A moderately easy walk, 30 leisurely minutes one way including the loop path. Highlights: a long bush walk to secluded scenic lookouts and rest areas, as well as insights into the past coastal lifestyle of the Guringai Aborigines.
Coastal Aborigines - the Guringai tribe
Unlike inland Australia, the coast has an abundant natural food supply. Local Aborigines, the Guringai tribe, lived in largish groups as they didn't need to spread out in search of food. The Guringai wandered along coastal paths in this area just as you are doing today. Their paths, however, followed nature's calendar of available foods. When the coastal wattle flowered, for example, the Guringai knew that the mullet would be running, and it was time to go fishing.
Turimetta - A seafood paradise
Imagine yourself as one of the Guringai. Long summer days might be spent gathering a variety of shellfish on the rock platforms here at Turimetta, with fish abounding in the shallows along the rocky shoreline. At dusk, the dark mound of the headland would sometimes be surrounded by small, flickering lights bobbing in the water. These were the glowing fires, on beds of clay and seaweed, in the fishing canoes. Or perhaps there would be a larger campfire on shore, as the men, women and children all gathered to share stories. To the rhythm of stamping feet and striking sticks, the night would be filled with tales of the ancestor spirits of these coastal lands.
Turimetta's extensive rocky seashore provided a smorgasbord of shellfish for the Guringai tribe. Looking southwards, in the middle distance, you should be able to see Long Reef Point, with its broad rock platform. Large middens (mounds of shellfish leftovers) tell us that this also was a favourite feasting spot. We too recognise the value of the area, as it is now protected as a Marine Reserve.
Around you are she-oaks, or casuarinas, trees related to those that made such good canoes. The larger casuarinas - river-oaks - were found further west, beside the low-lying fresh-water courses and swamplands around Warriewood Valley.
The end of a rainy spell meant canoe-making time for the Guringai. With the sap rising, and the bark stronger and more pliable, a whole section of bark would be cut from a straight river oak or stringybark tree. Small fires would be made on the rough surface of the bark as it lay flat on the ground. This had the effect of softening the bark, until the ends could be crumpled and tied with vines. Sticks positioned crossways helped shape and strengthen the hull. When a canoe was no longer seaworthy, it was often used as a shelter hut.
Much of the Aborigines' daily food was gathered from the bush as they journeyed between camp sites. Fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, roots, bulbs, honey, nectar and insect grubs supplemented protein-rich meals of fish and shellfish. With a conscious respect for nature, their provider, the Aborigines took only what would fill their immediate needs. They always left some plant seeds and roots to let new food stocks grow for the following season. As you walk around the headland, notice the low, tufted plants with hard, strap-like leaves. The Guringai often used these to make baskets, or chewed the soft base of the leaves as a quick walkabout food.
Roll me a line
Sitting cross-legged in bark canoes, the women would fish with hook and line. Long strands of the inner bark of a wattle or kurrajong tree were rolled or twisted together to make the line, which was then soaked in the sap of a red bloodwood tree to prevent fraying.
One of the favourite shellfish foods was the Sydney Cockle. This was opened - a corner of the shell being smashed against a rock and the valves prised apart with a stick - and then cooked. The Guringai also ate pippies, turban shells, limpets and mussels.
Shell me a hook
The fishing hook was made from a turban shell. With a leaf-shaped piece of sandstone, the shell was filed into a crescent shape. The shiny inner shell acted as a lure, so no bait was used. Instead the women attracted fish by spitting chewed morsels of shellfish into the water.
In their search for food, the Guringai used lookout points to watch for approaching shoals of fish. This time would also be spent skilfully making or repairing tools and weapons.
A grass tree spear kit
Wading in the shallows, lying quietly across a canoe, or diving down along the rock shoreline, Guringai men also fished, but mostly with spears not lines. Three metres long, the spears were made from the flowering spike of a grasstree. Tall, straight, and buoyant, these spikes were ideal for this purpose. Inserted into one end were three or four hardwood prongs sharpened and hardened in a fire, or perhaps pointed with bone - well secured with a strip of bark and the yellow resin of a grasstree.
To find out more about Turimetta Head, download its Plan of Management.