Phill's South Coast Track walk notes

The trip started off well when I woke up to brilliant sunshine and no wind at all. I had been making my brain hurt going over and over my preparations in the days leading up to the big trip as this was to be my first overnight bush walk. I had camped before, but there was to be no 4WD this time!

Par Avion's building at Cambridge airstrip was quite busy when we entered. There were a lot of tourists going down to Melaleuca for guided tours. The packs were weighed and I wasn't surprised to find that mine was the heaviest at 26.5Kg. My inexperience was showing already! It wasn't long before it became a bit lighter as the Par Avion staff made us all empty our fuel bottles before they would put our packs on the plane. Apparently metho is a prohibited item. I also weighed myself at 78Kg. Due to the number of passengers there were four (I think) planes leaving at the same time and it was a bit of a worry to see our packs being loaded onto other planes. My pack received the royal treatment as it was placed in a seat of it's own in our plane whilst the others were all loaded as luggage and split across the other planes. We did wonder why one guy had what looked like a very large rock climbing harness on, but this became apparent once we took off.

The flight to Melaleuca was absolutely fantastic. We struck it lucky and were put on a ten-seater twin-engine plane with four of the tourists. It turned out that the guy with the harness was a photographer shooting a promotional video for Par Avion. He was hanging out of the door of another plane filming us as we flew. Because of this our pilot took us past the most amazing mountains and scenery I have ever seen. We flew around Federation Peak a couple of times below the level of the peak and really close. Much easier than climbing it!

Upon landing at Melaleuca we found Par Avion's fuel containers and refilled our metho bottles. I assume they bring it in by boat? A short walk up the track was the Denny King memorial bird watching hut but we didn't spot any orange-bellied parrots (we did later in the trip though). A bit further on up the track was the King families house. This is where the famous Denny lived for most of his life. I understand that his family still hold the lease and visit a few times each year. I had imagined this place to be all quartz gravel, button grass, windswept and desolate, but it is one of the most beautiful little oasis's I have ever seen. The house is on a bank just above the water and surrounded by beautiful greenery. Having read Christobel Mattingley's book "King of the wilderness - The life of Denny King" just before leaving this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Seeing what I assume was one of Denny's paintings sitting on an easel in his open-air studio with a flannelet shirt hanging from one corner was very special.

The rest of day one was an easy walk via mainly duckboard to Cox Bight where I was surprised to see how close to the mainland Maatsuyker Island really is. We could clearly make out the houses and lighthouse on the island. It was then a long walk along the beach, over Point Eric and along another beach to our first night's camp (not marked on the map) just off the beach at Buoy Creek. Unfortunately a long beach walk on hard packed sand with wet feet resulted in blisters on the first day for Jon and myself. I was most impressed with the two Trangia stoves that we had for the trip. These things are amazing both in the simple way that they work and the quality of the workmanship. They boil a liter of water in about ten minutes and actually work better if it's windy!

Day two saw us waking to a cloudy but warm day. After a few kilometres of button grass plains where we sighted a couple of orange-bellied parrots we headed up the Red Point Hills before descending to our lunch stop at Louisa Creek. There was then another climb over the Spica Hills and several river crossings before reaching the nights camping spot at Luisa River. As this is a "proper" marked campsite there was a long drop toilet available. What a wondrous thing they are! The fact that there are no walls (or roof, or floor or anything else except for a hole in the ground with a wooden lid) is a good thing as it allows the incredible stench to dilute in the wind somewhat.

Day three was to be one of the hardest days with the 900m climb up the Ironbound Range to conquer. It was a very short walk from our overnight campsite to the bottom of the mountain range. The old guys that originally cut these tracks have a lot to answer for. They seemed to seek out the highest, hardest mountains they could find before cutting the track straight up the side of them. Yes, they could have gone around some, they could have even zig zagged their way up, but no, they go straight up and then straight back down the other side! The track up was mainly cut into quart rock and gravel with pine steps to give you something to dig your feet into. Somehow I don't think the varying height and width of the steps would meet council regulations. Just when you think you can see the top you realise you are only half way there! Lunch was on some boardwalk at the top whilst we filled our water bottles from a tiny trickle that I normally would have thought undrinkable. I thought the hard bit was over, but going back down the other side was actually much harder. This side is in beautiful dense rainforest with moss covered trees and ferns everywhere. The buttress roots of the trees form the steps in the track making this a big contrast to the pine steps of the other side. It is very much like being lost in a Lord of the Rings movie. Unfortunately an electrical storm decided to spoil the party by blasting us with lightening strikes and dumping huge quantities of rain on us. This turned the track to a muddy mess in no time. This is also where one of Noel's boots decided to fall apart. Jon managed to tie the sole back on with some duct tape and string. Soon after I slipped in the mud and fell off the side of the track rolling twice down a gully before coming to rest on my gut. Convinced I was dead I just lay there for a minute or so before dragging myself back up onto the track to find Noel sitting on a rock wondering where I had gone to. The night's camp at Deadman's Bay was a very welcome sight. I'm not sure how to take the long drop toilet at this campsite. It had the most amazing view through the trees and out over the water, but I think every maggot in the entire world had gathered there for some sort of poo eating convention.

I awoke on day four amazed at the resiliency of the human body. Every night I would crawl into camp thinking I couldn't possibly go another step, and yet I would wake the next day ready to do it all over again.  This day was to be different again as it involved the biggest river crossing of the trip. After trussing Noel's boots up like a lump of meat ready for the oven we walked across some more button grass and along Turua Beach before climbing over Menzies Bluff and hitting Prion Beach. Noel seemed to hit his straps here and forged ahead. We think that the sight of a helicopter on the far side of the beach may have attracted him in much the same manner moths are attracted to a bright light. Unfortunately in his helicopter induced daze Noel continued to walk on towards the river mouth unaware of our futile shouting. By the time he realised he had missed the boats on the lagoon he had walked about a kilometre too far and had to retrace his steps back to the boat. This was a really cool part. The New River Lagoon is big and deep so you have to row a boat over. When you get there you hope to find a boat with a set of oars on each side. I dunno what would happen if the boat wasn't there! At the end you obviously leave the boats as you found them. Yes Debbie, Jon really did row across. There was a beautiful little campsite that was screaming at us to stay the night on the other side of the lagoon, but apparently our bodies needed a bit more punishment so we pressed on to Osmiridium Beach. As we walked I started to think of my beautiful children back home, Brad had just started grade five and Emma had begun her first year of High School. If it hadn't been for Jon and his big block of chocolate I would never have made it to the end of that day!

Day five saw us walking through some very special forest to Granite Beach.  The beach is almost entirely covered in roundish rocks about the size of a football. I quite enjoyed this bit and flew across the rocks but it couldn't have been easy for Noel with his flappy boots. Ron and I arrived at the end of the beach together to find a steep little cliff that needed climbing. Ron in his usual surefooted manner seemed to fly up the cliff even posing for a photograph half way up. He dropped his pack at the top then came back down to guide me up the cliff face. I was about half way up when he shouted, "I'm off to see where the others are" and left. It was about now that panic set in. Here I was half way up a cliff that I would never have climbed on my own with twenty odd kilograms on my back trying it's hardest to pull me towards certain death. I only moved forwards when the tuft of grass I was clinging to pulled out in my hands leaving me no choice. The others all breezed up after me so either I went the wrong way or I'm just a sook when it comes to cliffs.

Day six can be best described as a bog. I have never seen mud like that. It didn't seem to have a bottom, you could poke a stick in and never see it again. I'm sure I saw eyes gazing out at me once or twice. Of course there were more hills to climb (the South Cape Range actually), but the forest was beautiful and I seemed to be getting a bit stronger as the days went on. The blisters had reached the point where there wasn't anything I could do for them. I had run out of bandages anyway and the rest of my body ached so much that I didn't really notice them. Our camp for the night was at South Cape Rivulet. Ron was not happy with this choice as he had stayed here once before and a rat had eaten it's way into his pack to get at his food. We all laughed at this and dismissed it as a bit of a joke. Another joke were the stories about the "terrible mud" on the final days walk out to Cockle Creek told to us by a couple of German tourists and another older couple who had just walked in from the other direction. Knowing what we had been through to date we just had to giggle and wonder how they were planning to deal with what we knew lay ahead for them. That night I awoke to the beautiful sound of rain drops falling on our tent. I lay awake for a few minutes listening to it before I realised that it wasn't actually raining. I sat bolt upright and kicked out at the end of the tent and heard the noise of a dirty little rat running off at high speed. Rattus Humungus had eaten a hole in the end of our (Jon's actually) tent then eaten through two layers of plastic bags in an attempt to steal my food. Luckily I had woken just before he penetrated a zip lock bag of food. We didn't know quite what to do at this point until Ron decided to toss a bag of peanuts around outside the tent to distract the little bugger. This worked, as I didn't wake again until morning. Most of the peanuts were gone so he either had a very full belly or he called in his mates to help. The German tourists told us that Rattus Humungus had been inside their tent as well.

I was a bit disappointed on day seven as it was to be the last day of the trip. This was by far the shortest and easiest day. Up over Coal Bluff with great views out over South Cape Bay to Lion Rock. Apparently this is a surfy beach, but we were on our own that day. Along the beach to a set of steep steps that take you around a weird volcanic looking bluff where everything is black and strange. This was to be our last sight of the Southern Ocean so we lingered a bit before walking through some beautiful rainforest and then much duckboard out to Cockle Creek. This last little bit is a favourite walk with the tourists who can do it in about four hours return. We saw a lot of them on the track and their clothes looked so fresh and bright. I almost wanted to sniff them as I had long forgotten what a clean body smelt like. I really don't know what they made of us, all dirty, unshaved and stinking like nothing I have ever smelt before. In fact we stunk that bad that it had to rain really hard before we would put our jackets on because with the zip done up the stench was concentrated and funneled straight up to your nose. Walking out into Cockle Creek (why is it called Ramsgate on the map?) reminded us that we were back in the "real" world with cigarette butts and rubbish on the ground. We were also amazed that the only place to have a bit of lunch was two picnic benches out in the open by the beach. Given that it was raining this wasn't an option so we setup in the only bit of cover we could find, the veranda of the Parks and Wildlife rangers house. They weren't home so it seemed OK. Once the stoves were underway and the food was on the rangers arrived and asked us to move. Glad to see that our park fees are being put to good use!

Some how Ron's tardis like Suzuki managed to swallow four smelly guys, one clean one and our packs. We had to stop at Huonville to stretch our legs before a lack of circulation caused various limbs to drop off. This also gave Noel the chance to ceremoniously dump his gators and broken boots into a rubbish bin in the main street. I did weigh myself when I returned and found I had lost 3Kg (75Kg).

I am very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I can't compare this walk to other great walks as it's the only one that I have done, but for me it was one of the hardest but one of the must fulfilling things I have ever done. Many thanks to Ron, Noel and Jon for their advice, help and support throughout. Thanks also to Andrew for lending me an awesome Macpac Torre pack and torch and to David for lending us his personal EPIRB.