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Wattamolla to Otford

Wattamolla to Otford
Home > Diaries > 2022 > 1028


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RETURNING to Wattamolla at sunrise, I set off on the eleventh and final day of my hike along the Sydney coastline. Having hiked 202 kilometres so far, I was relieved this was my final day on the trail, but also a little sad that this amazing achievement was ending today. Still, I had not yet finished and I knew some of the track ahead was closed, so I crossed my fingers hoping I would be able to get through, particularly along this remote section of coastline through the Royal National Park, a completely uninhabited section between the bottom of Sydney and the top of the Illawarra region.

Setting off under a thick overcast sky, I headed along the track, alternating between a rocky surface and boardwalk through the low heathland scrub. A strong wind was blowing off the grey ocean, reminicent of my first day on the trail. The heathland wilderness was quite flat apart from the occasional deep gully where small streams flowed towards the cliffs to plunge into the turbulent sea below. In between the gullies, low ridges extended out into the sea into rocky headlands.

After a fairly long section, I descended into the first of these gullies, crossing over some landscaped stepping stones over the ochre stained stream flowing through the sandstone bedrock towards the edge of the cliff about two hundred metres downstream. I stopped here for a late breakfast before heading up some steps back to the top of the scrubby heathland. Part of the track traversed over a long exposed rock above the gully before turning southward along a long boardwalk.

Over the following two hours, the track continued along boardwalk through the low scrubby heathland with the occasional creek crossing. Although the land at the top of the ridges afforded distant views, there were no signs of the great city of Sydney behind me, nor the city of Wollongong ahead of me.

At one point I descended to a large flat area of exposed rock just a few metres from the cliff edge. The wind was blowing quite strong and I could hear the waves pounding on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff unseen. I crossed a couple of shallow streams flowing towards the edge of the cliff to drop into waterfalls. The wind pushing up against the cliffs caught the water going over the edge and blowing it back forming upside down waterfalls.

After resting and watching these waterfalls, I continued following the track through the heathland scrub gradually rising to the top of a ridge from where I could see down the coast and just make out Wollongong City with several ships sitting offshore waiting to dock at Port Kembla. Heading a little further over the ridge I could see down to Garie Beach, a surprising drop below me.

From the ridge the track descended steeply along the rocky path to the beach. The standard of track had changed quite suddenly from easy to walk boardwalk to a scramble down the rocks, then through a mostly overgrown section of track. I was relieved to reach the beach with large waves breaking on its exposed golden sand. I walked along the beack towards the next headland where the track had passed in front of, but this section was closed due to landslide damage, and several sections of track further on were closed also due to storm damage.

Reaching near the end of the beach, I saw some buildings in a small valley with a road leading to them. I headed up towards them stopping at a picnic table in a small park between the buildings and the road. After resting here, I started walking along the road heading uphill along the back of the valley as this was the only way through with the walking track closed.

The road was very quiet as I headed uphill through the dense forest, the first I've seen in a long time. Heading around the back of a gully, the road was closed with a sections of it broken off and sliding down the hill with large cracks in the road. Fortunately there was a temporary fenced boardwalk walkway around the back of the road to safely pass. If it were not for this I would have had to turn around here and return to Wattamolla.

Continuing up the road, it continued turning until reaching above the headland above Garie Beack, from where it doubled back continuing around the back of another gully and continuing uphill through the dense forest. About another half an hour passed before I reached a junction with a short road heading to Governor Game Lookout. Heading to the lookout I could see down to the beaches quite some distance below me obscurred by cloud haze.

After resting at the lookout I returned to the road and followed it a little further before reaching the gravel Garawarra Farm Road which I followed along the top of the ridge for a couple of kilometres to a day use area. Here I rested again before following the Garawarra Ridge walkway trail, passing the junction where the original (and closed) coast track drops down to the beaches below. Thankfully I was on top of the ridge already as I had gained a fair bit of altitude along the road earlier.

The track continued through the forest alternating between firebreaks and boardwalk trails until descending a little to a sudden clearing overlooking the coast. I had reached Otford Lookout, my final destination. From here I had a good view down the coast towards Wollongong, though the city itself wasn't visible from here.

After resting at the lookout, I followed the trail beside the road before crossing and following a steep track down a long way to the Otford Train Station, marking the end of the 220.4 kilometre trek along the Sydney Coastline. From here I caught a train all the way back to Town Hall Station, quite a long journey taking an hour and twenty minutes.

Upon returning to the city, I headed across the road to the Imax theatre and watched a movie to rest my legs.


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