About ten years ago, I picked a fairly random ambition out of the air for no good reason. I decided to visit the extreme points of Australia for the hell of it – the northernmost, southernmost, highest, lowest … you get the idea. While I nearly visited a couple of them in the intervening time, September 4th 2017 is the date that I finally actually made it to one.
I don’t want to use the phrase “bucket list” when talking about this vaguely defined project, as I don’t think it really is. What I have here is a list of potential excuses to leave the house and go do stuff. Do I need one? Probably not, but Past Mike chose this idea, and who am I to argue with him?
Just briefly, before I go into the extreme point I visited, here are a couple that nearly made it to first place.
I’ve walked down to the Wilsons Promontory lighthouse a couple of times now. It’s fantastic down there. You should go. Four times I’ve stood at the trail head for South Point, but knowing it’d be a two hour round trip there and back, I didn’t go. Reasons for that included poor weather, time pressure due to short days, deciding I’d rather put my feet up and watch the creek for an hour … it just wasn’t the reason I was there. I always thought it’d be the first point I’d visit though, because it’s the closest to home. I could walk out the door and be standing on it within 7 hours if I just decided to do it. So far though, I haven’t.
I was at Thredbo in December 2015. I had a little bit of time to myself, and found myself staring at a sign indicating the trail to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. I nearly went up there, but the prospect of driving back down the twisty roads in the dark was pretty intimidating and I chose to play it safe. It never really clicked in my head in advance that I’d be able to walk to the summit while hanging around up there, or I’d have arranged to give myself some time. It was a beautiful, clear day and the walk would have been trivial.
Sorry, Past Mike. I blew that chance. I’ll go back soon.
Success! At long last, I made it to an extreme point – the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. Hello Cape Byron!
This time, I was determined not to mess it up and I was going to make an occasion of it, as well. I was going to watch the sun rise and therefore be the first person in Australia to see it that day.
I was going to be stopping off while driving from Brisbane to Melbourne, and sunrise was at 5:34am. I decided I’d drive down to Byron Bay in the evening, have a bit of a snooze somewhere quiet in the car, and then walk up in the morning. Sounds easy right? I arrived in Byron about 10pm. An old friend had informed me that there was a 24-hour bakery in the main street, so that took care of supper, and I set out looking for a quiet spot to kill a couple of hours. I’ve heard since that there are people actively prowling about trying to prevent people from doing that, but my choice of “random residential street” seemed to avoid attention that night and I zoned out successfully until about 4:30am.
I found out at that point that I should have just gone straight up to the lighthouse. The main access road to the lighthouse itself is closed off until 8am, and the car park immediately before it (where parking charges don’t kick in until 6am) was almost full – of people snoozing in their cars. I got the second-last remaining parking space at just before 5am, and shortly afterwards people started waking up and moving around. My “watch the sun rise” plan apparently wasn’t at all original.
The stroll up to the lighthouse itself was short and unremarkable. About 20 other people were sauntering up with me, not a huge crowd but still a few more than I really expected to see on a Monday morning. The sky was lightening up nicely by the time I got to the lighthouse, and I quickly walked around it to the trail on the other side that led to the easternmost point.
It was as I was descending the stairs on the far side of the lighthouse that I realised pretty much everyone else was stopping there. I don’t blame them to be honest, it’s not like the view was really going to improve at all. By the time I got to the actual east point, I was the only one there. I got to be the first person to see the sunrise that day, and didn’t have to shove anyone off a cliff to achieve it.
So, that’s one box on the list ticked off … but I’m going to have to go back at some point. The horizon was all overcast and the actual sun peeking over the water photo that I wanted (and the dude with the serious camera gear on a tripod back at the lighthouse wanted too) never happened. Next time, I’ll do it with proper accommodation in Byron Bay too so I can do the full walk up the trail as well without worrying slightly about all my gear being back in the car.
Thanks for reading, it took ten years from having the original idea to writing this. That’s pretty good for a project of mine. Please check back in another decade or so to see if I’ve done another one.