Thursday, 1 February 2018

Hell's Gates

It was a slow start—a very slow start—again. That seems to be the Fiz and Naz signature. For all the planning we do, things just seem to go askew challenging our resourcefulness and patience.
It was 3 pm and hot. We had hoped for cooling breezes to lessen our pain during the walk—Noosa to Sunshine Beach through the National Park. The breezes had so far ignored us.
Our plan was to park at the Noosa entrance to the National Park (yeah right); walk from Noosa to Sunshine Beach and return. We had considered taking two cars and leaving one at Sunshine and one at Noosa; however, we love to chat and the drive was an opportunity to plot and plan and, besides, this trek was more a reconnaissance one; to get our bearings for the longer walk we have scheduled for the future.

What were we thinking? A vacant car space anywhere near Hastings Street on Sunday? The notion was ridiculous. We drove round and a-round, up and down, backwards and forwards, hoping to jag one, stalking every person leaving the beach and anyone even looking in the direction of a parked car. We considered leaving the car in yellow line areas, under no-standing signs and even jumping the kerb to illegally park on the footpath beside tough four-wheel drives. We considered but sensibly aborted a promising but tricky reverse park into a tiny space vacated by a small SUV. Lastly and in desperation we weighed up the cost of parking fines. Ease and sanity prevailed. We headed to Sunshine Beach.
The next challenge presented. Where is the National Park access at Sunshine Beach? Neither of us had any idea. We headed in the general direction, trusting all would be fine—we will find it—we always do—go where the wind blows us—fanciful and free. But, the wind wasn’t blowing!
After some jigging and jagging and zigging and zagging—the fun stuff, our moods began to dampen from the persistent dead ends and sharp turnarounds. And, it was getting late. We decided to park near the surf life savers’ club and head along the beach in the direction of the National Park.
North along the beach on the side of the headland we could see a steep track—our target. Kitted up in active gear, joggers, hats, and back pack we passed people—locals maybe—one offering us a furtive sneer as if to say ‘who are you, this is our beach and you’re not dressed for the occasion’. Undeterred, we delighted in the beauty of the beach and of the architecture and style of the beach houses half hidden in the dunes or hanging precariously off the cliffs.
The sign in front of us indicated a coastal walk of 10.8 kilometers to Noosa. Time had got away and it would be dark before our return if we took this route. Instead, we decided to take the shorter one to Hells Gates—5.4 kilometers return. All up, back to the car would be around 8.5 kilometers.  Agreed—decision made.
The stairs went straight up beginning with treads wide and comfortably spaced changing to unpleasant ones— steep and narrow. I puffed and pushed on—head down, not daring to look up—wishing the rise to end. A couple of small resting spots allowed me to catch my breath. My legs burned. Fiz was behind me probably skipping up the stairs! I didn’t look back either.
It was a wonderful walk and afternoon. The wildlife performed for us … or didn’t if they were still and decaying. The seascape changed, the weather switched, the sky transformed. It was magnificent.
A small snake slithered across the path, my foot millimetres from connecting. Unsure of the most frightened—I jumped and screeched. A jellyfish washed up on the beach was interesting in its transparency and an osprey soaring overhead arrogantly swooped and dived, showing off its dangling prey secured in its claws.
Two smaller sea hawks glided effortlessly on wind currents, circling the osprey and its victim—envious and maybe hoping for an unintentional release.
Dark storm clouds collected overhead—coming from the south.  It was hot but the rain drops were cooling. We kept walking, ignoring the imminent storm.
Down the path and over the boulders to Alexandria Bay.  This day four naked men owned its beach. Four in view but any number hidden in the dunes.  Three swam in the surf—dived and were dumped—bare, bold bottoms surfacing unashamedly. Where were the naked women—the female nudists?  Fiz and I discussed whether we would put this on our list: the pros and cons, for, against, whether and why—yes and no. Today we decided not to decide—we continued walking.
A rainbow hung on the horizon and butted against the rocks being smashed by the swell—spray exploding with every crash then sucked out and united with the next surge. How grand the ocean is.  How comforting and how devastating it can be.
This glorious beach ended with another track that rose steeply—a few stairs initially followed by an uneven dirt track worn away to reveal rocks and roots, tempting a trip or slip. 
Answer - NO
It was hot, we were thirsty—we arrived at Hell's Gates. A few crazy people joined us—mainly joggers taking a rest. It was our turn to inwardly sneer as one female jogger demonstrated multiple, deep, full squats in front of us. Why? Twenty or more aren’t that hard are they? Mmmm—something to try—one day—not today! Why in Hell's Gates would I choose squats over the perfectly comfy rock I was sitting on? But, got to say, kudos to her and her fitness!
We took pics and talked over whether, if life got too hard, would jumping off the cliff at Hell's Gates be an option. The cliff face was steep—straight down—ending in angry, swirling water pulling at the rocks at the base of the cliff—survival nil—answer NO.
Laughing at the random topics we discuss with seemingly nothing out of bounds, we headed back—conversation spasmodic at times, weariness catching up.
A totally enjoyable adventure and one to do again. But next time we’ll make a day of it with a quick and early start and … in a cooler month!

Fiz: I highly recommend this walk. It was strenuous enough to feel challenged without feeling daunted. Sometimes coming back the same way is a tad boring but this wasn’t because of the wonderful changes in the light as the day drew to a close. What a feast of natural wonders we had … definitely worth the wobbly legs on that final flight of stairs from the beach up to the carpark. Keep the conversation going. Have your say.


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