Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beach Hut to Port Julia, Walk the Yorke - April 2017

The cliffs between Stansbury and Port Vincent looked pretty good in the morning sun.
Port Vincent
On the second day of my short South Australian sojourn recently Petra and I headed over to the Yorke Peninsula to catch up with a couple of friends. Like Petra, I'd originally met Greg and Deb whilst trekking overseas and like Petra, Greg and Deb have become firm friends. Greg and Deb own and run a big farm near the small Yorke Peninsula town of Curramulka, running dry crops and sheep their life couldn't have been much more of a contrast to mine being stuck in a manufacturing plant twelve hours a day. With the reasonably new Walk the Yorke trail running right around the peninsula it seemed like a good idea to head off and sample a section of it. After deferring to Greg and Deb's local knowledge we decided to start at a deserted car park north of Stansbury called Beach Hut, from here the plan was to head north, have lunch in Port Vincent before walking up to Port Julia in the afternoon.
From what I saw the trail is very well sign posted.

So after dropping my ute off at Port Julia we headed south down the St Vincent Highway to Beach Hut. I'm not actually sure how the name Beach Hut came about as the car park in the dusty paddock above the cliffs didn't feature anything that resembled a beach hut from what I could see. Leaving the car we dropped down onto a wide firm beach, the first bit of today's ramble had us following the beach north towards the disconcertingly distant Port Vincent. It's important to walk this section at low tide due to Hooded Plovers using the beach to nest, but the encroaching cliffs would also rule out a high tide ramble I would think. With the tide dead low we didn't have any trouble today though and the beach and its red cliffs made for a great start to the days walk.
Our initial beach section this morning needed a low tide. That's Port Vincent on the point in the distance.

The cliffs would stop you at high tide even if you ignore the Hooded Plover nests.

After a pleasant few kilometres beach combing our way north we reached a spot called Lime Kiln Gully, this marked the spot where we climbed away from the beach and started to walk the cliff tops. Like the Heysen Trail the Walk the Yorke Trail passes through a variety of different landscapes and while it not really a wilderness style walk the coastal scenery, rural farmland and small towns make for interesting walking. Once on top of the cliffs our route followed a fairly narrow grassy verge between the farm paddocks and the cliff tops, occasionally heading inland a bit to skirt around a dry gully. With fairly open and sparse vegetation there was little to get in the way the expansive views across Gulf St Vincent, beautiful ocean views would be a constant over the course of our days walk.

The track stays fairly close to the cliff tops for the most part.
The track headed inland around some larger gullies, this one featured a nice cave.

Reaching a bigger gully, which I assume is Devils Gully, we dropped steeply down the slippery track more or less to sea level again. We were now over half way through our mornings walk to Port Vincent so the picnic table here made for a nice spot to stop for awhile and have a bit of a break. Suitably refreshed we set of once again, initially climbing back up top the cliff tops for some more scenic walking, Port Vincent now seemingly a lot closer. Eventually we crested one last small rise and Port Vincent was spread out below us, our route now had us following quite streets though town. Port Vincent was very quiet indeed on this Saturday lunchtime, until we arrived onto the main sea side coastal strip we barely saw another person. Apparently Port Vincent goes off over the Christmas-New Year period but for the rest of the year it reverts back to being a quiet fishing village that wouldn't look out of place in a scene from the 1960's. We headed straight to the Ventnor Hotel for lunch today though, this hotel was opened way back in 1878 and has provided shelter and sustenance to many travellers over the years so four hungry and sweaty walkers today wasn't anything that out of the ordinary.
Devils Gully
Dropping down into Devils Gully provided probably our steepest descent of the day, as well as our steepest climb out the other side.
Things are pretty laid back in Port Vincent.

The sand bank at Port Vincent looked like a nice spot for a swim.

Now my usual lunch when I'm out walking is dry biscuits or dried fruit and nuts or something similar, so sitting down today to a beautiful T bone had me wondering if I'd actually be able to get up again and finish off the afternoons walk. Thankfully there is a scarcity of taxis in Port Vincent so if I wanted to get back to my ute then walking was really my only option, our post lunch ramble started off fairly easy though with a pleasant stroll along the seaside promenade north to the new marina complex, its collection of modern houses looking slightly out of place to my eyes. Making our way through the marina we picked up a walking track again and soon climbed back up onto the cliff tops. Our route now alternated between a cliff top pad or along quite gravel road that paralleled the cliffs. Leaving the quiet road we entered the Port Vincent Golf Course, our marked route staying as close as possible to the cliff edge as it made its way through the deserted golf course.
The main beach in Port Vincent, the place goes off for a couple of weeks over Christmas.
The Port Vincent Marina looked a little out of place in the sleepy town.
These three inconspicuous rocks were transported here by ice 270 million years ago from near Victor Harbor, around 120 kilometres away. 
Climbing away from Port Vincent back up onto the cliff tops.
Looking north towards Sheoak Flat, Gulf St Vincent was looking fine this afternoon.

After another quick break under the shade of the club house veranda we set off for Sheoak Flat, once we had left the parched grounds of the golf course our route largely followed a quiet cliff top gravel road. With farms to our left and coastal scrub or ocean views to our right the quiet road made for quick and easy progress. We were even escorted by a local farm dog as we slowly dropped down to the tiny Sheoak Flat. Our route now took us through town and out onto what looked like a levy bank protecting the small town from the sea, I reckon if you had a shack in Sheoak Flat then you'd have to concerned about climate change as the town must only be a metre or two above sea level.
Port Vincent gold course was a fairly scenic course, although the water hazard is fairly large.
Our route through the golf course more or less stuck to the cliff tops, the fairways were looking pretty dry at this time of the year .

Leaving Sheoak Flat our route once again led us back out onto the quiet road, the late afternoon sun lighting up the parched paddocks in a beautiful golden brown light. After crossing The Dipper on the road we once again picked up a cliff top walking track for the rest of our walk, it looks like this section of track was very new judging by it's appearance, well to me anyway. Port Julia was now very close at hand as we continued our journey north through the mallee trees and grass of the cliff tops and sure enough we soon caught site of the ute, a great days walking had come to it's end. Climbing into the comfortable seats we headed back down the coast to pick up Greg's car before adjourning to the deck of the Stansbury pub for a celebratory drink, if this is what walking's like on the Yorke Peninsula then I reckon I could get used to it!
We picked up an escort on our run down into Sheoak Flat.
Gently climbing away from Sheoak Flat the late afternoon sun was painting everything in a nice soft light, Greg and Deb see this all the time but it was nice for me coming from the city.
Port Julia has just come into view.

The Dirt.

We walked 23.6 kilometres and climbed 226 metres on this medium grade days walk. Like I've already mentioned earlier, this is a section of the long distance Walk the Yorke Trail. The people of the Yorke Peninsula should be commended for implementing this great trail, you can mountain bike it or walk it and it's easily broken down into bite sized pieces. Like its more famous brother the Heysen Trail it traverses a mixed bag of environments, but to me that's one of its charms - not everything has to be a multi day slog through wilderness, variety is good in my eyes. The rural scenes and quite towns add to its charm, not take away from it. I've been planning on doing the Heysen in a few years but at under 600 kilometres then Walk the Yorke gives me another option if my annual leave requirements get a bit tight. Next day we said goodbye to our gracious hosts Greg and Deb and I headed back to Melbourne and reality, dropping Petra off in Adelaide on the way past. With all our dance cards already filled for this year I probably won't get to do anymore trekking with my South Aussie friends for awhile, although next year is looking good:)

Relevant Posts.
Waitpinga Cliffs, Heysen Trail, Newland Head Conservation Park, 2017.
Mt Remarkable Gorges, Mt Remarkable National Park, 1999.
Port Willunga, 2015.
Esperance to Melbourne, 2010.

Our last section of track through the cliff top Mallee trees before Port Julia, it looks like this is a new (or maybe re-done) section of track.

The end of what had been a very nice walk, now I've got yet another place that I have to come back to.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kitava Island, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea - September 2016

Like Kiriwina Island, Kitava Island is another small piece of paradise in the Trobriand Islands, on our visit today though we weren’t exactly blessed with your typical sunshine and blue sky south pacific type weather. Actually the weather was fairly average but figuring that we were going to spend a fair chunk of the day snorkelling anyway we weren’t overly concerned. With Kitava Island another largely undeveloped island with no tourist infrastructure to speak of that meant another tender operation to get everyone ashore, so while the rest of the punters headed for the breakfast buffet Sam and I headed down to jump on the first tender of the day, I figure that the food on the ship isn’t going to disappear but we only have one day in these spots to make the most of it, the tactics payed off again today as we were shore quickly on the half empty boat.

Once on shore there was the usual welcoming committee of locals all excited to see the sweaty dim dims who had turned up on the big white ship. Seeing as it was still pissing down we decided that our first objective for the day would be to go snorkelling, now I’d heard that the snorkelling was actually the best on the nearby Nuratu Island but that meant we had to get over to it. Luckily there were no shortages of locals lined up and ready to row us over to the small island in their banana boats, after paying our 5 kina we clambered aboard and within ten minutes we were standing on the beautiful white sand of Nuratu Island……in the pouring rain, oh well at least it was warm.
Heading over to Nuratu Island, it wasn't exactly a blue sky kind of day.
Even with the overcast conditions the snorkelling here was very good.

Nuratu Island is a tiny little speck in the Solomon Sea, you could walk around the island in about 20 minutes if you wanted, walking wasn’t on the agenda this morning though. After sussing out where I figured that the best reefs were as best I could from the beach it was time to don the fins and mask and plunge in, with the water at approximately the same temperature as the ambiant air temperature it wasn’t much of a hardship. Once snorkelling the only real reminder that we had that it was raining was the feel of the rain drops on our backs as we surfaced between dives. Like our other dives in PNG the coral here was spectacular, I can’t help wondering what it would be like with a bit of sun shining down to light it up a bit.
When the weathers like this you may as well be in the water.
Under the surface it was serene.

Even without the sun we spent the next three hours immersed in the warm water, resting on the surface occasionally to check out what was going on around us. From our snorkelling spot we could easily see over to Kitava Island which was handy as we were trying to time our return for when most of the punters had got sick of the tropical rain and returned to the sanctuary of the ship. With the crowds returning on the tenders now at maximum dim dim we decided that it was time to say goodbye to the tropical fish and head back over and check out what the locals had on offer over on Kitava, first up though there was the negotiation for the banana boat ride back over….5 kina please (relax that’s about $2.50 Aussie, yeah we were hardly being gouged!).
The Feral Snorkeler, yep only the most flattering photos on my blog.
It was fairly uncrowded over on Nuratu Island today.

Arriving back on the big island, well bigger anyway, we spent the next hour or so checking out the sights, watching the local children dance and sing and politely declining the chance to buy any number of wood carvings. Once again the local kids squeezed our hearts and again we came way with some addresses that we’ll try and send some supplies back too when we get home. After redistributing a bit of kina I decided to head up to the lookout and check out the view, now up until now I’d been walking around in bare feet in soft sand so stupidly I figured that I’d head up to the lookout with the same alfresco footware. Leaving my gear with Sam I wandered off up the track in my bare feet, the crushed coral started about 20 metres from the beach, now I’m not that smart and I’m obviously stubborn because instead of going back to Sam to grab my hiking havaianas I figured that I’d just persist in bare feet… I said I’m not real smart.
There was plenty of enthusiasm for the tug of war with the boys.
While the girls were happier singing.
By mid afternoon most of the dim dims had returned to the ship.
My ultra light hiking shoes.
Paying my 5 kina I hobbled my way the last few metres to the lookout my feet now exfoliated nicely from the sharp coral and limestone. As well as the nice view down over KItava and Nuratu Islands the lookout also features the grave of one Cyril Barneveldt Cameron, a Tasmanian who came to Kitava and started a plantation back in 1912, I wonder if Cyril knew that other famous Taswegion Erol who was kicking around PNG back in the day. After taking the obligatory snap of the big white ship anchored just off shore I hobbled my way back down to Sam, my feet relieved to be reunited with my thongs again. We were sailing away at 3 pm today so by now it was time to jump back on a tender, head for a quick shower before heading up on deck and watching Kitava Island slowly recede from view before finally disappearing into the Soloman Sea. It had been a grey and wet day and I’m sure that we didn’t really see Kitava Island at anywhere near her best but as usual it was still a great day, a bad days snorkelling beats a good day at work anytime.
The day was still overcast but at least it wasn't raining.
I hardly needed oxygen for walk to the lookout.

The Dirt.
Of all the spots we visited on this trip to Papua New Guinea I think Kitava Island was probably the most undeveloped. The locals here seem to have worked out that their one chance to make any money is when the boats occasionally turn up and some of the signposted attractions seemed a bit dubious and contrived to me, for 5 kina you can check out orchids, skulls, headhunter caves, lookouts, and various graves, like I said I’m not sure on the authenticity of some of these attractions, but hey what’s 5 kina to us. The lookout was definitely kosher and worth the $2.50 that I paid so check it out if you want to get a bit of an over view of the surrounding area. From what I could see the snorkelling around the jetty didn’t look very appealing, so it is worth hiring a banana boat for the very short trip over to Nuratu Island where the snorkelling is very good indeed, keep in mind my dodgy photos were taken in the worst possible conditions. The boat trip cost us 5 kina in each direction and its worth it just for the experience alone I reckon.
Relevant Posts.

Not the usual blue sky sail away photo.
The big island is Kitava Island, the little one is where we spent the morning snorkelling, Nuratu Island.