Sealers Cove walk, Wilsons Promontory National Park

Last weekend I was finally able to badger Luke into coming with me on an overnight hike as we both had a few week days free –  he from editing contracts, me from school as I have taken leave this year.

I have also recently bought a set of ultralight camping gear – a two man (barely!) tent, quilt, mat and cooking gear. I wanted to try it all out away from home. I did spend one night in the backyard, much to our dog’s confusion, and everything seemed to be in working order. Now it was time to take it out for real!

I had picked Sealers Cove at Wilsons Prom as it looked to be a doable 10km walk. I read the park notes and found a few other blog accounts of walk too. The pictures all looked very inviting.

We left Melbourne at 10am on Monday, stopping for an early lunch in Leongatha.

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We reached the Prom in about three hours, listening to podcasts most of the way. We only saw one wombat on the side of the road as we drove in. Last time we saw dozens, but then it was early evening.

I hadn’t booked our campsite ahead of time as I’d phoned the day before and been assured there would be space. The website is a bit confusing, It seems to say there is camping for 12, but it means 12 campsites and the number of campers can be up to 60. We bought our permit to camp ($13.10 pp/pn) and then drove back to Telegraph Saddle, where the walk to Sealers Cove starts.

I had divided our things into two backpacks – the lighter but bulkier stuff went into my big travel pack and the water and food went into my day pack. I took the bigger pack and Luke carried the water to start with. We weren’t really sure what the water situation along the trail was going to be so we took about 7 litres to last us the 24 hours.

1907c430-2bc7-4d63-905f-133569cc1f9cAlthough the car park was full, we had plenty of time on the trail by ourselves. The first 2km of the walk in on a fairly exposed and dry north facing path that has some ups and downs but nothing exhausting. I was very glad I’d brought a hat and sunscreen. Eventually trees start to cover the path and then after about 3km we reached Windy Saddle. This is the only point on the trail where any distances are marked by a sign.

After this point the landscape changes to a damp and shady south-facing path that winds down to the coast. There were still some up hill parts and lots of short flat sections. Nothing tortuous.

The walk through the forest was beautiful. Luke wasn’t so impressed, but then he’d started feeling a pain in his knee. We swapped bags and that sorted out some of our discomfort. For some reason, carrying a smaller, heavier bag suited me much better, and Luke liked the bigger bag that had better support.

The forest section made up about 5 or 6 km of the walk but after a while it felt more like 10 as there were lots of roots and rocks to negotiate. We also started to notice the huge March flies that circled us every time we stopped moving. We weren’t sure if they would bite us but they looked nasty and wouldn’t leave us alone. I’d brought my walking poles so we had one each to swish around our arms and legs while we took the occasional break.

2df60315-cb00-47fa-8c03-302616179cc7Although there weren’t many places where the trees opened up, when they did it was beautiful. There was one stream, about half way, where we definitely could’ve filled up our water bottles, and another running pipe at the camp site too. All that weight we didn’t need to carry!

The last two or so km of the walk was boardwalk through Sealers Marsh/Swamp. Some of it is very wet but as it gets closer to the beach it become quite dry.

There are lots of interesting plants to see, particularly epiphytes. We also spotted a few little lizards sun baking on the boardwalk. I was surprised at how overgrown the boardwalk was considering the amount of traffic – dozens of people pass through here most days. At some points the boardwalk was almost invisible beneath ferns.

After the boardwalk the path immediately opens out to the beach.

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And what a beach it is! Over a kilometre of golden sand in a perfect crescent. The signs at this point are a bit tricky to understand, but some people in the water pointed us to the campsite further down the beach. It’s not at all obvious from this point which way to go.

The sand was easy walking up to Sealers Creek. Although it was low tide the water was still calf-deep, so we took off our shoes then left them off as we walked up into the forest and to the camp.

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The cool creek was a welcome treat for our slightly sore feet.

The campsite is up a small incline and each camping area is surrounded by ferns. It’s very cool and pleasant… apart from the enormous flies. We set up our tent then took a short walk along the beach, where we spotted a small group of black cockatoos with yellow under their tails. I couldn’t get a decent photo but they were quite magnificent. They were doing the same thing they do when they visit my backyard in Heathmont – shredding the seed pods and branch-tips of the tree they were sitting in.

The flies continued to annoy, so we made dinner (inadvertently burning pasta to the bottom of my new jetboil, sigh) then, as the sun was going down we lay in the tent and read an interactive, graphic novel-style Sherlock Holmes book that Luke had downloaded onto his phone.

img_5324Feeling tired, we tried to get to sleep early but neither of us slept very well. A lot of screeching birds during the night, plus my noisy mat, were not conducive to a great rest. I also had a series of strange and disturbing nightmares, which didn’t help.

In the morning we cleaned the jet boil as best we could then had porridge before packing up the tent and heading out at about 9. I think there were maybe 30 other people camped at Sealers Cove that night and we were the first ones to be up and out. With the weather predicted to the high 20s I wanted to get as far as possible before the day properly warmed up.

The information for the walk says that it takes 3 hours one way. We took 3.5 coming in and at least 5 on the way out. Partly due to carrying packs (lots of people walk in and back in one day), and partly because Luke had a sore knee. Also partly because the walk back is about 80% uphill, although few parts are very steep. There were also a few boggy sections that required careful navigation.

When we got back to the car we were both quite tired and dirty, but I felt proud that we’d walked the distance carrying our loads and the weight hadn’t felt too onerous. I think I could manage one night carrying all my own gear – although I might start with shorter distances, or give myself more time.

We made it back to Telegraph Saddle by 2, and were home before rush hour started in the city. Not bad going!

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Highs: perfect weather, great views, estimating the food pretty accurately, spending time together off the couch!

Lows: Luke’s injury, the flies, discovering my legs were covered in red, itchy bites when I got home, bad sleep.

Next time: long sleeves and pants and a head net just in case. Eventually buy a proper hiking backpack. Bring less extra clothing.

Here Comes The Planet 51 to 53 – Amanda’s Victorian Roadtrip

We break from our 2013 travel videos to bring you something closer to home.

As you may have read on the blog, recently Amanda and her mother Jen went on a “classic Australian road trip” around Victoria. Now that the exclusivity contract I had with the video’s producer has expired (“Don’t put it online before we show it to mum at Christmas!”) we are pleased to present this epic journey to you at last.

Split over three parts, we start just across the Victorian/New South Wales border in Albury, with its “iconic” Hume Dam. Also in this episode, a cruise up the Murray River on the Emmylou paddlesteamer in Echuca.

Also, you’ll all be happy to know we’ve started writing* a new horror film based on this episode: “Cry of the Cockatoo”.

* We haven’t.

Continuing the road trip, Amanda and Jen visit a pheasant farm in Swan Hill, as well as a deserted winery.

Also, we learn some fun facts about birds!

Concluding the road trip, Amanda and Jen travel from Swan Hill through to Castlemaine and back home to Melbourne, stopping at gardens and historical houses along the way.

Also, there’s a big fish.

What did you think of their road trip adventure? Have you been on any epic family road trips yourself? Let us know in the comments. 😉

Echuca

I don’t really have a great deal to write about Echuca. It was nice enough. For those unfamiliar with it, Echuca is an historical town that was founded around a crossing place on the Murray River. Actually, I don’t know if that’s true since we didn’t bother going to the history place but I saw some old rope nailed to a tree with a bit of information under it about a ferry so I’m going to go with that. It’s known for being a holiday spot and has a bunch of old paddlesteamers that take tourists out for various lengths of time.

This is probably as good a time as any to explain that the Murray-Darling river system is Australia’s longest and largest. It collects water throughout southern Queensland, most of NSW and part of Victoria and runs westward, with the Murray River forming the border between NSW and Victoria and ending in Adelaide, in South Australia. I was curious about it so I looked it up and the catchment area for the two rivers is about five times the size of the entire United Kingdom. That would be impressive if the river itself were impressive. Which it’s not. It’s brown and murky, so don’t go picturing a mighty Amazon or anything.

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For a town of about 13,000 people there seemed to be an awful lot of pubs and restaurants in Echuca. There was almost a pub on every corner in the middle of town. We stayed at the Nirebo Motel, which backed onto a pub called The American, where we had dinner. I had mac and cheese, which was enormous and delicious.

We didn’t really do a whole lot in Echuca. We had lunch on a steam-powered paddleboat (the Emmylou) and the view was mildly interesting and a little bit sad. There was so much erosion – according to the captain of the ship it occurred during a storm a few years ago, but I have heard that such situations are worsened by people driving powered craft along the rivers – the waves wear down the banks faster. The red gums along the banks were quite dead looking and a man I spoke to on the boat said the view was pretty much the same the whole way along.

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Apart from the boat trip we looked through the shops and walked around. Despite the fact that country towns have become sadly homogenised  by chain stores, there were still a few amusing sights, such as this book store. The lady working behind the counter said the owner loved every single dog statue and would know if even one went missing. There were definitely hundreds of statues. It was quite mind-boggling that someone might know every single one.

dog statues bookshopYou can always count on at least one amusingly-named store. Or two.

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Next stop: Swan Hill and the PHEASANT FARM!

Country Victoria and Road-Tripping With My Mum

These school holidays I’m spending time with my mum. We’re doing a six night road trip through north western Victoria and seeing places I’ve either only driven through or not been to before.

We met in Albury, where Luke’s parents live (located, rather conveniently, halfway between Orange and Melbourne) and will be spending two nights in Echuca, two nights in Swan Hill and two nights in Castlemaine before heading back to Melbourne.

Yesterday Mum arrived in Albury and Luke drove us out to the Hume Dam. It was a beautiful day and Luke’s mum, Lea, had informed us that Luke’s great-grandfather had built the dam himself with the help of ‘one or two people’, so we should go see it. I seem to have neglected to take a photo of the dam itself, but there’s footage for the video and it’s a pretty standard looking dam with a road across the top you can walk over. The lake was quite lovely though, ringed with low green hills and people out on boats. No nasty jetskiis ruining the serenity, either. Perfect!

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The next morning we had a coffee at the lovely Noreuil Park in Albury with Luke’s sister Erin and her ridiculously smiley baby, Evie. Then Luke, Lea, Mum and I drove to Rutherglen to visit a few wineries before Mum and I headed on to Echuca.

Rutherglen is a very popular wine region about three hours north of Melbourne. It’s a small historical town that’s very well presented. There’s dozens of wineries in the area and many are open for tasting. We first visited All Saints, one of the most prestigious wineries in the area. You can tell because it has a frontage that looks a bit like a miniature Hampton Court.

all saints winery

I think castle-style buildings in Australia  look either comical or tastelessly pretentious, but this one wasn’t all that bad and the large elm-lined driveway into the property was quite grand, even without any leaves on the trees. We tried some samples of food in their cheese shop then tasted some wine. I always feel like a fraud when wine tasting – I know I’m not good at it, and I also know that it is definitely possible to be good at it as my friend Nikkii can taste a wine and guess pretty accurately what the label will say regarding flavours. I find this ability to be verging on magical. How can someone genuinely taste chalk? Or pencil shavings? Or white (not yellow!) nectarine flavours? And yet she does. Without any training. I’m not sure anyone I know has an ability that leaves me quite as awestruck.

Fancy produce in the cheese shop.

Fancy produce in the cheese shop.

After All Saints we trundled into Rutherglen to visit Parker Bakery, which Erin assured us was well worth a visit.

parker pies

I opted for a vegetarian pie as I have been in contact with too many vegetarians and vegans lately and feel guilty about eating too much meat. There was only one vegetarian option available but the range of meat pies was pretty impressive, including venison, emu, kangaroo, prawn and buffalo. The gourmet pies were $8 each, which I thought was a bit steep, especially for the vegetarian one, but it was indeed very tasty.

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beechworth menu

Last stop was Pfieffer’s Winery, which Luke remembered from his childhood. It was a typical country establishment that was in equal parts quaintly humorous and disturbing.

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scarecrows

Apparently there was a scarecrow-themed event coming up. Possibly for another chance to use alliteration.

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Inside the shed we tasted some wines and saw people collecting picnic hampers to take out to the bridge. Luke had talked about it being a nice bridge to have a picnic on. I’d been imaging something pretty small and tacky, but it turned out to be gorgeous.

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A proper wide wooden bridge over the river. How lovely! We spotted turtles and fish in the water and wished we’d eaten here instead of in town. Next time.

After Pfeiffer’s Mum and I said goodbye and headed off towards Echuca, using Mum’s tomtom GPS unit (at seven years old it was possibly their very first model) for the first time. ‘The Man’ (as the tomtom will hereafter be called) pointed us in the right direction and we only stopped once as Mum had to put a bet on. Being with my family is so different to being with anyone else in my life. No one else I know bets on horses, eats in bistros, drinks wine with lunch or watches news on television. It’s so familiar and yet quite foreign. I’m not complaining though… except about the news on tv as it’s just so darned depressing.

I’ll leave Echuca until the next post as this one has ended up much longer than I expected. Suffice to say that Mum and I have continued drinking wine and went to bed at 9:30pm and we both woke up around 5am. Lucky you’re not with us, hey Luke? 😉