GSWW: 4th movement

And so we reach the final movement, and I think most would have to agree the most spectacular. I suspect a lot of people only ever do the Capes and Bays, and it looks as if this was the first section of the track constructed, though thats just a guess on my part. I think if this is the only thing you do you will go home very happy, but you will have missed a lot as well. Each section is truly unique, but Capes and Bays is something from another planet, in a lot of ways.

Day 12: Tarragal to The Springs; 12km
Aka. The Best Day Ever.

Tarragal renewed my spirits after the dreaded Beaches, and I woke refreshed if a little tired still, as I’d been kept awake on and off all night by an enthusiastic koala who decided to park her butt in one of my camp trees and grunt at my tent all night. To say the sound koala’s make is unpleasant is quite frankly, disturbingly understated.

When you leave Tarragal, you move past the last of the plantations from Mount Richmond and spend the morning crossing through Tarragal Education Area, better known as that huge farm you walk through. The morning was overcast but thankfully dry, and as the sun came up over the paddocks you start catching glimpses of the wind turbines in the distance. In winter the farms were green and heavily populated with sheep and cattle, to my delight. The sheep took one look at me climbing the stile and fled, on masse to the other side of the farm. It was, quite frankly, hilarious! Sadly, the cattle were not so easily intimidated, and I actually ended up jumping the fence and walking on the opposite side of it after a rather furious beast chased me halfway across the paddock! Had he no idea it was far too early in the morning to be wasting that kind of energy?

IMG_20150913_132415None of these were the cow that decided I was worth chasing…

Eventually you reach the highest point of the farmlands and are treated with a view down to Bridgewater lakes, which looks like a quaint corner of the english countryside.

IMG_20150913_132324Why, yes…yes I am on the wrong side of the fence, and I DO need to cross that stile on the right there…hmm….

When you reach the road, its a very short (several hundred metres) walk to Tarragal cave, which is literally on the corner of the GSWW, and where I chose I stop, take a few pics and have morning tea. It had started raining again by this point, so the cave was good shelter, if a tad creepy, to sit and scoff down my nut bar.

IMG_20150913_132229Heading on up to the cave mouth, in the rain…

IMG_20150913_132128View from inside the cave.

Once you leave the cave the road meanders around to the lakeside and bridgewater lakes picnic area.

A chance to stretch the legs sans pack? Yes please! IMG_20150913_131755

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The picnic area is beautiful, and the rain was starting to clear by this point, lifting my spirits again, though really I was just ecstatic because I finally got to see a sign pointing toward beaches I didn’t have to walk – bwhahahahahaaaa!

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Once you leave the lakes, the magic of Capes and Bays happens. You begin the long ascent into the cliffs, with endless views behind you of discovery bay winding all the way to the horizon. disappearing in the sea spray. The sun chose to come out in the afternoon, putting on the best show of my walk; red cliffs, deep blue oceans and vistas for my eyes only. I saw no one else today.

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The higher you climb, the closer you get to the wind turbines, and eventually you’re walking past them, under them, through them. I’d never seen them in real life, but I’m pretty in love with them now.

IMG_20150913_131428A lone sentinel. 

As you wander through the cliffs there is a short detour down to White’s beach and the cairn for the wreck of the Marie. If the tide is right, its a very pretty little walk, and a nice stop to take your shoes off and enjoy the sand for a bit.

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The landscape gets drier and turns into a moonscape. It’s completely otherworldly, following a path on the red rocky outcrops, with nothing but the ocean to follow.

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I kept looking for interesting rocky outcrops, and I wasn’t disappointed.

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The Springs is my favourite campsite on the GSWW. It’s tucked away in a wide crevasse-like space, filled with lush green grass and coastal scrub. This keeps it well protected from the wind.

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Maybe it was just that the afternoon was so beautiful, or maybe it was just finally getting sunshine after all the rain, but I genuinely love this campsite.

IMG_20150716_135652There’s a lot of grassy space for tents, the toilet is away but easily accessible, the wind turbines peeking over the hill, there are a few very cute hidden tent sites if you’re willing to explore, the water is in a tank, and it’s a short walk out of the sheltered valley to the cliff where you can explore, sit and watch the spectacular sunset over the water. Also, if you stand on the picnic table, you get phone reception (I’m with Optus, so reception was so very, very rare!) The site is named after a freshwater spring which is a little further along the track, not too hard to find at all, as it’s signed.

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Sun starting to go down:

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Sunset:

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The Freshwater Spring sign/marker:

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Day 13: The Springs to Trewalla; 15km
Aka. You should have trusted your instincts

Leaving the springs was sad for me; I wanted to stay in my happy place! But there are so many things to see in the Capes and Bays section, I was also excited to get moving. I left early, and was rewarded with watching the sunrise as it came up over the hills and hit the ocean on the other side. Just beautiful.

The path leading away from the Springs:

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The first stop was the Blowholes, which were in all honesty a bit of a letdown, but I suspect I was there at the wrong tide time; the tide was high, and there was not a lot of spray at all.

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Not far past the blowholes is the Petrified Forest, which I found fascinating. This whole section of the track is like walking on the moon; the surface is pocked with craters and there is very little vegetation.

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Add to this the remnants of a dead forest cast in dirt and stone, and it’s a very special little corner of the park. It is, however, very little. Not much of it is left at all 🙁

IMG_20150913_125316The petrified forest. 

Windfarms as you leave the petrified forest:

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I think the coolest thing I saw today was not even marked as an attraction, go figure! It was the twin rockpools; the colours were so vivid, the viewing platform was perfect and the sun was out. I had another nut bar here.

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There are numerous lookouts on the way over to Seal Cove, the next big touristy thing on this section of the track. They are each lovely, overlooking the ocean, and all of them were completely abandoned. I do not think many people make the effort to walk beyond Seal Cove to the Blowholes, as there is a road around…

IMG_20150913_125217Seriously…why would you drive, and miss this?

One of several lookouts on the way over to the Cape:

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Seal Cove was fascinating. It’s located on Cape Bridgewater.

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It was rainbow heaven! A few sunshowers swept through, and with it the light show began!

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There are two seal colonies here, an Australian and  New Zealand, and signage does a nice, simple job of explaining the differences at each colony locale. The NZ Seals were out in force, leaping through the waves for a feed and I spent quite some time observing them before heading around to the Aussie platform. There was not an Australian seal to be seen. Not one. I eventually gave up looking and headed down for brunch at Cape Bridgewater Kiosk, which has very lovely staff and very delicious food. On the way down you pass over the tallest sea cliff in Victoria!~  It tells you so, not that it needs to because you suspect it by the time you reach the top. There is a lovely seat there where you could choose to sit and observe the view.

From Cape Bridgewater, I was horrified to learn I had to return to the beach for a few kms! Luckily, this sand is like concrete and was an absolute joy to walk on. I had encountered a group of Melbourne guys hiking at the kiosk, but they were headed in the other direction. Still, it was fun following their footsteps, which actually helped me more than I could say that night! I also got to see, at long last, a whale. I had been hoping all month while hiking in Victoria that I might and there one was, just frollicking in the bay.

The ‘nice’ beach walk, looking back at Cape Bridgewater:

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The walk from the kiosk to Trewalla is a series of beautiful vistas looking back at the bay, and down at hidden beaches until the camp emerges, hidden in a pocket of coastal forest.

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Trewalla is much more spread out than other sites, with tent sites spread through three main areas, the toilet tucked away by the shelter down the back. It even has its own lookout, looking back down over the bay which is beautiful at sunset.

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This was the day my walk went a little pear-shaped. Some shipping containers have washed up on a section of beach just down from Trewalla, and some locals had recently been heading down to check it out. Unfortunately for me, two local derelicts on their dirtbikes had gone down today to see, and got lost on the hiking tracks trying to find the road again. They discovered me at my campsite, reeking of drugs, and decided to ‘hang out’ and ‘ask for help with directions’ since I had a map. I was polite but tried to make it clear they were not permitted to have dirt bikes on the hiking trails, and that they were unwelcome. They left not long before sunset, and I debated the pros and cons of moving camp. But they were gone, and I thought that was that. So I watched the sunset…

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Unfortunately, one of the men returned to camp at around 9pm, very inebriated and asking for a good time. I told him to leave immediately, was called a ‘dramatic princess’ and the wanker proceeded to ride his bike around the camp loudly. I tossed everything in my pack, tossed it on my back, put my shoes on and bolted from camp, in the dark, in my pyjamas. As I’d been nervous when they first appeared in camp, I had a vague notion of walking the next beach section, finding a sand dune and camping there instead, so that was the plan.

Sadly, the stretch of beach was of the sinking sand variety, and walking in the dark was a bit of a nightmare. However, the guys I had met at the kiosk had mentioned they had hit this bit of beach in the dark, with my same fear; that they would miss the marker. So they had stuck close to the dunes, and I was mostly able to follow their tracks.

I was disappointed I didn’t get to see the whale bone and containers in the day, but they were just as obvious at night!

The whale bone:
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The shipping containers:

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There were huge clumps of seaweed along the beach, and they were often hard to spot in the dark, with just my headlamp to see by. I ended up trying to step over most of them, but occasionally they were so large I had to walk around.

It was in the dark, while tired and wanting to go back to bed, that I attempted to step over a clump of seaweed, only to stop mid step and think to myself ‘this is an awfully large ball of weed’. So I put my foot down, and turned my lamp to get a better look at it, only to have the weed to turn it’s head, blink at me, and then snort a giant spray of salt in my face. Stunned, a fell back, just as the stupid (and angry, because I’d just woken it up) seal  (Ah, so that was where the australian fur seals had gone!) launched itself at me. It landed on my leg, prompting me to shout and start trying to crawl away.

Just picture this in your head for a moment. It’s the middle of the night. I’m sinking into wet sand. My foot’s stuck under an angry seal. I manage to free myself, but the seal is still pissed and chases me as I stumble in my attempts to get back to my feet. I’m screaming ‘I AM NOT A PENGUIN’, as I find my footing and charge off down the beach, the seal snuffling in my wake…

You get the idea. The irony of my last name being SEALey is not lost on anyone. In hindsight, it’s HILARIOUS. At the time, I had lost it. I was stomping off down the beach cursing motorbikes, the male species, sand, waves, tides and seals.

I did eventually find the beach exit, and camped on the dunes above, which while not ideal was just fine. I had a pleasant if exhausted night’s sleep, listening to the soft crash of waves, if slightly dreading having either a drunk derelict or sadistic sea mammal find my hiding place.

Day 14: My Sanddune hideaway/Trewalla to Mallee; 15 km
Aka. Lighthouse Shenanigans 

Due to my nightly escapade, I left camp at sunrise and headed for the lighthouse. When you leave the beach you meander out of the coastal forest into the moonscape again. The forest doesn’t give up easily though:

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There are a lot of oddities to look at on the way, and at the right time of year sections of the morning walk are riddled with echidna and local fauna to look at. In winter it’s quite empty and barren. The land also gets progressively drier as you near the lighthouse.

Getting closer (And, you know, just in case you thought forward was the way to go):

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As always there are memorials:

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And this odd masonic thing:

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Approaching the lighthouse:
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Getting closer:IMG_20150913_124151

I arrived around 10am, before the cafe opened. As a result, I hoofed it the last km over to camp, set up, and then headed back for lunch. Here are some of my intial lighthouse pics, before there were other people around:

Lighthouse info: IMG_20150913_123817
Me messing around:IMG_20150913_123745

The school house:
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The lighthouse cafe is a delight; the owners are friendly and willing to help anyone and everyone. There is a lounge area by the windows where you can sit, read a magazine and enjoy a coffee or a wine, and there are small cafe tables for dining. They’ve got an eclectic mix of old film, english and french posters on the walls, and every nook and cranny has a nick nack to make you smile, from simple vases to buddha statues. The food is tasty and the wide glass windows give views of the lighthouse and ocean. 

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Just a really lovely way to spend the day, so if you do have the time, plan to get there with some time to spare. I was tempted to book a night early in my planning but confess I was put off by the cost, and honestly Mallee is so close and such a lovely site I can’t see myself booking the lighthouse. I would be VERY interested if they had dinner on at the cafe though!!

The track leading away from the lighthouse toward Mallee:

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Here’s the track back into Mallee:

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Mallee Shelter: IMG_20150913_123336

Mallee tent sites:
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Another shot of the lighthouse:

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Day 15: Mallee to Portland; 23km
Aka. I do believe in Fairies. I do. I do. 

This was a beautiful day, again, but I was SO melancholy because it was the end. I wanted to turn around and go back to the Springs, or Lake Monibeong, or the river, or Fitzroy…I just wanted to do the whole thing again, let’s be honest! But there are a
few more of the touristy attractions on this bit of track, and I was excited to see them as usual. So an early start gave me amazing views of the sun rising over Portland in the distance.

The first thing you pass is the old Mallee campsite, which was very close to the windfarm, as I understand it. The turbines were quite lovely in the morning.

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You pass a lot of lookouts on this morning, and they all somewhat blur into one. Here’s Cutting Edge:

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Not long after the lookouts you reach the viewing parking area for flat rock, but there’s not a lot there. I continued on, beyond excited for what I knew would be one of my favourite things on the walk. And I was right! I mean, how could a rainforest loving creature such as myself not be completely besotted by a place called the Enchanted Forest?

The path heading down to the Enchanted forest:

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The entry:

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And then:

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Leaving the Enchanted Forest was SO hard; I would have been perfectly happy to find a small corner to stay for the night. However, that’s not allowed, so I continued on. Soon after you leave you reach the viewing platform for Yellow Rock, a popular surf spot. The platform/stairs are massive, and provide beach access, and this is a great stopping spot. For whatever reason, I didn’t take photos of it 🙁

Looking back toward the lighthouse:

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From Yellow Rock the fauna changes again into low shrub, and eventually passing by the quarry. Signage around the quarry is a little confusing, there is a short cut, but I recommend going the long way, its quite scenic around the cape! The path continues around behind a rifle range to point danger where I chose to have lunch overlooking the gannet colony before making the last trek into portland.

Portland is such a pretty town, it’s worth several days exploration itself. You do pass through a lot of the lovely things on this last day. Battery Hill is interesting, but for someone from Darwin a few cannons isn’t worth taking pics of 😛

The botanical gardens are my pick for something to waste an hour on; they aren’t huge, and you can catch the cable tram which is fun. The walk passes out front, so its easy to just step in and have a look around.

The caretakers house:

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Wattle tree:

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The tram out front:

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Just past the gardens is a gorgeous almond tree:

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And then you near the end. Rather than a repeat of the start/end marker I grabbed a pic of the one up on the corner about 200m away:

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And that’s that. 250km on the Great South West Walk. I cannot recommend this walk enough. If you’re even mildly interested, go do it. You’ll not regret it.

Just a few FYI’s.
How did I get there? I caught a bus from the Twelve Apostles over the Warrnambool, and then another bus over to Portland. (I’d just finished the Great Ocean Walk, hence why I was at the Twelve apostles). You can catch the train direct from Melbourne to Warrnambool and then get the bus, this is how I got home. You have to book in advance on the Vline site.

Where did I stay? I stayed at the stunning Victoria House. Portland has a lot of B&Bs and they’re all roughly the same price. I chose Vic House because of the reviews about it’s breakfast, which is home cooked and amazing, and because they had free port by an open fire, and a pianola. They staff could not have been lovelier, or more accommodating. They let me use the washing machine, helped me hang my washing, and even delivered me some cheese and crackers I had left behind. They really made me feel welcome, and that’s strangely rare these days.

Do you need to book? Yes. It’s compulsory to book all sites, and this is annoying, as it doesn’t allow for you changing your plans. Since I had everything to myself it didn’t matter so much when I was a day ahead through the river sections, but I can see this could get complicated if sites were booked out in the summer. Just plan as best you can, and go with the flow. Also, book in advance! Bookings are done through parks vic website. I also recommend contacting the Friends of the GSWW before departing; I got valuable information about empty water tanks and checked local burn off plans etc prior to departure.

If you do the GSWW, let me know! I’d love to hear your stories, see your pics, and hopefully I’ll be back to do it all again soon. I rewarded myself with a nice cheese platter and a bottle of red:

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And met this guy, you know…just walkin across the road.

IMG_20150711_171549See you on the walk!