After leaving the beach we made camp and the following morning started the last stretch of our journey. Walking along the cliffs is much easier than the beach walking despite the inclement weather. There is lots of lightning around and I’m wondering if it is sensible to be up so high and in the open. Not that there is any alternative. We found the New Zealand and Australian seal colonies and, as much fun as it is to watch them, we didn’t stay too long in the freezing rain. A quick jog up the highest coastal cliff in Victoria (I jest. We huffed and puffed our way up). And then down the hill into Bridgewater. Hot food and coffee. The food was great and the staff friendly and not at all put out by the sight of five bedraggled customers and their two minders – even though they were also catering a three course lunch for a group of German tourists. Who were much better dressed than us, not to mention cleaner, and I’m sure they all secretly felt glad that they weren’t on the same sort of trip we were on.
Next morning sees another 5km beach walk – hopefully this is the last of the beach walking. Jeanette and I found lots of jelly fish and also four shipping containers washed up on the beach. Whatever was in them long gone. We can’t believe they could have washed so far from the shoreline. It must have been a massive storm to beach them. At the end of the beach section we hauled ourselves up the most enormous sand hill. It is much bigger than the one yesterday but this one at least has a chain and some wooden slats (where the sand hasn’t drifted over them).
Wow, the view at the top is worth the climb. We then follow the cliff line around to Cape Nelson lighthouse. The views have been really spectacular. Jeanette and I have spent plenty of time just watching the waves crashing onto the rocks and looking for seals. They are so much fun to watch as they are so graceful in the waters – and such slugs on land. We eventually get to the lighthouse to find that we are about two hours behind Rosy and Jenny. They’ve been drinking coffee and reading magazines while we’ve been watching the seals.
A completely different reception at this coffee shop to the one yesterday. Grubby, smelly patrons like us seem to be a hindrance although I noticed they were rather frosty to another family with small children, even though the kids were very well behaved. However, the food was delicious and at least I didn’t have to cook it. After a leisurely lunch we walked a couple of kilometres along the cliff tops and watched more seals playing in the water. We can see the Alcoa smelter in the distance. Less than 20kms to go.
When we reached camp John told us of a weird incident. He and Bev had been walking along this section of track yesterday while they were looking for somewhere to camp. Today while they were walking in to meet us they found that someone had dragged a stinky sheep carcase onto the track. Why would anyone do that? John simply dragged it off the track and into a pile of branches that had been bulldozed a year or two ago. It can decompose in peace and without stinking up the place. (Not to mention the inconvenience of stepping over a decomposing sheep). The track here is nowhere near a main road. What a bizarre thing to do.
Every cloud has a silver lining though. Finding that someone had been in the area ‘encouraged’ them to look further afield for a suitable campsite and they found the perfect spot for our last night. Quiet, sheltered, grassy and level – perfect. Probably our best bush camp so far.
Our maps and notes for the last day are a little confusing with distances ranging from 16 kms to 21.5. Some cliff walking and then a pleasant meander around the smelter and past the rifle range (must keep to the track there) and then a stroll into Portland.
We walk through a pretty area called the Enchanted Forest. Very little light gets through the canopy and the undergrowth is lush and green. Lots of moss and old dead trees. We come out on the cliff tops again and watch the waves crashing against the rocks. In fact, Jeanette and I take some time out and just sit and watch the waves roll in. This is the last day we’ll be able to just watch the waves. This is also probably why we are always so far behind Jenny and Rosy. There are a lot more people out walking on this section and lots more toilet paper festooned in the surrounding bush (Yuck). (Check out our blog on Going In The Bush). We soon decide we need to stop and watch people surfing while contemplating walking to the beach at Yellow Rocks. It looks like there are at least 200 steps down to the beach so the contemplation doesn’t last long – we’ll do that next time.
When researching this walk we were surprised by the lack of detailed information. The best information by far is the Great South West Walk map jointly produced by Meridian and CartoGraphics. Our notes for today however are from a book written in the mid 1980s and much has changed now. ‘A pleasant stroll along a wheelchair quality track around the Alcoa Smelter’ was probably was a good asphalt track once but Mother Nature is reclaiming her own. I would not like to be pushing a wheelchair along this track. We can hear people using the rifle range so that is extra incentive to stay on the marked track. We soon come out onto the foreshore to walk into Portland. It has usually been in the towns that we have found the signs most confusing and we get a little lost, but make our way into town. At least now we can see the foreshore area and soon after that the Information Centre that is the official start and finish. At 2.45pm Jeanette and I are met by John and Bev madly waving Australian flags – Jenny and Rosy had arrived at 12.45.
We go in to chat to the staff at the Portland VIC. There are no ‘I walked GSWW’ stickers to buy or even a book to sign. So much for the information that says you must register before attempting the walk. I had made a conscious decision not to register as I don’t believe staff should be the ones to have to instigate a search if someone doesn’t turn up. However it also means that there are no statistics readily available as to who is walking the track and which parts. The staff seem very surprised to hear that we had walked the whole track. I asked whether it would be more like 100 or 1000 people per year. Their comment was ‘oh very few people walk the entire track’.
There is no doubt that this is an incredible walk. Credit must go to the late Alan (Sam) Bruton and Bill Golding for first floating the idea of a long distance walk in the 1980s. Kudos also to the volunteers at Friends of the GSWW for the incredible amount of work they do in maintaining the walk.
There are four distinct sections of the walk, as well as day walks, for those not wanting to do the entire loop. A range of accommodation is available and some have pick up and drop off for walkers. Check out www.greatsouthwestwalk.com for more information.
Best map: Carto Graphics/Meridian Great South West Walk map.
Enjoy and share.