Australia Hinchinbrook Island Trail

Today was a day of difficulties and disappointments. We broke camp and started with a walk down Little Ramsay beach to find an unexpected stream crossing accompanied by a rising tide. And we forgot our hiking poles back at the camp site.

With pack off, I followed our sand footprints back to the campsite, retrieved the poles from under a mangrove tree, and quick paced back to Barbara. The stream was now crotch deep and flowing fast landward. Iceland tactics: arms linked, pants off, shoes around the neck, packs unbuckled in case we slip and fall. Praying that there are no hungry saltwater crocodiles lying in wait. That’s not a joke.

After that the trail went across boulder-strewn beaches with rippling sand eddies, up and over impossible crags, and then across a lovely, long, tranquil beach of unblemished sand to end – noplace. The trail just disappeared in rocks at the end of the beach. We searched for more than 30 minutes for the trail in the rocks and thicket that delineated the end of the beach and the start of another mountain climb.

Packs off, we climbed rocks with surf crashing below trying to find a trail marker to get us up and over the hill to the next beach. The guidebook says: “The trail starts again at the end of the beach and rises…” We were at the end of the beach, and damned if we could find any stinking trail going any stinking place.
The end of the beach was criss-crossed with multiple old boot prints, no telling who was coming from where. Finally, far off in a corner, I found the poorly marked entrance into the jungle. We put our packs back on, set up a large stick and rock pointer in the sand for the next hikers, and started the hardest hiking of the day, the hardest hiking we’ve ever done.

The black sand desert in Iceland was longer and more dangerous, but nothing we have done tops the sheer exhaustion of clambering over rocks in level and straight vertical climbs, bumping around trees, fighting off insects and vines, and sweating through shirts in windless tropical undergrowth.

In the morning our progress was no more than one mile every two hours. Our guidebook described two waterfalls high in the hills. I planned to stop for lunch and swim (wash off the sweat) at the second falls. We passed the first which was hardly more than a small drop over some stones, and we couldn’t find the second.

There went our swim and idyllic lunch by the water. Instead, we stopped for lunch on the saddle of a hill in a dry forest next to a small rill. At least there was a pleasant breeze coming up from the ocean far below. The view was spectacular; 180 degrees of beaches, green ocean, verdant mountains dropping to the sea.

We ate peanut butter and jelly on Ryevita with an apple, yogurt covered raisins and fruit bars. Refilled our water in the small stream, and marched back down from the dry mountain into the tropical forest again.

The remainder of the afternoon we hiked through woods, jungle, mangrove swamps, crossed numerous named and unnamed streams and mud holes. At one stream we saw a sign: Beware of Estuarian Crocodiles in This Area.

Near the end of our hike for the day, a quarter mile from Zoe Beach walking through dense undergrowth, we frightened a four foot long crocodile that scampered across the swampy area. Can’t tell who was spooked more, us or the croc. He certainly ran faster than we can walk, which was not a comforting thought.