Four Great Days on the Yorke Peninsula

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 at 20:40

Stephen L (Clare) SA

The weeks leading up to the January 2013 Australia Day Long Weekend were nothing but tortious, with the temperature topping 49° C for a few days in a row here in Clare, then followed by a “Cool” change when the temperature went down to a balmy 38°C to 40°C. The long range forecast was cooler weather, but how cool it would be we would have to wait and see. The seven day forecast even showed the possibility of rain, so it was going to be a real roller coaster in the weather in the days leading up to our four day camping trip down to Innes National Park, located at the very bottom end of the Yorke Peninsula.

Even though it was only going to be a four day camping weekend, we still had to pack a full car, as we had to be fully independent, with water being the greatest commodity on board. With the alarm set for 4.30am, we were out of bed very early and were on the way before the sun poked its head over the hills. Seeing it was 38°C the day before we started this great little brake, the car temperature gauge showed an outside temperature of only 15°C as we headed for Port Wakefield, so what a contrast 12 hours can bring. Very overcast skies blocked out the moon and the day dawned a dull grey day and then it started to drizzle with rain until well past Port Clinton. The further south that we headed down the Peninsula, the clouds cover broke, but the wind did not let up which can be expected in this part of the world.

Being in no hurry, we visited most of the seaside towns on our way down the Yorke Peninsula and stopped at a number of locations that we always seem to bypass when we head down that way, with one such location being the Edithburgh Cemetery. Like other rugged coastline areas of around the world, this section of coast has had its fair share of tragic ship wrecks over the years. Even in death, class still played an important roll with the Officers of the ill fated Clan Ranald that sank off of Troubridge Hill over 100 years ago buried in a prominent section of the Edithburgh Cemetery, while 31 bodies of the 34 seaman that drowned were buried in a long communal grave at the real of the cemetery.

We headed out of Edithburgh on the Wattle Point Road that took us past the massive Wind Turbines that were once Australia’s largest wind farm. Hugging the coast as much as possible, we stopped for a quick bite to eat at the site where the Clan Ranald Memorial is located, before heading further west, and again stopped at a couple of lookouts that are off of the main track, which again in past years we have just driven straight past. One of the lookouts gave impressive views over the coast and Kangaroo Island was very easy to see from this lookout. The weather had now cleared and the blue skies looked like a very promising stay down at Innes National Park. Arriving at the National Park Headquarters, we purchased our 3 nights camping permit, and I then introduced myself, as I had arranged prior to the weekend to get details of the Park for a new Trek Notes for Exploroz.

With the exchanging of envelopes (thanks Michelle), I was given some special details about the Park that the general public do not generally get to see. We were told about what were the better spots to camps and proceed into the Park as to set up camp early and have the rest of the day on the beach.

With the tent erected and everything in place, we walked down to the secluded Shell Beach where we had the whole beach to ourselves - well not completely alone, as there were 3 Dolphins slowly cruising the small bay. It was just perfect walking along the beach, with the waves crashing over the distant rocks that we were walking towards. The smell of the salt air as we walked along the beach was so refreshing and the closer that we walked towards the waves crashing over the rocky outcrop, the better it sounded. Sitting on the beach was just great and the time passed very quickly. The tide was slowly coming in, so the tracks that we made on our walk up the beach were now washed away and we were now made making new tracks higher up in the beach. Every now and then a wave would rush past us and I had to be careful not to loose my balance and fall over as I was continually taking photos and not really watching what I was doing. Back at camp it was a very easy tea and because of our early start to the day, it was not long before I was in bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

The next morning was just perfect, no wind and not a cloud in the sky. I can not remember what I was actually doing, but is was around 8.45am and Fiona screamed out ‘SNAKE’, to which I really did not take much notice of at first. Fiona has a real phobia of snakes and there has been many times when her so called snake has been a large lizard and a strange stick in the wrong position. Turning my back from the back of the car, I walked up to the tent and I saw what Fiona was so excited about…….a very nice jet black and shinny, but quite skinny snake of about four feet in length slowly slithering along the side of the tent, heading towards our veranda area that was not secure at the bottom. Lucky for me, I had a spare tent pole on the back seat of the car, so I very quickly retrieved it from the car and fully extended it and get the snake a gentle nudge and made it change direction and it slowly slithered back out to the undergrowth at the back of the tent. Fiona then called out to the other campers at the site to look out, as there were a couple of young children of about 2 playing in the sand not far from our camp. One of the other men called out for a large shovel, but I told him not to worry about it, as there was now quite a commotion in the camp, and I did not think that it would be seen again…….how wrong was I. A couple of minutes later, it came back out of the bushes and was heading again slowing towards our tent. The long tent pole that I still had in my hand again came handy, with another prod to the snake to convince it to change direction, which it did and was not to be seen again. Around an hour later, the Rangers came around on their daily camp run and one of the questions that I asked was, what type of snake would it have been. Describing the snake, the Ranger said without any hesitation that it was a Black Tiger Snake, to which I questioned his judgement. Explaining that it was very skinny, the Ranger then said the times had been lean down here on the Peninsula and he said that I bet you had water out, which we did have out on the table. Even though it was still in a plastic container, but the lid off, the Rangers has it would have senced the water and was looking for a drink. Well what a great start to the day and this put Fiona on edge for the rest of the weekend, and as she said, in over 35 years of bush camping, we have never ever had a snake in our camp, and this was a first and lucky we were not in the open double swag!

Well after all the excitement, it was time to leave camp and start to collect the data that I wanted to record and we set off for Browns Beach. The views from the carpark down to the beach below were great and we immediately decided that we would return that night with our chairs and watch the sun set. Leaving the carpark, we retraced our tracks back past our camp and our next stop was at Dolphin Beach, which was again just perfect. Talking to some local shack owners, I asked them about the next walk that we intended to do, to Royston Head. They advised us to take the track opposite their shack and head to the top of the cliffs, saying it was a better walk with unreal coastline views compared to the walk signposted by National Parks and through the low, but dense vegetation. We returned to the car, to get the backpack as well as water, as by now the temperature was starting to warm up. We were so glad that we took the local advise, as Fiona and I both agreed that this walk and the cliff top views made this the best experience for the weekend. Constantly stopping to take photos and to admire the unspoilt views, we would have just sat on the edge of the cliffs for the rest of the day, but we still had more sights to see, so to complete the walking Trek GPS file, we returned via the well blazed walking track put in by the National Parks people. Again we both commented that if it was not for the fact of recording the data, we would have preferred to follow the cliff top walk back to the car, the scenery was just stunning compared to the recommended walk. By the time that we arrived back at the car, the temperature was 25°C, but seeing that the car had been lockup up in the sun for nearly 3 three hours, we had to leave the doors open for a while to cool the car down. From there we travelled only another short distance to the Pondalowie Surf Break Carpark. From the carpark, it was only a short walk through the dunes to the surf beach. Gone are the days of walking over the actual dunes, with an excellent boardwalk now in place. What a waste of beach, Australia Day and only a hand full of people on the beach and 3 lonely surfers out riding the waves. It this would have been the beaches that you see in the eastern state, it would have been crowded with hundreds of people.

Around a kilometre down the beach there was something that had caught my eye when we were walking in on the boardwalk and there was no way that we were not going to investigate it. Making our way down onto the beach, we strolled along the beach and it what seemed like no time at all, we were there, at the site of an old fishing boat that had been washed up on the shore. We were later told by one of the Rangers that during a very rough storm around 2008, the fishing boat broke its moorings and ended up where in now lays to rust away. After lots of photos were taken, we headed back up the beach with the only sound to be heard were the braking waves on the shore and the odd bird that made this part of the beach home. We decided to head back to camp and take it easy and have an early tea, so we could return to Browns Beach to see the sun set and just all the serenity in that so make people take for granted. Today would have to rate as one of our slowest travelled days by car ever, with less than 10 kilometres driven all day, but what we did not drive, we made up with having nearly walked around the same distance.

During the night I thought I must have been dreaming, yet next morning revealed that it was not a dream, but in fact we had rain during the night. It was not very much, but enough to make very big water marks on the dust that covered the car. It was a little cooler than the previous morning, yet Fiona still insisted on inspecting her raked area around the tent to see if we had any unwanted visitors and to her relief the only marks were those made by a curious kangaroo that must have inspected our camp during the night. We left camp just before 9am, as today we planned to get a lot more achieved, including a few more hikes of around 5 kilometres in total distance, so we had our day cut out. While heading to one of the beach area, we again ran into Ranger Kate, and we finalised a time to inspect the Cottage Accommodation at Inneston that she had wanted to show us since Friday. The conditions were perfect that morning, with not wind what so ever and a very comfortable 23°C. The dark clouds off of the coast did not look very promising, but we hoped that they would just blow over, which they ended up doing anyway. While having our morning coffee brake on the beach at Pondalowie, we witnessed the launching of a large fishing boat off of the beach, with the beach used as the launch.

We had hoped to visit a couple of points of interest before meeting Kate, but time was running out, so we headed to Inneston and waited for here to arrive, as I did not want to keep here waiting seeing that we now had a time locked in. I wanted to contact her to make sure all was on schedule, but there was no phone coverage and the Rangers only use the Government GRN communications, so I gave the National Parks office a call on my Satellite Phone. The lady contacted Kate by radio and informed us that she had been delayed, but was almost there. When Kate arrived, we hopped into her vehicle and were shown through a couple of cottages that have been renovated for visitor accommodation and they were very nice indeed and they offer those that would like to stay at Inneston a very special piece of luxury well inside this National Park. After our inspection of the cottages, we said a farewells to Kate and thanked her for all her help and Fiona and I did the Inneston Historic walk, a walk that we have done a number of times, but never with the GPS to record the actual walk. By the time that we finished the walk, it was early afternoon and we still had a couple of walks that we intended to do, so we heading to Stenhouse Bay for a few photos and waypoints and then proceeded to do the Stenhouse Bay Lookout Walk, which again offer some interest insights to the area and its importance in the Gypsum days and its rich Maritime history.

Time away was getting away, so after a couple of small stops, we made our way to the Cape Spencer Lighthouse. The views from here were typical of the whole coastline of this area, just stunning, and in my opinion rates it with the best in Australia. Being at a higher elevations and perched on the edge of the cliffs, it was a little breezy and a calm day, so you would not want to visit the lighthouse when it was a roughing gale. With lots of photos taken, we then headed off for my next waypoint and photo spot, Ethel Beach and inspect the remains of the Ethel and to compare the site since our last visit down here only three months prior back in Mid October last year. Moving sands had again covered more of the rusted skeleton and what a very start comparison for when we first visited the wreck in the early 1970’s, when you could walk through the structure and it now makes you wonder how many mores years you will be able to see what remains of the ill fated 711 ton sailing ship, “Ethel” that was wrecked on the 2nd January 1904 with the only fatality, 19 year old Leonard Stenersen who tried to swim ashore with a safety line and was swept away and his body never recovered.

Not far from Ethel Beach, we were now onto our last task of the day, with a 800 metre walk to the West Cape Lighthouse. The last time that we did the walk it was a one way walk, but now you walk a very big loop following the top of the high cliffs, with more great view to be had. Return to camp, it was another quick and easy tea before walking back down to Shell
Beach to watch the setting sun. Down on the beach, there was a small group of people fishing and generally having a good time. Three women from the group were from Germany and judging by their expressions, were having the time of their lives and to top it off, had a small campfire on the beach. It was not cold, but to added to the atmosphere and the smell of the burning wood smelt great. With the sun set, we walked back to camp and sat back in out chairs and enjoyed the solitude of our camp, before finally calling it a day and heading off to bed.

During the night there had been a small shower of rain, just enough to make things damp to pack up next morning. The sky was now quite overcast and the wind had sprung up, and was to remain like that for most of the day. My final task before heading back up the Peninsula was to record the drive into and check out Gym Beach and the camping area, which is still within the Innes National Park, but only accessible from the Marion Bay - Corny Point Road. It was while driving in to Gym that we came across a Malleefowl walking on the road. The moment that I stopped the car an opened the car door, it was off and heading off into the scrub and I only had time to get 1 photo, so I can be lucky sometimes. The sites here are bigger than other sites in the National Park and one think that Fiona and I both liked was that they were right on the Beach, whereas the other recognised camping areas are a short distance for the actual beach.

From here we headed north and again tried to hug the coast as much as possible. The beaches here were deserted and the only place that still had a few campers was at Gleesons Landing. We stopped for our lunch break up another small little track just past the Corny Point Lighthouse. This little cove would also make another great place to camp, with beach access and the backdrop of the actual lighthouse, which would look great as night approached and the lighthouse came into action.

Our last stop for the day were the old Moonta Mines sites, and even though we have been to them many time, they always seem to lure us back again for another look. From the old ruins, we headed for the beach at Moonta Bay and we could not go past for chips by the beach. While here, we were entertained by a couple of men out on the water, not in boats, but kite surfing. How they did not get carried away, we will never know, as they would launch off of the water and get at least 2 metres in the air, before touching back down on the water and then spin around and do all sorts of stunts that made people stop and watch. We finally pulled into the driveway at 7.15pm and our 4 great days away came to a sudden halt, with unpacking the car and the though of work the next day.
Smile like a Crocodile
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