Australia is on many peoples bucket lists due to the hot weather and amazing white sandy beaches, but even so the deadly creepy crawlies does put some people off. My wish was somewhat different, but that is no surprise to some readers I suspect. I wanted a hard multi day hike in the bush, something to push myself again and also to confront my fear of snakes and spiders. Little did I know I was certainly going to get that.
The Australia trip was a vacation to catch up with friends who had emigrated to Australia from the USA and to meet other friends who were getting married, but I could not resist the opportunity to go walkabout. After a little research I found this trail (Cooloola Great Walk) fairly close (relatively) to Brisbane through the Cooloola National Forest. I will post a separate blog post on my travels in Australia before and after the walk, but I planned a few days before to relax in Coolum Beach and then a few days in Brisbane after to relax before flying home.
The walk is a 100km over 5 days through the tropical rain forest of Cooloola on a sandy trail. To add to the trail there were 2 large sand blow areas that I needed to cross, one being over a kilometre wide, but most of the trail was forest walking, but mainly sand underfoot still. Most people know walking on sand is tough on the legs and ankles so the trail is fairly demanding. The trail is graded as a Level 4 out of 5 by the Queensland Parks and Forests service and after walking it I would definitely agree with them.
Day 1 - Noosa North Shore to Brahminy Walkers Camp (20km)
After 4 days of relaxing in a beach property in Coolum it was time to leave luxury and head out. My friends gave me a lift to the Noosa North Shore ferry, a small chain type ferry and I was there for 9am. They dropped me there, wished me well and I walked the 2km to the start of the official trail. The walk to the start is not that interesting, just a small tarmac road, but then at Noosa North shore car park you come across this.
I took a quick drink and started out. Of course at this stage snakes were on my mind and I had to remind myself now and again to lookup and enjoy the view instead of looking down thinking every stick was a snake. The trail is reasonably well marked but I didn't understand the orange triangles at one point and ended up taking a 1 km detour, but I soon realised and retraced my steps back to the mistake. After the initial forest section the trail opened up into wild flowers and scrub meadows heading down to the beach.
This didn't last long, before I knew it I was at the beach and a 4 km walk in the sand was upon me. It wasn't too bad obviously avoiding the dry sand and walking on the wet sand is much easier.
There seemed to be a few people out fishing and relaxing on the beach but it was pretty windy so it was just the committed. The weather was hot about 32C considering it was the beginning of Spring I was surprised it was that warm already. There were plenty of lizards along this section in the trees just past the beach, a couple were quite large and gave me a bit of a startle.
After a quick stop for lunch I continued on going uphill now onto to the higher sand dunes. The view looking back wasn't too shabby.
I carried on for a few more kilometres and eventually reached camp. I knew I had to get their before sunset, the research had told me it was stunning but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. As I came over the brow of the hill I was stunned by the browny orange sunset over Noosa Lake with the Hinterland in the background. It was almost dark and I just caught the end of the sunset. One of the best sunsets I had seen in a long time, but unfortunately there were more pressing things to take care of. I had a choice, take a photo and then put the tent up in the dark in snake country or skip the photo. With great regret I skipped the photo. I wish I hadn't now so that I could share that great sunset with you all.
I was pretty tired, with the road from the ferry and the mistake I think I had walked about 24km that day. That's a decent day 1 for a overweight middle aged man with a pack on a sandy trail. All the hiker camps have a communal area and I used it to prepare dinner. Nothing fancy just a normal dehydrated meal, you know the stuff that looks like dog food and normally tastes like wet cardboard. I sat at a wooden table enjoying the moment knowing I was alone in the wilderness with probably nobody else around for miles. I hadn't seen anyone all day apart from the people on the beach and from here on wasn't expecting to see anyone until towards the end. Research had shown it was not a popular route for hikers, maybe they knew something I didn't. I settled down in the tent, listened to an audible book and by 9pm fell asleep.
Day 2 - Brahminy Walkers Camp to Dutgee Walkers Camp (20.3km)
What a racket, 5am and I am wide awake with the birds active and noisy. I try to grab another hour, but at 5:30 it is daylight so I give up and stir from my quilt. As I was so late into camp I took some pictures of the first camp in the morning. This is the view looking back over the Hinterland, the location of the stunning sunset the night before.
Each walkers camp has a sign/map which is useful, shows about 8 pitches. You have to book the pitch in advance, but in early Spring I had no issues, I was alone in camp.
The communal area is basic, it is enough to cook up your meal and if there were a few of you, at least you can cheat. The tent pitches are quite far apart so you wouldn't be able to shout at each other from the tent.
The pitches are basic, just a sandy piece of cleared scrub. No electric hookup here!
I grabbed some water from the rainwater collection tank, packed up an headed out. I had just over 20 km ahead of me for the day but I really left too late, it was past 9 am and I had wasted an hour or two of daylight. I had a lot to cover today, including a large sand patch, a unique mini desert in the rain forest caused by thousands of years of the wind blowing sand off the beach. But first plenty of high dunes to climb, again showing the stunning beach scenes.
And then you hit it, the sand blow, I think it is 1 km to cross and they give you a compass bearing to follow, which is useful because once you get in the middle of the sand all the trees look the same. Also the half way marker of a dead tree was no longer, long gone so no point following the directions on the sign to it.
I have never seen anything like it, let alone walked it. The wind was high and without glasses I think it would have been unbearable with the sand in my eyes.
I started to feel ill in the afternoon and had a very upset stomach. I was being sick and had an upset stomach. It made it super difficult as the rainwater collected didn't taste great and drinking it just made me vomit more. I am not sure to this day if it was the rainwater I was drinking or I caught a bug before I left for the hike or I was a victim of the cross contamination from someone else. Often I find it better not to use these camps and just use wild spots but unfortunately I had no choice.
I struggled on over the high dunes and eventually got to camp 2, Dutgee. Here are some pictures of the camp next to the Noosa river.
No swimming here due to sharks in the river.
I was exhausted by now in the heat, dehydrated and pretty rough. I didn't even cook dinner than night, I had no appetite and just fell asleep in the tent.
The first 2 days of the hike had been hard but getting a stomach bug is never fun on the trail and made it significantly harder. I was surprised I had seen no snakes yet, but I should have been careful what I wished for. The following days were to more than make up for it as you will see in Part 2.