Trip report from 2014 Mt Cook bushwalk:
A Long Walk To The Pub
We went for a hike. Hell of a long walk just to get to the pub. There was a short cut, but …..
For sometime some of us have been talking about trying to find the bushwalkers memorial plaque near Mt Cook on Magnetic Island. Some have tried to find it in recent years without success.
The mission – find the plaque. It is on a rock. Yeah well, the island is full of rocks !
The plaque – in 1962, two members of Townsville NFC Bushwalkers (from which Townsville Bushwalking Club arose), also members of the RAAF, set out in a kayak from the Strand for Magnetic Island. They disappeared and were never found, despite an intensive search including two RAAF Neptune maritime patrol aircraft. Their kayak was located days later near Lucinda. The bushwalking club attached a memorial plaque to a rock near Mt Cook looking towards Pallarenda, the plaque facing the line of the airport runway. People including friends of the family have been trying to find the plaque for some time.
198*** club newsletter describes a walk to Mt Cook and the plaque, and includes a map with the plaque location marked. Nick Wood provides further information, specifically hill 479. He also mentions death adders nipping at your hills going up the ridgeline, and suggests ‘send Wilfred ahead to clear the way’. Armed with this information, we calculate it is on a hill (or knoll) 500 metres north west of Mt Cook summit, at grid ref 815 838 (1:50,000 Magnetic topo map). We decide to find the plaque and are confident of success.
Sunday 28th Sept 2014, seven keen members assembled at Breakwater ferry terminal for the 0705 ferry. Plan was to ascend Mt Cook from Nelly Bay, find hill 479 and the plaque, descend to Five Beaches Bay (northern end of island), then around to Horseshoe Bay to complete the walk.
A pleasant morning ferry ride to Nelly Bay. Start walking at 0745. Wilfred leading, up the back of Nelly Bay onto the NP track to the water tower at the saddle, 40 minute gentle walk. Turn left and head up the ridgeline, faint track for a short while until that disappears. Steep morning climb, bit humid, mild bush bashing and rock clambering. After a steep initial climb, ridge flattens out a bit, then climbs steeply again. Higher up we enter grass trees. Several peaks are attained, then down gullies, and up the other side. There was four significant bits like this on the way to the summit. Along the way after a short one minute break at bottom of a hill, Wilfred says ‘give us a G’ – ‘G’ we respond. ‘Give us an O’ – “O’. ‘Give us a G’- ‘G’. ‘Give us an O’ – ‘O’. ‘GO GO’ Wilfred calls (memories of Kokoda track). So on upwards we GO GO.
At top of a hill, we have fine views to Horseshoe Bay –‘pub down there ya know Wilfred’ I say. ‘Ok, let’s take shortcut to the pub, direct line uh !’. Think about that for a minute, decide to get to the plaque first.
Nearing 1000, one female member asks about a smoko stop. Not yet. Later, this member calls ‘Give us an S’ – ‘S’ we respond. ‘Give us an M’ – ‘M’. I knew where this was going ! ‘Give us an O’- ‘O’. ‘Give us a K’ – ‘K’. ‘Give us an O’ – ‘O’. ‘SMOKO’ she calls. But our leader is mission focused – no smoko stop, yet.
We see Mt Cook and the navigation beacon in the distance,. A deep gully and large hill lay between. Down the gully into large grass trees, then another steep hill climb scrambling up large rocks, we stop for a short breather at 1100. ‘Is it smoko yet?’ she asks – ‘No – smoko will be at the summit’. Our ‘smoko’ member sneaks in a quick cuppa anyway and a snack. Five minutes further on, we find four blokes on top of a boulder. Quick chat to them. Another gully lies between us and Mt Cook, now 500 metres away. With warnings of stinging trees ahead, we descend the gully into a world of ferns, Cyprus palms, very green and different - ‘it has Jurassic park feel, dinosaurs next’. But we find stinging trees, lot of them. Wilfred carefully plots a route through the ferns and stinging trees. Climb the hill and before us is the beacon and summit, arrive 1140. Mt Cook at altitude 494 metres. We find a cleared area under the tree canopy adjacent to the beacon, and now have smoko. Try to find the book to sign, but can not find it. In the distance can see what we think is hill 479.
At 1215 we move on. Follow a track for 80 metres, then that is swallowed by lantana. Cut and bash our way through lantana for 200 metres, to arrive at a cleared knoll – this is the helipad for the beacon servicing. Great views to Pallarenda and the airport. Hill 479 lies about 250 metres ahead. Bit of lantana, then into tall grass tress, resplendent with long beards (no fires up here for a long time). We arrive at a two large rocks at 1250, and one of them has the plaque on it – well led Wilfred, straight to it. As reported, the plaque is in line with the runway, and overlooks the strait between Magnetic Island and Pallarenda. We hold a one minute silence memorial service.
At 1315 we move down off hill 479, plan is still to go to Five Beaches Bay. We expect to be able to follow ridgelines down. Off hill 479, there is another hill ahead, groans from some ‘we are not going up that hill are we, had enough of hills?’. Around side of the hill, going down, bush bashing, above a dry creek bed. We then enter dry creek bed, fairly level ground, and turn north. This is headwaters of Duck Creek that flows west to West Point. Cross over the water shed, into headwaters of Endeavour Creek, which flows to Horseshoe Bay. Follows the creek line, bit of rock hopping, bit of bush bashing. But this creek will not take us to Five Beaches Bay. After one hour of walking stop at 1415 for a breather. I notice our leader has food out – ‘is this smoko?’ I ask. “no – it is lunch’. ‘Oh, ok – thought lunch would be at the pub’. Consult maps, GPS, compasses, and watches. To get to Five Beaches Bay we will need to cross over a ridgeline (and how many more hills and gullies), and we are still 1.75 km from the coast and at 305 metres altitude. Wilfred dismally says ‘you sure this is where we are?’. We decide to change plans due to time and terrain, and stay in the creek and make for the pub at Horseshoe Bay.
The terrain and walking must be easier now, because I now lead. Easy rock hopping down the dry creek, albeit that was tiring after a while. By this stage during the day several have had falls and bear scars (long grass, hidden rocks or holes). We have a few close calls rock hopping now too, I think we are getting tired. The creek flattens out into a sandy creek bed, lined by tea trees. Like, near the coast type creek now, swamp or coast ahead ? Group pace has picked up. Check the GPS, we are at 105 metres altitude, and still 1.5 km from coast ‘what the ..??’ I think – GPS must be wrong. I have been saying for a while ‘I expected to find a blockage in this creek. Dropping the height so much over shortish distance …….’. Well, our flat sandy creek, suddenly has dramatic large boulders ahead, and big drop off. Nik, Hans and Steve lead the way. A high cliff towers above on the left. We are blocked somewhat, but after searching find a way. Meant bottom sliding down smooth granite for a bit. After a while negotiating this area, we spot sandy creek bottom below. Finally we emerge onto the sandy creek bed, then walk along this to reach the coast. Some comment ‘this is an awfully long creek for an island’. Some stay inland in the creek line that runs parallel to the beach, two of us walk along the beach. Arrive at the Horseshoe Bay village at 1645. 13.9 km hike. Quick shower and change, some swim. Bus at 1725, or 1810 ? We decide 1810, that way no rush. Thus, we head for the pub – at last, took all day to get here! The ‘refreshments’ were very welcome. Nice sunset over the bay.
1810 bus, on to the ferry, for a nice ride home just after dusk. Looking back at the island, we see the Mt Cook beacon flashing red, and see the ridgeline we climbed up and the hills and gullies along the way – four significant hills and gullies. With the sky a hue of dusk colours, we enjoy the ferry ride home – a fantastic day in paradise. Back at the ferry terminal at 1905.
This was an excellent, successful walk and a great day - just a hell of a long and difficult way to get to the pub.