A path less travelled

9/26/2015 10:34:00 pm

In July this year we attempted to walk Scotland's Great Glen Way. The walk starts at Fort William and follows the Caledonian Canal 127km, to finish at Inverness. No big deal.

We didn't actually make it the whole way... we missed the first day of walking because something Very Bad was happening to Rob's interior. I'll get to that later. We missed the last day too, because it was really really far and something Very Bad was happening to my right foot. It involved skin and scissors, and lots of ineffectual tape.

Hoping to improve on the training regime we undertook for our 50km bike ride earlier this year (ie. minimal, with misplaced optimism and last minute panic), we did some long-ish walks in preparation for GGW.

We planned to start with a 17km walk from Clovelly to La Perouse. We parked at La Perouse and intended to catch the bus to Clovelly. Instead, we missed the bus to Clovelly , and so started the walk in Kensington, at the bottom of UNSW and joined the path in Coogee. That added a few unanticipated kms, but you know... training.

When I lived in Coogee years ago and was prepping for the Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair walk in Tasmania, I would walk from Coogee to Maroubra (I thought that it was good practice for a 6 day bush walk, which is a sign that my level of common sense has remained relatively unchanged over the years). Not many people realise, when walking from Bondi to Coogee, that the walk continues past Coogee and is far less busy if you head south. Anyway, it's been a long time since I walked in any direction, and the walk has changed a bit. It now involves a traverse around the edge of Lurline Bay, which on a misty day like the we had (with the tide coming in), was fairly treacherous. The rocks are slippery and there is no path. I think that they put that bit in to test you, as preparation for what comes later in the walk...

We were using a map from Walking Coastal Sydney, and it turns out that the map is really more a figurative than a literal interpretation of the walk. There are quite a few points on the map that don't match reality, like tracks that don't exist and sections that can only possibly exist at low tide or if you are strapped to a hang-glider.

The vision of Walking Coastal Sydney is to promote public access to Sydney's coastline. It's a nice vision, no? Unfortunately, no one has mentioned the vision to the numerous golf courses that one must walk through between Maroubra and La Perouse. Active golf courses. With golf balls, and carts, and signs that say, "NO PUBLIC ACCESS".

On the map it looks as though you can walk along the very edge of the headland, and that the golf courses don't quite extend the whole way. Either the map is wrong, or the golfers have stretched their boundaries.

Randwick Golf Course is the first that you walk through, and it seemed to be fairly low key. We kept to ourselves and tried to blend in. After about 30 minutes of walking though (we stopped and started a lot, to try and avoid being killed as people teed off), we started to notice big "no trespassing" signs. How stupid to put the signs in the middle of the golf course, we thought, and then realised that we had actually entered The Coast Golf Club.

We again tried to blend in, but the membership fees at the Coast are clearly a lot higher, and there was a lot of glaring. We tried to get back up on the road at one point, but then it seemed that we had taken a wrong turn and were supposed to follow a walking track that went along Little Bay. Down to Little Bay we went... but after a short sandy stretch there was only exposed rock, and even though the map makes it look like you're supposed to walk around that way, there's no way that anyone could possibly do so without dying.

Back up to the golf course we went, hugging as close to the cliff edge as we could, and just when we thought that finally we were out of the rough (hah), there was ANOTHER fucking golf course!!

Pink is the path, as marked on the map. Anything circled in, adjacent to, or anywhere in the general vicinity of blue, is a golf course.

What followed was a little stretch of blessed relief in the form of a National Parks track that goes up through the old Coast Hospital Cemetery, Botany Bay National Park, and past the Westpac helicopter base.

We took the side loop down on to Cape Banks and poked around for a while, looking at the shipwreck and sandstone. Also we got engaged. Just in case you were wondering when that happened. Actually, we had already decided to get married in Scotland, but Rob gave me my ring in a cardboard box, and made me open it so that if it fell into the ocean it would be my fault, not his. Romance.

The map shows a track that goes between Cape Banks and Henry Head, but by this point, Rob was on a conference call that had been pre-arranged, and there was only a tiny sign... and we took a wrong turn, placing us smack bang in the middle of... New South Wales Golf Club. Golf club number FOUR. This one seemed a little more pedestrian friendly, with paths and such. Walking along the path, we felt less like we were about to die and/or be chased away by an angry man in tweed, until, as we walked along we heard from behind the bushes next to the path, "CHINK.....WHOOSH...... THWACK". The sound of a golf ball, coming very very close to us. We started to feel a little less comfortable.

After a little more walking, we rounded a corner, thinking that finally we would be leaving the golf course, only to find ourselves on the edge of an active driving range. That part was quite stressful, and a man on a buggy came and offered to drive us back up to the road. We declined, but got the hell out of there as fast as we could.

Not long after, we walked the short stretch of Little Congwong Beach, and I was most disappointed that there were no nudists or gay couples in the bushes, in spite of what I had previously read on the internets. From the beach, there is a bit of sandy track, and then you pop back out at the La Perouse car park. It's been some time since I've been that happy to see an ice cream truck and Rob's car.

In sum, it really is a very nice walk from a scenic perspective, but basically, the whole walk is golf courses. And I've never been fond of golf.

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