So we are on Day 4. We have had an introduction to the whole adventure, walked from Telegraph to Sealers, Sealers to Refuge, Refuge to Waterloo and now its Day 4: Little Waterloo to Telegraph Saddle - start 8:45am arrived at car at 1:15pm (elapsed 4hrs 30mins).Our instructions from the National Park are Day 4: Little Waterloo Bay to Telegraph Saddle. Easy to Moderate, 4 hours, 11.9km. From Little Waterloo Bay Camp, follow the shoreline and then over the sand dunes and swamps with boardwalks to Telegraph Track. From this junction you may choose to extend this hike along tracks to Telegraph Saddle carpark. We do choose. Others could walk down to the most southerly place on the mainland of Australia, or alternatively to walk to the West coast of the Prom and then on to Tidal River.
The loop will be closed. The day will end and we will be happy. But first, we have to wake up in the damp, drippy, forested glade where we had slept the night through rainy, rainy, rain. As the universe was smiling on us, the day dawned without any more rain and though many bits of equipment were wet, we were not. So we packed up, pulled down tents for the last time, congratulated each other on the wonderful adventure we'd had and while sad to be saying goodbye to our bit of paradise, away from phones and computers and responsibilities, we were also looking forwards towards completion and beds and showers. And food not cooked in one small trangia pot. The school children sharing our camping site were cheerful and moving at about the same pace as us. No one was in a screaming hurry to take off, but we were all eating, cleaning, packing, moving out.
After you walk out of the campsite you rise above the beach at Little Waterloo, walk through the bush, until you descend again for the last time onto a beach, probably Big Waterloo (without the big attached to its name). At the back of the beach the fresh water collects in a lagoon and we'll be walking in this direction but off on the left hand side. Sixteen years ago, when Tim and I walked the prom together, we stopped here and off in the scrub I found a bower bird nest, complete with a lovely collection of blue objects. No such luck this time around. But it is still beautiful.
There are a lot of dead T trees and we are about to walk back into burnt scrub. We had the scarred landscape at the beginning of the walk and then it was mercifully absent until now. We are also at the beginning of the exposed section of the walk. There is no bush to surround us as we walk across the sandy dunes which are covered in boardwalks for much of it.
After awhile the boardwalk gives way to a hard packed but still sandy track.
We enjoyed the rock formations and spent some time discussing if the face was put there on purpose - and if so, by whom.
We are walking through an exposed, wide valley, slightly to the left-hand side of the valley and raised up above the lowest level of the valley floor. We have lots of open views, grasses, coastal banksias, and burnt out landscapes. We will walk almost to the end of this valley and then take a 90 degree right hand turn and walk up to the top of the ridge - to Telegraph saddle. So our destination is roughly the top right-hand view of the photo above.
Once we make it down to the wide open fire trail that is to be our final track we meet a bunch of school teachers who explain that an entire year 9 group of children from a private school in Doncaster, Vic are walking around the prom - 250 school children and teachers. No wonder we saw so many of them on our walk.I am very impressed with the commitment teachers make to giving young people these extra-curricular experiences.
For the final stretch of the walk, I want timed rest stops to break up the walk because there are no landmarks, it is boring walking along a road with no trees, no views, and we are tired. A large part of the fire trail is flat, then gently sloping and then finally becomes quite a steep incline towards the top. Tim and Nick could just keep pressing on but they agree to the 45 on/15 off pattern that I want to establish as we trudge up the fire trail. Tessy thinks briefly of talking Tim into carrying her pack up the hill but we discuss the sense of achievement she'll feel if she makes it all the way to the end carrying her own pack! What a triumph for an 8 year old.
We stop twice on the way up on my timed schedule and then all of a sudden we are at the top, just short of the third rest break. High fives - pleasure, happiness, settled and proud that we did it. We all enjoyed ourselves, each other, the bush, the challenge. We were lucky with the weather and remained injury and accident free. We had packed well, missed nothing (except my camera's memory filled up too quickly - note to self - delete photos before you start a family adventure). Success.
We had also decided we'd stay in a cabin if they had one and, if not, we were a bit sick of sleeping on the ground so we'd probably head off to a motel. As it was, we stayed in fantastic, modern, comfortable eco-tourist accommodation for two nights. If you ever want to see the Prom but don't want to walk and sleep on the ground - I highly recommend the cabins.We noticed wombats, possums and wallabies on the path to our cabin.
We hung around for a couple of days and explored Tidal River, played cricket, and visited the beaches, washed and cleaned our clothes, aired the tents and felt happy. We still had a puzzle that we wanted resolved. Tim went into the National Parks office and asked about the track - had it changed over the years? And apparantly yes. They didn't have a copy of the map from 16 years ago but they confirmed that the track had changed. When we got home I managed to find our old map and sure enough, the track did go up and over Kersops and into a steep descent straight down to the beach. I think the new track is much easier. And I was relieved to know my memory still worked, that I hadn't imagined the past, and that the unsettling feeling on day 3 was now explained.
As a final finish to our story, I didn't know the kids had taken this photo until I got home and downloaded into the computer. I had a bit of a laugh. Here's me doing my yoga out on the deck of the cabin. I had been very good and practiced every evening and every morning and it helped a lot to handle the soreness that comes from moving from suburbia to walking every day.