Sunday, 30 September 2007

Adventure at Cape Woolamai

Saturday 29 September, 4pm

I have not long returned home from an adventurous afternoon. Full of confidence in my new fitness and walking ability, I set off for a long walk at Cape Woolamai at the south-east of Phillip Island. This was more or less the only unexplored territory on the southern coast of the island, and I’ve been looking forward to getting down there for a while. There are three walk options, with distances of approximately 4, 6.6 and 8.5km respectively. The suggested walk times are very generous, and after some consideration, I decided to do the mid-length walk, confident I would take less than the 3.5 suggested hours. (After all, I walk to work at over 6kph, so surely I wouldn’t need much more than an hour!)

First up it took me about 15 minutes to find the walking track – mainly because I didn’t read the instructions for the GREEN walk, having decided to do the BLACK walk. When I finally realized I had to walk along the famous Woolamai surf beach for a few hundred metres first, I slugged off through the sand. It turned out to be very windy and rather cold, and I was thankful for my Gore-Tex jacket, icebreaker double-layer, scarf and beanie. Not exactly spring gear! On finding the walking tracks at last, I rejoiced and powered off along the cliff tops.

Cape Woolamai is very lovely, albeit windswept. It is also home to an extensive muttonbird rookery, and these birds were evidently due to arrive a few days ago. A lady I met seemed disappointed they hadn’t arrived yet, although I thought I smelt the telling stench as I walked through the area. For the first half hour or so I followed the green arrows to a view of ‘the pinnacles’ which are a spectacular granite outcrop. After this, the black path takes you on a circuit of the cape via the highest point on the entire island (116m). From here, the views would be wonderful on a clear day. On a somewhat storm-threatening, windy, hazy day, it was enough to appreciate that I had made it to the top!

By this time I had nibbled my way through all my snacks – small pack of sultanas & dried apricots, cheese & biscuit snack pack and an apple crumble bar. The bitter wind tore across the cape, so I didn’t linger, despite being fascinated by the arrival of small zippy birds that initially had me wondering whether I was witnessing the muttonbird arrival. I was also keeping a lookout for peregrines and nankeen kestrels – didn’t see these, but saw many crows and gulls.

I was ready to end the walk at this point, having had enough of the wind and the cold, but still had to complete the circuit and get back to the car.

If the first part of the walk had been a slog, then the last part was rather a struggle. I was tired of battling the wind and threatening rain, my ears were cold and I was hankering for a cup of coffee. At times like this I project myself into the persona of my characters, and try to cling onto the emotions, the physical discomfort, the thoughts, so I can inject them into these creations. I found myself examining the vegetation, and thinking up useful descriptions of them, and then wondering whether that was how my characters would describe them.

After a while I remembered that I had my headphones and thought maybe some music would help!

Finally I reached the end of the track and the beginning of the beach, but the worst was yet to come. For around 15 minutes, I laboured along the beach, the tide foaming around my ankles, against a headwind that made me feel like I was getting nowhere. To the tunes of Garbage and Hothouse Flowers, I put one foot in front of the other, tried to ignore the rain that had started in earnest, and thought bravely of that mega-latte I was going to have as soon as I could get to a café. Gradually – ever so gradually – the rickety ramp grew larger until I finally arrived back at the car park. Total time (since setting off along the beach): 1h 55m.

Since then I have devoured my mega-latte, hugging the mug in a daggy little café opposite Coles, and re-fuelled on a hot toasted fruit & spice muffin. On another day it would be a lovely walk – one on which to take a picnic lunch, even. Today, it was an adventure!


  1. Nothing like cold ears to make a walk miserable. That's the point I'll usually turn back because otherwise it usually progresses to a sharp and nasty headache. I agree about the characters though -- I always take mine with me too.

  2. We were just out there today, and I was fascinated by the rookeries, although in the middle of the day, no sign of the birds. Then reading tonight how they harvest the chicks in many areas. That does not sit well with me.....