Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hiking the Coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula

On the second day of our Fleurieu Peninsula weekend getaway we hit the trails. We started at Parsons Beach and headed east towards Victor Harbor. We were on a section of the Heysen Trail, one of Australia's long distance walking trails, so it was well marked. From the upper car-park the trail makes a steep decent to the beach, where there were several surfers braving the cold pounding surf to catch some waves. Unfortunately, at this point the trail follows the coastline and you have to walk across the sandy beach for 2 kilometers. This was a bit tricky since it was high tide, and at several places along the beach the fingers of the water were reaching the steep unstable sand cliffs. So several times we found ourselves waiting for the water to recede, so we could dash across to a dry area. We were able to keep our feet dry, but weren't so lucky when we crossed the wash to reach Waitpinga Beach. We decided to skip walking the last 100 meters of the beach, and headed up to the road. It was a sunny day, and a lounging skink and slithering brown snake were using the bitumen for an early morning warm up. At the car park, the trail--a well maintained boardwalk--climbed through the thick bush, up a small hill to a lovely little campground.
At this point the trail, a wide fire track, cut inland through the lush green landscape to Newland Head. Once again we were on the coast, but this time we were high above the water on towering cliffs. The view of the expansive Southern Ocean and the rocky coast line was breath taking.
Here the trail becomes a rugged, steep path that traverses the dense coastal vegetation. As we walked along we kept scanning the water in hopes of a whale sighting. There were no large black figures floating on the water, just some grey shadows lurking below the water's surface. On closer inspection I noticed that one of the shadows was the shape of the fluted tail of a whale. After some debate we came to agree that it was indeed a whale tail, and a 5 minute wait rewarded us with a brief resurfacing. From our vantage point high above the whale we had a great view of the whales calloused head. As we continued along the coastal path we were lucky enough to have several more sightings, but once again most were feeding far below the water's surface. We also came across an echidna and a couple of roo's.
The trail continued to cross the coastal cliffs, passing near some pastures, and through some densely vegetated gullies. Three hours into our hike we came across a picnic table with wonderful view of the jagged coastline, West Island, and Rosetta Head--a perfect place for lunch before making the return journey.

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