Sunday, 22 November 2015
This weekend was our final overnight practise hike. From Cockle Creek to South Cape. Due to a leisurely start to the day for 3 of us and Jon squeezing in a 3hr run before returning home to help pack - we were a bit late getting started - we left Cockle Creek at about 2pm.
I've done this Great Walk recently, so I knew the first 7 k over to South Cape Bay was relatively easy. About half of the trail is board walked through a wide valley, and there aren't any particularly steep bits.
Jon and I were carrying fairly heavy packs as we we needed to take water in with us (so I started with 5 litres, Jon had 6). I think my pack weighed around 21.5kg, which was okaaaay, but I can imagine it might be a few kgs heavier on the first day of the overland track. Ugg.
Anyway the walking was pretty nice and pleasant through the valley, but the moment we hit the cape the wind was absolutely howling. We were sprayed with sand, and dust and .. well..spray. We were being blown sideways (which thankfully due to the onshore winds, had us stumbling off the trail towards the hills, not tumbling down off the sea cliffs)
Down on the beach it was slightly nicer but not altogether pleasant..
but we managed to reach the campground at the other end of the beach after about 2 hours walking in total. These campsites were quite nice, sheltered and sprinkled around some low vegetation. We would have happily camped here, but it was already completely occupied by a group of very noisy scouts. There was 1 small space left over which was occupied by a solo traveller who was happy enough to share it with us but in the end we decided to press on to the next campsite - 3-4k and over an hours walk further. Well 3 of us decided to, and Zali had no other option!
The next hour was certainly tougher than the two previous ones. Up and over a couple of steep headlands, along two beaches, and through a fair bit of mud. Here are Zali and Jett digging Jett's foot out..
Our new campsite was at the end of the 2nd beach that is just visible in the photo below.
But it was totally worth it when we got there. Quiet and beautiful.
The only other campers where coupled of groups who were finishing their 2nd last day of the South Cape Trail.
After a long day it was good to settle in and have some dinner. We were testing out a few dehydrated meals with mixed success.
Then after dinner we went to check out how Jonno would cross South Cape Rivulet at 5.30am the next morning, as he set out on a 5hr training run. The rivulet flows very fast out towards the sea, and it would be well above head depth in some of the deeper sections. We found a good spot where he could cross at about calf depth - much better than the previously suggested groin-height that we'd been shown before. The picture below is where the original suggestion was (near the middle of the photo). It must be really hard to get across after heavy rain.
Instead of the area above, Jon decided to cross further towards the sea, where the rivulet fans out, and he could get straight across to the rocks on the right. He even took off his shoes and tested it out and it was all good.
So at 5.15 Jon's alarm went off, and as quietly as he could when you are in a small tent blocked with large packs (not at all), Jon got ready and left, taking with him his racing pack with gels, map, phone, epirb, warm gear etc etc. I wasn't expecting him back until 10:30.
So imagine my surprise when he reappeared at about 7.30. "Hey what happened?" I asked. "My hip was hurting", said Jon. Ah - the product of all this training I thought to myself. "So I ran half an hour out, and half an hour back". "Ok" I said. "Good not to overdo it". "Yeah" he said.. "I also broke my phone". "Really?" "Yep"… and then, while I was imagining him slipping on a step and dropping it, he told me the story..
So after getting ready to go, he yakkered away to another early rising camper for while, so he was only really crossing the river at about 6am. The conditions seemed much the same as yesterday, although perhaps the water level was a little higher and after taking off his shoes and socks he saw that the water had retracted so the level was low (at least for a moment). So he scampered across and up onto the rocks on the other side. To where he is pointing..
If he'd looked more carefully in the other direction (out to sea), or waited a bit longer before scarpering, he might have noticed that two out of three waves are small, but every ten minutes or so, due to this sea..
a big wave comes across the very rocks he had reached (those black rocks below - I took the photo of the smaller waves as Jon talked me through the events afterwards).
He didn't look out to sea, or observe the rivulet for long enough, so when he was hit with a big surging wave, a second after reaching the rocks, he was taken totally by surprise and was quickly swept of his feet and scraped and bumped across the rocks for about 10m before being dropped unceremoniously, 'over the falls', back into the deep water channel below.
So he went from calf deep wading to swimming in a matter of a few painful seconds. After a flap around he was able to touch the bottom, and shortly afterwards he grabbed his shoe as it floated past. Seconds later his socks had emerged from the foam and he was able to make his way, bedraggled and sore to the bank before the water started rushing out again. Wet clothes, wet map, wet phone.
Jon decided he was better off putting his shoes back on and continuing straight away, in order to warm up and calm down. So he did, but after half an hour his hip (which had hit the rocks pretty hard) was really sore. He turned around and came back to camp (noting, while chatting to another hiker, the PWS sign that said to observe the conditions for at least 15 minutes). He crossed very cautiously (just upstream of the rocks) the 2nd time around! And that is why Jon was back at 7.30am. With some lasting impressions of South Cape Rivulet.. that's the good hip. Ouch.
Despite being a bit cold and still clearly shaken up and sore, he was pretty much ok to go again after a bit of a rest and some breakfast. We had to retrace our steps but the wind was a lot less strong, so whilst the journey felt like a bit of a slog, it was ok.
and the kids had energy to enjoy some of the sand dunes along the way.
Unfortunately Jon was limping most of the way back - his hip is pretty badly bruised as well as heavily grazed. It was only halfway back that Jon realised that South Cape had taken more than his dignity... it had also taken his wedding ring. It must have been dragged off his finger when his shoes were pulled out of his hand (helped along by his 7kg weight loss due to training).
Oh, I said. Bugger… then after pausing I came up with a great idea.. How about we get ourselves new wedding rings on our tenth wedding anniversary? Jon looked at me quizzically.
Even after the shock of almost drowning in the rivulet, he still had his mental faculties intact… 'We've been married for 13 years." he said deadpan. Oh yeah. :) Still. South Cape can have the wedding ring - and expose my hideous lack of anniversary appreciation - but we've still got Jon, and that's what matters.