The forest changes so much it is just amazing. We find the most superbly coloured moths. They look like happy wanderer butterflies – until they fold their wings and pretend to be dead leaves. This forest has burned in the last 10 years or so and the fire regrowth areas are spectacular in the early morning light. Beautiful black trunks and bright green regrowth.
We cross a sealed road and follow a short detour up a hill. It was certainly worth it. Our first view of the Glenelg River. Majestic is the only word I can think of. A few more metres and we were at the Moleside picnic area. Just beautiful. A little creek running down into the river. A small waterfall and grotto. A picturesque setting. We walked on to Wild Dog Bend. It was worth the walk. We set up our gear to dry out then hobble down to the river to sit on the small jetty dangling our feet in the cold, cold water. Bliss.
This new camp booking system is a problem as you need to pre-book but there is no mobile phone reception and no internet access. After getting a friend to book us a site (not knowing which one it would be) we are preparing our tea when another group turn up and claim that they have booked the site that we are on. Understandably they didn’t want to set up elsewhere because they had pre-booked this site. There was nothing for it except to pack up all our gear and move to another site.
Same problem. We couldn’t check which site was ours so we just set up again and hoped for the best. The new site is much better than the other one. It is more sheltered and we sit and watch the gang-gang cockatoos looking for a place to camp. It is not dissimilar to our situation. They all line up on a branch for the night then one decides he’s not in the right place and squawks until they all fly off and have another go at settling on a different branch.
Darkness descends and with it the bush comes alive with sound. It is even louder than the gang-gangs’ camp discussions. It sounds like an entire species of small marsupial is being murdered. I have a spotlight headlamp and go to investigate but can’t find anything except a few possums scrounging for crumbs under the camp tables. I guess it is possible that the sound is the possums fighting although I would not be surprised to find a fight party of Tassie Devils out there.
At midnight another vehicle comes in and sets up camp next door. They are unbelievably quiet. I can hear quiet voices so there is more than one person and I can hear the tent popping up. I feel like telling them not to worry – they can’t possibly be louder than the murders happening in the bush – but I don’t want to in case we are on their site. Turns out we were on their site but they weren’t fussed and just put up their tent in a different spot. Our new neighbours are up early with a campfire going so we make new friends with three lovely young men and warm our freezing fingers and toes.
We get going on to Nelson, which is the longest stretch of our walk– somewhere between 26-29kms but at the end will be a hot shower, a soft bed and a pub meal. Hooray, Hooray. We get in at 6.15pm very wet and tired. In the shower I rinsed a large black ant from my hair. I wonder how long it had been living there and think how lucky I am it is not a spider. We hobbled into the pub for a lovely meal. Except Rosy that is, she skipped in looking like another 30km walk before bed would be just fine. By 8.30pm we are all semi-comatose on the couches eating chocolate and drinking tea. By 9.30 all in bed asleep. We need to be up early to walk with the tides.
We are out on the beach just as the sun is rising. The roar of the waves and the pinks of the sunrise are just spectacular. Behind the dunes is just as interesting as the beach. Lots of gnarled and interesting driftwood. A patch of limestone that has either grown around wood and roots or maybe it is a forest of dead coral. Next up we find a huge area of pipi shells. I wonder if this is an Aboriginal midden as there are so many shells and lots of stone chips.
This section is about 16 kilometres and other than the detour around the headland it is all sand walking. There are very few access tracks down to the beach. It’s a marine park and the beach is not safe for swimming. Once you are on the beach you need to be committed to walking the whole way.
After leaving camp, we are pleased to find we are on the right side of the large headland that we came inland to avoid. I’m a bit concerned about finding our way off the beach to camp. It is in an area of dunes managed by the Portland Dune Buggy Club. Graeme and I have done a bit of exploring around the camp with the Wimmera 4WD club. Because it is such an area of loose sand and live sand dunes I’m not sure we will see the markers showing where we come off the beach. What I do know, is that there are some awfully big dunes between the beach and the campsite.
I stopped for a break and then spotted what looked like a whale spine further up near the dunes. For an Inlander like me a whale is definitely worth investigating. It was huge and awesome even if it was only the spine and a bit of what looked like baleen. Fact, dead whale bits’ stink! Sadly size and stink factor mean that I can’t put a vertebra or two in my backpack to show the others.
Once the tide turns the walking goes from firm sand one minute, soft and loose sand the next. It is hard to get any sort of momentum and is really tough going. We can see John waiting for us in the distance but it seems to take forever to get to him. We finally reach him and he shows us how to get to camp (2km away) going over the least number of dunes. Very thankful to get to camp. We can’t even be bothered putting up tents until we’ve had a rest and something to eat.
We each carry our day’s food in our backpacks. Typically, it is a small tin of tuna, chicken or sardines with savoury type biscuits followed up by a muesli bar or some dried fruit and nuts. Although we’ve succumbed to Bev’s charms and will usually wait until we are in camp to eat so that we can enjoy a hot cup of tea and the homemade hedgehog/fruit cake on offer.
The next morning we are escorted to the beach by John along the ‘path of least dune climbing’ he had found, to ensure we are walking as far as we can before high tide. It is a really hard slog. The sand is soft everywhere. It doesn’t seem to be any different if you walk on the waterline or almost in the dunes. Also the waterline is a bit risky as the sea is pretty wild today and the beach slopes sharply. There must be a massive undertow out there.
It is disappointing to see so much rubbish that has been swept up in past high tides. Lots of rope and bits of buoys but also lots of household rubbish. I don’t like to think about the impact it must have on the marine and birdlife in the area. We have been watching flocks of tiny waterbirds feeding along the waterline. They remind me of kids running back and forth to avoid the water and makes a nice diversion from thinking about how difficult it is to walk through this soft, soft sand.
We finally make it to the end of the sand where the track heads inland. Our notes had said the beach walk ends with a climb up a cliff but we discover it is not a cliff it is a massive sand hill. John has been down here and written messages of encouragement. Firstly, an arrow pointing upwards with ‘tough going’ written next to it. The next sign reads ‘already puffed’ and it was still on the ‘level’ part of the beach! The dune (mountain) is so soft and steep I give some thought to climbing on hands and knees. For every step up you slide back down 90% if it. We finally make it over and drift down the other side. We flop down for a rest as soon as we find some shade however we get going again as soon as we can. We don’t need to keep moving but as soon as you stop the March flies descend. They bite while you are moving but once you stop they seem to really be able to take aim and inflict the most pain in the shortest possible time. I’ve been putting lavender oil on the bites at night so if nothing else and least my tent smells nice.
After a kilometre or so of pleasant walking through the bush we head up the cliffs to walk along the cliff line above the beach. The views are spectacular and we can’t believe how far we have walked in that sand.
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