This epilogue is being written as I sit in our backyard sipping a coffee in the morning sun and watching the king parrots feeding in the bird tray. An idyllic setting, but I still have an urge to put on a backpack and start walking – somewhere, anywhere. It will take a while to get used to normality. For 12 weeks our lives had revolved about the walk; it had taken on a personality of its own. There was Nello, me and “the walk”, and now it feels a bit as if we have farewelled a good friend.

There always have been two parts to the “Great South Coast Walk”, the physical journey and the emotional/spiritual journey. These ran in parallel and their intersection lay in the beauty and diversity of the coastal landscapes. I hope that this has been conveyed in some small sense through our web pages.

Those who have followed closely would know that I am collector of statistical trivia, so as far as the physical aspects of the walk are concerned I offer the following. Quite a few people we have spoken to thought that we would be walking along main roads and highways, but our intention was to always avoid these wherever possible. In fact, apart from the 120 km spent walking through suburbia (which includes the footpaths and bicycle paths of large cities such as Wollongong, smaller towns such as Ulladulla, Bateman’s Bay and Merimbula, and the many small coastal villages, only 15 out of remaining 510 km were spent walking alongside a sealed road. It surprised us to realise that almost 20% of the south coast is urbanised or developed to some extent. The good news though is that the many coastal National Parks now protect most of the remaining coastline. Only a small amount of absolute coastal frontage remains in private hands, which means that we only spent 16 km walking across the paddocks of private farms. Many of the National Parks now have good walking tracks and this infrastructure is continually being improved. We walked 227 km on such tracks, mostly taking us through a diverse range of beautiful coastal forest and heathland habitats. A further 67 km of unsealed forestry roads and fire trails provided links to and between many of these tracks. Only for 5 km in total did we have to make our own path through the good old tradition of “bush-bashing”. This leaves the one last great pathway on a coastal walk, the beach itself; we walked 180 km within a few metres of the ocean waves, occasionally on rock platforms, but mainly on the long isolated stretches of sandy beach that we came to love so much.

One of the problems for the coastal walker is the many rivers and estuarine lakes that line this strip of land. Many of the lakes were blocked by sand bars, which made life easy, and occasionally we could use road bridges to cross river or lake entrances. When possible we crossed the others in a range of watercraft, either by hire or by the kindness of friends and strangers. These included a car ferry, several “tinnies” or small open fishing boats, larger fishing boats with cabins, an oyster punt and a zodiac. This still left times when we had to innovate; twice we waded a crossing and five times we swam our packs across with the aid of an inflatable air mattress.

In doing all this we wore our walking boots for 74 km before sending them home due to their extra bulk and weight, changing to lighter sandshoes/sneakers for the 234 km when we needed that extra protection, and walking sandals, which were excellent in much of the terrain, for 213 km. Finally, we spent 108 km barefoot on the beach for the simple pleasure of feeling the sand and sea between our toes.


People are now starting to ask us where our favourite part of the South Coast is and wonder whether we now plan to follow a baby-boomer trend and migrate to the coast in retirement. To plagiarise myself, we have walked along splendid isolated beaches, around magnificent rock platforms, over windswept cliffs and headlands, though superb untouched forest, and past wetlands and lakes filled with birds. In truth, we don’t have a favourite spot; we mentally noted many locations that we will come back to, to spend more time at and get to know better, but several years ago we decided not to retire to the coast, simply because there were too many beautiful spots and we did not want to take root in any one place for fear of destroying the illusion. Our walk confirmed this view and our feelings on this can be best summed up by a quotation from Susan Hill in her book, Air and Angels; “He would have prayed to remain in this paradise forever. Except that then it would become familiar, and the glory he knew would fade from it. Only if he left it, would it remain for him perfect, unsullied, pure.” So, even though we love the coast, we choose not to live there, but rather to continually renew our experiences and maintain our sense of wonder by shorter visits to many different locations along its length.

In the prologue, I mentioned that our trek was to put some distance between our lives in the workforce and our future lives; a time to walk, a time to reflect and a time to rejuvenate. I think that it has largely succeeded in this goal. There is no better place to reflect than while walking silently down a long isolated stretch of beach, and we passed many of these. Some of the cynicism built up during 30 years of work has been shed and we certainly have no fears for what life now holds. The Great South Coast Walk taught us that, to feel fulfilled, you need to constantly provide yourself with a challenge, of which an adventure such as this is only one form. The dreaming, the planning, the doing, the remembering while the next dream evolves all contribute to an increasing sense of achievement and purpose.

In short, all this can be encapsulated in a quotation from an old rock opera –

Don’t dream it, do it!