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The mission: South Coast Track
Distance: ~90km
Duration: 9 nights
Difficulty rating: Hard
Kerrie's starting pack weight: 19 kg
Alex's starting pack weight: 28 kg
Surface: Mud, roots, mud, rocks, mud, beach, mud, some boardwalk, mud, mud...
Favourite camp: Louisa Bay followed by Surprise Bay
Hardest day: Day 4 (Ironbound), followed closely by Day 8
Kerrie's most memorable moment: Finishing on day 9
Alex's most memorable moment: So many, can't make up my mind
Kerrie's biggest dislike: Mud
Alex's biggest dislike: Sitting in a tent while raining i.e. not comfy sitting on the ground.
Snake sightings: 0
Leeches: ~12
Wallabies: lots
Quoll: 1




Day 1 - Melaleuca to Point Eric

Distance: 13.5 km
Time:  5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

The long-awaited day finally arrived. We are set to fly to Melaleuca where we begin Tasmania's remote and challenging 85km South Coast Track. It takes 9 days, is full of steep, rugged & remote mountains with lots of mud!

Arriving at Cambridge airport and checking our backpacks in we meet Peter and Scott & Fiona also starting this hike, which only about 1300 people a year walk.

There are 2 planes flying to Melaleuca this day and Alex & I are allocated the smaller of the 2 with a pilot flying his 'maiden flight with passengers' (thankfully we were only told this after landing). Our plane fits only 4 people, including 2 pilots (the newbie & a supervisor) and us. 



The past 24 hours had been extremely windy and we were told to prepare for a bumpy ride. Thankfully, other than one sideways tip with a wind gust the flight was fairly smooth, amongst the clouds, but also with some fantastic views of Hobart, the southern coastline and offshore islands.


One hour later we were lining up between the hills for the landing strip at Melaleuca. And then the heavens opened and this was the airstrip we landed on:


I was sure we were going to slide, but the pilot did an awesome job and we landed smoothly. Mind you afterwards he did comment to us about having to land in those conditions!

After a quick look around Melaleuca, we began the hike weighed down with equipment and food for 9 days. Alex's pack weighed 28kg and mine a mere 19kgs. We donned rain jackets due to the slight drizzle and cold temps and set off.

We walked about 200m before deciding rain pants were also needed. This was going to be a wet day! We set off across the plains on the boardwalk that at times was 20cm below the water surface. Wet feet for me, but Alex's boots kept the water out - lucky him.



Walking around the foothills of New Harbour Range and past Freney Lagoon we set foot on the beach at Cox Bight, a cold, windy & wet coastline. The beach is full of washed up kelp.


We had to cross a creek outlet flowing onto the beach. This meant shoes & socks off, roll up the pants and brave the icy cold water. It only took 20 seconds to cross but our feet were numb!


We continued a little further to Point Eric campsite where we had ocean views from our tent. It began raining heavily just after setting up so we piled into the tent where we cooked and ate dinner and didn't come out until morning.

Day 2 - Point Eric to Louisa Bay

Distance: 16.5 km
Time: 8.5 hours
Difficulty: Medium

The day began similar to yesterday - overcast, light showers and cold.


But what a magnificent coastline to be walking along and not another person in sight.


Our 3 fellow walkers hadn't ventured as far as us yesterday. We walked along the beach for a few kilometres crossing a small creek flowing into the ocean - yep shoes off and numb feet again! Not sure who would be crazy enough to swim in this water, even in summer.

Further on we approached Black Cliffs. The tide was too high to walk around Black Cliffs on the beach so we took the inland route over the point.




More beach walking and another creek crossing and then the track headed inland, as marked by old buoys and fishing debris.


Well it may have been wet on the beach but now the mud began as well. It was a scrubby hike through the plains and steep up over Red Point Hills.


Here we got our first views of the 950m Ironbound Range (Day four's challenge).


The rain began on our descent stopping only long enough for us to have a quick lunch beside a small stream.


Heading back into the forest we were faced with our first deeper creek crossing, complete with steps and rope. Thankfully Faraway Creek wasn't too high and we could walk across easily. This time we not only took off shoes but also our hiking pants. And if we thought the previous crossings had been cold we were certainly corrected - it was like stepping into a bucket of ice. My feet and legs were hurting with cold.


But we were rewarded with this beautiful rainbow during our hike.


Continuing on we reached Lousia Creek where we repeated our previous process. There was a campsite here, but as it was only 2pm we decided to continue on to Louisa Bay, another 6km - no problem surely.  Well, well, well, all was good until we reached the turnoff to Louisa Bay. Only 3km to go, but here the fun began. Mud up to our ankles, slippery uneven ground, shrubs grabbing at our clothing and backpacks made for a long 3kms - 1.5hours and I wasn't having much fun! Then we had a steep 30m muddy, slippery descent down to the bay - thankfully aided with ropes.

Wow! Louisa Bay campsite is set in the dunes behind a beautiful sandy beach with a rocky headland on one side. Here there was a waterfall, cave and even a small tunnel. What a magical place.




Once again we were the only people here so a shower in the cold waterfall was sort of enjoyed (for the getting clean part). Unfortunately, it soon started raining again so we once again cooked and dined in our tent.

Day 3 -  Louisa Bay to Louisa River

Distance: 8 km
Time: 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Ok, so still a little overcast today, but the rain appears to have stopped. This morning I walked onto the beach and turned 360 degrees in delight at my surroundings. Amazing how positive a good night's sleep makes me feel.


Before leaving this morning we crawled through the sea cave/tunnel. Stunning place!



First up we hiked back the 3km of mud to the main track (easier first up in the morning than at the end of the day) and on towards Lousia River (lots of Louisa's around here). We were treated to more views of the Ironbounds - they are calling us ever on towards them.


It was only a short hike today and we arrived at Louisa River by lunchtime. First, we crossed the river - another 'no pants' crossing.


Then we set up our wet tent to dry and had lunch. The sun came out and we rinsed a few clothes and hung all our wet gear up to dry. It was lovely to sit by the river in the sun for a few hours. I even got my boots dry so that will be nice for tomorrow morning!


Tonight we were actually able to cook and eat dinner outside our tent. Alex found this chair some track builders had made.


We had our first sighting of a quoll as it wandered around our camp this afternoon. Cute, curious little creature but we won't be leaving any food laying around.


It was an early night though as tomorrow is Ironbounds day which means waking in the dark and walking at first light.

Day 4 - Louisa River to Little Deadman's Bay

Distance: 13 km
Time: 9.20 hours
Difficulty: Hard

The day had arrived - the crossing of the mighty Ironbound Range. This is considered the hardest and longest day of the hike. Many walkers finish the day in the dark. The area around here receives the most inhospitable weather in Tasmania. BUT we have woken to a dry, clear day. How lucky are we? After breakfast and packing up in the dark we set off. Just as we are leaving camp Peter (who started the same day as us) appears from the other side of the river where he had camped, unknown to us. Must have been cold crossing at 6.30am.

It was a 15min walk out of the forest and across to the base of the Ironbounds. Then our 900m ascent began.

It was up, up and more up with many false peaks. But being a blue sky day the views were just amazing, over both the coastline and inland. It was only us (and Peter walking some way behind us) in this spectacularly remote and rugged part of Tasmania. There was no sign of human inhabitance, other than the track we were walking on.


Still happy...


OK starting to feel the climb...


...YES, finally at the top of the crossing.


Not too bad 3.5 hours from camp and it's just gone 10am. We should get the day done in 7 - 8 hours, after all, we were nearly halfway, distance wise.

It was way too windy and cold to stop on top so we headed down a little to a small stream where we stopped for 15mins for a nutbar. We were surprised to have 3 other walkers come from the opposite direction. A quick chat and we were off to conquer the famed muddy descent.

It wasn't long and we were into the dark, muddy forest. Ok, so we were lucky it wasn't raining but there was still huge amounts of the steep muddy track to contend with.




2 hours of walking and we had only progressed 2kms! OK, fun factor gone!!! We stopped for a brief lunch on a log overhanging a mud puddle - beautiful (not).

And yes this next photo is actually the track!


We don't have many photos of the rest of the day, as it was just an effort to put one foot in front the over without falling over. In fact, both Alex and I did fall twice each.

Some hours later we reached an elevation level of 100m and thought - fantastic, we are nearly there, our destination is sea level. Well, well, well, next thing we are going up again. "What the hell?" We are now walking across the hills above the coastline - up and down, up and down we walk over water courses for the next hour. I am now well and truly over the day and getting exhausted.

Finally, the track levels out and we walk the last few km on easy flat ground. We walked into Little Deadman's Bay campsite at 4pm (nine and a quarter hours after starting). The descent had taken us 5.5 hours!

There was a beautiful stream for a wash and we sat there cooking dinner, overlooking the bay, satisfied at our accomplishment of conquering the Ironbounds, although I won't be hurrying back to do that again.



We were in bed by dark and starting to be a little worried about Peter. Just as we thought he may have camped at Ironbound's low camp we hear him come in at 8.30pm. Now that would have been tough in the dark.

Day 5 - Little Deadman's Bay to Prion Boat Crossing/New River Lagoon

Distance: 11 km
Time: 5.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

OK so most walkers take a rest day after Ironbounds day - but we both woke feeling well rested and after a lazy breakfast decided to push on.

Who could resist walking after such amazing sunrise views?


We headed out along stony Little Deadman's Bay...


...and then up through the forest where another creek crossing required 'shoe removal', but not deep enough for 'pants removal'.


More mud in the forest and across the plains before descending onto a sandy beach.

Here we found large washed up kelp...


....and large washed up hats!


Back into the forest, but walking close to the sea edge, we look up to be treated to fantastic views of the rocky coastline...


...and we look down to see amazing fungus.



We then come back out onto the beach at Prion Bay beside Grotto Creek. Beautiful crystal clear water to fill our water bottles. We also filled our bladder bags as the water at the next campsite can be brackish. We stop for lunch around the corner, taking in the 5km long stretch of sand ahead of us.



Early afternoon saw us walk the magnificent 5km of beach up to New River Lagoon and our rowboat crossing. One boat must be left each side for other walkers, so normally its: row across, tie a second boat on, row back and leave it where you started and then row back. This way there is a boat each side. But there are actually 3 boats (one spare) and as we had passed walkers going in the opposite direction and had no one in front of us we lucked out and had 2 boats on our side. We only had to row across once!



Here we found a wonderful campsite tucked in amongst the trees, complete with washed-up debris to make a table and seat.


We sat out on the boats (onshore) having afternoon tea and watching the sunset over New River Lagoon. Another magic camp.

Day 6 - Prion Boat crossing to Surprise Bay

Distance: 11.3  km
Time:  6.5 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Good morning New River Lagoon. A perfect spot for breakfast.


Upon leaving, the track headed up into the forest and directly alongside the lagoon affording picturesque views of the lagoon and coastline.



And fantastic views of the surrounding peaks.



More mud in the forest and clambering over and under fallen trees before reaching Milford Creek, where we expected another 'shoe removal' crossing. But to our surprise and my delight (Alex was disappointed - he must love frozen feet!), there was a new bridge so no cold feet!


More hills were conquered before we came out onto so-called Rocky Plains (which were actually swampy plains) where we took the side trip to Osmiridium Beach. We had originally thought about camping here but the campsite was in the forest, not overlooking the beach and the only water was a brackish creek full of logs and stagnant water. It was decided to have lunch here and we took a quick walk along the creek to its mouth at the beach.


The afternoon walk took us back out to the swampy plains and up and down many more hills in the forest before finally emerging onto the beach at Surprise Bay. Alex and I were both smiling in delight at finally reaching the beach.


In fact, I was jumping for joy!


A short walk along the beach and we crossed yet another small creek requiring 'shoe removal' and then clambered up the rocks to our campsite. It was an amazing place perched on a cliff top overlooking the bay and mountains.


Just as we were finishing dinner we were treated to a most spectacular show of nature with the sun setting the Ironbound Range 'on fire'.


And amazing colours of the rocky coastline and islands.

Day 7 Surprise Bay to Granite Beach

Distance: 3.2 km
Time: 2.25 hours
Difficulty: Easy

This morning we awoke to more fantastic views of Surprise Bay.


We had decided that a short day was in order today particularly as tomorrow is the second hardest and longest day of our walk.

So it was only a 2 hour, 3km walk to Granite Beach, but as always on this walk, it involved hills and mud. Although on fresh legs we knocked this over easily and were soon on the beautiful sand of Granite Beach.



Halfway along the sand was taken over by smooth round and wet rocks requiring careful attention.


It was hard when the view of South Cape's fluted rocks were drawing our eyes away.


Here we came across several other walkers heading in the opposite direction and in fact it was our first night we camped with anyone else other than Peter (with whom we had only camped with once).

The campsite was positioned above a waterfall which was flowing straight over the rock face onto the beach. We clambered up the rock beside the waterfall and crossed its creek heading up onto the hill, once again to a campsite overlooking the bay.


With such beautiful sunshine (and no one else there as yet) we had an invigorating 'skinny dip' wash in the creek and even got to wash our very smelly socks!

After lunch, we went down onto the beach and explored the overhanging cave around the corner from the falls. It was a very relaxing day (almost a rest day) spent lapping up the sunshine in a gorgeous location.



Day 8 Granite Beach to South Cape Rivulet

Distance: 10.4 km
Time: 7.25 hours
Difficulty: Hard

The description of the day reads "a big day in the hills".  I guess that was true, with a 400m hill to climb, which was the highest point of 7 hills. Not too bad in itself but do it in a dark damp forest full of mud, tree roots and slippery rocks and it becomes "a big day".

So as in the other big day not many photos were taken. It was just was an effort to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Here's a snapshot of the track...


Yep, that was the official track.  Many falls were had and by now I was up to 10 falls in total for the hike, giving me several multicoloured patches on my thighs and arms. The largest was 20 x 10cm!


Around midday, we were still pushing through mud and tree roots when Alex started asking do I want to stop for lunch?  My reply each time was "NO - I just want to get out of this muddy dark forest!!!"


Eventually, we emerged onto plains and sat on the duckboard for a quick lunch.

More walking and at 3pm we finally emerged at South Cape Rivulet. I was swamped with relief. The hard parts of the South Coast Track were done. And we were in another beautiful location. After crossing the rivulet, 'shoes off', we set up camp overlooking it.


Again as we were the only people there, a skinny dip wash was had. For me, just a quick splash of water, but Alex braved the cold and took the plunge. He was out again very quickly though. This was all done in the nick of time -  I was just getting dressed and another couple arrived.

We enjoyed a lazy dinner seated on some stumps and logs on the beach.

Day 9 South Cape Rivulet to Cockle Creek

Distance: 11.2 km
Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Easy

4 hours to the end along a supposedly easy track. Relief mixed in with nostalgia were our overwhelming emotions this morning. We had planned and looked forward to this hike for 8 months!



The day started with a beautiful walk along the bay before heading once again into the forest and you guessed it - more mud. I thought we had finished with this stuff! We were treated to great views from the cliffs yet again.


After about 2 hours in the forest, we came out onto the beach at Lion Rock.


This was our last beach walk before heading up the cliff and then inland along the swampy plain, but with duckboard now. The walking was easy but we had left the remote South West behind with day-walkers about now.

It wasn't long and we arrived at Cockle Creek.

Here is our finish photo at the walker's registration hut. Both of us looking a little tired and drawn and weighing somewhat lighter - both packs and ourselves.


Yes, this is what we had just completed...

.
...Tasmania's, and regarded by many, as Australia's hardest track walk.  It was 9 days spent walking through remote, steep, wet and muddy mountains, trekking over swampy plains with the most amazing views, crossing and drinking from pristine waterways, leaving footprints on secluded beaches and camping in some of the best campsites we have ever experienced.

We had just walked to 'The end of the Road' (Australia's southernmost street).


In all, it was a fantastic experience, but it was hard and challenging at times. As a previous walker summed it up - "The South Coast Track is character building"!

5 comments:

  1. Wow awesome can you please tell me what boots Alex had and did they stay dry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex had Asolo boots, see his review: http://www.puffnpuffin.com/2019/04/asolo-tps-520-gv-evo.html

      Delete
  2. Great blog post and amazing effort you two. Sounded extremely challenging mentally and physically but what a fantastic experience for your both to share.

    ReplyDelete
  3. thankyou for your blog im going to read it again with the map in hand

    ReplyDelete

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