try the long hike. Start early in the morning to avoid the heat. Feel the sun on your back as you wander through Jones Beach, Cathedral Rocks, Bombo Beach and the suburbs of Kiama, where you can stop for a coffee or a snack. Continue towards the lighthouse and Kiama’s famous Blowhole.

If you have time, take a detour to the Boneyard and Spring Creek Wetlands or linger at Bombo headland for some great photo opportunities.

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Kiama Blowhole to Gerringong – about 11km

The next section of the walk takes you through the suburbs and beaches of the town of Kiama, where you can cool off with a refreshing dip in the ocean. Keep in mind, a dip in the ocean here will be VERY fresh in winter – at least you’ll know you’re alive.

Kiama Heights to Gerringong – 6km

Quaint and friendly Easts Beach marks the end of suburbia and the beginning of the most beautiful section of the hike. Beachside houses make way for rolling green hills and rugged cliff faces which overlook the rocky bays of the coast and provide the perfect vantage point to watch whales as they migrate to breeding grounds between May and October. It’s amazing how close they swim to shore.

Stop to explore many of the bays and hidden caves, as well as the small patch of rainforest which serves as a reminder of the vegetation which covered the area before it was cleared for agriculture.

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This section of the hike must be savoured. Enjoy it at your own pace before you descend to Werri Lagoon and the final beach of the hike, Werri Beach. You may have to remove your shoes to wade across the mouth of Werri Lagoon, but you can leave them off and feel the sand between your toes as you stroll to the southern end of the beach. Reward yourself with a swim before climbing the headland for more amazing views and a short stroll into the town of Gerringong, where eateries await.

Reflect on a beautiful experience before hopping on the train from Gerringong for the short trip back to Kiama.

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Transport: Trains run from Central Station, in Sydney, to Kiama. Kiama is the last stop on this line. To start the long walk from Minnamurra, get off the train at Minnamaurra (north of Kiama) and follow the signs to the Coastal Walk (start early in the morning).

To start at Kiama, get off the train at Kiama, walk down the street to the small harbour and turn right- you have started.

Trains also run between Gerringong and Kiama, but not very often. Check the timetable at http://www.transportnsw.info for the timetable.

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Have you tried Fred’s Man Boobs?

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I have; both of them.

What were they like?

They both had their own feel, their own personality as such, and the sensation was very distinct, but I must say I enjoyed the experience.

One was distinctly harder than the other, it’s curves tighter and sharper, it’s surface coarse and less soft to the touch.  A number of its more salient protrusions sent my hands and head cascading giddily.  The propensity of its tiny bumps would normally deter me, but are something one must tolerate in the pursuit of pleasure.

The other, despite its proximity, was far smoother and provoked an entirely different response. Its soft, flowing contours guided my hands and the rest of my body around its entirety and at times caused a feeling of weightlessness – as if I were floating on air.

That said, both set my heart racing, sped up my pulse and left me with a dry mouth. They both left me weak at the knees and slightly out of breath.

Fred and Man Boobs are both mountain bike trails in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. The trails lie fairly close to each other and can be ridden consecutively after climbing on this famous trail network.

Man Boobs is a fun, flowy trail with a decent gradient, berms and small jumps which encourage the rider to let go of the breaks and enjoy the chance to get some air.

Fred, on the other hand, is a more technical trail with small rocks and tree roots and is also known for a few short climbs which lead to some reasonably steep and short rock rolls which set the heart racing.

I almost fell on Man Boobs. Not from an errant rock or obtrusive tree root, but from surprise. As I rounded a corner and looked ahead to negotiate the trail, I glimpsed its eponymous artwork. Halfway up a tree, a manikin with a garish wig and lacy bra strapped around the chest caused such a distraction that it nearly threw me off my bike. Luckily I stayed on and managed to negotiate and enjoy the rest of the trail and make it to Fred, where the trail became flatter but also more tight and technical.

The two trails were as distinctive as their names and it made me wonder, how do mountain bike trails get their names?

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Essentially, mountain bike trails are named by their builder. You build it, you name it.

The names of mountain bike trails, therefore, tell us something about mountain bikers.

Trails attract names like Toads of the Short Forest, Handsaw and Gretel, Butthead, A Reptile Dysfunction, Sleeps 3, which provide some insight into the mindset of the average mountain biker.

Many trial names carry a back story, but the average rider knows nothing of that story as they set off on trails like Misty Mushroom, Curse of the Were-rabbit, The Ducks Guts and Wine Shanty, while riders descending Dirty Little Secrets must surely have their curiosity piqued.

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Some trail names are informative, and carry words like loop, creek, hill or link. Some examples, like those in Adelaide, South Australia, include Uprising, a climbing trail connecting riders to a downhill trail, or Blue Luge, an intermediate trail whose lower half boasts long sweeping turns which hug the banks of the small creek and are enormous fun to ride. One of the world’s most famous trails is Top of the World in Whistler, Canada. No prizes for guessing that this massive trail starts on the top of a mountain and descends to the Whistler resort area.

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Mountain bikers have a peculiar sense of humour.

The trails of south Nowra, in NSW, Australia, are managed by the local organisation called South Coast United Mountainbikers – proud to be known as SCUM. Another trail in the Nowra region is called How Roo’d, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a kangaroo on these trails. Meanwhile, close to Man Boobs and Fred, riders can start on Tinder and finish with Your Mum – how rude indeed.

Mountain bikers are mad.

Many trails suggest impending doom. Names like Certain Death, Widow Maker, Verge of Ruin, Rock and Roll Suicide, Treachery and Tombstone, reflect the inherent danger of this extreme sport.

Ultimately, mountain bike trail names reveal their fun-loving irreverence of the average mountain biker, and while I don’t know why a couple of Squamish locals called a trail Fred, I do know that a fellow local has a serious obsession with man boobs.

Images: Simon Blake

 

 

The value of peace and quiet.

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Peace and quiet is hard to find in the modern world and the search for tranquility and an escape from the noisemakers is what drives many people into the outdoors.

Unfortunately, it is not prized by all who step into the outdoors, including the crowds tackling the walking trails in Morialta Conservation Park on the fringes of Adelaide, South Australia, one fine summer’s day. So many of the locals and tourists were yelling, talking loudly, wearing headphones or, in one instance, carrying a stereo in a backpack and blasting out some funky electro-pop. There was so much noise on the main trails that it was hard to hear any bird life or any sounds of nature.

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The noise and the crowds drove me off the main trails and onto some of the more arduous paths – and it was there that I claimed my reward. Free from aural bombardment, I heard a gravelly, guttural noise emanating from the right of the trail. At first I felt shocked and threatened, all too aware of the number of dangerous feral species which inhabit the Australian bush. I stopped, looked right and saw nothing. There it was again – the same guttural call. Still I saw nothing as my eyes scanned the dry bush. Should I stay, should I run – what is that noise? I scanned upwards, into the tops of the gum trees, and I found the origin of the call – a cute, cuddly koala.

I stepped off the trail a mere ten metres and there I was able to sit under the tree and watch the koala go about its business for at least 30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly exciting. Koalas are some of the most docile animals in the world and spend most of their days eating and sleeping – like many Australians during the summer holidays. There is also an urban myth that the amount of eucalyptus leaves that koalas consume plunges them into a drunken stupor most of the time – again, like many Australians during the summer holidays.

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I enjoyed my time with the koala. When I finished the hike and walked back to the car, I saw groups of people reaching excitedly for their phones to snap a selfie with the koalas in the trees near the car park. Many were overjoyed at seeing a koala in the ‘wild’, but had they embraced the peace and quiet of the outdoors, they could have observed a koala in solitude without jostling for the best photo position or stepping out into the path of a car.

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Don’t go chasing waterfalls..

Don’t hike to waterfalls during an Aussie summer – you’ll be disappointed. The waterfall hike in Morialta Conservation Park is a rewarding hike in itself as it offers walkers the chance to immerse themselves in the rugged Australian bush just 10km from the Adelaide CBD, but the reward for the physical strain is meagre during the dry Adelaide summer. At each of the three waterfalls, there were steep rock faces, there was water, and it was falling, but it was a mere trickle and had no right to call itself a waterfall.

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Despite the dryness and the heat, the walks in Morialta park are impressive for a recreation area that it so close to the centre of the city. Many of the lookout points boast views back to the city and to the ocean and there are enough trails to suit many ability levels.

Late winter and early spring would seem to be an ideal time to visit this park, when the temperature is more conducive to hiking and the winter rains have filled the waterfalls. A mid-week visit would make it easier to avoid the crowds and to witness waterfalls and koalas in peace.

El Volcan Nevado de Colima.

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The Volcan Nevado de Colima is not actually in the state of Colima, and the nearest city is not the city of Colima. The Volcano actually lies within the state of Jalisco and the nearest major population centre is Ciudad Guzman, also in Jalisco.

Nevertheless, Colima locals are still proud of their Volcano. In fact, they’re proud of both of their Volcanoes, because they claim ownership of the Volcan Nevado, which is dormant and is occasionally covered in snow, and the Volcan de Fuego, which is still active.

The Volcan Nevado was the goal of my hiking party, comprising of residents of Colima from as far afield as Australia, the UK, New Zealand and the US. We had expected the company of some Mexicans but they had enjoyed themselves a little too much at the previous night’s fiesta.

We had dismissed the thought of climbing the Voclan de Fuego, because it’s regular eruptions leave it accessible only to the mad scientists from the Univeristy of Colima. We scheduled the climb on the Volcan Nevado for December because at this time of year the summit is more likely to be covered in snow – even though that is a rare and unpredictable occurrence.

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Volcan de Fuego

An assault on the summit of the Volcan Nevado must start early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and allow hikers the chance to descend safely during daylight hours. Thus, we put ourselves to bed at a ridiculously early hour of the afternoon, and woke at a ridiculously early hour of the morning in order to reach the base of the climb before sunrise.

With bleary eyes we drove through Colima and witnessed the fiesta spilling out onto the streets. It reminded me of a story I read once which explained that the closest sensation to altitude sickness is a strong hangover. We could have saved ourselves the effort of climbing to 4260 metres and just got drunk with the locals.

We drove on through the darkness and arrived at the base of the volcano. We quickly hitched our day packs and began the hike. At times, we could hear a scurry of feet that were clearly not human, and a rustle in the bushes. The darkness prevented us from determining its origin, and most of us were still too sleepy to worry about it.

We pushed on through the pine trees and felt the air thin as we gained altitude. Even for a day hike, without heavy packs, the altitude makes the climb a challenging one-day hike.

The trees soon cleared as the landscape opened to more rocky, alpine terrain.

At the same time the sun pierced through the horizon and we were finally able to see the source of the rustling – a random dog that had followed us from the beginning of the trail, and was to guide us to a point just below the summit. It was one fit and excitable dog.

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The climb is arduous, and relatively steep, but very rewarding. Stunning views open themselves to the hiker at regular intervals and the passing clouds envelope the nearby peaks.

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Patches of snow contrast brilliantly with the black and grey rock, even through we had missed a solid dumping of snow.

The air cooled as we continued to climb and provided a pleasant climate and welcome relief from the often stifling heat and humidity of Colima city.

Our canine guide barked us in the direction of the jagged summit and we soon reached the peak, celebrating like true conquerors, with handshakes, snacks, congratulations and even a swig of Scottish whisky from the Brit – who was clearly not lightheaded enough.

We managed to relax at the summit for a decent length of time and enjoy the ever-changing views. It is said that on a very clear day, it is possible to see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. On a slightly hazy day, it is still possible to see both Ciudad Guzman and Colima, and determine unequivocally which is closer.

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It’s also possible to gaze upon the Volcan de Fuego, and hope that it would erupt, because despite the obvious danger, it would be a great sight from up here. Even the regular ‘fumaroles’, or emissions of ash, are an impressive site from the peak of the volcano’s twin.

The descent was enjoyable and fairly relaxed, and we even managed to surf our way down part of it on the loose shale, with no sprained ankles to report. We shed our layers as we passed back through the pine forests to the base of the volcano.

Thus, we bid ‘adios’ to the dog and headed back to Colima.

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The biggest error we made on this day was stopping in Atenquique for lunch. The food was good, a nice hefty Mexican meal of rice and beans, but the stench was atrocious. The fumes spewing forth from the local paper factory were overpowering and made us a feel very sorry for the poor workers who were forced to live there. We’d all escaped altitude sickness, but feared for our health if we lingered too long in this town.

We decided to finish our lunch in the car.

Tired, happy and satisfied, we arrived back in Colima, just as some of the local revellers were arriving back from their own all-nighter.

A frolic in the falls.

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“Wow, it’s really is amazing,” remarked the Danish tourists upon first glimpsing Wallaman Falls, as the torrent plunged 268 metres off the escarpment into the pools below.

“They certainly are”

“Are you going to walk down to the pool?”

“Sure.” The tiny dots swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls looked far more relaxed than I felt standing in full sun at the lookout point.

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A sign at the start of Djyinda walk advises hikers that…

“People have died here”

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This is no empty threat.

It is steep, it is slippery and even though it is well maintained, it’s still bordered on both sides by stinging plants and dangerous Australian animals which lurk in the thick undergrowth of this tropical wetland environment.

The final stretch of the walk is also slightly treacherous as it takes the hiker over jagged, slippery rocks to the edge of the pool. The walk is well worth the effort though, as the water is deliciously refreshing and demands a swim, a splash and a frolic.

The water remains cool despite the intense heat of the day because the pool reaches a maximum depth of about 20 metres and is surrounded on most sides by sheer, high cliffs which shield the pool from the sun at various times of the day.

It is blissful to frolic in the pool. Swimming under the falls and watching, and feeling, the drops rain down upon you is magical. Better still, it provides many of the visiting backpackers with their weekly shower.

After a swim, one can sun bake, relax in the shade or explore the rocks searching for wildlife.

At some point, though, the path to the lookout must be ascended. This is a tiring walk, due partly to the steepness but primarily the heat. While sweating and panting up the hill, it’s easy to start wishing for another pool at the top of the climb.

Alas, there is another swimming spot at the top of the escarpment. A short walk from the camping area and day use area takes visitors to a beautiful rock pool with a little sandy beach. Backpackers can wash twice in one day!

The rock pool is a great way to refresh before hopping back in the car for steep, narrow, winding drive to Ingham and beyond.

Wallaman Falls is probably best visited late in the afternoon, when the walk down provokes a solid sweat, which can be easily relieved with a swim in the rock pool, and the walk up can be completed once some of the heat of the day has disappeared. The region itself is probably best visited at the end of the wet season, when the rainforest is green and lush, but the worst of the humidity, storms and insects have departed. What’s more, it makes sense that more water would be rushing over the falls after prolonged heavy rain, making for an even more spectacular sight – and an even better shower.

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Elfin Lakes: The best views I’ve never seen.

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I’d been looking forward to it for a long time. Looking forward to enjoying the world-class views which greet hikers at Elfin Lakes.

I rose early, ate a hearty meal and joined my brother in waiting for our lift to the trail head of the hike, which lies 14km from the suburbs of Squamish, in British Columbia, Canada.

We’d chosen to pay for a shuttle to avoid riding the boring and arduous 14km to the start of the hike, which itself is a 2okm round trip along a gradually rising walking path. We’d also chosen to ride the trail rather than hike because we figured it would be much more fun on the way down. Ultimately, though, we decided to tackle the trail for one reason – the 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

We parted with the shuttle after assuring the driver we had packed the bear spray and set off on the trail in a light drizzle under a sky heavy with clouds. We’d expected some rain early in the morning but were confident the sun would emerge by the time we reached the summit.

We passed a number of hikers on the steady climb but no other cyclists, until one came flying down the path. The massive grin on his face assured us we had something to look forward to.

The large number of hikers who had defied the weather indicated a view worth seeing. The descending hikers constantly warned us of two baby black bears on the trail up ahead. Lucky we’d packed the bear spray.

The reports of bears filled us with some trepidation and this combined with my general fatigue to turn the leisurely ride into something more arduous. I was glad we had taken the shuttle, because even without the 14km ride from Squamish, I was already struggling.

Alas, we did not see any bears, which should have been a relief, but was also a disappointment because I hadn’t seen a single bear in the preceding two weeks in Canada, and because I was hoping an encounter would be an excuse to stop and rest. After about an hour of climbing, I was struggling, with a lack of fitness and the realisation that I couldn’t keep up with my older brother, who was not helping the situation by popping wheelies up ahead.

We didn’t see the bears, but we soon discovered their bounty – blueberries. There were hundreds of them, on bushes right beside the trail, and they were absolutely delicious. More delicious than anything that can be bought in a store, so sweet and bursting with flavour that we devoured as many as possible. The berries themselves were a reward for the previous hour’s exertion, and the promised world-class views provided even more motivation to continue.

It was at this point that a light fog descended upon us and added some mystery to the beauty and silence of the forest. It also made us much easier targets for the bears, but as we surmised, if they wanted to get us they would.

Thus, on we rode, higher and higher through the forest and the clouds. The clouds thickened as the temperature dropped. We had to pick our way through the rocks on the trail and this added to my exhaustion, but I pushed on in anticipation of the spectacular views at the summit.

Soon though, the clouds thickened to such an extent that we could barely see in front of us. It was also at this point that the path levelled out and even descended at some points as we neared the lakes. We had to resort to calling and making noise on the descents, not to avoid a run in with a bear, but with a hiker. We had no idea where we were, until a faint outline of a building emerged through the fog.

We’d reached the summit, but where were the lakes?

They were hidden in the fog. We could see only a few metres in front of us. The much vaunted, spectacular, world-class, views were completely shrouded in fog. Two hours of solid climbing had been rewarded with…fog.

We rode past the hut, expecting to see a lake, somewhere, but only found the designated camping area. Thus, we perched on the edge of a camping platform, cold and tired, and ate a sandwich in the drizzle and clouds.

“Apparently there’s a wold class view here,” we assured each other.

We re-traced our steps to the hut and passed the frames which are used to keep food bags off the ground and away from bears. In the heavy fog, the macabre structures looked more suited to hanging someone.

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It was only when we started to ride back along the trail that we spotted it – a lake. One of the world-famous Elfin Lakes, which sat not two metres from the edge of the trail we had ridden down just 5 minutes earlier. The fog had been so thick we’d completely missed it.

Luckily, some of the fog lifted momentarily and we caught a glimpse of the lake, enough to persuade us to sit and enjoy our second sandwich and take a stroll around the lake, wondering whether to brave the cold and hope for the fog to clear, or to descend to warmer climes. Our stroll took us past a sign indicating that swimming was permitted in this particular lake – no thanks, it was way too cold for a swim.

We eventually headed back to Squamish and definitely enjoyed letting gravity carry us back to the start of the trail, which we reached with a feeling of satisfied exhaustion. We enjoyed the journey but will have to return to enjoy the truly spectacular views.

By Kieran Blake

 

 

 

 

Hiking Elegance.

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I feel the soft, silken caress on my toes and up onto my feet. The smooth, sheer fabric slides over my skin and wraps my ankles in a luscious embrace. I succumb to the temptation to run my fingers slowly along the svelte seduction and this indulgent pleasure ascends from the tips of my toes all the way up…

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my hairy legs.

I always wear pantyhose when I step out.

I wear the pantyhose under my hiking socks for added comfort and blister protection. I picked up the tip from a friend and fellow hiker who uses the technique to protect her feet on day hikes and multi-day hikes.

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Ever since I first tried it, my feet have felt better. I’ve had no blisters and my feet feel more comfortable inside the shoe. I feel almost as good as I did the day I bought the pantyhose from the department store.

In an attempt to avoid being labelled a pervert, I decided against wandering aimlessly through the hosiery section of the department store, as my legs are far too hairy to belong to a drag queen or ‘entertainer’. Plus, the region in which I live is yet to embrace the modern, urban trend of gender-fluid androgyny. I asked the helpful assistant to point me in the right direction, and even after explaining that I needed them for hiking, she still wasn’t convinced.

Oh well, they make me feel good.