Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Abel Tasman Track

An easy, coastal walk to finish our three weeks in New Zealand off. That was the original plan, but it made more logistical sense to start with it, the transport connections worked better. So, as an introduction to New Zealand's trails - an easy walk, between one tranquil beach and another.

Five days on the Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand

This is New Zealand's most visited National Park - the Abel Tasman National Park. No wonder either, the beaches are beautiful and there are many access options. One can hike, kayak, or get in or out by car (a couple of points) or water taxi (many points). The terrain is easy, although sometimes if you are prepared for an easy walk any hill seems so much larger and tougher than it normally would. The hiking tracks are more like paths, wide and compacted, gently winding their way over the terrain.

I had researched tide times back in July when planning this walk. There are a number of tidal crossings, some with alternative inland routes, some not. I had planned our campsites based upon this, so imagine my dismay when my travel companion checked the times, revealing I had used the tide charts for the wrong year. Luckily though the tide times for 2009 were better, we didn't have to change our campsite plans at all. I had chosen small camping area with limited tent sites - often less than 20 - on small picturesque beaches. There were huts also available, but weather here is moderate, and golden beaches. There were some campsite with a large number of tent sites available, the biggest also car accessible with 850 sites.

There were so many people on the track I was beginning to suffer from Hi Fatigue. Many people use the water taxi service to explore the park, doing a day hike between the taxi stops. Everyone likes to say hi, who doesn't? It's just one sees so many people on this trail, it becomes a little fatiguing.

At Waiharakeke Bay, our campsite for the third night, we shared a camping area with a group from the US. We met a couple from Utah, Liz and Rick. Rick shared his tuna fish trick with us, I wonder if I ever see that trick again, or was it truly unique? They were hiking in the opposite direction to us, and also combining some kayaking.

Beyond Totaranui, less water taxis service the track, none beyond Mutton Cove. Far fewer people use the trail, which was by this fourth day, a welcome relief. Mutton Cove and Anatakapau Bay were particularly picturesque - short, golden sandy beaches, rocky headlands at the each end. The path between the two beaches is via a short track leading behind the small but high, rocky headland.

At Whariwharangi campsite, beside the hut, we met a couple from Germany, and a couple from Argentina and Slovenia. Sitting together at a park bench making our respective teas, one couple attempted cous cous for the first time, ending up with a soupy mixture. Like many, they lightened their load by removing packaging, including the instructions.

Our fifth and final day was a short one, waiting for the bus to collect us we met Sam, from Hamilton on the North Island. Also from Brisbane, and Fiji. We talked for an hour or so, comparing travel tales and the correct pronunciation of Maori place names, something I had been struggling with.

The above map data does not come from my GPS unit, I accidentally deleted all files from my GPS unit losing this map. This is someone else's file.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The KMclub (The Kilometre Club)

At the top of Mt Hack, back in July, we had formulated a plan. To hike to the top of each peak in South Australia over 1,000m - The KMclub. Not a small undertaking, as many of the peaks were in remote areas, without marked trails. The peaks are contained to roughly two areas: the central and northern Flinders Ranges, and the Musgrave Ranges near the northern border of SA.

Mount Aleck, Elder Range

Well, the idea came a few weeks previously, but it was on Mt Hack, that we came up with the name and a few foundation rules. A website with the peaks listed can be found here:

Of those in the Flinders Ranges, we had done some back in July, when we hiked from Parachilna Gorge to Angepena Station. Others, we would tackle in 2010 when undertook the next stage of this trek towards Mt Hopeless. There were some though, either on or near Wilpena Pound, that we wanted to do. Having read an article in Wild magazine, and having talked with several other people, we decided to summit Mount Aleck, a peak of 1095 metres, the highest in Elder Range, just south of Wilpena Pound. Graham and I had gazed up to the peaks and ridges of the Elder Range back in August of 2008, wondering if, and how people had reached the summits.

We camped close by to our access road, leaving our cars on Moralana Scenic Drive we walked south along the Heysen Trail until we reached the Umberutna ruins. From here there is no track, but we headed west, aiming for a valley that would lead us up to the ridgeline, which we would then follow to the peak of Mount Aleck. This ridgeline isn't flat, to the north east there are sheer cliffs, to the south west the ground tapers back down to the plains below. The choice is to closely follow the cliff, hopping along the rocks and dodging the worst of the acacia scrub. Navigating by a route that follows the contour, which we tried when we returned, is hard work, as the acacia scrub is so dense. Along the cliff edge though, it was much cooler, a welcome relief on a very warm day. The first ridge peak we did quite quickly, but the rocks and vegetation became harder to navigate, and our progress slowed significantly.

Back when we had first reached the ridge, one of our members, overcome with the heat of the day, had decided to stay put, waiting in the shade of bush for our return. We had discussed our options at length, and had decided the remaining three people in our party would continue to the peak, returning via this point later. It seemed like a good idea.

What soon became apparent though, was that it wasn't really the right decision. In the shade of some rocks and larger shrubs, just one ridge peak from Mount Aleck - although the summit itself was still unseen - we realised how much cooler and shadier it was here, than where we had left our flagging person. This wasn't cool, re-assessing our time plan from our progress rate, it would be a very long time before we returned to him. We decided the best thing to do was to return. It turned out to be a prudent idea, as when we returned to that point and all of us were together again - something we should always have been - we were all running very low on water. The hot day had taken it's toll. This wasn't cool, we had a significant descent and distance to cover to reach the car.

I think we all really learned some things from this hike, about water, weather and keeping everyone together. I'm glad it didn't come to worse. We still owe something to this mountain, we will return, this time with a better understanding of ourselves and each other. We had other peaks planned inside Wilpena Pound for the following days, but with the weather forecast we have put it off. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Wilpena Resort bistro, as the hot sun disappeared over the pound horizon, and cooling winds blew through the eucalypt trees.


Mount Aleck
Distance 20.5km
Start Time 8am
End Time 5pm
Moving Duration 6h01m
Stationary Duration 3h11m
Moving Average 3.4km/h
Overall Average 2.2km/h

Sunday, August 16, 2009

End-to-End 2 Reunion

A year on from finishing the Heysen Trail it was reunion time for us End-to-End 2ers.

Kaiserstuhl circuit

A weekend in the Barossa Valley, staying at Tanunda Caravan Park. Friday night was a meal at the Tanunda pub, Saturday a hike from the Push the Bush book to Kaiserstuhl, followed by a Saturday night meal and world premiere of Robyn's vid.

It was a fantastic weekend catching up with everyone.

Thanks to Hilary for the below photos, more photos can be found on Robert's picasa site.

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Kaiserstuhl circuit
Distance 15.5km
Start Time 8.56am
End Time 3.41pm
Moving Duration 3h55m
Stationary Duration 2h49m
Moving Average 3.9km/h
Overall Average 2.3km/h

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Push the Bush walk

This is the first hike I've done from the Push the Bush book, loved it.

Mt Misery circuit

Walk 6: This extremely hard walk incorporates sections of the Montacute Conservation Park and the valleys and ridges south of the Kangaroo Creek reservoir and the Thomas Hill forest region. Wonderful views over the Adelaide Plains.

Got a little lost in the Thomas Hill forest region, as the Cudlee Creek Mountain Bike Park has been developed since the book was written, but having ridden there before it wasn't too difficult to reach the final exit track. Had difficulty finding a couple of the tracks, and walked the wrong way immediately before lunch, having to backtrack.

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Mt Misery circuit
Mt Misery loop
Distance 21.5km
Start Time 8.40am
End Time 2.58pm
Moving Duration 4h41m
Stationary Duration 1h36m
Moving Average 4.6km/h
Overall Average 3.4km/h

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chambers Gully and Mt Lofty circuit

A tough circuit walk using little-used tracks in Cleland Conservation Park.

Chambers Gully and Mt Lofty circuit

Starting from Chambers Gully, Graham took me on this hike which Steve had shown him. A good training hike due to it's numerous steep hills, from near Mt Lofty, where one could easily side-track for a morning coffee at the summit cafe, it heads around the boundary of Cleland Wildlife Park via a steep incline. From here it follows the ETSA spur trail to it's end, then following an indistinct track down to the Chinamans Hut ruin. From here it cross the popular Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty path for a second time, before heading over to the Old Bullock Track on the Pioneer Womens Trail and back to Chambers Gully.

An excellent tough hike, well recommended.

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Chambers Gully - Mt Lofty circuit
Distance 18.7km
Start Time 8.04am
End Time 12.02pm
Moving Duration 3h28m
Stationary Duration 29m
Moving Average 5.4km/h
Overall Average 4.7km/h

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beyond the Heysen

It took two attempts to summit the optimistically named Patawarta Hill, two nearby mountains of similar height had achieved mountain status. And amongst them Patawarta was the most prominent. When we reached the cairn at the top we sought out the log book, stored in a steel container donated by ABW. "Sophie and Kelly were the only girls who didn’t cry, " a recent entry left by a school group of year sevens said. Oh ok, crying or not, there must have been an easier way up here then the way we came, so we sought it out descending by a different route.

7 days hiking, Parachilna Gorge to Angepena Station

Our first attempt the previous day had a few lessons contained within. We had made camp about 3.30 in the afternoon, set up our tents, and set out to walk along the flat pound floor, following the edge of the range until we reached a pre-determined spur, from where we would start climbing. Patawarta Hill would be ours within an easy hour. After climbing the spur for some time, we headed to the saddle that would get us to the summit, only to find ourselves looking at the cairn atop the peak from across a valley. Opps. We should been walking and comparing with the map, we ascended one spur too early. Map reading without a marked trail requires an altogether new skillset, one which none of us had except Simon.

Patawarta Hill was painted by Hans Heysen in 1932 in a painting titled The Land of the Oratunga, and the painting which supposedly* inspired Warren Bonython to walk the Flinders Ranges, which later led to the creation of the Heysen Trail. * Supposedly just means I haven’t researched this to verify it.

We were hiking for seven days beyond the Heysen Trail. The trail ends at Parachilna Gorge, 1200 kilometres from Cape Jervis where it started. Most of us had already finished the trail, and this mission was about walking beyond the marked trail. Warren Bonython inspired the Heysen Trail, the original concept being that the trail would follow the entire Flinders Ranges, from it’s southern point near Crystal Brook to it’s northern end at Mt Hopeless. The walk from Parachilna Gorge to Mt Hopeless would take about three weeks, this was our first week, the following two be tackled next year. There is no trail to follow, so some very careful planning is needed, especially in respect to water supplies. We camped along the way, carrying our packs, just leaving a car at each end of the week’s walk. We gained permission from station owners to walk across their land. We had carefully read Warren Bonython’s book, Walking the Flinders Ranges (published 1971, reprinted 2000) for potential route details.

We climbed a further two peaks, Mt Tilley and Mt Hack, which it must be said involved more map planning and map to real world comparisons. From the summit of each, clear sunny days allowed us to see the 100 kilometres to Wilpena Pound in the distance, the distinct twin peaks of St Mary Peak and Mt Boorong** clearly visible on the horizon. Every other direction other than south though, pretty clueless really as to what we were looking at, this was new territory for most of us. We were the first people to reach the peak of Mt Tilley in 2 years, although that was difficult to verify with certainty. Perhaps the truer statement would be that we were the first people to reach the peak of Mt Tilley carrying a pen, as the logbook box contained no pens. Again we descended by a different route, eager as always to explore this great land.

On our ascent we had stumbled across an emu, who only took it’s so called flight moments before reached it. It had been guarding it’s eggs, a half dozen or so large black eggs.

Our third peak, Mt Hack, reminded me of climbing Mt Ossa in Tasmania in that our final ascent was to a large gently sloping plateau that we wandered up to reach the stone cairn and the highest point. From here we marvelled at the distant Wilpena Pound, and looking north took guesses at peak names. Again we discussed our Peak Bagging Plan. I don’t want to go into too much detail yet, but Nick had the idea several weeks earlier that we should climb all of South Australia’s peaks over 1000 metres in height. A good idea, I thought, as we researched mountain heights on Wikipedia. Ten or so of them, seemed pretty easy. The only one I had already climbed was St Mary Peak, in Wilpena Pound. We have had year-long plans to climb Mt Aleck in Elder Range, and we had just climbed three peaks on this walk - all over 1000 metres. Simon, delighted with our idea, was kind enough to add half a dozen or so other peaks, also mentioning the dozens of unnamed peaks in the Musgrave Ranges. Back in Adelaide doing some more research, we have now compiled a list of 36 peaks over 1000 metres, confined to three locations – Wilpena Pound (and Elder Range just south of it), the Gammons (and the three peaks we just climbed to the south of them) and the Musgrave Range in the far north of the state which holds no less than 19 of the peaks. This has turned into an ambitious goal, one which will require great planning. Meanwhile we enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the views from Mt Hack. Scouring the logbook Steve was keen to get a glance of Warren Bonython’s entry from 1969. From an earlier logbook, now in small pieces, we found an entry from 1967, but finding Warren Bonython’s entry would require the careful skill of a fine art or antiquity restorer.

Our party numbered 5 – Simon, Graham, Nick, Steve and myself. Saturday we drove up, Nick and Steve leaving Graham and myself to set up the tents and chat amongst ourselves. We compared pack weights to confirm my suspicion that my pack was heavy. Much to my relief Nick’s proved to be heavier. After their three hour car shuffle, to ensure one car was left at the end of the week’s walk, and one here at the start, we drove down to Parachilna to have tea at the famous Prairie Hotel.

I think it wasn’t so much a week of walking but a week of comparing food. Nick had the yummiest and by far the most food, but also the heaviest pack. Steve on the other hand had next to no food (and somehow not the lightest pack either).

Graham bought a new super-lightweight air mattress, and every time he turned or moved on it as he slept everyone within 500metres could swear they were in a coffee shop listening to a coffee grinder if it were not for the lack of the fresh coffee smell. It took us the full seven nights to find a solution which didn’t involve banishing him to the far side of the valley.

For two of the days Graham strode out far ahead of us, somewhat courageous you would think given we were free-walking cross country without a track, trail or markers. On his second stride-out day we reached our determined point to drop our packs to ascend Mt Tilley, and Graham was nowhere to be seen. After scrutinising our maps to plan our ascent of Tilley and several name-shouts, he returned. The rest of the week he never strayed from the walking group.

Enjoyed some good campsites with pretty good water, perhaps they only bad one was Claypan Dam which even when filtered wasn't a great colour, but still tasted kinda ok. We filtered and treated all dubious water. Had lots of nice campfires, making a regular routine of wood collection. Collecting wood though was surprisingly easy, I think mainly because I am so used to camping in areas where people always camp, where they collect every last scrap of firewood within 500 metres. We had a full moon early in the week so star gazing was limited to the couple of hours after sunset and before the moon rose. Nothing like a starlit night camping to remind you of just how many stars there are to be seen.

Saw next to no-one if you choose to ignore the cavalcade of six 4WDs that passed us near Artimore Station. Geez these guys have never heard of car pooling? In Hannigans Pass that same day we watched a 4WD pass us, evidently neither the driver nor the passenger saw us all lined up against a nearby rock eating lunch. He stopped at the top of a hill and sauntered back down to have a closer inspection of an old rusty car nearby, still showing no signs of having seen us. Sweet moment. We saw no-one again until the Alan, the local farmer at Narinna Pound, sought us out by following our footsteps one night for a hello.

**Is it really Mt Boorong? I don’t think so, I will check that out.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Download our walking route drawn onto topographic maps.


Beyond the Heysen
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
5/7/09 6/7/09 8/7/09 9/7/09 10/7/09 11/7/09 12/7/09
Parachilna Gorge to Oratunga 1st Spring Oratunga 1st Spring to Patawarta Gap Patawarta Gap to Narrina Spring via Patawarta Hill Narrina Spring to Clayplan Dam via Mt Tilley Clayplan Dam to Christmas Goldfield via Mt Hack Christmas Goldfield to Muglapena Gap Muglapena Gap to Angepena
Distance 17.7km 25.0km 15.0km 17.6km 19.5km 19.5km 7.4km
Start Time 12.25pm 8.21am 8.40am 8.42am 8.25am 8.39am 8.12am
End Time 5.17pm 4.45pm 4.05pm 4.12pm 4.50pm 3.03pm 10.00am
Moving Duration 3h46m 5h54m 4h40m 4h58m 5h14m 4h9m 1h35m
Stationary Duration 1h4m 2h12m 2h36m 2h19m 2h53m 1h46m 4m
Moving Average 4.7km/h 4.2km/h 3.2km/h 3.5km/h 3.7km/h 4.7km/h 4.8km/h
Overall Average 3.6km/h 3.1km/h 2.1km/h 2.4km/h 2.4km/h 3.3km/h 4.5km/h
Oodometer 17.7km 42.7km 57.7km 75.3km 94.8km 114.5km 121.8km

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mt Cavern Trek

Well two weeks ago Judith and myself found ourselves racing against the sun to return to camp before dusk fell. Today, we found ourselves wandering off the pathway and attempting to find our way safely down from Mt Cavern.

Mt Cavern trek, Mt Remarkable National Park

The second time in as many weeks we had found ourselves in a challenging situation. We needed to complete today's hike within a tight timeframe, but that mattered for nothing once we found ourselves off the pathway and lost. We backtracked a little but for a while, were certain we were still on track. Later, of course, it was obvious we had stumbled off the track, so we spent 30 minutes more or less in silence navigating our way down to the safety of the valley below.

A really fantastic hike though, despite the rain, mist and cloud on the way up to the peak of Mt Cavern, the views would be very good on a clear day. Despite what the signs said, I think there would be views from the peak. The walk down the other side of the Mount was truly breathtaking.
Mount Cavern Trek
(11 km return; 6 hours return. Or 3.6 km return; 2 hours return to Black Range Lookout only)
From Mambray Creek day visitor area, a demanding trek crosses the high ridges of the Black Range to the summit of Mount Cavern and then descends steeply into Mambray Creek. The view from Mount Cavern is restricted by tall trees but there are fine vantage points along the route. If your time is limited, an hours walk along the Mount Cavern Trek trail will lead to the Black Range Lookout. This lookout provides magnificent views of the plains and towns of upper Spencer Gulf. Return along the same route to Mambray Creek.

We had camped at Mambray Creek campground on Friday night, a stop-over for our drive up to Parachilna. Saturday afternoon, after our Mt Cavern trek, we drove up to Parachilna for the Shorts Outback film festival, held at the Prairie Hotel. Ideally, it is held under the stars with a gourmet feast, but due to heavy rains and wind over much of the state over the last couple of days, they went to plan b, using a marquee.

On Sunday we explored Blinman a little. This cute little one flew over the car almost immediately fluttering between each of the side mirrors in a seemingly unending obsession. Name it? Narcissus perhaps. Very cute.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Mt Remarkable National Park
Mt Cavern Trek
Distance 12.3km
Start Time 10.51am
End Time 3.07pm
Moving Duration 3h19m
Stationary Duration 55m
Moving Average 3.7km/h
Overall Average 2.9km/h

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A little too far perhaps

31km each day, pack carrying. Yeah. A little too far perhaps.

Heysen Trail - Burra to Black Jack Shelter to Mt Bryan East

It was Graham's doing. I blame him. I don't want to talk about it right now. A couple of long days of pack-carrying. Met someone who went to school with my mum. Hurt my feet. Got to wear socks with sandals to work for 4 days. Not a good look.

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Heysen Trail
Saturday Sunday
18/4/2009 19/4/2009
Burra to Black Jack Shelter Black Jack Shelter to Mt Bryan East
Distance 31.3km 32.1km
Start Time 8.36am 7.07am
End Time 5.25pm 4.16pm
Moving Duration 6h39m 6h49m
Stationary Duration 2h05m 2h21m
Moving Average 4.7km/h 4.7km/h
Overall Average 3.6km/h 3.5km/h
Oodometer 31.3km 63.4km

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bunyeroo Gorge

Wanted to do this hike back in last August, but missed out.

Bunyeroo Gorge, Flinders Ranges National Park

Bunyeroo Gorge. Pretty dry. Ate some flies. Indeterminable end of the trail when you are meant to turn around.

Who doesn't love this place. Pretty special. Breathtaking still, even though I have been there numerous times before.

Stopped by Yanyanna Hut to leave some goodies for Kate and Tim, who were hiking from Parachilna Gorge to Wilpena Pound. I learnt all about Jude's exercise routine whenever she sees these cute little camping/picnic platforms.

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Bunyeroo Gorge
Carpark to gorge & return
Distance 8.5km
Start Time 1.57pm
End Time 3.00pm
Moving Duration 1h50m
Stationary Duration 9h30m
Moving Average 4.6km/h
Overall Average 4.3km/h

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Aroona Valley to Angorichina to Blinman circuit

It was pretty straight-forward. Ride along a fire track, a dirt road, the Mawson Trail, then back to camp along another fire track. What could possible go wrong?

Aroona Valley to Angorichina (Heysen Trail) to Blinman (road) and return (on Mawson and Heysen Trail)

Well of course, you aren't meant to ride bicycles on the Heysen Trail. As if I don't know that having walked the entire trail. But from what I recalled on this, the final walk on the Heysen Trail, it was all fire track. As it turned out, it wasn't. It was mostly, but the rest was single track walking track, steep hills or creek beds. So our ride was truly some mountain biking, which was slow, but which we both enjoyed.

From the end of the Heysen Trail, as Parachilna Gorge, we rode along the dirt road, first to Angorichina then onto Blinman. Perhaps here, I underestimated how this would be 18km of uphill, and very, very dusty as drivers drove past us. Only a couple slowed sufficiently to not leave us breathing heavily in a cloud of dust.

In Blinman, we caught up with someone who had left a comment on my Mawson Trail blog, whom Judith knew quite well, and whilst talking to them in the main street, I heard my name being called out from the darkness under the Blinman Hotel. An old workmate. This ride was taking longer than we thought, and with these people we had seen, it was 3pm before we left town. Blinman, btw, was only just over half way through the day's ride. Don't get me wrong though, I wouldn't have not stopped and chatted away to our friends, so delightful is it to meet up with people in random places.

Along the Mawson Trail, mainly along a dirt road, we made quick progress, which was good since we could see the time when we could well be riding in the dark (or more likely, walking our bikes in the dark). From where the Mawson Trail crossed the Heysen Trail, we returned back to camp along the Heysen. Opps though. It was a single track route, once again I had selectively remembered it as fire track. There behind me, Jude's words summed it up, "due to information not previously known to me, I know determine the ETA to be ... ". Classic.

Amazing views though. Wonderful sunset. And we made it back to camp after the sun had just set, maybe within 5 minutes we would have been forced to ride our bikes. Back just in time to have our turn at preparing dinner for the rest of our crew. They had spent hours wondering where we had got to, but let's not forget they set that precedent for us the day before.

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Flinders Ranges
Aroona Valley to Angorichina to Blinman circuit
Distance 80.0km
Start Time 8.50am
End Time 6.20pm
Moving Duration 6h32m
Stationary Duration 2h54m
Moving Average 10.7km/h
Overall Average 7.4km/h

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rawnsley Bluff

St Mary Peak is THE iconic hike in Wilpena Pound. So the Rawnsley Bluff hike held a little surprise for us, incredible views of Elder Range, Red Range and the Chace Range, not to mention the views back up inside Wilpena Pound from the Wilpena lookout.

Rawnsley Bluff, Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges National Park

The hike starts from Rawnsley Park Station, and indeed most of it is on their property and not within the national park. At the Wilpena lookout we saw some of Judith friends, and on the way back down from the bluff we met up some friends from our Heysen hiking club.

We were camping with Kate & Tim and Andrew & Candice up at our fav spot, Aroona Valley. The others set out on the St Mary Peak hike, this being Andrew & Candice's first trip to the Flinders. The following day Jude and I rode 70km, and the following day we hung around a bit and did the Bunyeroo Gorge hike.

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Rawnsley Bluff
Carpark to Rawnsley Bluff & return
Distance 11.3km
Start Time 10.18am
End Time 4.00pm
Moving Duration 3h13m
Stationary Duration 2h15m
Moving Average 3.5km/h
Overall Average 2.1km/h

Monday, March 9, 2009

Paddling Down the Glenelg River

A three day canoe trek down the Glenelg River through the Lower Glenelg National Park with Alex and Bec. Highlight (apart from canoeing down an isolated, natural river) was seeing a platypus.

Friday March 6 to Sunday March 8, 2009
55km, Pines Landing to Nelson, Glenelg River, Victoria

The platypus is notoriously shy. We saw it one morning as we were packing the canoe the kayak. The river was still, dead smooth, and the platypus emerged amidst bubbles about 8-10m from us in front of the landing, before diving down again. "Shhhh!" as I pushed Bec in the back, this was no time for talk. The platypus surfaced twice more for another look around, before disappearing. Btw that's not my photo, I didn't want to loose the magic of the moment by mucking around with a camera, but this photo is the closest to what we saw that I could find on the internet.

We took Friday off work, driving down through Mt Gambier on Thursday night after work. We camped at the beach campsite at Piccaninnie Ponds. Next morning we drove into Nelson, and left our car there as the canoe hire guys drove us out to Pines Landing, from where we would paddle back to Nelson over four days. Pines Landing is where we started this little adventure last time I did it. I was struck by how much this place reminded me of that day four years ago, and of Stephen.

From here we paddled 20km to Skipworth Springs, seeing almost no-one. It took a little while to get the canoe technique right, and we each tried out the kayak and canoe to see where we might fare well. The following two days we improved our technique, improving our 5.0km/h average to 5.5km/h. We paddled hard, only stopping to rest at landings, and not, as previously, at random spots to drift. I think was because this time we had the benefit of the GPS unit, so were able to estimate how much longer we needed to keep up the paddling before the next landing.

Friday was planned to be our longest day, at 20km, with Saturday to be 14km, Sunday 7km and Monday 14km. We had booked the campsites late, not knowing it was also a long weekend in Victoria. So the short 7km day was unavoidable. But on Sunday, we reached our planned campsite at Bowds, 14km downstream. Since it was only 3pm, we decided to paddle the additional 7km to Lasletts, where we had planned to stay Sunday night. Even though we were only staying at canoe campsites, where space was more limited than the car-based campsites, it seemed likely there would still be space for our two small hiking tents.

Friday night we spent at Skipworth Springs, and had it all to ourselves. Small tents are an advantage at this campsite, as the sites are small since the campground is on a hill. Like all the campsites, there is a toilet, picnic table and at least one fire place. These facilities aren't always marked on the official map, not sure why. There is also rainwater available, except here where there is a natural spring. We hunted down some dry wood, from some dead fallen and not so fallen trees, for a campfire. Victoria is different than South Australia in that fires are permitted during the Fire Danger Season (except on days of total fire ban) and collection of firewood in a national park is permitted. We were visited by the ever fearless possums, who came to our picnic table to clean up our crumbs. For a few moments it looked like we might have a stand-off between two possums, but they resolved their differences and chased each other up a nearby tree.

Saturday night we camped at Lasletts, this time sharing the campsite with a group of eleven and a group of five. So we didn't get in on either of the fire places, but then we didn't actually have a booking for this campsite anyway. Bec's idea of bringing along a picnic rug, as we chairs were too cumbersome, was a real winner. We set up camp in the corner of the campsite, looking over the river and cliffs. These were the same cliffs that us boys had scaled last time to walk into Nelson to collect Julie's car so she could go home for work a day earlier than the rest of us.

We decided a swim was in order here, yet Alex stated he was off to test the water first. "What? Test the water? Whatever dude." You see, you just don't do that. You decide to swim, if it's nice then that's just a bonus. So Bec and I chatted, and a few moments later Alex emerged soaking wet. I was shocked, he was totally wet. He was surprised as neither of us had heard him bomb it in off the landing. Alex and I returned to the landing where I ran off the end. It was cool, but not freezing, and we both avoided touching the bottom. That night we used my little gas lantern I had found by chance on Friday. I car-camping size gas light with a 2-3kg gas bottle was too big to bring, but this tiny one fitted onto a 300g hiking gas canister, and was much better than a torch.

Now I include a random jaws video, it seemed it wasn't only platypus that occupied the waters of this river.

Australia being in drought, we weren't sure what to expect with the water level. We were surprised when we arrived in Nelson on Friday morning to find the river high, indeed, very close to some riverbank buildings. The canoe guy told us the river mouth had silted up just a few days previously, so the river wasn't flowing and was backfilling. At Skipworth Springs, the water level was a mere 10cm from the landing deck. Sunday lunchtime we had trouble finding Forest Camp North, another canoe only campsite. The shorter canoe camp landings can be harder to find, as they are simpler structures than the higher car-camping landings and boat ramps. This particular one even more so, the landing deck being about 10cm below the water surface. Last time we were here, I recall Julie rolling around in the mud beside the landing. Throughout the canoe trek we found a few other landings beneath the water surface.

Monday we paddled the last 14km into Nelson. We stopped at a cliff near Princess Margaret Rose Caves, and climbed part of the cliff to a cave entrance. It turned out this is part of the Princess Margaret Rose Caves network, but has been separated from it by cave-ins. At the main caves landing, we walked up to the shop to grab a cool drink and some food. We hunted around for a while to find a water tank that wasn't contaminated with too much eucalyptus, as Lasletts had also been contaminated.

I recall the stretch from the caves into Nelson as being particularly long and boring, there are not many landings to break up the day. Despite the head wind along Taylors Straight, which slowed us considerably down from 6-7km/h to just 4km/h, bringing our moving average down to 5.2km/h.

Back in Nelson a day early, I took Alex and Bec on their first tour of Mt Gambier's lakes and sink holes, before we returned to Piccaninnie Ponds to camp. We had the campsite to ourselves this time, or so we first thought, before the late night disturbances began. The pubs/nightclubs of Mt Gambier must have closed around 12-1am, as after that until dawn the car park near the beach was hoon central.

After a quick swim in Piccaninnie Ponds on Monday morning - well it was cold and Alex was a poopy head and didn't want to come for a swim so it's a pretty short one - and some yummy pancakes with Nutella, we returned to Adelaide. We stopped off at Bool Lagoon for a look-in, perhaps we could return here and camp for a weekend and do some bird watching, but despite the apparently recent photo on the RAA map, the lagoon was dry with no surface water. We wondered if it might fill a little in winter?

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Nelson Boat and Canoe Hire
Chris and Cheryl
(08) 8738 4048
The canoe hire was $45 per day, and the kayak $40 per day, with a $40 drop off fee to Pines Landing - total cost $295. My car was securely stored in Nelson.


Glenelg River
Friday Saturday Sunday
6/3/2009 7/3/2009 8/3/2009
Pines Landing
to Skipworth Springs
Skipworth Springs
to Lasletts
to Nelson
Distance 20.3km 22.6km 14.8km
Start Time 9.58am 10.22am 9.35am
End Time 4.24pm 4.53pm 1.59pm
Moving Duration 4h2m 4h5m 2h51m
Stationary Duration 2h12m 2h25m 1h34m
Moving Average 5.0km/h 5.5km/h 5.2km/h
Overall Average 3.2km/h 3.5km/h 3.3km/h
Maximum Speed 8.1km/h 8.1km/h 7.7km/h
Oodometer 20.3km 42.8km 57.6km

Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfect Beaches, Perfect Campsite

It was Jude who gave us the tip. Butlers Beach. A privately owned campsite offering bush camping along 7km of spectacular coastline.

Hillocks Drive bush camping, Yorke Peninsula, Australia Day
Friday 23 January to Monday 26 January 2009
Alex, Bec and myself

After some google efforts we had it tracked down, Hillock Drive at Butlers Beach. We drove down after work on Friday night, Alex bought me tea to make up for the $9 I wasted on parking my car in the multi-level next to work to save time, I had return home to get something he couldn't bring from his camping list.

Having found the key that was left out for us, we explored what campsites we could easily see in the 10 o'clock darkness. We shortlisted, and settled on one behind a huge sand dune with small trees sheltering and shading the site. It was a winner. The next day when we spoke to the woman in the shop to pay our camp fees, she declared it was probably one of the best campsites. Yeah! And it was, lots of shade,
plenty of shelter from the wind.

On Saturday morning we explored and walked through the sand dunes down to the beach. It ended up being quite a walk as we tried to make a path through the dunes. Eventually, having given up on following others' footsteps, we found Salmon Beach. We had camped behind a headland, so from what we could see there was no easy route to the beach. The water was wild, but warm, so we decided to strip down to our underwear and go for a swim. It was really really good. Bec decided not to join us, but filmed us, then wandered off for a walk as we dried off.

Saturday afternoon we explored the coastline of Hillocks, there were a number of really cool beaches. We drove all the way to the end, only to discover later that beyond Gartrells Rocks it was 4WD only, yeah sure, it had been sandy and a challenge to drive through, but really, it was a private road. At Flat Rocks we discovered a series of shallow warm rockpools, and as we stood near the sea edge we were soaked by the extensive spray from crashing enormous waves.

Sunday we headed over to Edithburgh, going via a wind farm to see how huge those beasts really are. We found a sweet spot near Edithburgh that Alex had snorkelled at during a recent Easter family camping trip. It was low tide though, so we snorkelled under the Edithburgh jetty which was good. A cool breeze and deeper water meant the wetties were welcome. Some stuff to see, and other snorkelers too. Once we were out though, we saw a huge manta ray over a metre wide, if not one and a half metres wide.

After a woeful lunch in Edithburgh, we drove to Point Gilbert near Port Moorowie, which was very seaweedy. We had a discussion about the name Periwinkle Reef, Alex argued it was mentioned in the SA Tourism guide, a reckoned it wasn't. A bet was made, an Ice Coffee in it. I won, claiming my prize on Monday in Moonta.

With all the seaweed and yellow water, we decided to check out the third spot mentioned in the guide, Parsons Beach, north of Hardwicke Bay. Nope, looked the same. With all this dirt road driving, we had been around for long enough for the tide to change, so back to our initial spot that was no longer just ankle deep. Saw little, and it was cool, except one small and remarkably stationary ray thing, and
Alex allegedly saw a Guitar Shark.

After our swim Monday morning, we made pancakes, of which predictably the first didn't work, then packed up before heading out at 12noon to drive listening to the Hottest 100 up to Moonta Bay where we swam. The days had got hotter over the weekend, now for Aussie Day it was 35 degrees. Lots of people at Moonta Bay, a shallow but warm sea, in which the three of us played frisbee. Upon returning to our bag and towel, which we had left at a safe distance from the water's edge, or so we thought, they were about to be inundated. Listening to the countdown to 1 on the Hottest 100 we arrived back home at 6pm.

A top weekend, pity Jude couldn't make it down as she got into her Groupie thing for Tour Down Under, but still a fab weekend. Not enough photos perhaps, but that was cos so much of the stuff we did was in the water, so not a bad weekend at all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

233km in Tasmania

Tim, Kate and myself have just returned from doing 17 days/233km of hiking in Tasmania.

Hiking in Tasmania really is something special. There are so many trails and places to camp, and with an all-parks pass it is very cheap. I could live here someday, for a time at least. Maybe based in Hobart. With more research I could come up with a comprehensive list, but for now I can say I would like to hike up Mt Wellington - I drove up here but forbid myself from walking the distance of several metres from the carpark onto the adjacent Pinnacle (the peak of Mt Wellington) in favour of saving the moment until I had hiked up the mountain from much lower down. I would also like to spend a weekend camping and hiking on Bruny Island, a week or so hiking the South West Track, Maria Island, Flinders Island and more time exploring the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

Over the past three weeks these are the hikes we have done:

We used Lonely Planet's Walking in Australia guide which is well recommended for it's excellent maps and walk notes. Borrow or buy the book, or alternatively download a pdf of just the Tasmania chapter for as little as $8 from the Lonely Planet website.

I also spent some time around Launceston, visited Bruny Island, camped at Binnalong Bay on the Bay of Fires and explored Richmond.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bay of Fires

"White beaches of hourglass-fine sand, Bombay Sapphire sea, an azure sky - and nobody," Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2009 guide (formerly The Bluelist) says. "This is the Bay of Fires: the secret edge of Tasmania, laid out like a pirate's treasure map of perfect beach after sheltered cove."

Bay of Fires, Mt William National Park, Tasmania
3 day hike, Wednesday 31 December 2008 to Friday 2 January 2009

Lonely Planet may be a defining influence on where traveller's visit, but these words published just last November had yet to reach their full impact. The beaches were still empty of people. Lonely Planet published this destination in their Top 10 Regions of 2009, the only Australian entry. View the article from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2009 guide.

News report from ABC1's 7.30 Report, aired on 25 November 2008

Prior to commencing our hike, we camped at Binnalong Bay at Cosy Corner in a crowded car-based campsite. It was a stunning beach though.

We left our car outside the former general store in Ansons Bay, from where our pre-arranged taxi took us to the start of our walk at Top Camp, in Mt William National Park, the camp being accessed through the shack town of Musselroe Bay (taxi: East Coast Taxis, based in St Helens, 0417 513 599, 03 6376 2999, $90 on the meter). It was hot but windy, not a promising start to a long beach walk. Thankfully though, it was a tail-wind, I think it would have been miserable if we had been walking into the wind. As it was the wind would collect the sand up and throw it at your legs and face like a thousand needles.

We camped at the 4th Stumpy Bay campsite, finding it an ideal haven from the beach wind. A pleasant river setting with grassed areas beside the picnic area, it was here that we spent our New Years Eve. I was adament to spend some time on the beach late afternoon, but the wind was fierce and unrelenting.

The following day the wind had subsided somewhat, and we walked a further 15km to the Deep Creek campsite. There were many beautiful beach spots today, with stunning red boulders and rock reefs. We were treated to a special sunset and evening swim. The following morning we swam again, this time putting the snorkel and mask I had carried on my pack to use. The conditions weren't ideal for snorkelling. All the people I had seen in recent days snorkelling had been wearing full wetsuits. As it was, it wasn't the lack of a wetsuit that would be our undoing, it was the brain freezie created on the outside of our heads as we swam headfirst through the cold water.

The entire walk except the final 3km was on beach or climbing over rock headlands. At Deep Creek campsite we discovered a map of a trail that went from Mt William, at a paltry 217m above sea level, to Kangaroo Forester Drive, then to just down the road to Stumpys Bay #4 campsite and then following the coast to Cobler Rocks. It would have been good to follow the short section along the coast, although the coast there was quite good.

Just 600 metres from the car, still amidst bush and walking along a sandy track with no sign of the car yet, Kate firmly declared that she was now over walking having walked the past 3 weeks. Lucky the track emerged into Ansons Bay and the car promptly afterwards.

Download Google Earth KML file of Bay of Fires hike
Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Bay of Fires
Wednesday Thursday Friday
31/12/2008 01/01/2009 02/01/2009
Top Camp to Stumpys 4 Stumpys 4 to Deep Creek campsite Deep Creek campsite to Ansons Bay
Distance 7.8km 14.3km 14.4km
Moving Duration 1h47m 3h13m 3h14m
Stationary Duration 47m 1h53m 1h39m
Moving Average 4.4km/h 4.4km/h 4.5km/h
Overall Average 3.1km/h 2.8km/h 3.0km/h
Oodometer 204.7km 219.0km 233.5km