In the entire time I was on the track no one witnessed the sun rising and setting with me. Being around at the magical hours was a privilege. This was the most lasting impression of 11 days on The South Coast Track.
In fact, I think it was a privilege to experience the whole walk. Normally it rains every second day, even in summer. During my time there it rained only 1 1/2 days and there were showers only on two mornings. The rest of the time it was sunny and at times hot.
I had the setting for a great walk. Basically, it was a flight by light aircraft into a bush airstrip at Melaleuca and a walk south to the coast. From there, you turn left and walk along several beaches, cross over numerous creeks and hills, a couple of rivulets and rivers and two mountain ranges. Walking time was seven days, from a couple of hours to 10 hours, with four days spent lazing about.
I had a wonderful time. The 45 minute flight from Hobart provided glorious views; although, the start was delayed by cloud. Over the South West the clouds had cleared revealing Mt Rugby and Bathurst Harbour; however flying into it was somewhat more ominous. Appropriate mood I thought, as the clear felled forests we flew over were depressing.
The flight was shared with a couple from Hobart and a motor boat repairman.
The walk down to Cox's Bight was a pleasant 3 1/2 hours. Lunch at the base of New Harbour Range. A mild afternoon and mostly sunny day.
The first night was a gorgeous end to an eventful day. Camp at Point Eric. My friends from the flight elected to camp at the Lagoon. I continued on to arrive to an empty campsite about mid afternoon. The rest of the afternoon was spent gathering water, taking photos and enjoying the peace. In this sheltered cove, hardly a breath of wind was evident. Late in the day a group of young walkers wandered in and thankfully kept a respectful distance. My only other visitor was a native quoll who insisted on inspecting my campsite and tent.
Sunrise from the campsite was wonderful. No cloud, no wind, low tide. After a late start, a six hour walk took me to the base of The Irounbound Range. The plan was to camp at Louisa River and do a day walk to Louisa Bay the next day. It didn't end up happening like that. The weather was kind. A lovely sunny walk along the beach, then a, thankfully cloudy climb over the Red Hills, then another sunny walk to Louisa River. A lot of work has been done to the track east of the Ironbound Range. The only difficult areas were were the button grass plains met the trees that bordered the rivers and creeks. Here was the good old deep mud that the scrub on the edge of the forests funnels you into.
Who would have thought that of all places you would bump into someone from your bushwalking club. A pleasant evening of leisurely cooking and chatting to fellow walkers.
I decided at Louisa River to change my plans. This came about from discussions with other walkers. The forecast for the weather in two days time was hot. This was to be when I planned to cross the Ironbound. After some agonising I decided about 8am to go for it and not stay the extra day. So I quickly packed up and loaded my 34kg pack onto my back and was off. This proved to be a good and bad idea.
There were no clouds so the crossing provided spectacular views. Most never get to see the views as it is a crossing done usually in cloud. That was the good news.
The bad result was that it was the heat came one day early. The crossing was an 850 metre ascent then descent. The first 2 and a half hours was steep up, then about another hour and a half of lesser up. So after about four hours and one 15 minute stop after the big up there was a half hour for lunch, next to the stream near the summit. The descent didn't look too bad. Wrong. Soon the track enters an evolving forest of ever increasing height. It was very humid. Also, it was muddy and full of steep steps over tree roots.During the descent an interesting event occurred. I hit the "wall" big time. After about 9 hours of travel I ran out of steam in a way I had not experienced before. Any incline caused rapid heart beat and heavy breathing that lasted too long. I guess one way of looking at it this way it was better than sex. It certainly didn't feel like it at the time. I was feeling great at about 8 hours and thought I could go for it. That was the mistake. I didn't rehydrate properly and hadn't eaten enough energy food mid afternoon. What was remarkable was that two handfuls of scroggin and one jelly bean, kindly leant to me by another walker, a good drink and a short rest and I was off again for the final hour, at a rate of knots.
The last section, across the button grass plain, to Little Deadman's Bay was somewhat of an ambush. Bum deep mud where the track funnels from the forest into the boggy plain. Those crossing with me were some of the last to experience the delights of this notorious section of the track. The Ranger at Little Deadman's informed me that the "Rootrot disease" had been found in the plain. They were about to reroute the track along the coast, away from the plain. Some people have all the luck.
At the end I was running on mental energy. I dropped the pack, wandered down to the creek and sat in it, clothes and all. A wash down station, for the root rot, had recently been installed. The time to cross the Ironbound Range was about 10hours.
One of my best shots from the trip was taken here. Another wonderful campsite. Dawn here is something to get up for. I spent an extra day here. I think I got a bit of heat exhaustion as I was gastric during the first night and in the morning. It is no fun rushing through the bush in the dark, absolutely busting to go, looking for the newly installed pit toilet and missing it completely.
It was still warm. The first night I slept naked with no cover. Who would have thought it so on the south coast of Tasmania.
I dozed until late morning and didn't feel Ok until after lunch. I was sitting quietly beside the little bay when suddenly, from behind, a loud German backpacker gave me a hearty greeting that scared the crap out of me causing me to nearly fall off the log and drop the camera gear I was playing with. The next batch of walkers had started to arrive. They advised that the Irounbound that day was covered in cloud.
Campfires are allowed here. In the fireplace there was the remains of a lobster and Abalone shells. Apparently a couple of days earlier a girl had swum out into the bay and dived for dinner. That night a change came through but did not last long.
The following day was another beauty. Next stop was Osmiridian Beach. A six hour stroll in all, starting with another wet button grass plain, then down onto the beach for the hour long walk to New River Lagoon boat crossing. About an hour to row over, pick up the second boat, tow it over, tie it up and row back to the other side. Lunch at the campsite next to the crossing. A hot and sweaty walk in the sand hills next to the Lagoon for a couple of kilometres, then a 500 metre wade beside the dunes in a slimy green backwater of the River. Up and over the dune to Rocky Plains then a turn off to the Beach for another pearler of a campsite.
Another of my best images was taken here. A body wash in the stream, a pleasant dinner, then back onto the beach for a perfect end to the day. No wind, a mild to cool temp.
The above two paragraphs summarised a whole day of travel. But I could write at length on the range of emotions experienced on that day. The drudgery of the long beach walk. The beauty of the beach walk. The majesty of the tall timber forest that were now a feature of the walk. The #*^***#@$# mosquitos at lunch. The extreme tannin and poor quality of the drinking water there and falling into the creek. Walking waist deep in the slime. The raw beauty of the plains, the sea and mountains. The end of the day.
The next stayed started with a light shower. Also the obligatory early morning crap. I mention this because the pit toilet just has to be experienced. Imagine sitting on an exposed toilet, with no walls on a hill with distant views of the plain and the Hartz Mountains. You can see it for yourself in the Bush Creatures page on the site.
This was the shortest day. About two hours to Surprise Bay. Mostly through hilly forest and the ever increasing mud.
Considering that it hadn't rained for several days I thought it remarkable the amount of mud around. East of the Ironbound the Parks and Wildlife Service have little in the way of track improvement.
Upon arrival at Surprise Bay a strong sea breeze had formed. This continued for the rest of the day and the sun was out. A very pretty place but for some unknown reason I didn't like what was a reasonable campsite. The campsite was situated above the beach in the tea trees and it gave a good aspect to the beach. Getting a good photo was a challenge because of the glare adn wind but I surprised myself.
I met up again with the friend from my walking club and her daughter. They had elected to camp up the Rivulet but it looked rather windblown.
My gastric problem was still with me, but to a lesser extent. I concluded that the problem may be related to the rich chocolate I was eating and the warm weather. So I gave my remaining bars away. Unfortunately there was a girl who when she heard this she said she cried in her tent because she missed out, or so the story goes.
The next morning it again rained. By now there was myself, the two ladies from Sydney, three male walkers from Sydney, a couple from Brisbane and two very unprepared Canadians travelling in the same direction at about the same time. We would separate during the day and again meet up at dark.
On this day the general plan was to aim for the Track Cutters camp on top of the South Cape Range. In the end we all carried on to South Cape Rivulet. All up, about 8 hours. Morning tea was at Granite Beach. I estimate the temp had dropped to about 10 degrees. I believe it snowed in the high country that day. Cloud covered the high peaks.
I heard the first of a number of stories about bush creatures eating into packs and tents at Granite Beach. All up, eight packs and two tents were chewed through at Granite Beach and South Cape Rivulet whilst I was in the area. My pack included. The animal/s were indiscriminate in that some packs had no food in them at all. Either native rats or quolls.
This long day was quite manageable and I thought better that the Ironbound crossing. The mud was worse but the climbs were not as bad and only a few hundred metres in elevation. I think I paced myself better than the Ironbounds; in that, I resolved to stop every hour to two and eat something and drink. This strategy worked. It also was mostly cool and overcast. I was negotiating the muddy bits better but was still very cautious about the tree roots. Also I guessed the pack weighed about 25kg by then, too.
It surprised me to come across a couple of people walking in sandals, because of the mud, they said. I didn't bother to show them the sizable cuts in one of my boots which happened when I stepped into one deep mud pit.
South Cape Rivulet really is a nice place. A popular overnight walk destination for Tasmanians. I spent three nights here and I can't think of how I filled the days. It seems somewhat of a blur or blending of time. I remember walking towards Lion rock on two days and photographing what I saw along the way, getting up early and doing the same and watching late in the day a platypus feeding. The rest of the time I think I dozed or just stared into space. During the day I was alone. Well almost, one day some surfboard riders, yes boardriders, had walked in from Cockle Creek in search of some waves.
I had reinforced to me a valuable lesson. The value of just doing absolutely nothing. The preceding days were a pattern of continuous activity - walking, setting up camp, constantly looking for and photographing subjects, packing up etc. In leading up to the walk - the preparation, the dramas of work and family responsibilities. Being there was therapeutic, a stilling of the mind. I now remember a similar experience on a solo trip to the Nattai River, near my place.
I do like solitude. I am certain that nature talks to us - we just have to still the mind and feel nature's language.
The afternoon of the last night it started to rain proper. The following day sets of showers came through on a regular basis. The seas were up and strong winds were blowing. What was a gentle sea the day before became towering sets of waves. Spray could be seen crashing high up the base of the distant South East Cape.
Walking along the beach at Lion Rock became interesting, with waves surging up the beach to the cliff base. It was cold. Now this was the Tasmania I was used to.
Fortunately the final walk out took three hours on a very well maintained track.
Cockle Creek, the end of the walk was a surprise. Very pretty and well worth the visit. I imagine it would be the southern most road destination in Australia, about a two hours drive south of Hobart. I spent my final night there next to the beach of the sheltered bay. A place of history - timber cutting, whaling and a mutiny.
The next day the bus took me back to Hobart.
On reflection the trip was a trip to paradise, but I could appreciate how easily it could turn into hell.
Normal rainfall could turn the track into a mud pit. But then you do get used to the mud, it just slows you down. Heavy rain could stop you from crossing creeks and rivers. High seas could stop you walking some beaches. Sleet and snow could stop you from crossing the mountain ranges. The track itself is straight forward but care is needed in parts. West of the Ironbound Range a lot of work had been done on the track. No navigation is required as the track is well defined. However wandering off track in bad weather on the high parts, to me, would be a dumb idea.
If you have an accident and it would be very easy to do, help can be days away. There are no comfy huts to seek shelter in. Even with an EPIRB or satellite phone the weather conditions could prevent help arriving in time.
If you are going to do this walk you need to be prepared for and experienced in "four seasons" cold climate walking, even if you plan to walk it in summer. You need to have enough food for a few extra days as injury or big seas or swollen rivers will hold you up. You should be experienced in off track navigation. I suggest you do not make this your first trip to Tasmania.
I don't want to scare you I just don't want you to blame me because you didn't have a good time.
Other than that, have fun and enjoy yourself, I did.
Any text and images found on this web page are copyright © Geoff Wise, 1998 - 2009. All rights reserved.