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Birubi Point to Merewether

(21), 22, 23 April 2006

Party:-

  Dug.

What to do?  ANZAC day, extra long weekend; and my trip to the Widen has fallen through due to work commitments interfering with rest of the party.    

Over recent months I have enjoyed wandering around the sand dunes and dune forests of Stockton Bite, opposite Williamstown.  Have even sometimes discussed walking the whole 19 mile beach from Birubi to Stockton.  Why not now?

Well the perfect opportunity the wether forecast looks reasonable (just chance of a shower with a change early Saturday and cool days).  I check the bus timetable for Port Stephens Coaches and the 5:20 pm sounds about right.  You would probably do this trip in a day but why rush, explore a little and throw a fish line in!  Two or three days, who cares, just go and enjoy.

A most helpful polite coach driver soon gets me to Anna Bay.  A pleasure to meet someone so good at there job.  An excellent hamburger for tea.  Then wander over to and then down the beach for half hour or so in the dark.  Find a good place amongst the dunes to lie out looking at the stars.  Wind and vegetation have combined to make a landscape with interesting shapes (aggravated by dune buggies and 4wd with their tracks), silhouetted in the dark warm night.  Many of the dunes here are just pinnacles of sand with bidue or marian grass bush crown.  A nice scene to enjoy with the gentle sounds of the surf, over there a bit.

The wind picked up during the night and the blowing sand forced me to find a more sheltered spot further round the dune.  Still not cold, though the sound of the surf, far from gentle now.  As the first light comes into the sky, I am keen to get going, until I notice that the cold has come too.  I didn’t bring warm clothes to save weight, so the sleeping bag seems a good place to stay until the sunshine arrives to warm things.  Away and walking by 7.30 after the lazy start.  The seas have built up with the wind change during the night and this combined with the high tide, discourage thoughts of fishing just yet.

A wonderful sunny morning, not a cloud in the blue blue sky above, a fresh south westerly breeze in my face.  The sand is firm and the walking easy.  To my left big messy surf, to my right a short strip of vegetated sand dunes with white heaps of ancient middens dotted here and there.  Behind this the big expanse of creamy white wind blown sand dunes.  The middens show that this was a well inhabited place 200 years ago.  I can see remnants of dune lakes which would have provided water, long since filled in due to vehicle caused erosion.  My path meanders as the whim takes me along the beach, in the fore dunes, then up the further in dunes and across to look down the last drop down to the dune forest.

The scene is spectacular for me, the whitish beach stretching in a great arc from Birubi Point (a clear low headland behind me with the taller hills of Port Stephens behind that), to Nobbies headland just showing through the surf/sea haze way in the distance.  To the left the Pacific Ocean, blue grey, white capped expanse to the horizon.  A bigger than normal 400 + meter wide surf zone, on this relatively wild surf day.  Occasionally I can see a passing yacht, fishing boat, or vast cargo ship out in the shipping lanes.  To my right the extensive sand dunes and behind them in the blue/grey distance the mountains.  I am on a 4wd highway with fishermen and driving enthusiasts enjoying the amenity of the place.  I pass 4wd camps every 500 m – 1 km or so, a few out on the beach most tucked back amongst the sand dunes, some all but hidden behind the dunes.  Every one is cheerful and gives a happy greeting.  Further down the beach near Williamtown it is interesting to see the quad bikes and 4wds silhouetted against the skyline as they ride in single file over the sand ridges.

As the tide retreats I start to find and collect pipis for bait (and in desperation, if no fish, to eat).  I can see the gutters easily now and the inner breaks are manageable with my hand line.  So I wander along fishing trying to catch those elusive (today) sand whiting or bream.   For lunch I wander into the dunes out of the constant wind to light a fire.  Make tea and cook a few pipis on the coals.  A good lunch.

I have now passed “Tin City”, a camp of a number of fisherman’s huts (I have seen this referred to “Silver City” but it sure isn’t silver now).  These huts have been in family keeping for generations, some descendents from the original people.  I have been told that these will be demolished by NPWS when the present “occupant” dies.  Some time yet, I feel judging from the youthful look of many inhabitants.

I wander on enjoying the atmosphere and the feeling.  No fish come my way, although I could make a good supper with big size pipis by now.  About 4 pm, a few hundred metres from the wreck of the Signa, I find a place on a sand blow to set up camp on a carpet or marian grass.  A fly as a wind break to protect the fire.  The water I collected in a dune lake a few km or so back, is a bit brackish but should be ok to cook with.  Dinner cooking, I wander over to try and fish but the tide is in and the seas now too big for my hand line.  I sit and watch 3 fishermen who have just pulled up and they catch two taylor and a salmon just before sunset.  Good fish.

I watch the wonderful golden sunset and the gradually blackening skies.  The big glow in the southern sky is the lights of Newcastle, the smaller glow to the north is Port Stephens.  Again a brilliant starry night, the “saucepan” to the north the “southern cross” to the south.  A pleasant nights sleep, although the breeze did change direction during the night so that I was now on the wrong side of the wind break.

In the morning it didn’t seem as cool as yesterday morning (even if the weather report said 2 degrees vs. 11 degrees).  Away and walking by 7:10, I wander on enjoying the day, arriving at Stockton Surf Shed about 10 am, for a wash before I catch the ferry over seas to Newcastle.  A large bulk ship passes in the Hunter as I wait.  Home for lunch by 11:40.

An excellent walk.  Easy walking generally but softer sand in southern part of the beach either side of the Signa (still ok though).  Fishing would be much better with a beach rod BUT you would have to carry it.  I carried 2 litres of water, an extra litre would have been good.  Used a day pack, only a fly - no tent, slept on a space blanket on the sand – no sleeping mat, quite comfortable.  © Copyright 2006 Dug Floyd

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