Saturday, 18 July 2015

Whale Watching - Little Bay to Cape Banks

Watching the evening news, with reports of a victim of yet another shark attack, and footage of a feeding frenzy as sharks devoured a whale carcass made me think "how about a spot of whale watching".

Last time we drove to Kurnell and Cape Solander to watch whales, but it took forever.  NPWS had suggestions for  Sydney whale watching locations  and Cape Banks at the northern end of Botany Bay looked like fun and was way closer.  Wildwalks as usual had a bunch of useful information to get us there.

I haven't been to Little Bay since I was a kid.  Not surprisingly, a few things had changed over forty years, including my memories of how to get there. I managed to get totally muddled along Anzac Parade looking for Long Bay Gaol.  After going back and forth doing laps of Anzac Parade, U turns, side streets, scenic tours of Maroubra...etc, we finally got to a start point at Little Bay.  Someone had built a whole new suburb upon the coastal heathland that I remembered.

It was cold.  Really really cold.  The wind was howling, it was overcast, and an occasional drizzly rain just added that something extra.  We were rugged up with hats, gloves, scarves, long pants, layers and layers of clothing.  Normally a walk warms you up, but today everything stayed on.

brrrrrrrrr freezing
a chilly view of Little Bay
Little Bay
Whatever way we were supposed to cross the Coast Golf Club totally eluded me.  The lovely Cait bravely followed my lead as we simply headed for the cliff line dodging golf balls and buggies.  She was worried about trespassing, but I have spent enough time on sporting fields to appreciate no one really cares unless you start digging holes somewhere.  The lovely Cait was amazed that the grass on the greens was real.  I told her that it was even OK to touch it, and she gave it a nervous pat.  The things you learn about someone even after years of marriage.

Reaching the cliff line, we skirted past greens and fairways and improvised our way along.  We got a bit muddled about which trail to take along to Cape Banks, but there is only one direction to go so we eventually got sorted.  We had to pass through the Coast Hospital Cemetery.  Lots of smallpox cases were buried here early last century, and it was an eerie place to pass through.
Coast Hospital Cemetery
After the cemetery it was past the pistol range and warning signs, a helicopter landing area, then we came to an old set of WWII bunkers. This walk may be short, but lots of interesting bits and pieces along the way.
WW II bunker
strike a pose
From here the track was well marked enough even for me to not get lost, and we hit the cliff line again.  We kept our eyes out for whales, but the entire ocean was a mess of wind blown swells and white foam.  We were going to be lucky to see a whale unless it was performing circus stunts.

looking for whales
still cold
We soon arrived at Cape Banks.  About 3.5km.  The lovely Cait was pleasantly surprised as a "short walk" with me usually entails hours of patiently enduring unexpected mountain climbing and a gross underestimation of the time required (but don't get comfortable little wifey - there will always be a next time).  I had trouble seeing as the ocean spray was coating my glasses as soon as I cleared them.  We were glad that we hadn't driven an extra hour or so to Cape Solander as there were definitely no whales on show.

from Cape Banks looking to Botany Bay and La Perouse
from Cape Banks looking north
across to Kurnell
The wind was howling as we wandered about Cape Banks.  There was no one else in sight. It was eerily beautiful, but such a cold, lonely place.  It made me wonder what it would have been like for the early colonists arriving.  We found a small hidey space behind some rocks and to huddle up and have lunch.  It is easy to eat when your teeth are chattering so hard that all the hard work is done for you.  We were chattering away, when "whoosh" suddenly a whale spouted directly out from us.  We quickly packed away so we could tag along up the coast to watch it.  When we climbed up from our refuge we discovered that a large walking group had arrived.  They looked surprised as we suddenly popped up in the middle of them.
looking back to Cape Banks as we chased whales up the coast
As we trotted along, we stopped regularly to scan the seas, and invariably one of us would shout "look" as another spout appeared.  There were clearly two.  They were a way out, but we saw plenty of spouting and breaching, which made the driving and the cold and the rain all worthwhile.  To make it even better, a lovely rainbow began developing against increasingly blue skies.  The lovely Cait stayed back to take play withe camera and take some pictures as I wandered along.
just wandering along with my old school army disposal pack
a distant rainbow
someone buggering around with the camera
Eventually we returned to the golf course.  The lovely Cait said "that old guy has a pack and looks like he knows where he's going" (a none too subtle reference to my below par navigating I think- however I did just manage to sneak in a golfing reference which makes it all worthwhile).

We followed him along a quicker (and safer) way through the golf course. I thought it was a more boring route as there were no golf balls suddenly dropping from the skies to keep things interesting.  We dropped down to Little Bay for a quick cold wet look, deciding that we needed to come back in summer for a snorkel when it was warmer, then back to the car well within our time frame (a strange feeling that has never ever happened on any walk I have ever organised and will probably never ever happen again).  After stripping off our countless layers, we dived into the refuge of the car and headed home on time for a change.

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