On Sunday I successfully completed the walk from Otford to Bundeena with a small group of friends. It was my fifth time doing the track and first time in about three years after having to abort due to weather last year.
This time around the walk was threatened by the worsening bushfire crisis in NSW. On Friday Sydney was covered in a thick smoke haze and a small fire burning near the start of the track looked like scuttling us again. However, the weather cleared and after a call to the local National Parks and Wildlife Office the walk was on.
With temperatures forecast to hit the high 20s we opted to make an early start. That nearly backfired when we cut things about as tight as possible on the train from Sutherland to Otford – running down the steps and straight onto the train. A good thing given the next train was a 2 hour wait!
About a dozen people disembarked from the train at Otford and set off on the walk. We swapped places with a group of five several times between Otford and Garie Beach but otherwise largely had the track to ourselves other than passing the odd person in the other direction.
The walk starts with a stiff climb up from the station to the top of the escarpment – always good to get the heart started. One of our group came without water so we swung past the famous apple pie shop near the start of the track in search of a tap but didn’t have any luck with that or getting pie for breakfast. Instead we set off, spread our water supply and made do until we could top up along the way.
The track starts with breathtaking views up and down the coast including south to the Seacliff Bridge cut into the coast.
The walk then follows a tree lined bush track along the coast linking with a good fire trail along the top of the escarpment before you reach an intersection and turn right along the Burning Palms Track. From there the track is interspersed with views of the coast before dropping down towards sea level.
After a couple of kilometres of fairly tricky terrain pushing through foliage and stepping over tree roots you burst out into the sun and the coastal plains heading towards Burning Palms.
Burning Palms itself is a wonderful spot and up there with my favourite secluded beaches – access by foot only with a quaint surf club at the northern end and nothing but a handful of beach shacks.
The shacks themselves are a remnant from the Depression years and were built by people hauling materials in on foot. There has been many years of controversy over the shacks and lobbying by resident groups. The some 200 odd shacks that exist in this section of the track are now subject to a 20 year licence arrangement. The shacks are enjoyed by a handful of lucky residents and it is not uncommon to see a barbecue or supplies being carted in on foot. One resident has even taken to building a retaining wall out of used beer bottles to avoid having to carry them out!
From Burning Palms the track passes the camp ground and Aboriginal midden at North Era ascending a series of headlands increasing in size. At low tide you can skirt around some avoiding a climb, but on this occasion we weren’t so lucky. We took a morning tea break at Garie Surf Club to steel ourselves for the push up the biggest climb of the walk at the northern end of Garie Beach.
Hot and sweaty, we took stock at the top of the climb to enjoy the view before continuing on our way.
From there the track winds on along the top of the cliffs ducking in and out of the coastal shrubbery for another 1.5-2 hours before reaching Wattamolla which is a good stop for lunch and a popular swimming hole for locals. There are a series of unique rock formations along the way including the prominent Eagle Rock.
Wattamolla was packed with people enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and lots of people jumping off the cliff into the water hole – which I didn’t do despite the temptation. After a break for lunch we set off for the shorter afternoon section. About 5 hours down, 3 to go.
The afternoon section of the walk continues in the same vein along cliff tops and crossing beaches. It is equally stunning although I prefer the southern section of the track – then again that could just be the fatigue of having already walked for half a day!
The excitement of the afternoon section came in the form of probably the biggest brown snake I’ve come across lazily impeding the track. After a tactical negotiation we succeeded in convincing the snake off the track and scurried past without any danger to our party. But it certainly elevated heart rates all around!
The afternoon finished with a swim at Bundeena and a hamburger stop at Sydney’s famous Paul’s Hamburgers. A great day out and fantastic to have the company of friends. Looking forward to reprising the group for another walk in a couple of months’ time.
For full track notes and a map of the track check out Wild Walks.