GSWW: 2nd Movement

The Second Movement of the Great South West Walk follows the Glenelg River through the Lower Glenelg National Park. After four days in the forest, I was overjoyed to find a large body of water at Moleside camp, relax on the canoe landing reading a book and watch the sun set quietly.

As a side note, I fully intend to return to Nelson, as (unbeknownst to me at the time) you can hire a canoe, and camp your way along the river! The canoe camps are wonderful, and well spaced out, and canoeing allows you to explore both sides of the gorge.

It is also worth noting that distances along the river appear highly debated; people have graffiti-ed the signs in these camps with updated distances, almost all of which are longer than what is stated on the GSWW boards. Even the Parks and Wildlife notices contradict these distances. As I didn’t have a GPS I can’t confirm one way or the other, but do admit some of the distances seemed longer than stated. I don’t feel it makes a great difference; the differences are always around 2-3km.

Day Five: June 30 2015: Moleside to Battersbys, 17km
Aka. The KKK try to murder me in Sleepy Hollow. 

Perhaps the best thing about the river section, in my opinion, are all the canoe landings, fishing piers and boat ramps. You pass several each day, and they make for excellent lunch stops. My first such stop was at Pritchards, one of the larger sites with camping, boat ramps, landings and large grassy knoll picnic areas. You know you’ve reached one of these areas whenever you see one of these excellent Lower Glenelg National Park signs:

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This particular sign is the Moleside site sign, I believe, but they are all the same. My stop at Pritchards was particularly fortuitous in that I came across a charming elderly gentleman fishing on the landing, who had just finished his lunch and happened to have one last sausage left on his BBQ. When offered, there was no resisting and I got a sausage sandwich and pineapple juice for lunch. I also got to sit down and talk to a real, live human being for an hour, which was doubly lovely!

Here’s a shot from Pritchard’s Landing:

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The track alternates between the river and pockets of forest, and as always the forest was simply beautiful to meander through:

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On a sombre note; this is the day I almost died. A section of the track crosses the road to the forest side instead of the river, and immediately upon entering you get the feeling you left Lower Glenelg National Park and somehow travelled through time, space and into fictional reality to arrive in Sleepy Hollow. The trees are tall and gnarled, and in winter the green has faded and you find yourself in a dim, dark, brown and grey area of forest, with little breeze and an ominous quiet. In fact, the only animals that made themselves known were a large mob of Kookaburra’s, who I have renamed the Krazy Kookaburra Klan; my own, personal KKK. Note the mis-spelling to add alliteration and give an overall gangsta feel to this murderous menagerie.

While walking through Sleepy Hollow, I had a heavy sense of foreboding that fortuitously had me skipping ahead a little faster than usual (translate: I was almost running in my haste to get out of there). My scampering was accompanied only by the occasional snickering from my KKK friends, who swooped from tree to tree alongside me, before mysteriously disappearing and falling silent altogether. Creepy, much?

In this silence a heavy crack echoed, pulling me to an immediate stop so I could scan the area for the Tinman and demand he stop cutting down trees in a national park. Or something to that effect. Sadly, there was no Tinman to be seen, and my search was accompanied only by a lone KKK member swooping at me and cackling it’s way off into the trees.

So I continued a few steps only to have a crack twice as loud as the first echo through the forest. To my dumbfounded horror, I turned and watched a tree fall across the path, directly where I had been standing! Into the silence that followed it’s demise came the entire KKK host’s booming laughter, and when I looked up they were lined up alone the branches of the trees still standing, watching my near death experience.

I admit, I ran. All the way back to the road and to the safety of the river side. The KKK remained in their creepy corner of the woods, and all was well with the world again. Still, while I have seen branches fall before, never have I witnessed a tree just toppling over! And there was no wind! No storm, or lightning or any reasonable explanation for it’s demise! Other than the KKK rule those woods, and wanted me gooooone~! I wish I stopped to take a photo, but I was honestly too dumbfounded to recall what a camera was, and too desperate to reach the perceived safety of the road.

When I returned to the river side, I entered another pocket of forest and was treated to a nice surprise. Ever since a sign in the first movement of the GSWW mentioned it I had been searching for the mysterious ‘coral fungus’ and I finally found some! As the name suggests, its a fungus, that looks like coral!

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The path into Battersbys has several small bridges and boardwalks, reminiscent of the forest sections that I adored:

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Upon arriving at Battersbys camp, I realised there were some odd signs left around the hiking registration box, that indicated a scouts group or similar were doing some kind of exercise on the river. Green Group Three, with co-ordinates and their next objective and a deadline and more co-ordinates…I confess I was sorely tempted to hide them just to see the confusion it caused, but I was good and left them in plain sight. It turned out not to matter, as for whatever reason they never showed up, and I saw no evidence of further instructions at other sites. Most likely, the cards were old and simply abandoned. Oh well. It did mean I was concerned about the possibility of sharing the site with others, so I set up my tent on the grass like a person who actually knows how to share…Here we are at Battersbys Camp:

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This was a fortuitous move, as though I didn’t understand all the warnings at first, I can now honestly report Battersbys should be condemned and burnt to the ground. Or, as has been suggested in the hikers log, simply renamed Possum Hut. I think simply ‘Hell’ would suffice.

The issue is a resident possum, who thinks anything in the hut belongs to it. No sooner had the sun set at 5:30 than I was having to tip the damned creature out of my pack, which it had crawled into despite it being sealed and covered with a waterproof cover (I’m telling you…possessed!). I performed this task every five minutes for a good half hour. I even tried cooking up a hot chocolate, but my presence did not deter the beast at all! Eventually, I packed away anything of value and my food in my pack and tucked it in the awning of the external of my tent, and this combined with the rain seemed to curtail the possum-demon for a time. That didn’t stop it from tearing shreds off the shelter and howling until midnight when the rain eased a little. It’s silence was to be feared. It was planning, and I suspected my tent was in the firing line.

Funnily, I had been so pre-occupied with the demonic possum, I had forgotten all about the myriad wallabies that were grazing, day and night, on the lawns of the campground. One wallaby was particularly heedless of my presence and had been doing laps around my tent all night, grazing. So when the demonic possum finally made his dash across the wet lawn, my friend the wallaby didn’t think he was headed for my tent, but instead for him. And so I was treated to a good fifteen minutes of watching a wallaby give the demonic possum the thrashing of it’s life. Sadly, this resulted in the possum retreating to the shelter, where he spent the rest of the night howling and hissing angrily at the wallaby, who honestly didn’t care at all and simply continued to graze. I am forever on team wallaby. Here s/he is:

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Legendary. I was able to witness the greatness of Sir Wallaby all the more, as it was a full moon, and it was like daylight all night! Here’s the moon at about 1am, reflected on the water:

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Like Moleside, Battersbys also has a canoe landing, where I spent some time reading in the afternoon:

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A lot of people seem to like the river camps the best, and I suspect that has a lot to do with the landings. One last thing to note about Battersbys is that it doesn’t have a water tank on the shelter! Instead, there is a tap over by the toilets; the water is not overly clean and some kind of treatment is definitely required.

This day was very temperamental weather wise, with a storm rolling in in the afternoon, which gave me stunning stormy views of the river at sunset:

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And a shot of the Landing in the morning:

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Day Six: July 1 2015: Battersbys to Pattersons, 13.5 km
Aka. Who needs water?

This is the easiest day of the GSWW. It’s the shortest, the path is relatively flat, and for the most part follows some old fire trails. The track moves away from the river, returns, moves away again, returns… Strangely the parts away from the river were some of my favourites. They were usually through small pockets of forest, reminding my of the last week and bringing fairies to mind again. The combination of the white winter and wild greens was also stunning:

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This day, I had again selected one of the landing areas for lunch. This time, I had chosen Sapling Creek, and my BBQ friend from the day before was there, having one last fish, so I again got to stop and talk for an hour and just enjoy the rest stop.

Sapling Creek landing:

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A Pelican also graced us with it’s presence, looking for fish among the reeds:

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The track from Sapling Creek to camp is not far, just a few more km’s. I was still HIGHLY amused when I came across this sign:

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Uh…well, yes, I suppose anything less than the 250km loop I was on could be considered a short walk…HAHAHHAHAA.

Patterson’s Camp was the cause of my next panic attack, as when I arrived and went to sign in to the register I was greeted with the same message from everyone who had come before me: the tank was empty. Horrified, I went to fill up my water bottle and sure enough…empty. So I followed the sign, because it’s pretty clear:

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All of the sites have a second tank attached to the toilet. Should be all good, right? WRONG! The Toilet doesn’t have a tank on it! Stumped again, I decided to go right at the sign instead of left, and luckily the road leads down to Patterson’s Canoe Camp, where there is a much nicer toilet and a HUGE water tank! WOOHOO! Patterson’s Canoe Camp is amazing! I almost went and camped there instead… BEHOLD:

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It also has a cute seat, where I sat and read for a while:

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It’s a good thing that you can go exploring a bit, because you get to Patterson’s very early, and it’s tempting to move on to the next camp, but Simsons is another 17km, which would be hard to reach before dark in Winter. It’s worth having something to do in the afternoons, if reading isn’t your thing.

In time I wandered back to the Hikers Campsite to make dinner and set up camp. My tent, set up on the green by the water behind the shelter at Patterson’s Camp:

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This camp spot afforded me stunning views of the river while the sun was setting. Behold:

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Day Seven: July 2 2015: Pattersons to Nelson (via Simsons), 20km
Aka. The day of 2’s, and Crossing Borders

I got up early this day, because it’s a long day but also because it’s the most up and down section of the track; you spend the day traversing the side of the river gorge, and it affords you the best views of the river. Getting off to an early start meant I got to watch the sunrise over the river, and it was stunning!

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You spend the morning moving from one lookout to the next, which is nice as you have constant small goals to reach, breaking up the day nicely. Today was also the first sign of blue skies since reaching the river, the rain finally moving on, so not only did I get sun but blue water instead of brown!

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Today,  I thought I had legitimately lost my mind. I thought I saw the loch ness monster, only in the Glenelg, so the Glenelg monster? Whatever. I was innocently wandering along the track, looking for the Caves landing on the opposite side, when lo and behold what do I see? What looked like twin snakes rising out of the water, as if propeller-ing themselves across the water, like in the Disney Robin Hood cartoon. My immediate reaction, being from the Territory, was crocodiles! Then my location-sense woke up and reminded me there were no crocs in the Glenelg. So what were they? They were so far away, that it wasn’t until they got to my side of the river that I realised what I was seeing, and until then I confess I stood and gaped, my brain unable to process what I was seeing. The ‘monster’ was in fact two Emu’s, swimming across the river! I had never contemplated whether Emu’s could swim, and frankly knowing they could didn’t do a thing to ease my mind. Imagine swimming with an angry Emu? Would it chase you and peck at you while you tried to freestyle away? They were really quite horrifying!

Everything I saw today was in pairs, which was odd! Two Emus, two bunnies, two ducks, even two foxes! The chances of seeing one fox is always slim, but two? They really are a pest! But one stopped in the middle of the path and didn’t notice me until I tried to pull my camera out, so I got to watch it for quite a while and even though they’re pests, they really are pretty! They were usually seen in pockets of forest like this:

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There is a shorter loop walk that follows the GSWW track in this section, and its obviously tended to by Parks and Wildlife, as a lot of the cliff edges are fenced and there are numerous seats to rest on with nice views of the river. The track is ‘the Gorge Walk’, and if you’re in the area is well worth the 10km/3.5hour trek, as this section is the most interesting section of the gorge with some of the best views. My favourite thing about this section were these funny looking plants in various sizes from juveniles that barely reached my ankle, to monsters taller than me:

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They looked like someone had buried a whole bunch of cabbage patch kids…

Day Seven is fun, because you get to go to South Australia for Lunch. Something about that just sounds tres posh, and so ridiculous that you actually get excited when you get to the border crossing. I was particularly amused, as this has to be one of the only border crossings that does not demand you toss all your fruit and vegetables and any other seemingly pointless but necessary necessity out the window… Anyone who has been to the NT/WA border crossing knows what I mean. Instead, there’s just a little sign going ‘SA Section’, with a familiar red arrow. It’s like sneaking contraband … only, legally. Or something.

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The really interesting thing about the SA section is the immediate change in the earth. The sand and soil give way to familiar red rock, and the foliage changes as a result. This is also the section with the best gorge views, and it reminded me a little of Katherine Gorge. You know, without the crocodiles.

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The numerous animal corpses were testament to the Fox problem the area is having; there are fox baits everywhere on the GSWW, and every road intersection warns about them in case people bring their domestic animals into the area (despite the fact this is also illegal…). I passed what must have been an epic massacre with several sets of animal bones strewn across the path. I can only imagine a fox had a field day. This put ‘the fox’ by Nickel Creek into my head, and I ended up singing this most of the day.

Looking back at Donovan’s Landing:

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For my SA Lunch spot, I had selected the target of Hirth’s Landing, and I have to say I chose well! This landing is gorgeous! It’s a steep walk down from the path to the canoe landing, but worth the little extra effort, and it is an effort as a tree has fallen at the very bottom of the path and crawling through it’s branches when they’re covered in spiders and they keep snagging your pack takes determination! But you then emerge to find this gorgeous picnic area:

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In Summer, this would be a great place to leave your pack, and arrange for the cruise boat to pick you up to go over to the Princess Margaret Rose Caves, which are inaccessible from the GSWW side of the river. In Winter, the tours don’t run and you need to arrange transport from Nelson.

There is a canoe landing at Hirth’s, which could make a nice stopover if you were canoeing, though it’s not far from Nelson and I suspect most canoe’s stop at Donovan’s on the opposite side of the river instead. As a lunch spot for the GSWW it’s unbeatable, as at lunch the sun comes over the hill and lights up the landing:

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In keeping with the theme of the day, while I sat on the landing having lunch, two ducks swam around:

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From Hirth’s Landing, the walk to the next camp is quite boring, mostly walking along a road, and the map is a tad confusing, as when you leave Moore’s track it appears as if you should be on a walking track again, but within a few hundred metres the track turns back into a MVO track, and leaves you wondering if you somehow missed a sign and ended up back on Moore’s. In time though you arrive at Simson’s Camp:

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Simson’s is only 3km from Nelson, so if you intend to restock it’s worth just going into town and staying there the night; the camping fees are the same either way, and you can wash your clothes! I opted for a bit of up-market-ness and stayed in a cabin, and since I had gotten a day ahead of myself in the forest section I stayed in Nelson 2 nights.

The track into Nelson is gorgeous, following the gorge ledge past private berths and cabins into town, with several more landings. Here is a glimpse through the trees at Isle of Bags landing:

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All day you are given glimpses of the river as it winds it’s way down to the ocean (it starts in the Grampians). I confess, at times when you stood at a lookout and saw the river stretching to the horizon, with no sign of the town you were walking toward, you started to wonder if you would ever get there, but when it looks like this, who cares?

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The other great thing about staying in town? Dinner at the pub!

If you can get to the Princess Margaret Rose Caves, they’re quite cool; my partner drove to Nelson to spend my day off from walking with me and we drove over to the caves in the morning. It’s worth checking tour times, but usually there is one every hour. They look like this:

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The Chandelier:

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You can hire a canoe or boat and take yourself up the river, even in winter, and you don’t need a boat license to do it! Definitely a worthwhile side trip.

Next up…Beaches! The Third Movement.