Pics of the walk here:http://www.dropbox.com/sh/x3dsf6m7zqz07zg/UAF6GEJRFj
I had been looking for a new multi day challenge for a while having done the Overland Track in Tasmania and the Great Ocean Walk in Vic, and wanted to tackle something more challenging.
The guys at The Wilderness Shop, in Box Hill, suggested I look at East Gippsland. I investigated two multi day hikes - Cape Conran to Mallacoota or Mallacoota to Wonboyn. Both hikes would take 3-4 nights but I settled on the latter as it seemed to offer more variety. It traversed a region I knew absolutely nothing about.
Its officially called the Nadgee Howe Wilderness Walk and spans Victoria and NSW, starting at the quaint coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria and finishing in the Wonboyn area, NSW (or vice versa). The length of the walk varies but I covered about 80 kms in five days. There are shorter options, however.
The walk can start from the eastern side of the Mallacoota Inlet mouth, but with the mouth open to the ocean at present, it can be dangerous to get there by boat, and too fast flowing to wade. The other option is to catch a boat to “Lakeview”, a jetty near the old settlement, on the Eastern shore of the lower lake, which I did. Contact Simon Buckley 0408408094 for boat transport. It cost me $80 for the 20 minute boat ride, but I was traveling solo, so you expect it to be pricey, as this is Simon’s minimum charge.
I left the car at Wonboyn and needed transport back to Mallacoota, about 45 minutes away. There is a bloke in Mallacoota who has a mini bus and does this shuttle regularly, but the $200 minimum charge was a bit steap for just myself. Instead I called the Mallacoota hotel, where I was staying the night and a mate of the publican picked me up for half this cost. This little town is very friendly, although the whole town knew my plans by the time I started the walk, calling me the Wonboyn Walker - What do you expect making your plans known to the publican !!
Simon picked me up at 9am from the pub the next day, (good rooms for $80 pn) and soon I was standing on the Lakeview Jetty, watching his boat returning to town.
The first hour I walked through eucalypt stands, tea tree and open grassland, weaving my way to the coast. Once on the beach, the walking became harder, with a constant challenge of finding the firm sand sweet spot, anywhere between the water and the dunes. Note to self...PACK LIGHTER.....Carrying 22 kgs is rubbish, especially on the beach. I am determined to get my pack weight down to under 18 kgs, even with three litres of water.
The coastline was stunning, with other footprints the only evidence of me not being the only human left on Earth. The first night was spent at Lake Barracoota, a large natural freshwater lake, bordered by massive sand dunes. The track leading to the lake would have been impossible to find, without the GPS and the blue bucket someone had kindly placed at the start of the track. I spent a peaceful night on the shore of the lake, protected from the ocean wind by the pearl white dunes.
The next still clear morning I set off to Lake Wau Wauka, again by way of the beach. Passing the wreck of the SS Riverina (originally thought it was a beached whale, with wave generated water spurting through a rusty blow hole), and rounding Telegraph point gave me a good view of Gabo Island. You can book accommodation here, but it didn't look too hospitable on this day, with a raging sea smashing it’s coastline. Maybe worth a look on a later trip.
Reached the lake in about 4 hours. Beach walking is a slow process, but the damp sand down low gave the best footing. Approaching the western side of the lake, I followed the lake edge around to a great little campsite, under some shady trees. A couple of marine buoys hanging from a limb marks the spot. The water is drinkable from the lake, but tastes a bit brackish. Used sterilizing tablets as a precaution, as I did throughout the trip. The view from the campsite is special, looking back over the lake and out to the open ocean. It was well protected from the southerly wind too. Its a pity the weather wasn’t kinder, with a thick cloud cover and rain by late afternoon.
Day three - Off to Nadgee Lake, via Cape Howe. Another tough day of beach walking to the Iron Prince point, then I traversed some incredible sand dunes, which extended right down to the now rocky shoreline. Saw some interesting footprints - plenty of dog or dingo tracks and some bipod tracks I think belonged to an emu or a giant flesh eating devil bird (amazing what the imagination does after a few days alone).
There is a need to be very careful here. The sand has covered a shoreline of large boulders underneath and there are many voids under the sand. My leg disappeared up to my groin on one occasion and there may be deeper voids out there.
More canine tracks, with over seven separate sets of prints in the sand. They seemed to be very fresh, unmarked by the overnight rain. They were all heading my way.
Conference Point represents the border of Vic and NSW, where a rocky cairn marks the spot. Stopped for the obligatory photo, then over more dunes to Cape Howe. After the cape there is a short beach walk, to a track leading away from the water and up over heavily vegetated dunes, to Bunyip Hole. This was shown as a water source but it looked very ordinary - algal growth and a dark colour. Drink at your own risk.
From this point, the track turns north, crossing Endeavor Moor. Stunning flora, with colorful blooms everywhere but quite hard going. The track is very overgrown in places and I had to literally push my way through. In the low cloud and sea fog, it had an air of stillness and mystery and I really enjoyed it.
By lunchtime I had reached the thin beach which separates the ocean from Nadgee Lake. Still very foggy, I made my way around the North east edge of the lake, to a well defined and grassy campsite. Like Lake Wau Wauka, there was some bush furniture set up, makeshift bench seats from planks of timber and rocks. This is discouraged, as it is supposed to spoil the wilderness experience for some, but it made a great place for lunch. I couldn’t help thinking whether these camps would benefit from a shelter and water tank, like the Great ocean Walk in eastern Victoria. The shelters are great in inclement weather and lack of water can be a real issue on this walk, over summer. But there are many who would disagree with this concept, rather keeping it as a pure wilderness area.
As it was still early and I couldn’t find the clean water source at Nadgee Lake, I decided to push onto Little Creek for the night. Up a small track and onto a heavily overgrown old 4WD access track. This section is called Nadgee Moor. Just before I reached Nadgee Beach, I passed a large soak, which had sweet, clean but a bit tea tree coloured water. Filled up 2.5 litres for the night at Little Creek.
From Nadgee Beach the track traverses Impressa Moor, much easier walking. At a point where the track enters eucalypt forest, I turned hard right, onto a very small foot track. This is very easy to miss but is a good short cut through to the 4WD track leading to Little Creek.
By mid afternoon, I reached Little Creek and camped on a flat grassy section, on the southern coast of the inlet. A beautiful spot with great swimming. The fish were rising and jumping as the light receded behind a thick cloud cover. Rain began to gently fall, increasing to a downpour, which lasted most of the night.
The next morning the rain had stopped and I crossed the shallow inlet, heading for Merrica River. There was supposed to be a track leading up above the rock ledge but I couldn’t find it, instead wading around the base of the cliff, to the official Little Creek campsite. Again this spot featured timber bench seats. A 4wd track left the Western edge of the campsite, heading up the hill and towards Newtons Beach.
This part of the walk sees coastal scrub, tea tree stands changing to lush vine covered and heavily overgrown forest. Really beautiful.
There is apparently a water source above Newtons beach, but I should have turned right, and walked along the beach. Instead I continued along the dirt road and unnecessarily climbed and descended a 200 metre hill. Next time turn right. There was a good alternative water source in a creek crossing, however.
The track climbs another 200 metres from Newtons beach, up to Tumbledown Lookout. Lyrebirds were darting across the track everywhere, until I found the camera, then, nowhere to be seen. Typical celebrities.
Reaching the Merrica Walking trail, I dropped the pack and headed downhill for about 20 minutes, to get a few litres of liquid gold for the night at Merrica River, where there is no fresh water. After a long climb back to the pack, the track steeply descends into camp.
Merrica River is a beautiful place. You can camp on the Southern side in tea tree or across the river, where another furnished camp is located, complete with bush swing. This area would be perfect for a kayak or pack raft, to explore the various lakes and inlets. A bugger to carry though. Oh, and I’m bringing a fishing rod next time.
Again it rained all night. Very hard. I later learnt the area had 50 mm overnight. By morning though, the rain cleared long enough to pack up and start the climb back to the Merrica trail, which leads out to the ranger station.
One possible route back to Wonboyn is a traverse of the range north of Merrica River, up to the 161 metre crest, then NNW down to the Green-glades Trail. This avoids having to backtrack and saves a few kms back to Wonboyn. This time though, it was too wet and I decided to take the long way back, by way of the ranger station and Newtons Road. Next time I think I will just leave the car at the ranger station and avoid 8 kms of dirt road walking.
This was, in my limited experience, one of the best walks I have done. The amazing range of flora and topography compressed into a 4 day walk is possibly unique in Australia. The dune system near Cape Howe has to be seen to be believed, with massive dunes tumbling right into the ocean.
Ticks are normally a problem in this area and I later discovered I had picked up three of the little vampires, but I had been heavily scrub bashing. There were only mosquitos present at dusk and few flies. In late summer water may be an issue on this walk. I ended up carrying about 3 litres for most of the walk, which is a pain in the ...back. Wonder if you can dehydrate the stuff ???