By Vita Forest
On a glorious spring day, Saskia and I set off to revisit a favourite walk – Gerringong to Kiama. We did it in January, in the middle of summer, stopping for a swim on the way and racing a storm back to the holiday flat. This time it was a day trip from Sydney, travelling by train for a full day out.
The train ride itself, down through the Royal National Park, and then along the Illawarra Escarpment is very spectacular. The train cuts through thick swathes of bush, climbs across high, curving bridges straddling steep valleys, and clings to the side of the cliffs with the Pacific Ocean gleaming away into the horizon. Sometimes you see hang gliders drifting off from Stanwell Tops, sometimes you see whales breaching off shore. Sometimes you just have to settle for the clear, endless blue of the ocean.
Below Wollongong, the train turns inland a little through lush dairy country which continues down around Kiama and Gerringong. The hills are rolling and green, the cows are black and white, the fields are dotted with cabbage tree palms and giant majestic fig trees, remnants of the rainforest that once extended from the mountain ridge right down to the coast.
We changed trains at Kiama and went one stop to Gerringong, we would be returning by foot. It is perhaps three kilometres from the station to the start of the Kiama Coast walk, but half of this is along the pristine Gerringong Beach, a long stretch of sand with a dramatic grassy bluff at its southern end. There were surfers enjoying the water, and we enjoyed a paddle, but the water was still a little too bracing for swimming. For me anyway.
At the northern end of the beach, we cleaned the sand from our feet and put on our walking shoes ready to start the walk. A pair of wooden poles, decorated with local Indigenous symbols, mark the start of this section of the walk. You pass through them, and head up the hill, and away from civilisation. This area seems like a wild place, despite the fact that it edges around farmland. Though there may be cows munching the grass to your left, on your right are steep cliffs, clambering wildflowers and dramatic black boulders plunging into the sea.
We saw many birds – a number of hawks (cruising over the cliffs or perched imperious and solitary on a fence post), flocks of seagulls (following fishing boats or fishing themselves in flickering white formation), an elegant heron, some crows, and jaunty squabbling fairy wrens, who love the thick dense shrubs that border the pathway.
We stopped for snacks and lunch on the grassy path, looking out to sea and back down the coastline. As the day progressed, the sea changed from smooth and glassy to a heaving, swelling living thing, causing white breakers to smash against the rocks at the shoreline. (This was also convenient when we reached The Little Blowhole – the rising swell of the water shooting a dramatic white spray vertically into the air, much to the delight of the onlookers).
We climbed over the stile at the southern end of East’s Beach, a landmark I used to look at from the sand when my children were very young and wonder about. What was past it? Where did it go? Now I know.
Our shoes came on and off as we walked along sand, then back on grass. There were steep steps, thick grass and even at times, concrete paths. We inspected gardens as we walked along headlands, sat on generously placed seats, and chatted to people and dogs.
We arrived back at the Surf Beach and dusted off our feet for the last time. There was a train heading back to Sydney in a few minutes so we hurried up the hill and sank satisfied into north-facing seats on the train.
Another marvellous journey on the Kiama Coast walk.