Morning, 5 April 2017
The final morning of the Ninety Mile Beach adventure packed up my bush campsite, head down to the beach, it was still dark as I started pushing along the beach at 05:30. There was hardly a cloud in the sky or even a single breath of wind.
Even though the sea was extremely calm, initially I was reluctant to venture down to the water’s edge, in the darkness the waves were hard to see approaching. So for a short while I pushed the bike along above the high water mark, as soon as sufficient light made it possible, I was down to test the sand, it was was good I managed some continuous riding at very good speeds; the further I progressed the better things became.
At 0648 I saw and spoke to my first human since departing Lock Sport the day before. A young twenty something that I could have sworn was one of my son Matthew’s old school friends. He was standing near the water’s edge as I approached, obviously very hungover. He told me all his mates, still tucked up in bed, were missing this glorious sunrise. I agreed, he then wished me well and turned to walk slowly back up somewhere into Bunga Arm.
At 07:00 I sent Joanne my first report for the day, I had already travelled 7km that morning, which left about 13km to go. I received a simple “Xxx” reply. My next report at 08:00 was after I had a pleasurably breakfast stop, also very long swim so I had only progressed a further 2km at that stage. It was after this I received another text message, this time from the Lake Entrance Water Taxi explaining his earlier jobs that day would finish earlier than expected so I could be collected earlier than previously arranged. I quickly reassessed my progress and replied “11:30 @ Drew’s Jetty Pls”. With 11km to go I had a new mission, a time frame in which to achieve it, I love a good challenge. To ensure I would arrive in time, I made a real consorted effort, upped the gear selection on the bike and pounded down on the peddles as long as my legs could manage. The beach conditions, my bike and body worked together to knock over the remaining 11km in good time. I managed to squeeze in another rest break, quick swim and some time investigating the impressive sand dredge outlet just south of the Entrance.
I finally reached the Entrance at 10:44. It was a beautiful sunny, warm day with a light south east breeze blowing; a fantastic setting to end what had been a glorious trek on the longest continuous section of Ninety Mile Beach. I arrived right on low tide so witnessed a fast-flowing tidal current ripping out through the entrance. I scaled the rock wall to view the Entrance more closely and waved to the people on the other side. I took some video and pictures then turned to look for a track to Drew’s Jetty. On the map was marked about 200m inland over the scrubby dunes.
The only exit off the beach I could locate was a coppers log and chain climbing ladder up a steep sand dune. Carrying then, dragging my bike and backpack up this near vertical 10 metres high ladder, I made it to the top collapsing from exhaustion. At the top of the ladder there was no clearly defined path, so I just resorted to bashing a path through the scrub in what I thought was the direction of the Drew’s Jetty. I endured a few scraps and bruising but a few more ups and downs I located a path which luckly let down to Drew’s Jetty. I arrived there with 15 minutes to spare, to my surprise the Lakes Entrance water taxi was already tied up to Drew’s Jetty. I was first greeted by the Master’s wife who poked her head up from between some tidal rocks. She thrust forward a bucket of mussels to show me. I smiled, remembering how as a kid I used to pick bucket loads of mussels at Seven Mile Beach. No one seemed in too much of a hurry that morning so we three sat on the Jetty for a while just talking about my journey up the beach. After a few pictures were taken, all was loaded onboard followed by a relaxed trip across the entrance.
The water taxi arrived at Post Office Jetty at 11:48. I met Joanne a few minutes later, she was cycling along the Esplanade, after a celebratory greeting, I explained that the job was not yet completed and asked if she would be willing to join me for the last 8km from the Entrance to Red Bluff which marks the northern end of the beach.