Tag Archives: bushwalking

Patonga to Mt Wondabyne Overnight Hike

The seaside village of Patonga is one of the nicest spots on Central Coast of NSW, with calm waters, golden sand and spectacular views across the water to the Northern Beaches. If you just want to rock up, have a decent feed at the pub and enjoy the serenity, that’s great, but the area is best explored by hiking along the section of The Great North Walk that leads out of town. The views are tops, the track is well maintained, and for the more adventurous, it’s possible to make it over to Mount Wondabyne for an overnight stopover in the bush.

The track is easy to find; just follow the beach east from the pub, and you can’t miss it as it winds up into the thick coverage of the headland (but click here for in-depth directions if you’re worried about getting lost and being forced to live on tree sap and wallaby dung). It’s not long before the path offers up stunning views back over Patonga, across the legendary Hawkesbury River, and out towards Palm Beach. Warrah Lookout is around 2km from the beach and fenced, but there are heaps of other spots along the walk that offer more open views (just stay away from the cliff if you’ve spent the past four hours at the pub).

Most people turn around at this point, but if you’ve got enough provivions, the walk continues another 8km up to Mount Wondabyne (and another 120km or so up to Newcastle – you’d want more than a 600mL bottle of Coke and a bag of Twisties in your backpack to tackle that, though). It’s a good walk, crossing creeks and dipping into valleys while the cicadas sing loudly and birds flutter around in the trees. Mount Wondabyne is remote and beautiful, with a pak that offers jaw-dropping views out towards the coast.

I tried to hike to Mount Wondabyne a year ago, but had to abandon my adventure when I was caught up in a ferocious electrical storm and had to hide in a cave (and subsequently spent the night drying off on my lounge whilst watching the mid-80s sporting classic, Rudy). This time, I headed out in winds that were approaching 50km/h, because I’m an idiot. The wind was smashing in and getting worse all the time as I arrived and, to make it worse, the drought meant that the ground at the campsite was so hard I could barely pitch my tent (ladies, I swear that’s the only time I’ve had that problem). As I tried to sleep, the wind was gusting in at close to 90km/h, which was loud enough to tear me from my slumber as it tried to tear my shelter off me.

It’s possible to continue along the track and spend the next night at Mooney Mooney or Somersby, but my car was back at Patonga, so just after sunrise I retraced my steps. I was tired and grumpy after a bad night’s sleep, and things were made worse when I crossed paths with a couple of good-looking Danish sheilas who were heading up to sleep at Mount Wondabyne that night. If I’d headed up a day later, I could’ve shared a tent with them, because there’s looked quality. To lift my mood, I nipped into the pub for a quick beer… which turned into an all-day session, and I ended up having to pitch my tent in a local park to spend the night.

WHERE: Patonga, at the southern end of the Central Coast, in NSW, Australia
WHY: It’s a great spot for hiking and camping

DON’T MISS: As well as unreal views out over the Hawkesbury River, the walk provides a scenic look at historic Woy Woy tip

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: The Patonga Beach Hotel is a beautiful old pub with a remarkable view and cold beers (just don’t expect them to be cheap)

AND IF YOU’RE HUNGRY: The Patonga chippie does great food (and also sells booze). Make sure you lead up before heading into the bush, or you’ll be eating bark for dinner

WOMENFOLK: In Patonga itself, you might be able to find a pensioner who’s up for it. Up at Mount Wondabyne, a possum might be your best bet


Hog Wild! Hogsback is the best place you’ve never heard of!

I’ve been told that Hogsback draws people to it, that the mountain has a soul and personality of its own, and that certainly seems to be the case. A South African girl I met told me to come to this tiny village in the Eastern Cape hills, and I’m so glad I followed her advice. This place is as unique as its name suggests, incredibly strange, and spectacularly beautiful. It’s odd in the best way possible.

Hogsback is well off the tourist trail and is home to a weird assortment of artists, hippies and burnouts. A lot of people who live here never intended to stay, and can’t really explain why they can’t leave. It doesn’t feel or look like the rest of South Africa, or anywhere else in the world. People here believe in fairies and drink hallucinogenic cactuses. Cows wander the streets. Homemade statues decorate the town. Restaurants and bars are hidden away between the trees.

There are some incredible walking trails around here, winding through the surreal landscape and racing past delightful waterfalls. The trees are full of monkeys, everything is green and lush, and there’s a special peacefulness that is impossible to resist. I’ve spent the past few days exploring this wonderful place, and there are still so many trails to scramble along and mountains to climb.

Of course, a man can’t exist on hiking alone, so it’s a good thing that Hogsback provides some of the finest drinking I’ve ever encountered. My hostel is home to a really great bar with cheap beer, awesome company,  and seemingly endless free gin shots. I’ve been drunk or hungover since I got here, which has made my journeys into the bush even stranger.

Hogsback is also one of those places where lots of 19-year-old sheilas come to ‘find themselves’, meaning females massively outnumber males here. The first night I shared my dorm with seven pretty, blonde American teenagers exploring the big, wide world for the first time. And so, after drinking heavily at the bar for six hours, I did what any redblooded male would – I went in there, tripped over a hair straightener, banged my head on the floor, failed spectacularly to climb into my bunk, fell out of bed, then passed out in the corner. It’s safe to say that’s not the sort of spiritual awakening those girls came to Hogsback for.

Doring: not boring!

After yesterday’s epic journey into the African savanna, complete with a near-death experience with a rampaging elephant, I woke up this morning with a hunger for more animals. So I headed to the shop to get a meat pie. But after that, I headed to one of Addo, South Africa’s, most popular hiking tracks – the 11km Doringkloof Walk, which promised all sorts of bizarre beasties. I was looking forward to climbing through trees with gibbons and swimming down a river with a black rhino. That didn’t quite eventuate, but I did see a mouse.

The walk itself was enough to fight off disappointment. Starting in the remote highland village of Zuurberg (population: 15 people and a very nervous-looking goat), the trail cascaded down the side of a rocky mountain decorated with kooky aloe bushes. It’s a steep trot down to the bottom of the valley, but the views out over the towering countryside are as kind to the eyes as an 18-year-old blonde in a bikini. A blonde woman, that is, not a man (unless you’re into that sorta thing).

The track plunges into thick scrub at the bottom and follows a stream, which was as dry as a nun’s nancy when I got to it. While it was still pleasant, the valley would look incredible with water bubbling along it. It’s a very nice and peaceful place, with a wide range of trees (and no exotic animals to eat careless hikers).

The trip back up the hill was bloody hard going and I was sweating like a Hebrew in a mosque, so I decided to strip off so I could cool down a bit. I even took some racy photos because my paragliding friend Mark (a flamboyant individual who has been suffering both physically and emotionally after botched gender reassignment surgery. I’m not sure whether he was going from male to female or female to male, but he wouldn’t pass as either) has been emphatic that I up ‘nude up’ more often for Drunk and Jobless. Hope I pleased you, Mark.

I was pulling my shorts back on when I noticed a long, tall black man leaning against a zombongi tree, drinking a long, tall bottle of Coke that wasn’t nearly as cool as he was. He took a big sip of his drink, gave me a wink, and said, “So it’s true what they say about white men!” I’m sure he didn’t mean it as a compliment.

A baboon with a view

Of all the monkeys in the world, the baboon is definitely the sexiest. Sure, some people prefer orangutans, and gibbons certainly have their charms, but baboons really know how to turn on the charm and flaunt their simian sexiness. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful ‘boons loitering by the side of the ride as I’ve ruised through South Africa, so I headed to a place that’s crawling with the cute critters.

The Tsitsikamma National Park clings to the rugged coastline between Plettenberg and Port Elizabeth, and is a stunning part of the world. There are windswept beaches and dense forests and hiking trails galore. It’s a truly remote area, but there are plenty of comfortable cottages and lodges to sleep in, restaurants and shops, so it would be a top place to stay for a night or a week. Hell, I could see myself moving there if I met the right baboon.

The most popular walk in the park is the Suspension Bridge Trail which, not surprisingly leads to a series of suspension bridges. It’s an easy one-kilometre stroll, but takes in some stunning coastline. But that all pales into insignificance compared to what’s at the end of the trail – a whole beach full of baboons! The place was absolutely crawling with the sensual beasts, and I raced over to check them out.

It was a unique feeling to be walking amongst the proud primates in their own environment, instead of in a zoo. I guess it’s how foreigners feel when they see kangaroos in the wild. They were climbing through trees, eating food and rooting each other only metres from where I stood. Walking with animals, rather than staring at them in cages, is such a special thing to do. I found it to be a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience, and just another example of why Africa is such a magical place.

Unfortunately, the serenity was spoilt when an obese Russian man named Igor (his identity given away by his unappealing wife, who kept on squealing, “Igor! Igor! Igor!”) trundled across the suspension bridge whilst shouting, “Boonba! Boonba!” I’m not sure whether that’s the Russian word for baboon, or if he just fucked up the name because he’s a dunce, but I suspect the latter. He blundered onto the beach, waving his arms around and trying to chase the poor monkeys, who started screeching at him.

Bloody Igor was ruining the day and I was worried he’d scare off the ‘boons, but they weren’t having any of his shit. The biggest monkey let out a high-pitched shriek and baboons poured out of the trees, surrounding Igor and causing a massive commotion. Igor’s first reaction was to wet his pants; his second was to race back over the suspension bridge while screaming “Boonba! Boonba!”, and almost causing the rickety structure to collapse into the clear blue waters below. What a dickhead.

Oh, and the baboons have the ugliest blurters I’ve ever seen – and having worked at The Picture for the best part of a decade, I’ve seen some crook arses. Seriously, someone needs to get those monkeys a few tubes of Rectinol.

I ended my extraordinary trip to Tsitsikamma with a hike along the mountainous Blue Duiker Trail, which took me through dense forest that was full of birds and looked almost identical to the National Parks back home. Seriously, when I looked around I could’ve been in Girrakool (actually, that would’ve been a good thing, because I could’ve headed home to get some fresh undies. I’ve been rotating the same three pairs for a fortnight and I’m getting funny looks). It was a very pretty walk, and no one else was along it, so it really felt like I was out in the wilderness.

The park also offers the 44km Otter Trail, but it apparently takes five days to traverse and I’m politically opposed to otters, so I gave it a miss. There are comfortable cabins at regular intervals along it, so I’d definitely like to come back and conquer that trail one day. With so many breathtaking places, South Africa is a country that would take a lifetime to explore, and every single moment of it would be a joy.

Simply the Pletts

Plettenberg Bay sounds like it should be in Germany, with streets full of oompah bands and drunken sausage-munchers in long socks. But it’s actually the jewel in South Africa’s Garden Route, and boasts unspoilt beaches, gleaming resorts, and wonderful national parks that are just being to be explored. So I, uh, went out and explored it today.

The main beach is fantastic, with white sand and clear water. Sure, the water is colder than an ex-girlfiend’s email after she’s started seeing a half-Korean crossfit instructor, but it’s still great to sit on the sand. Unlike most other places I’ve been in South Africa, I wasn’t worried about being robbed while I sat in the sun. Plettenberg’s main industry is tourism, so it’s as safe as wearing two condoms.

Just out of town is Robberg National Park, and it’s a brilliant place to spend an arvo. There aren’t any pubs, but the scenery is brilliant. The 10km walk around the park offers some killer views, and I had a top time battling the wind as I scuttled around the headland like a crab. I found a sign that told me to turn back if it was after 2pm, and it was 3:28pm, but I told the sign to go fuck itself and headed off into the unknown.

I was strutting along, looking cool, when I heard a party boat out on the water. It sounded like they were having a great time, so I looked out into the ocean to find the boat, and couldn’t see it. I dropped my gaze and saw 200 seals having the time of their lives below me. I couldn’t believe the amount of noise they were making, but it was brilliant to stand there in the middle of nowhere, looking down on a colony of seals. I stumbled down and offered them a beer, but they weren’t interested. I once offered the pop star Seal a beer, but he just barked at me and jumped into the water swim around with his mates. Seal’s a strange one.

Into the Wilderness

I loved my time in Mossel Bay, but after the locals realised I wasn’t family, it was time for me to leave. The name of one town along South Africa’s Garden Route really stood out to me, so I jumped in the Jimmy Savile Mobile and drove at a reasonable speed towards the tiny village of elegantly-titled Wilderness. I’m happy to report that Wilderness is the Wilder-best – it’s a top town and everyone should go there. Book your holiday now.

My first stop was the very top of the hills above Wilderness, at a place called The Map of Africa. It’s called that because the river below kinda sorta doesn’t at all creates a map of Wyong the African continent. It’s a nice lookout, but there’s something better about 50m up the road. No, not the poor-people slums to the south, the other direction!

The paragliding launch at Wilderness is fuckin’ exxo (that’s the first time that expression has been used since 1991), and there were plenty of thrillseekers hanging around waiting for the wind to come on. It didn’t, and the flyers were left to pack up their delightful gliders, but I was happy to see that my chums from Cloudbase Paragliding have expanded to South Africa. What’s next, fellas? Botswana?

Wilderness lives up to its name by having a large wilderness area not far from the centre of town. The awesomely-named Giant Kingfish Trail winds through dense forest and races along a shimmering river towards a large waterfall. There’s even a little rope-pulled ferry to use to cross the water. It’s a really nice 8km round-trip, and the scenery was ver similar to what I’m used to back in Australia. I was half expecting some bloke to walk out of the bushes with a packet of Twisties in his hand and me for a smoke.

I ended the day at a backpackers in Plettenberg Bay, smashing beers at the bar and listening to one of the employees talk about his experience with ritual circumcision. It was fucking horrific. He was taken into the bush at 18, tied up, drugged, mutilated, and thrown into a hut with no water and minimal food while he bled out. He fought infection and thirst for the next week, only to discover that three of his friends had died from the same trials, and that he faced a life of medical complications because of what had happened. This shit’s still happening across South Africa.

In response, I asked a German girl from the hostel to check out my circumcision and was asked to leave the bar. It seems nobody has life-affirming reactions when it comes to conversations about my penis.

Check out my Mossels

With no idea where to head next on my tour of South Africa, i decided to ask the campy owner of my hotel in Stellenbosch if he had any recommendations.
“Muscled gay,” he replied saucily, while licking his lips.
“I appreciate the compliment of my chiseled physique,” I replied, “but I was hoping you could point me towards a nice place to stay tonight.”
“Yes, Mossel Bay. Mossel Bay! And don’t flatter yourself, I’ve seen bigger biceps on penguins.”
So that’s how I ended up in the beautiful fishing village of Mossel Bay.

The 300km drive from Stella took me through monstrous canyons, across barren wastelands that are almost identical to the Aussie outback, and past some of the poorest towns I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to tell whether a town has a white population or not – they’re the ones with big shopping centres, nice schools, and neat houses. Towns that are entirely black or coloured look like something out of an apocalyptic nightmare. The disparity between rich and poor is astonishing.

It was pissing down and freezing cold by the time I arrived in Mossel Bay, so I did the only thing worth doing in weather like that – I got pissed. After glugging a bottle of cheap wine in my room, I headed into town with only $11 on me. I found a dive bar and immediately discovered that $11 goes a long way in this town, because longnecks of a local beer called Black Label (alcohol content 5.5%) only cost $3. As I got hammered, I had a look around at the locals, who are an unfortunate-looking lot. There are some incredibly rough heads in Mossel Bay, and I reckon a bit of inbreeding goes on here. Just don’t tell them I said that, because the locals seem as if punching on is their second favourite hobby after rooting their sisters.

I was feeling a bit rough in the morning, so I took a walk around  town to shake off the hangover. There are some fantastic old buildings, but overall Mossel Bay isn’t a particularly pretty town, and reminds me of any number of crappy regional towns I’ve driven through back in Australia. There are dodgy-looking tattoo shops and heaps of pawn shops, and every second person looks like they sleep in a bin.

The town’s beach is really nice, though, and so is the awesomely-named St Blaize Hiking Trail, which starts at the eastern end of the shops and winds around thhe coast for the next 10km. It’s a spectacular hike, past rugged cliffs and wide bays, with all sorts of curious vegetation. I had an absolutely wonderful time strolling along and gazing in awe at the beauty of Africa. I even encountered a small, quokka-like animal called a dassie, and he danced around like a Lebanses eccy-head for my amusement. He was an ugly bastard, but I guess he’d have to be if he wants to fit in with the other unfortunates of Mossel Bay.

An absolute Paarl-er

I had such a grouse time in the mountains surrounding Stellenbosch yesterday that I decided to spend an extra day here rather than heading to South Africa’s south coast. Stella is the second-oldest settlement in the country and is famous for its French-style streets and buildings, so I cruised my crappy rental Hyundai into the centre of the city for a croissant, cheese platter and bottle of champagne to start the day. Alright, it was a KFC Bargain Box and a box of goon, but you get the idea.

It’s easy to see why this place is so well regarded by Saffas and normal people alike, because it’s absolutely delightful. The streets are full of extravagant wooden mansions and lined with lush trees. There’s heaps of restaurants, cafes and kooky shops, so it’s a beacon for golden oldies and bearded hipsters alike. It feels like a step back in time, and I was half expecting to see sheilas walking around with those big, floaty dresses that long-dead spunks once dolled up in. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I’ve seen it on TV, and Stella really reminds me of it. Without all the horrible hurricanes and mass deaths, of course.

With a swagger around Stellenbosch’s old-fashioned streets crossed off the list, I jumped back in my Crapmobile and slogged over to the nearby town of Paarl. I didn’t actually head into the town centre, turning off and heading up to the Afrikaans Language Monument. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; that sounds as interesting as listening to Kevin Rudd discuss pubic hair maintenance, but it proved to be an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place. I recommend it. If a monument was ever built to the Aussie language, it would just be some derro saying, “Get a dog up ya, cunt!”.

Just up the road from the monument is the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, and this place is awesome. It offers brilliant views out over the city and valley, and houses all sorts of interesting wildlife and rock formations. The beauty of this place is overwhelming, and there’s no way I can put into words the feeling of sitting at the top of the world, looking down on the world as the colours bleed away at the end of the day. I can see why Africa has entranced so many people, because it really is special.

A note on the opening photo for this story: I have a number of regular and passionate readers, and I really appreciate the love and support they all provide for me and my stories. None of my followers are more passionate than Mark, a fellow paraglider who lives his life vicariously through my stories of the road. Mark, an openly gay man, has a particular fondness for the stories where I get my gear off, and has recently been pestering me to de-frock while I’m in Africa.
“If I wanted to read a blog without any photos that I find sexually appetising, I’d log onto clementineford.com,” he whinged to me in a rambling email that had probably been typed with one hand.
Not wanting to upset Mark, who refreshes my website up to 20 times a day in the hope of seeing a new photo of me sans trousers, and thus keeps me rolling in Google Adsense profits, I took the opportunity to throw off my shorts and bask in the African sunshine. Anyone with shares in Kleenex should be very, very happy right now.

Lion’s Head and Table Mountain in one day? Madness!

Most hikers prepare for a massive day of climbing by getting a good night’s sleep and waking up fresh ready to go. I prepared to ascend two of South Africa’s most famous peaks by drinking 12 beers and waking up in bed with some girl I barely recognised. Still, it was a perfect day to climb Cape Town’s Lion’s Head and Table Mountain, so I dropped a few headache tablets and off I went.

Both climbs are bloody beautiful, and provide glorious views over the city and the ocean. The rock formations and vegetation on display are wonderful and the trails are well maintained and clearly signposted. Whilst the walks are difficult in places – there’s a bit of climbing involved – they’re both worth the effort. If you’re in Cape Town and you’re not in a wheelchair or so fat you sweat donuts, go on these hikes.

To be honest, squeezing both hikes into one day was pushing it a bit, and I was really stuffed by the end. From my hotel in Green Point I headed straight up the 669m Lion’s Head, then crossed over to the 1085m Table Mountain and trekked up the Platteklip Gorge trail beneath the Cable Car, and I really had to push myself to get up there before nightfall. All up, the walk was a touch over 20km, with more ups and downs than xxxxxx’s marriage.

Girra-kool? No, Girra-wet!

The last time I tried to go on an overnight hike above the tiny riverside village of Wondabyne, I was somewhat less than successful. Alright, that’s an understatement – I had to call my mum to come and get me because I was at risk of being flooded out. So when I set out once again under grey, stormy skies, I was probably tempting fate.

The plan this time was to walk from Girrakool to Woy Woy, spending the night at the top of Mount Wondabyne. Yeah, that was the plan. Things started to skid towards the ditch when I was forced to spend an unexpected two hours bashing through the bush behind Kariong in a desperate attempt to find the track I was supposed to be journeying on. The trees were thicker than a diesel dyke’s pubes, and by the time I finally made it through, I was way behind schedule.

The walk across the ridges of Brisbane Waters National Park is spactacular, and bloody hard going. There are steep climbs, river crossings, and heaps of brilliant lookouts to stop at. I was starting to think that things were looking up, and that this would be a trip to remember for all the right reasons.

That’s when the storm rolled in. Thunder had been hanging around since I left home, but I thought it full of shit and didn’t bother about it. As I was passing Scopas Peak, the sky split open in front of me. I was blinded by the light from the lightning and deafened by the sound of it, and I could hear the world crackling around me. As the stench of sulfur overwhelmed me, the rain rolled in – big, fat drops that drenched me. It wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was bloody dangerous. It’s certainly the closest I’ve gone to being fried like a fat girl’s dinner.

I scarpered off the track and crawled into a cave, thanful for the scrap of shelter that the sandstone provided. I huddled in there, wet and cold, for an hour. The storm raged around me and then wandered off to bother someone else. When I was sure it was gone, I timidly climbed back out into the darkness.

With five tough kilometres of walking between me and my rest stop, I realised that I’d never make it in such  tough conditions. So, I did what any big, tough bushman would – I took a side track down to Wondabyne Station, jumped on a train, and was at home with a German stein of wine in my hand 45 minutes later! Instead of struggling through the bush and spending the night in a wet tent, I watched the acclaimed Sean Astin sports drama Rudy. It was shithouse.