On Saturday we started our big adventure through the Royal National Park: Bundeena to Otford coastal walk. That was MUCH harder than I predicted. Our walk started in the very beginning of the park, in Bundeena and finished at Otford Station. It lasted 2 days.
We had great views until the beginning of the Jibbon track, but then we had to walk away from the sea (with no pleasant views) and on soft sand for a long long time. At this point we were already very tired and a bit demotivated by the lack of pleasant views and hard long walk on the sand. But we decided to keep going. So if I was to do that again I would start from the end of the Jibbon track with Beachcomber Ave.
After this part the views and the walk get better and better. Note: good doesn’t mean easy. I consider the walk physically exhausting until the end, at least for me who is not in the best shape. Some kilos less would have helped for sure.

 

 

As we were doing this walk for the first time, we were not really sure of how far it was to reach the lookouts and beaches pointed in the map. Since the beginning, I understood the kilometers I was walking didn’t correspond to the ones mentioned in the signals. I have a very good notion of distance as I live 1 km from the train station, 1 km from the mall and 2 km from another train station and I have walked those distances MANY times. So, seriously, to avoid frustration and anxiety I started adding 50% to whatever distance was mentioned in the signals. This strategy helped manage my anxiety and enjoy more the walk.
Hiking with Leo, my 4 year old son
My son was just my son all the way. He got tired at some point and complained a bit, but nothing different than when he walks 1km from the train station to our home. He had some crises, but again nothing he wouldn’t have during a visit to Darling Harbour. My partner and I were really impressed with his performance and behavior. He was very cooperative and seemed to have enjoyed the experience as much as we did. His main motivation was to set the “little house”, as he refers to our tent. He couldn’t wait for that to happen. And he took pics of us on the way…
He also had LOTS of fun watching the lizards on the way and even spoted a snake in Wattamola! When he called me to see it, I thought he was mistaken, but here it is: a whole snake just 1 meter from him.

 

Leo also got some fuel to keep going from playing by the beaches while walking and from swimming in Gary Beach in the second day.
As you may infer from my story, we didn’t make to the camp ground in North Era. I am not found of doing illegal things – in fact, I believe this was my first and last one in Australia – but we just didn’t make it. It was a matter of safety not hiking at night. By the time we went down the mountain to Gary Beach it was TOTALLY dark. In fact, we climbed down most of that mountain in the dark using to very bad lanterns. It felt like climbing because the track was under construction and we had to go down some really big rocks. And believe me: that mountain HUGE. It doubles it size in the dark.
From the mountain we saw some people camping and by the time we reached the ground all I wanted was the tent set so I could “faint” inside. As we could not see, we tried our best to find a spot and went we started to set the tent, a VERY nice lady came to give us the tip of better spots to spend the night. So we moved to one of her suggestions. We set the tent in about 15 min. Because we set it at home first, we knew what to do. We also had a sleep bag each. Leo slept in 5 min and only for that we could understand how tired he was. I just didn’t sleep better because of the pain in my body which urged me to change positions every 20 min. A good stretch before bed would have helped. It rained at night for sometime, but that was ok.
Waking up in that magical place was just like heaven. The air… The view… The sounds… The smell… Everything was fantastic. By 6 am we were removing the tent and packing to go. My body seemed as tired as the day before and my mood had got much worse.
We decided to swim at Gary Beach and spend sometime there. What wise decision! All of us felt much better, much energized and my mood was 100% good again. They were having some kind of event there and  people were arriving. Lucky us, they opened the coffee shop  So we even had a cup of coffee before moving on. By 10 am we had started our journey again.
It was another day of amazing views and huge mountains to walk up and down. We even found the 8 figure pool track. We started walking towards it. We walked about 1km on the rocks. I was so happy for finally being able to see it for myself after flerting with the pics on the net for almost a year. Then I looked to the right and saw that giant wall of rocks. I looked to the left and saw the sometimes unpredictable sea. And I looked at my son. I felt extremely vulnerable. I panicked. I thought nothing was worth putting Leo into that risk. I talked to my partner, we had a snack and enjoyed the view and went back towards Otford. It was just not the time yet for the 8 figure.
After that we crossed the Burning Palm Jungle. The name seems literal.
And we crossed the rain forest. Of course it felt so at home. The colors. The humidity. The smell. It was a very hard to hike mountain to. It seemed endless.
The best of it
Variety. I believe that walking 2 days demands that. This coastal walk is a proof on how creative nature is. You never get bored. There is just so much to see and the surroundings are so different although in the same park. You pass by many beaches and waterfalls and can swim if you feel like, you walk among bushes, rocks and forests with different kind of vegetation. It feels like entering different worlds all the time.
The feeling of accomplishment. That was my first walk that far and with my 4 year old son. So, believe me… The feeling of accomplishment after we reached the end was quite intense.
The contact with nature. We had the opportunity to see MANY friendly lizards sunbathing, inumerous birds, some crabs, whales!!!, fishes and even a snake. Visiting them in their natural home is fantastic.
The worst of it
Carrying and wearing the wrong equipment. Under the pressure of having to carry my heavy belongings until the end, I developed a love and hate relationship with them. Manly with the water. With the others, mostly hate LOL. Let’s start with my…
Backpack. This was trouble after the first hour of walking. I even considered giving up because of that. I thought it would be ok and didn’t get a proper hiking backpack. WHAT A MISTAKE! I carried a hippie style backpack made of cotton fabric – very cute, but definitely not hiking functional. Because of the weight (it was quite large and fit all my things in) the cotton straps started cutting my shoulders. My partner had the brilliant idea of adding 1 blouse to each strap, which made things softer for my shoulder. But… I had to walk for 2 days with 2 blouses on my shoulders. How unpleasant! Now the…
Shoes. “Who needs hiking shoes?”, I though. Nothing better than my best friend, oldest and most comfortable running shoes. WHAT A MISTAKE! During those days, all I didn’t want was soft sole shoes and that’s all I had. Result: sore feet for many days after the walk.
Water. I carried 4 litters of water. 3 for me and 1.6l for my son (he had a 600ml bottle). WHAT A MISTAKE! I drank about 1 litter in the first day and when we arrived in Wattamola there was a tap (which did not say “don’t drink it” like the ones in Gary Beach). So I could have taken half of my water and refilled in Wattamola. In addition there is a cafe in  Gary Beach which sells a 1.5 litter bottle for A$ 5.30. Another opportunity to refil.
But I also got something really helpful:
Water backpack. I am totally happy with this acquisition. I got mine from BigW for 30 bucks. But I believe they are sold in many shops as they seem very popular. You don’t have to carry the weight of the bottles and it fits 2l inside. Also, when you are thirsty you don’t have to stop to get your bottle, you just grab the hose hanging on your shoulder and drink it! It also has pockets to carry keys, mobiles, sunnies etc.
My lessons
1. Get a hiking backpack and shoes to go hiking.
2. Check if there will be where to refil my water bag.
3. My 4 year old son can go hiking for 2 days.
4. Setting the tent at home was a VERY good idea.
5. Get good torches.
6. Make sure you will make to the camp ground before night.
7. Stretch well before sleeping.