Posted on January 11, 2014
Wilson’s Promontory, Australia
We visited family in Australia over Christmas and the 2013 / 2014 New Year break. It was a much-needed break, and while we were there we tested ourselves and our equipment with a four-day backpacking jaunt around Wilson’s Promontory National Park in Victoria, Australia with Nanna Pam, starting on New Year’s Eve 2013.
This being our first multiple night backpacking trip, we weren’t sure how we were going to handle it. With four mouths, four days and three meals per day we needed 48 meal servings! It was a ton of food, heavy and voluminous and for the first day or so, some of it needed to be carried in a separate bag!
Wilson’s Promontory (‘The Prom’) is almost a three hour drive from Melbourne. Off we set! Once arriving, we got our permits and headed out to the overnight hikers car-park to wait for the bus to the trailhead. After throwing our gear (including our home made shelter, sleeping quilt, clothes and backpack) in the trailer, we were off up to Telegraph Saddle trailhead, our beginning point on our way to Sealers Cove.
Day 1: Telegraph Saddle to Sealers Cove
The first day of hiking from Telegraph Saddle to Sealers Cove was spectacular. We hiked on a dirt trail winding over the sides of hills, through ferny glades and across tiny creeks, up stone stairs and down between huge granite boulders. Pausing for a quick water break we were able to catch a glimpse of the ocean in the distance – our destination.
Eventually we passed Windy Saddle, and descended gradually to sea level. A boardwalk has been built to avoid the need to walk through Sealers Swamp, so we were able to remain leech-free! We crossed Sealers Creek once on a bridge, and emerged at Sealers Cove, stunned at the beauty in front of us. Green mountains and orange sand gave way to a blue-green cove. I couldn’t resist and stripped down to my birthday suit for a quick dip, leaving my clothes and mini-towel nearby. Jess, ever agitating, picked up my clothes pile and ran into the bushes, hiding them. ‘Ha, Ha, very funny!’ I said … and so did the four or so other people on the beach who enjoyed watching me walk to fetch my clothes.
Freshly invigorated, we set off to cross Sealers Creek another time to get to the campsite. Luckily the tide was low and the crossing was easy – at high tide it can be waist-deep and a tough crossing with a backpack.
I was so happy after the day’s hike, and the swim, that I didn’t see a log and hooked my foot in it, tripping over – Gabriel in backpack and all! It was a real fright feeling myself topple over and realizing that Gabriel was coming with me. We missed a granite boulder by about a foot and both landed on the sand, crying and wincing with pain and shock. Nanna Pam and Jess were able to get Gabriel out of the backpack really quickly and console him while I apologized profusely. I am shuddering to think how lucky we are and how close we came to a toddler with a head injury in the wilderness. Thank you, lady luck!!
Humbled, I set off to find the perfect campsite. Unfortunately the perfect one was taken, so we settled for the second best one near the ‘long drop’ (vault toilet). Needless to say, the occasional waftings led us to reconsider our spot and we tore everything down and re-set our camp at another spot, further away. Nanna Pam selected a very private spot for her tent, right between some bushes and a big rock. Gabriel had a fresh avocado for dinner and we had rehydrated rice and beans (just like at Combs Peak on the PCT). A great New Years Eve day ended, and we retired to bed… but the partying hooligans were just warming up! A group of (permitless) young whipper-snappers partied late into the night, celebrating, singing, clapping and chanting until the wee hours. We didn’t stop them though – it was New Years’ Eve, what could we have said?
Day 2: Sealers Cove to Refuge Cove
Morning eventually came and we rose, had some coffee and broke camp for day two. Our destination: Refuge Cove.
It was a bit wet with some rain, and high winds were forecast. We donned our raincoats and Gabriel even put on his gumboots so he would be 100% warm and dry. The sounds of the rainforest were amazing – the drops of the rain on the leaves and birds chirping and tweeting.
After an easy hike we popped out on a beautiful, tiny cove. The sand was really coarse, brighter yellow, and the water was a deep green color. We trudged across the deep, coarse sand, intent on making it to Refuge Cove before the real weather started.
Once we got there and walked past the boaters’ campsite, we found a site and pitched the tarp and Nanna’s tent. We had time for a cup of coffee and a quick visit to the beach to look at some dinghies with their motors and propellers before the rain started again, and the wind started to pick up. And boy, did it pick up. The wind would come roaring around the cove and we could hear it in the distance, blowing the trees, howling until it eventually came to where we were and blew the crap out of our measly camps. As we were huddling inside our tents and tarps in fear wind gusted particularly strongly and pulled half of the tarp it out of the ground! Gabriel was totally scared! I put it all together again – the sticks I’d used for the lifter cords were too heavy and the weight had leveraged out the stakes.
With forecasts of gusts to 40 knots we decided we needed to take some action. I was quite worried that the tarp would not last the night so we made a contingency plan that everyone except me would sleep in Nanna Pam’s tent if things got too insane. We rotated the tarp slightly to be oriented a bit differently to the oncoming wind, lowered it substantially, and replaced the lifter sticks with a lighter umbrella. At Combs Peak we had similar wind, but Jess felt this was stronger.
I fired up the stove, built a shelter wall around it and cooked up some tuna casserole. I didn’t cook it long enough though and so it was still a bit crunchy (complained all the dry campers who weren’t out in the rainy gale cooking the damn thing). Jess fell soundly asleep and Gabriel and I talked long into the night about the wind, our hike, and the shadows in the trees.
Thankfully with our new setup the tarp held up really well and we were able to get a solid night of sleep even though it was a bit windy.
Day 3: Refuge Cove to Little Waterloo Bay
Day three started with coffee and breakfast!
The rain was very minimal and so we broke camp and set off for a difficult hike over Kersop’s Peak towards Little Waterloo Bay. Climbing up towards the peak the views were spectacular, and while the rain had stopped, the wind had dramatically increased. We saw our hiking friends Phil and Chalisa (who we met at Sealers Cove) on their way down from the side trail up to the top of Kersop’s peak. Phil had checked his phone and confirmed that winds were gusting to 80 knots up there! We were all scared of being blown off, and Gabriel said he didn’t want to go any further up the peak side-trail so we all came down, to see it another day!
Further along the trail, the wind was frightening as it slammed the ocean water into enormous lichen-covered rocks. As each wave came in the spray was picked up by the wind and rained down on us. Incredible!
Through the trees Jess caught a glimpse of the most stunning, brightly colored beach water – Little Waterloo Bay! We climbed down a little ramp and emerged on the beach. Words don’t do it justice.
Fearing more rain and wind, we found a campsite, set up camp and ran back for a swim! The water was 64 degrees F (17 C) which is quite cold for a dip, but I couldn’t resist and went in for a couple of laps. Visibility was extreme.
Gabriel and Jess did a quick painting and we fired up some dinner of Tomato Pasta with Sausage and Olives. Bloody delicious!!! Our other camping friends Carmen and Suzanne and Michael gave us half a sweet potato and we boiled that up – Gabriel ate it with glee.
Day 4: Little Waterloo Bay to Telegraph Saddle
After a good night’s sleep we woke up for day four, our final day. None of us wanted to leave the most beautiful beach of our trip – except Gabriel who was excited to get home to play with his toys.
We walked from Little Waterloo Bay to Telegraph Track Junction and then out via the road back to the bus stop. The end of the hike was up a really steep track which was quite tough. In true form, Jess challenged me to a sprint race at the very end and we turned it up to full pressure, running as fast as we could to cross the finish line to the car park. Triumph!
A phenomenal trip enjoyed by all of us, including Gabriel (age 2.5) and his grandma, Nanna Pam.