181114 – Back to Portland

Day: 009
Date: Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Start: Trewalla Camp
Finish: Portland
Daily Kilometres: 35.6
Total GSWW Kilometres: 254.1
Weather: Mild and partly sunny with a couple of patches of very light drizzle.
Accommodation: My brother’s in Geelong
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail mix
    Dinner: Fish & chips, icecream
Aches: Feet sore and very tired
Highlight: The early morning beach walking along the deserted and wild Bridgewater bay.
Lowlight: The last 10km to Portland past the aluminium smelter.
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

I woke at 5:30am with the intention of being on the trail before 6:30am, but it was one of those mornings – couldn’t find my headlamp, dropped everything out of one of my rucksack pouches, had trouble with one of my contact lenses, and so on. I finally got walking about 6:45am, thinking that the omens for the day were not good. At least I didn’t find a tiger snake in the toilet as noted by a camper who passed through a week ago!

It started to drizzle soon after I started walking, but not enough to justify a rainjacket. In fact, as I walked along the wild and deserted beach in the morning light with the drizzle on my back it was quite pleasant. Near where the trail exited the beach was the empty remains of a giant freezer container. I’m guessing it must have fallen off a ship. Not something I would have wanted to sail into if I was a yachtsman.

The climb off the beach up some high sand dunes was brutal and really got my heart started for the day, but at the top the trail levelled out nicely through some coastal bush and I met some very large kangaroos grazing quietly, until they heard me. From there, the trail followed the cliff edge through coastal scrub, interspersed with some nice little mallee tree glades, and often gave spectacular views back towards Cape Bridgewater and out to sea.

Eventually I reached the Cape Nelson lighthouse, which I believe is still operating, though, unfortunately, the cafe there was not. I was now starting to focus on finishing and in the distance could see the Portland Aluminium Smelter which I knew was near the hike’s end. Alas, it took a very long time to get there, though the section of trail known as the Enchanted Forest, featuring fairytale-like wiry trees and shady glens hugging the base of the cliff, was interesting. Here, I met two women and a young boy walking in the opposite direction, and one of the women had just seen a brown snake on the trail and was quite stressed, wanting to know if I had seen any. I hadn’t today and tried to reassure her, but could tell the boy was going to be on a tight leash for the rest of their walk.

After the Enchanted Forest my hike became a trudge. The closer the trail got to Portland, the less interesting the scenery became, and when it began finding its way through a wind farm and then around the perimeter of the aluminium smelter I just wanted it to be over. Of course, once past the smelter, it took longer than expected to pass through outer Portland to get back to the Police Station and my car, which I was very happy to see, just before 5pm. I covered a lot of ground today and tried to maintain a good pace, so I guess that explains my fatigue.

I would say that the 15km of the GSWW either side of Portland can be missed, but otherwise, the GSWW was a great little hike passing through a wide variety of typically Australian terrain with lots of Australian fauna on well-marked and well-maintained trail. The campsites were “luxurious” with good shelters, toilets and water. I only saw two other GSWW hikers in the whole nine days which was surprising, given the trail and facilities. I guess much of it is scenic rather than spectacular, and it is a long way from the big cities.

I’ll now drive back home via Geelong and Melbourne where I will catch up with family, getting to Terrigal late on Friday.

181113 – Cape Bridgewater

Day: 008
Date: Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Start: Tarragal Camp
Finish: Trewalla Camp
Daily Kilometres: 28.9
Total GSWW Kilometres: 218.5
Weather: Mild, humid and mostly overcast
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail mix
    Dinner: Rehydrated beef and pasta hotpot
Aches: None really.
Highlight: The walk around Cape Bridgewater, the highest sea cliffs in Victoria was spectacular
Lowlight: I was walking in a swarm of little black flies most of the day, with a couple of kilos (I reckon) of them hitchhiking on my pack.
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

I slept in a little, but packed up hastily under attack from mosquitoes and was walking by 7:30am. The first hour was through forest and I soon met a brown snake straddling the trail. I couldn’t get it to move, so ended up walking gingerly around its tail. As it turned out it was the last snake for the day, though I’m sure they were about.

From the forest, the trail walked directly across a large stretch of high grazing land in a straight line back to the coast. Rarely for the GSWW, markings were sparse and I had to consult my GPS to confirm I was on the correct trail. When I reached the coast, there was some thick scrub behind the dunes to pass through, and I startled a couple of emus. They are a comic sight running flat out to get away.

After the scrub, the trail climbed high on to the cliffs and there were great views to the west along the sweeping ocean beach. For the next five hours, the trail hugged the cliff edge giving spectacular vistas over the southern ocean, and I spotted a couple of seals wallowing in the surf pounding on the black rocks, and a few container ships passing offshore.

I was now walking around Cape Bridgewater, which is apparently an old volcanic island (by Australian standards, south east Victoria is recently volcanic) which eventually became joined to the mainland by a sand spit. The rocks of the cliffs did look very volcanic and there were various lookout points along the trail giving some great views. A tourist road gave easy access to the area and there were a few tourists around.

Further along, I was on my own again and eventually rounded the Cape and had an excellent view of a seal colony lounging on a rock shelf, or wallowing in the water nearby. From there the trail descended to the tiny holiday town of Cape Bridgewater on its vast white sand beach, and I stopped into the sole cafe there for a welcome milkshake and piece of cheesecake.

From there the trail walked most of the length of the beautiful beach before climbing up to lower cliffs and an hour later the Trewalla Camp where I arrived at 5pm. Once again I had the place to myself, and this time no mosquitoes. I have a 36k day back to my car in Portland tomorrow but my pack will be relatively light (no food) and the scenery good.

181112 – Sand, sweat and snakes

Day: 007
Date: Monday, 12 November 2018
Start: Lake Monibeong Camp
Finish: Tarragal Camp
Daily Kilometres: 38.4
Total GSWW Kilometres: 189.6
Weather: Overcast, very warm and humid with little wind
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail mix
    Dinner: Rehydrated Kung Pao Chicken
Aches: Exhausted
Highlight: The scenic variety that ranged from the beach, through dunes, pine forests and Australian bush
Lowlight: Getting caught by a rogue wave on the beach.  Several times I had had to make a run for it up the sand to escape abnormally large incoming waves, but this time I just could not outrun the incoming rush and was wet up to the bottom of my shorts and my socks and Goretex boots were filled with a mix of water and sand.  It was very hard to get out and my boots remained wet and sandy inside for the rest of the day.  Not what you want with a day of hiking ahead of you.
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

I got up soon after 6am and was hiking by 7am on an overcast and already mild day. My campmates, Cath and Ben, were still in bed, but I suspected they might still catch me later, even though they were only going 18km to the next shelter and I was continuing on to the one after that, a further 20km.

Back on the beach for the morning, the surf was raging despite the lack of wind and I could see waves breaking way out, where there must have been some sandbanks. I know that ships were wrecked along this part of the coast in the 19th century. The sand walking was frequently hard work because sections were soft, and I occasionally had to run to dodge incoming waves (see above). There were also a lot of annoying little black flies around, probably because of the lack of wind. But there were also interesting little flocks of seabirds on the water’s edge and the highlight(?) was finding a partial whale skeleton with its massive vertebrae stretched along the beach.

Around 11:30, I followed the trail inland from the beach through a desert of soft sand dunes where, apparently, dune buggies are allowed to drive since there was road signage around. At noon I reached Swan Lake Camp, and as I finished my break, Cath and Ben arrived. They made good time and must have walked without a break, though they looked hot and tired. I wished them farewell for the final time and headed for Tarragal Camp, my destination for the day.

It was warm and muggy, the trail often soft sand, and the flies were bad enough for me to don my insect head net. Safe to say, I wasn’t having a good time, but kept up a reasonable pace as the trail climbed gradually towards Mt Richmond. I encountered the first of three large tiger snakes for the afternoon on this section and that kept me alert for the rest of the afternoon. The third snake was not inclined to leave the trail and reared up, but I backed off and threw a small log at it and it retreated into the bush.

There were no views from Mt Richmond, but the trail through the eucalypt forest was pleasant enough and I saw a couple of emus, although by this time my mind was on getting to the shelter. I reached there at 6:30pm and enjoyed a nice cooling flannel wash after setting up camp, though the rest of the evening was marred by the resident voracious mosquitoes. It was a long hot day. Hope it’s cooler tomorrow.

181111 – On the beach

Day: 006
Date: Sunday, 11 November 2018
Start: Nelson
Finish: Lake Monibeong Camp
Daily Kilometres: 22.4
Total GSWW Kilometres: 151.2
Weather: Mild and mostly sunny
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Egg & bacon sandwich
    Lunch: Curried egg &lettuce sandwich
    Dinner: Rehydrated classic beef curry
Aches: None really
Highlight: It was a short day, but I feel like I’m getting back into the hiking groove.
Lowlight: None really
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

I slept well at the Pinehaven Motel which, though it had seen better days, seemed well cared for by the proprietors who had also looked after me. After a grey start, the skies had cleared by the time I had eaten my bacon and egg sandwich, and I set out around 7:45am on a beautiful clear and sunny day.

The first few kilometres were along a very quiet road to the ocean beach, where I turned left and began my plod eastwards into the rising sun. The beach was uninhabited, save for nesting seabirds, but was well-populated by clumps of seaweed that were being washed up by the relentless and loud surf. It was easy enough to avoid the seaweed and the sand was generally firm, making the walking quite easy. Occasionally I had to walk briskly up the beach to avoid my boots getting wet from a larger than usual incoming wave, and later in the day, I had to make a hasty scramble up a sand bluff to avoid a big wave, but I stayed dry.

The beach was randomly littered with jetsam of all kinds – bottles, nets, rope, floats large and small, pallets – which was sad, but it didn’t dominate the wild coast, which was an awesome sight. Here and there, there were some rocky outcrops, but generally it was beach as far as the eye could see for the first couple of hours.

Then the trail climbed on to the limestone shelf above the beach for some kilometres which was a radical change. The sea could still be glimpsed, but the stark landscape with bare orange/grey rocky shelves intermixed with sandy hollows was desert-like.

After a brief return to the beach, I chose the inland route to Lake Monibeong, my destination for the day, as an alternative to staying on the beach. It was different country again, bordered by large sand dunes on the right and distant forests on the left, the trail passed through a mostly flat area that could once have been a larger lake. The scrub vegetation was thick and the sunny and warm afternoon made me very conscious of snakes. Sure enough, I surprised a very big brown one as I reached the shore of Lake Monibeong, but it seemed as startled as me and quickly took off into the undergrowth. No chance for a picture.

I reached the campsite about 2:40pm to find Cath and Ben, my campmates from two nights ago, already in residence. I had seen fresh footprints on the beach and suspected they might be in front of me. It was an early finish on a very warm day and I had an easy afternoon, including some reading and a walk down to a different part of the very clear lake.  I can tell I’m a little sunburnt after today, so might have to get the hat out tomorrow, which is forecast to be hotter (and better for snakes!).

181110 – Nelson

Day: 005
Date: Saturday, 10 November 2018
Start: Pattersons Camp
Finish: Pinehaven Motel, Nelson
Daily Kilometres: 20.5
Total GSWW Kilometres: 128.8
Weather: Partly cloudy
Accommodation: Motel Room
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Pie & chips
    Dinner: Pizza and ice-cream
Aches: Feet sore
Highlight: Fantastic limestone gorge scenery along the Glenelg River
Lowlight: None really
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

It rained overnight and I packed up a very wet flysheet and a damp tent before setting off at 7am after farewelling Cath and Ben, the young couple with whom I shared the campsite. They were nearly ready to leave, and suspecting they were faster hikers than me, I said I would see them down the trail.

The vegetation had become more scrubby and heathlike in this limestone country. The ground was harder and rockier, but the trail was still pretty and was sometimes bordered by ghostly moss-covered wiry trees. The trail also spent a lot of time right on the edge of the limestone gorge through which the Glenelg River ran and the views were spectacular, both up and down the river. In one place I could see a small campsite and people fishing, and in others, deserted jetties or boatramps. Occasionally a boat motored along.

Cath and Ben caught me just as I was finishing my breakfast at a beautiful overlook, but soon left me behind, though I was to see them a couple more times before Nelson. As the trail and river neared the town, there were boatsheds and houses occasionally visible on the other side and the cliffs gradually became lower.

I reached Nelson about 12:45pm and went to the motel (the only one in town) next to, and owned by, the service station (also the only one in town) and the proprietor kindly let me check in and said I could do my washing in their laundry later on. After spreading out my tent, groundsheet and flysheet as best I could to dry in my room, I walked down to the town’s general store/post office to collect the food parcel I had mailed to myself and bought some lunch.

Nelson is a pretty little fishing town at the western end of the famed Great Ocean Road, and I remember it as a scenic little whistle-stop on a bike ride I did about ten years ago from Adelaide to Sydney along the coast when training for one of my failed round-Australia record attempts. My afternoon was pleasantly spent doing laundry, sorting out food and gear, and going through my email, with the TV going on in the background.

I bought some dinner from the service station and will get some breakfast there tomorrow morning before setting out eastwards on my return to Portland along the coast. The scenery will be different again and I’ll be looking out for seals and other marine life. The service station proprietor told me that a hiker had made an emergency call from along this stretch last night and had been retrieved by emergency services apparently because of illness.

181109 – Limestone cliffs and a meandering river

Day: 004
Date: Friday, 09 November 2018
Start: Moleside Camp
Finish: Pattersons Camp
Daily Kilometres: 31.8
Total GSWW Kilometres: 108.3
Weather: Mostly cloudy with occasional showers
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail Mix
    Dinner: Rehydrated Thai Chicken Curry
Aches: Very sore feet
Highlight: Feeling healthier today, and apart from tired feet, enjoyed the walking and scenery..
Lowlight: None really
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Apart from one very unfit looking student who sneaked up to the “Walkers Camp” to have a smoke away from prying eyes, the student campers were not a problem and I slept relatively well. I woke at 6am and was hiking by 7am, which was just as well, because it started to rain shortly afterwards.

The pleasant and well-maintained trail generally followed the bluffs that bordered the Glenelg River all day. Usually, the river was out of sight, the trail frequently gave glimpses and occasionally passed by overlooks. In places, the river was bordered by impressive limestone cliffs, while elsewhere it looked a little marshy.

The river mouth is not far away (in fact, I thought I could hear surf breaking at times during the night) and the river is calm and probably tidal. There have been a number of boat ramps and camping grounds along the river, but apart from a few parked cars, very few people. It probably gets a lot more popular in the warmer wewther. The rain continued on and off all day and was annoying in that I didn’t want to keep stopping to put on my rainjacket, but if I left it too long in the hope the rain would abate, I ended up wet and cold. In between, it was too warm to hike wearing the jacket.

Wildlife was limited to some wallabies and kangaroos and the usual birdlife, and I did see another school group paddling eastwards on the river, but apart from that, saw no people until I reached the Pattersons Camp, my destination for the day. There were a young couple there, walking the same route as me and we had a pleasant chat over dinner. Shorter day tomorrow and a motel bed tomorrow night.

181108 – Reaching the Glenelg River

Day: 003
Date: Thursday, 08 November 2018
Start: Cobboboonee Camp
Finish: Moleside Camp
Daily Kilometres: 32.0
Total GSWW Kilometres: 76.5
Weather: Cool early and partly sunny with occasional rain showers.
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail mix
    Dinner: Rehydrated Mee Goreng
Aches: Very tired and blister on one little toe.
Highlight: Seeing a mother emu with two chicks.
Lowlight: Still not feeling 100%
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

It again rained a lot overnight and again while I was packing up, so I was happy that my tent was inside the shelter. Although I had a reasonable number of hours sleep, I still woke with a mild headache and didn’t feel 100%. It seemed to take a long time to pack up, but I was hiking by 7:45am, which wasn’t too bad.

Knowing I had 32km to hike, I was keen to just keep moving along and keep my breaks short. The weather was cool early and I stayed rugged up, but there was occasional sunshine and the early morning forest was magic and quintessentially Australian with the eucalypts filtering the sun onto the bracken and my path below. Birds sang and darted between the trees, while somewhere kookaburras could be heard calling in the distance.

I didn’t force the pace and just walked along, trying to pick up some more news about the US half-term elections on my little radio. Around mid-morning, I startled an emu mother with two large chicks and they all crashed off into the bush as I tried to get a photo. That was the only terrestrial wildlife I saw until late afternoon when I encountered an echidna on the trail, and later some kangaroos hanging around the campground.

Apart from a couple of times when the trail paralleled some rural land, all day was spent in the forest, some of which was more heathlike, although a scenic highlight was the Inkpot, a small lake absolutely black in colour f4om the tannin released by rotting vegetation.

I’m now in the Lower Glenelg National Park and my campsite, which I reached about 5:30pm, is on a bluff overlooking the Glenelg River at the point where the trail reached the river. It’s a popular river for canoeing, so I wasn’t totally surprised to meet my first humans for two days, a school group occupying a large part of the camping area. Initially, I thought I was going to have to pitch my tent amongst them, but then spotted a sign pointing to the “Walkers Campsite” which I have to myself, though within easy earshot of the students.

From here, the trail follows the river downstream for the next couple of days when I will reach Nelson, a small town where I have a food parcel waiting for me at the post office, and a motel room booked. Hope I feel a bit better tomorrow.

181107 – Kangaroos, emus, a snake, and…….leeches

Day: 002
Date: Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Start: Cubby’s Camp
Finish: Cobboboonee Camp
Daily Kilometres: 24.4
Total GSWW Kilometres: 44.5
Weather: Partly cloudy, with occasional squally showers
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Muesli
    Lunch: Trail mix
    Dinner: Dehydrated beef and pasta stew
Aches: Very tired and sore all over
Highlight: Not finding ny leeches in my boots at the end of the day.
Lowlight: Not feeling 100% and struggling a bit.
Pictures: Click here
Map: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Rain beat down on the corrugated iron roof of the shelter several times during the night and I congratulated myself in the morning for deciding to erect my tent inside. I didn’t get to sleep until after 11pm, so decided to sleep in, given I “only” had 24km scheduled for the day. The ground was hard and my air mattress thin, so sleep comprised rolling over inside the sleeping bag every half hour or so as one side became numb. The pattern was very familiar from last year’s PCT hike and I still managed to “sleep” until 8am.

After my slow start, I wasn’t hiking until about 9:40am on a cool and partly cloudy morning. Rain was forecast so I had my pack raincover on, as well as my rainjacket. It turned out to be the day of the green tunnel, much of it on a green grass carpet as the trail wended its way northwest through beautiful eucalypt forest with a dark green bracken understory. It was very pleasant walking and I enjoyed the birdsong accompaniment. It seems to me, and I’m no ornithologist, that there is much more audible birdlife in Australian forests than other countries I have hiked in.

I saw a few kangaroos and startled emus on several occasions. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to photograph the very big birds as they raced away. Despite the pleasant surroundings, I had some sore spots where my pack settled and didn’t feel 100%. I was lucky there were few rises to negotiate and I just ambled along, glad I only had 24km for the day.

A number of squalls came through, with the wind roaring in the tree tops and rain falling briefly. Once there was a short hailstorm, but down on the trail I was somewhat protected.

At one break, I noticed a large leech crawling on my sock and then, on closer examination, noticed a number of others on my boots or heading that way. For the rest of the day, I constantly checked my boots and socks for leeches and was very relieved there was no blood saturated sock when I took my boots off at the end of the day.

I also came across one snake lying across the track in the last couple of hours, but it seemed comatose and I walked gently around it. The last hours involved some short climbs over sandy ridges and the understory became dense and heath-like, but it was still a forest.

I wasn’t sorry when I reached Cobboboonee Camp right on 5:15 pm, as I had estimated earlier and was pleased to find I had the place to myself again. I haven’t seen a single person all day. I can tell from the Hut register that there is a couple hiking in front of me who I will probably catch tomorrow night.

I set up my tent inside the shelter again for what is forecast to be a very cold night. I’m looking forward to hitting the sack shortly and then rising early for a 32km day. Hope the aches and pains are a little better.

Poor internet tonight so pictures may not load.

181106 – It’s harder than I remember :(

Day: 001
Date: Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Start: Portland Police Station, Portland
Finish: Cubby’s Camp
Daily Kilometres: 20.1
Total GSWW Kilometres: 20.1
Weather: Windy and partly sunny with light rain in the evening
Accommodation: Tent
Nutrition:
    Breakfast: Toast and peanut butter
    Lunch: Meat pastie and vanilla slice
    Dinner: Minestrone soup, dehydrated spaghetti bolognaise
Aches: Tired and sore all over
Highlight: Finding an empty campsite
Lowlight: The first kilometre when my pack seemed to weigh a ton.
Pictures: Click here
Map:  Click here for Google Map

Journal:

On the five-hour drive down to Portland from my sister’s holiday house in Malmsbury, where I stayed last night, it rained almost incessantly and occasionally torrentially. Oh well, I knew that I wouldn’t get away with a dry nine-day hike in coastal Victoria. Then, miraculously, as I drove into Portland the rain stopped and the sun emerged. I parked outside the Police Station, which I figured would be a safe place to leave my car parked for nine days and went in to the front desk just to make sure it was OK. I told the officer what I was planning and he grinned and said he hoped I had my gaiters. I said no, and asked whether the trail was wet. “No”, he said,……….”Snakes!” Apparently there was a 60km trail race along the trail on the weekend and a lot of snakes were seen.

It was just after 2pm, when I finally started walking, a bit later than I hoped given that I had 20km scheduled for the day. The sun was shining and a strong westerly wind was blowing raising whitecaps out to sea, but the clear green seas in the harbour were calm with a gentle surf breaking on the very white sandy beach. The police station was to the south of the CBD so I walked north along the harbour passing along the way the official start of the Great South West Walk at the Visitors Centre. My pack felt very heavy and uncomfortable, and as usual at the start of a camping hike, I wondered why I was there. I was carrying four days of food, so the pack wasn’t light, but there was no ice axe, crampons or bear barrel as I carried on the Pacific Crest Trail last year.

Anyway, after a few kilometres along the urban coast of Portland, I started to get my rhythm, though it was still hard work and felt very slow. I left the working and historic harbour behind as I followed the low cliffs northwards. The scenery was pretty, without being spectacular, but there were some boring stretches, particularly a long roadwalk behind the rocky shore.

I was pleased when the well-marked trail turned northwest away from the coast and the remainder of the afternoon was a generally pleasant mix of rural and wooded gently rolling countryside. There was some more roadwalking and some short overgrown and wet stretches, but there were also beautiful single-track walking through eucalypt forests, especially towards the end of the day. I reached Cubby’s Camp five minutes after it started raining, and was pleased to find the shelter empty and had the new hiker’s campsite all to myself.

It was 7pm and the light rain persisted for 30 minutes, during which time I decided pitch my tent in the front of the shelter. The ground was hard, but it meant I could be sure of packing a dry tent tomorrow. I tried to remember my super-efficient PCT routine as I set up camp, but still wasted time here and there. There is a water tank and toilet at the campsite, so it really is a bit luxurious. I didn’t get to bed until after 10pm once I had done my journal and done some emails, but I only have 24km scheduled for tomorrow, so will sleep in if I can.

 

A short walk

The Great South West Walk in south-western Victoria was on my agenda for later this year, but I decided last week that the time to do it is now.  I have a few quiet weeks and a knee injury that only bothers me when running.  It seems like a good idea to find something interesting to do to ward off “runners depression”, maintain some fitness, and burn a few calories at the same time.

The 250km hike is a giant loop from the western Victorian town of Portland initially passing through rural landscapes, then following the lower reaches of the Glenelg River before returning along the wild south coast.  I’m planning on nine days of hiking done in two stages, with a mid-hike break in the tiny river town of Nelson where I will resupply.