We started our trip on the right note - that is, with a visit with my uncle in Port Stephens. Uncle Ronny picked us up direct from the Sydney Airport and whisked us off into a far more relaxing corner of Australia. His backyard is populated with quiet beaches, bays and villages and was the perfect low-key way to ease ourselves into this journey. My uncle is also a wonderful, warm, generous man who has a great sense of humour. Our time with him was thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing and fun. Thanks Uncle Ronny!
During my time in this area, we made a trip to visit the lovely Gretel Fortman and go for a run in Brisbane Waters National Park. It's an amazing pocket of nature located not-to-far from the metropolous of Sydney, but it felt wild and wonderful. The run from Girrakook to Patonga is highly recommended. It was a hot day and I was super-happy to find a killer swimming hole to jump in. Gretel's home town of Terrigal is absolutely lovely, as is the lady herself and her family. It was great to connect up with another runner girl and this girl rocks! Watch out for this one - she's not only gorgeous, but young, athletic and talented. Gretel spent a fab year and a half working and training in Squamish and has had a helluva' running season. With great finishes at White Mountain and a top 10 finish at UTMB this year, the girls got legs to go with a sparkling personality.
Gretel in her playground
After our time with Ronny, Keith and I got in the car and made our way North to Yampa where we would base ourselves for a few days while we enjoyed the Yuraygir Coastal Walk. I knew nothing about this walk apart from reading this little brochure, but when I found out it was the largest stretch of undeveloped shoreline in all of NSW, I decided we needed to go and see this place.
The Coastal Walk was amazing!! It was an amazing stretch of coastline, with crazy beautiful scenery, remote villages and long stretches of walking on the beach. We followed the "path of the Emu" in hopes of seeing a rare coastal emu. In our time we saw dolphins, sea eagles, whales, incredible bird-life, beaches and shared the trail with kangaroos. We didn't see an emu, but we did find emu tracks and scat on the trail. We saw virtually no people on the trail and most encounters where with locals where we were close to the villages. On our first day, we came across a naked guy, just walking along with his sunhat and sunglasses on. He was carrying an apple and a smile and was barefoot. I surprised him walking around a blind corner and greeted him with a warm and chuckling "Hello Mr. Naked Guy!" to which he had a laugh. He was also kind and generous and offered up some great local knowledge. I just had to avert my gaze from time to time.
Most Aussies have brown feet and a flip-flop tan. I do NOT.
Heading down to the beach on the Yuraygir Coastal Walk
Walking in my bikini bottoms - Why Not?!?
Sunset at the campground - Sandon River
Longest stretch of beach walking- 10km on Sandon Beach
The lack of people on this walk was a serious highlight, as was the incredible scenery and the encounters with the few people we encountered along the way. We met a couple outside of the village of Sandon, who took us in, fed us and got us blindly drunk with one of those bottomless-glasses-of-wine. It just kept getting re-filled and the next thing you know, Keith and I where not just drunk, but plain-ol' shit faced. It took us 2 cups of coffee to get us out on the trail and it was a long walk in the sunshine, but totally worth every moment.
Berna and Cora - on the headland behind their house
We did 100km in 4 days - with a bonus night spent at a lovely campground close to town for an easy walk back to civilisation. The Yuraygir Coastal Walk was amazing on so many levels, highly recommended if you wanted to do something well off the beaten track. You can't go wrong with a place this remote and beautiful. So far, Australia has proven itself to be a big, beautiful wonderful world.