Wilsons Promontory – Another Amazing Walk – Part 1

Almost exactly a year after my last adventures at Wilsons Prom I was back down in this amazing national park for another wander. For this adventure I had a mates bucks party at Tidal River (the park’s main campground) and then a week until the wedding back in Melbourne, so rather than driving back up to Sydney I decided to make the most of the opportunity and see how I found a longer walk by myself.

As this adventure started with a two night bucks party (we won’t talk specifics) lets just say I wanted to have an easy start to the trip. Catching the bus from Tidal River up to Telegraph Saddle I started a slow meander down to Sealers Cove. Almost immediately I met a group of walkers who were all members of Friends of the Prom, a local conservation group who mixed bush regeneration and other conservation activities with their love of the outdoors. Happily they let me wander along the amazingly well constructed walking track with them, stopping very regularly to talk about what every plant and rock was. This was both fascinating and welcome given my state of exhaustion.

Eventually I found a little bit of a walking rhythm and left them behind on the descent down to Sealers Cove. The stead rain over the past week had made the track we and boggy, but heading down hill was fine – the Scout group I met coming the other way had different views.

Eventually I made it down to the beach and the campsite. For anyone who is considering going there – take aerogard! After a quick dinner I was in bed well before dark and enjoying a solid 14hrs sleep.

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Monday saw me reluctantly stirring from my slumber to discover a swarm of mosquitos between the inner and fly of my tent. Seriously there were hundreds of the things!

Eventually I got going and made my way to Refuge Cover which has to be one of the best campsites anywhere. It is a sheltered and well protected, with some much interesting stuff just lying around. According to the informative sign there is even a whale skeleton 50m of shore that is visible while snorkelling. Next time I am definitely taking a snorkel and a wet suit because when I got sufficiently tempted to strip off and splash in the water it was way way too cold to swim out 50m!

The next day consisted mostly of sitting around, reading books, and chatting to the interesting people around. It was particularly cool to meet a guy from Launceston who had sailed up in an open topped 16ft skiff by him self and was just camping out until the winds were in the right direction to head home, and a Canadian couple who were gradually working and sailing their way around the Australian coastline.

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Continued in Part Two of this Adventure….

Blue Lake Adventures

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Last week three mates and I headed out to Blue Lake in Kosciusko National Park for a five days of snowshoeing, igloo building, relaxation and for Dom and Stu some ice climbing.

The trip was dreamed up during our Davies Canyon trip in January and as we all now hail from very different parts of the country there was a huge volume of messages shared in the planning and lead up to departure. However Friday night arrived and after dinner and drinks with friends I went home, loaded the car and waited for Dom and Stu to arrive from Sydney.

Saturday morning we were up at five and on our way to the snow. We picked up Josh from the bus station just after six and had a very leisurely trip down to Guthega with stops in Cooma for fuel and second breakfast and then Jindabyne for all the gear everyone had forgotten.

We eventually made it to Guthega at about 11:30 and started walking at about 12. The walk in to Blue Lake is generally upwards once you’ve crossed the swinging bridge but firm snow with a slightly icey crust actually made for fairly quick travel and we had selected a campsite but just after 4. An hour or so of digging had the platforms dug and tents set up in time for an early night. With bad weather forecast for Monday we knew we’d need to secure the camp pretty well on Sunday to get ready.

Waking up Josh and Dom generally got ready before heading of  to do some ice climbing while Stu and I spent the day building snow walls to shelter the campsite and building what was planned to be an igloo but ended up as more of a coracle. It snowed gently on and off through the day (the snow was in frequent, the wind was not) but by 5pm we’d set up a substantial snow kitchen for the evening and were pretty much knackered.

On Monday morning the weather arrived. Rain and wet snow were omnipresent and the day was pretty much tent bound as we tried to stay warm and dry despite the elements. The wind was an advantage as it meant we could actually cook in our vestibules with great care, but at various points during the day when the snow got heavier we took turns in digging out the tent on a half hourly basis.

During the evening the winds dropped, and then the temperature plummeted so that we didn’t have to dig out the tent, but we did have stiff frozen jackets in the morning!

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The walk out was spectacular as the skies cleared and we ended up back in just thermals on the walk out.

All in all a spectacular and somewhat character building trip.

2015 – variable with a hint of nuts

What a year… I mean really… What a year!

There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.

Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.

So onto the potted summary of 2015…

To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.

January to March

I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.

I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!

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January – a very wet walk on Middle Head

Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.

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March – Fiji and cyclones

 April to May

I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading

Wollangambe 2 Canyon

Sometimes you whimp out of adventures, sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t, but sometimes you make the right call and get that combination of factors that makes for an amazing day out. Yesterday was one such day as five friends and I headed down into the Wollangambe for the second of the two main lilo sections (Wollangambe 2), having down Wollangambe 1 late last year.

Friday had seen heavy rain through parts of the Blue Mountains and although not dramatic the river level was probably about 4cm higher than normal. 4cm doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to speed up the flow of the river and submerge just a few extra rocks so that many of the rapids could be (somewhat) comfortably run without getting off our lilos. So after a rather late start we reached the Wollangambe, suited up and started making out way down the canyon with plenty of excitement.

Three of our party had never cannoned before and had bought some less than durable lilos for the trip so as we floated, scrambled, jumped and swam our way down the canyon, not only was the the usual excitement of falling off, trying to stay warm and wondering if that ominous rumbling from the sky was coming your way, but we kept tabs as lilos became 5 and then 4. Kudos to the guys for sharing lilos and then swimming the last section of with their rather disposable lilos!

Anyway we reached the canyon just as the rain and thunder became more than just a slight concern and made our way up, and up, and up towards the cars!

Thanks everyone for joining me!

 

2015 – It’s off to a good start

So 2015 is here. No matter that when ever I read it in my head I say 2005, no matter that today is 5/1/15 and I got a little bit excited, the important thing is that this is a new year were new things can happen and probably will. As anyone who has been following the blog would have read last year was a jam packed year with adventures to NZ, a big move back to Sydney and a whole lot of non-cycling related adventures. I don’t really have many goals for 2015 just yet but I have a strong suspicion that a decently big cycle tour might be squeezed in there somewhere. If anyone has polite suggestions of where I should go please feel free to contribute, however for now I think the leading contender is the back roads of Iceland.

Anyway, with a new year comes other new things. The first is a little bit of digital wizardry called a VIRB, which is a nifty little sports cam I have purchased and will be playing with over the coming year. To match this new technology I am going to be trying out a few little upgrades to the blog to make it keep up with the times. So here is my first attempt at a time lapse video as recorded on my new VIRB. I apologise in advance because, well, lets just say it is a little rough around the edges!

You can also have some photos from my Christmas holiday because the 5,300 of you who looked at my blog last year have been so good that you deserve more!

 

Dreaming again

So I am chilling out near Canberra tonight and dreaming of rides I could be doing.  I won’t be doing these rides in the immediate future, but I can dream!

1) Iceland…

http://www.vegagerdin.is/media/upplysingar-og-utgafa/Cycling-map.pdf

I admit this isn’t a particularly detailed idea, but the map appears to outline hundreds of kilometres of riding which one could do with options for highlands, fjordlands and large sections of the maps listed as “Loose sand possibly causing difficulties in biking”. Who wouldn’t be inspired.

2)  Remote Australian Cycle Tours

http://ozbikerouteproject.cycletraveller.com.au/

I have a lot of respect for people who commit to serious cycle touring, and Alia and Simon appear to have committed to scouting two massive new cycle routes in Australia. The proposed routes through Central Australia and along the Great Dividing Range are epic and should be awesome once they are developed!

Bluebird snowshoe wonderment!

Glistening fields of snow, icey cornices hundreds of meters long near the peak of Australia’s tallest mountain, camping on snow with mountains and granite the only things in sight and walking across the snow river. This weekend was excellent in a way that I can only struggle to describe.

Early on Saturday I awoke to the dulcet tones of my alarm phone, quickly joined by the sound of my cousins dog wanting desperately to take its place in the bed I was about the vacate (that dog is a firm believer in energy efficiency). The early morning gremlins tried to convince me that after water bottle leaks, missing gear and generally shambolic packing methods the night before – going snowshoeing for the weekend wasn’t a good idea. Luckily common sense vacated the area and I picked up my gear and waited patiently for my lift to arrive. Nicole, Ellen and I were heading up into the backcountry near Mt Kosciusko to explore the snow fields before they melted and hiking started to resemble hard work.

Tumbling into the car I resumed my stupor until coffee made its way I to my blood stream somewhere near Thredbo. After much consultation on the various merits of thermals, ski pants, shorts and over pants our little gang was permitted upon the suspended skyward chariots that form the Kosciusko Express and found ourselves deposited at Thredbo Topstation with almost as much ceremony as the unveiling of my goggles.

From there we marched upwards. Not that Nicole (who loves going up hill) forced us to march for more than the 35 minutes. Why 35 minutes? Lunch! This walk was to become the sort of adventure I love where food takes priority  over walking.

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Anyway as we regained our body temperature after a long break we made our way through the pass and saw our first goal in the distance, the precipit-less Mt Kosciusko.  The peak itself is not deserving of the term, but it is put on a great display with a massive cornice and spectacular ice formations on the summit.

On the peak we were told that the trail we’d intended taking towards Seamans Hut was getting a bit sloppy as the late season snow started to melt. This advice turned out to be the best we could have received as we turned away from the snow poles and up onto the ridgeline where few other people had been recently. Away from the touristy tracks the snow was crisp and clear of tracks and before long we found ourselves a campsite on the ridge too good to pass up so we set up our tents, gawked at the astounding beauty of the location we were to call home for the night and before long found ourselves waist deep in the snow with shovels and saws in an impromptu igloo making lesson before retiring very early to bed.

The morning brought even more outdoor bliss as the clear blue skies continued and the chilly temperatures overnight had refrozen all the snow that had started to melt the night before. So, after a morning so luxurious we almost forgot we had to go anywhere, we traipsed down the off the ridge and across the snowy river (we assume. It wasn’t quite clear where it was) and up a hill. Well a big hill. Well up onto the Ramshead Range. Anyway we had lunch on a hill and then made our way back to Thredbo circuitously along the flattest but possible least direct route available.

Camp Cave Bliss – Pindar Cave

The clouds are darkening, falling towards the ground. The sky, earlier so bright and promising, is fading towards twilight many hours ahead of its celestial scheduled. Panic sets in about finding a dry, warm place to spend the night out in bush, away from everything except for the dulcet tones of the Pacific Highway.

The thoughts of how to stay dry and warm starting creeping into my head early on Saturday afternoon as the first showers of what the BOM promised would be a night when the heavens would fall down upon the earth. These thoughts plagued my mind as we ambled happily towards Pindar Cave on Saturday afternoon. Pindar Cave is a very large overhang just 6km walk from Wondabyne Train Station, and even with the weather forecast as bad as it was the night was set to be a whole lot of fun as some good mates and I strolled through the bush laden with copious quantities of food.

Now before we go to far, I’d like you to think about the last meal you cooked while hiking. I am going to hazard there was probably only one course, and that the best selling point was that it was nutritious. Got that in mind? Well here is our menu for four for this weekends walk.

Saturday Lunch:- Rare roast beef and humous sandwiches on soy and linseed bread.
Nibbles:- Salami, spinach dip and humous with an option of three breads/crackers
Dinner:- Freshly handmade meatballs in a tomato sauce with a chorizo, capsicum and green bean cous-cous
Dessert:- A selection of chocolates, tea, biscuits and a most excellent bottle of port that taste like maple syrup
Breakfast, course 1:- Museli with cinnamon oat milk and banana
Breakfast, course 2: thick cut bacon on fresh bread
Breakfast, course 3:-  home made waffles with rhubarb compote

You get the idea, we ate well.

Now back to talking about weather. As we arrived to camp the slight mist that had been gracing us with its presence intensified into a persistent drizzle. Dropping packs we scampered into the bush collecting what kindling and firewood we could collect without depriving the surround bush of habitat or any of the ample fire-load that has built up over the past few years.

As we pulled in the last branches  the skies opened in earnest, with rain failing as if it meant business. Watching around us the track we had walking in on became a flowing stream, and the slow drips along the overhang edge became streams, then torrents of water cascading down in front of us and closing in our little overhang as a true cave.

After a very pleasant night of eating and pretending it wasn’t raining in our comfortable living room, we woke up to find the skies clearing and walking out in bright blue sunshine!

All up I think we have to thank the weather gods for looking after us so well this week, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rain really emphasised the value of camp caves and why they have formed such an important part of hiking culture around the Sydney basin.

Tasmania – Port Arthur, Cape Huay and sinking boats

Last week my partner and I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely verdant Tasmania. Now all of you fellow Aussie out there are probably thinking why on oath would go to Tassie in the middle of bloody winter*. I could tell you that it is because of our love all things winter, or that we wanted to experience what cold actually is, or even that we really wanted to see the Cadbury factory, but in truth we went because we were luck enough to win flights from the Tassie Government “Cheeky Seats Giveaway“. This awesome campaign, with an equally awesome logo, gave us return flights to the Hobart on the proviso that we spent our tourist dollars in the relatively cash poor economy**.

Well what could we do by comply. I won’t bore you with the details of the trip except to say that you should ALL go to MONA and watch the video of two men puttering around a Loch in Scotland in a wood fired steam boat, using the boat itself as fuel!

*******  Not Details of the Trip – Start *******

Actually I will give you some details because otherwise the photos below won’t make much sense.

After spending our first day in Tassie relaxing, the second day was spent at MONA looking at some really amazing art, much of which I don’t even pretend to understand. I was impressed by the amount of interested (ready nerdy engineering) art that was there including the afore-mentioned boat, a great video of a remote control helicopter in a box, and an amazing whole of room projection showing lots of data about the galaxy as exported from somewhere that is home to smart people.  I don’t know if I can explain it in any useful way, it is quite amazing to walk around a room that strongly resembles the matrix.

Following my enlightenment at MONA we went out to Port Arthur to get some history and nature into our trip as well. Port Arthur itself is home to some amazing elements of Australian history, from early whaling and convict settlements right through the modern times with bush fires and the massacre. What really made the visit though was doing the ghost tour after dark. The passion and story-telling of the guide made it a night to remember, I don’t think I have ever jumped as much when a door slammed on queue!

From here it was off to Cape Huay and the tallest sea cliffs in the world. Growing up in Sydney, and having spent a fair bit of time on the various head lands and cliffs that bless the east coast generally I thought I was pretty well on top of how tall cliffs along the ocean could be. These sea cliffs are something else entirely!

Formed from dolomite the cliffs are sheer, angular and incredibly tall making for dramatic scenery unlike anything I’d ever seen before. To see the best of the best, and in the hope of seeing the famous Totem Pole we made our way to Fortescue Bay in the Tasman National Park and went for a stroll for a few hours our to Cape Huay. The well-formed track  took about 2.5 hours of walking to reach the cape and passed through some beautiful eucalypt forest as well as Tasmanian coastal heath zones.

Once we were the we were greeted with spectacular views, massive cliffs, tea and rainbows.

*******  Not Details of the Trip – End *******

Hope you enjoyed the photos, and not being given details of the trip!

 

* The British among your are probably thinking 8 degrees, is positively balmy still!

** The Tassie economy possibly being weak because they export delicious products like cheese, salmon, apples and seaweed instead of coal.

Flashback – Great Ocean Walk 2007

Tonight I have been tidying my room. This means going through boxes of old documents I know long need and receipts from adventures long ago. Finding a folder of bank statements made me thing of some of the more fun things I did in 2007, one of which was the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. This post will mostly be a few happy snaps, and is totally out of date, but the walk was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone.

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Back in 2007 I was part of the UNSW Outdoors Club and enjoyed the company of their members of several trips including a rogaining (click this link if you mistakenly think it is a hair treatment), caving and bushwalking. One of the most enjoyable trips was to join a mate Ian, his brother and two utterly novice hikers on a 6 day bush walk along the Great Ocean Walking track. This 100km covers the section of coastline not occupied by the Great Ocean Road, known for being the most scenic coastal drive in Victoria as well as being a whole lot of fun in a gutless corolla.

Starting from Apollo Bay, and ending at the Apostle Bay visitors centre the walk is almost entirely isolated and away from the road, traffic and other people. It is well equipped with shelters and water tanks and the scenery is mind bogglingly good, especially with the luck we had.

I won’t go into the details of the walk because they are probably covered in a better more up to date manner by Parks Vic, however some of the highlights of the trip included:

  • The anchors of long wrecked ships washed up on rock platforms
  • Long isolated beaches
  • Campsites with cooking shelters on wet evenings, and the sort of conversations that can only happen after 5 days straight with the same people
  • being absolute shown how hiking should be done by a pair of 70+ Canadian women who were walking substantially faster, and more efficiently than us kids.
  • Dunnies with views. Seriously good views.
  • The whole walk!

To summarise the trip even further here are a few happy snaps!