Twenty walkers, including a few from the mainland, turned up at Jump-Off Road for a 9am start on the last Saturday in April, for an A-grade walk in the Cape Torrens Conservation Park led by Ron Cox. The walk was timed well; the track from the end of Jump-Off Road to the coast will be closed from the beginning of May until the end of the year, to prevent disturbance to sea-eagle breeding.
It was a windless morning, of constant light showers and wet vegetation, but all were in high spirits as we worked our way along the trail to the North Coast. When we reached the cliffs they were shrouded in mist and showers, but nonetheless spectacular in their looming presence.
As we walked, the showers eased and the stunning spectacle of the cliffs and headlands was revealed all the way back to Snug Cove. Three wedge-tailed eagles wheeled and soared nearby, and for once we were at their level.
The view of the coast to Cape Borda to the west began to open up. The cliffs we were standing on were clearly much higher than those at the lighthouse. We walked with the coastal views for company and found a sheltered place thickly carpeted with casuarina needles for a lunch stop.
After lunch the walking became a little tough, as we needed to scramble down and up a few gullies that cut through the cliffs. We had to work our way through casuarina thickets – finally, the promised ‘bush-bashing’ section. The walk continued until the early afternoon, when we cut inland to farmland and walked six kilometres along fence lines back to our cars, which we reached at about 4.30pm. We had walked around 14 kilometres, and were a little weary!
There were so many highlights in this walk: first place, of course, must go to the stunning views of the coast, and the endless, airy ocean expanse, dappled with ever-changing patterns of shadows and silver light. The vegetation communities constantly changed, with varying frequencies of casuarina, sugar gums, spiked sourbush, hakea (rostrata), and slender honey-myrtle (melaleuca gibbosa).
The sugar gums held their own at the cliff’s edge, some growing quite massive by laying their branches back up the cliff for support. There were large, eerie groves of casuarina fully clothed in one or two centimetre-long soft growths of moss, and countless water-jewelled spider web lace doilies strung among the branches, catching the slight breezes.
It wasn’t an easy walk, but a profoundly satisfying one. Many thanks to Ron and Philippa for guiding us so well. They had gone on the walk themselves two weeks before, to make sure all would be well on the day.