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Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 5:26 pm
by tasadam
As has been mentioned, my wife and I went on a walk around the South West Cape circuit in November.

Photos later - still sorting. But for now I will post an account straight out of a daily log that we wrote at the end of each day.
EDIT - Photos are up - 637 of them (which is about a fifth of what we took...)

A few quick pointers - my observations...

Anyone flying into Melaleuca should pay the pilot extra to fly out and around South West Cape - the view of it in the late afternoon sun is unforgettalble. It also confuses the OBP people, wondering why a plane is approaching from the west :wink:

Mt Melaleuca summit is not worth the effort, the scrub at the last 400 metres or so is depressing (and stopped us). Views along the way were quite satisfying. No tracks or pads. Navigation skills essential due to the potential of the area you're in to be swallowed by cloud. Short section of thick bushbashing required 500 metres from track, across a creek.

Main difference between established campsites on South Coast track and South West Cape circuit, is that there are no pit toilets. One campsite has evidence of holes that had been disturbed by wildlife. Several campsites also smaller than South Coast track.

South West Cape is not worth the effort. The scrub you have to push through is horrible. Quite often on hands and knees trying to get through it, and it is so tough it has no give. There is a pad to follow, but I've seen easier scrub on what's supposed to be "very difficult, not recommended" off-track areas elsewhere in Tasmania. We didn't have the best of weather that day, so I don't know whether that has parched my judgement, but I have no desire to go pushing through that scrub again just so I can look down on a lump of rock in the sea. Particularly having seen it from the plane in the late afternoon sun.

No established camping at Spain Bay. Not that we found, anyhow. Chapman SW book has a picture of a tent on his map where the track hits the beach, but there is nowhere at Spain Bay that is an established campsite - certainly nowhere in the area of the tent on his map that you would get a tent down. I managed to find enough flat ground for a tent with a bit of gardening but without destructing anything living, but as it is not established I will not publicly discuss its location, in line with forum rules. <edit> Found on the second visit in 2012. There is a campsite of sorts, when you hit the beach turn left and travel towards the vey end of beach. If you get to the end of the beach you went too far, it's back a little way, stay close to the scrub and look for access, there is a bit of camping in there <end of edit>.

The log books in Melaleuca huts tell stories of many parties that go as far as South West Cape Range and turn back. Not a bad option for many, I suspect. There is good walking and a good track to follow as far a Ketchem Bay, though for the whole walk there are areas of forest where there are a lot of fallen trees that you need to negotiate your way over / under / round / through (applies for the whole walk). Ketchem Bay to Wilson Bight is also an easy enough track to follow, but it is quite overgrown with Bauera and Teatree etc in places. Takes a bit of pushing through. Wilson Bight to Mt Karamu is also a good track to follow, and the view from Mt Karamu on a fine day is exceptional. Beyond Mt Karamu is a different dimension if you're not quite experienced enough for this area. If you like the South Coast track and know how to dig a hole properly, my advice to anyone contemplating this walk but even a little unsure, would be to go as far as Ketchem Bay or maybe Wilson Bight.

The seas at Wilson Bight when we were there were HUGE!!! Waves would come right in and swallow the whole beach and up on the rocks beyond them, then the water would recede at a disturbing rate, and the beach would be revealed again. If you come to a beach that you need to cross, have a good look to see what the seas are doing first. It took us one and a half hours to get to the campsite once reaching Wilson Bight, such was the care required so as not to get swamped off the rocks by waves when rounding the rocky point. The rocks are sharp, too.

There's a bit of mud between the South Coast track and New Harbour, sometimes it's deep enough to come in over the top of your gaiter. Not as bad as South Cape Range on the South Coast track.

If I think of other things I will add them, but for now, here's the account direct from our daily log...

Trip report – South West Cape Circuit

Wed 11/11/09
Flying in to Melaleuca

Gallery (link)
Flew out of Hobart airport with Tasair, heading direct for Adamsons Peak. Diverted slightly left, great view of it to the right. Then Moonlight Ridge & La Perouse to the left. Flew between Pindars Peak and PB. Followed coast directly towards Southwest Cape. Flew out to sea a bit, then a hard right turn and levelled out to have a fantastic view of the lower west coast of Tasmania in the late afternoon sun.
Followed coast a bit then climb steeply then up over South West Cape Range and down into Melaleuca. Great flight. Relaxing in the Charles King Memorial Hut, saw lots of Orange Bellied Parrots.

Thu 12/11/09
Melaleuca to New Harbour

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Early rise, breakfast and pack up. Mike Garner, senior ranger dropped into the hut for a lengthy chat about a range of things, a most educational and enjoyable conversation. Time to mount up and head south. Very heavy packs. Left Melaleuca airstrip 9am. Weather overcast and very light rain intermittently. Was great to finally hit the turnoff from South Coast track. Mud was deep enough to be over the gaiters once, but not too bad. Finally can see the beach / sea in the distance. Beautiful water colour – aqua / deep green. Stopped at first New Harbour camp for lunch, a ham salad roll we had bought from ETC bakery the day before on the way down to Hobart. Explored, traversed to left (east) end of beach, and along rocks. Return, gather packs, head along beach for camp. Creek crossing on beach was shallow, didn’t get wet feet. Campsite flat, sheltered, roomy, good. Explored to western end of beach and along rocks a bit. Sat on a large log on beach and soaked it up, had a cuppa soup on beach. Stroll back to eastern end of beach then back to camp. Change into camp clothes and cook dinner – Back Country Tikka Marsala. Plants along the track today were beautiful - lots of wildflowers including Melaleucas. Weather had cleared by the time we reached New Harbour, blue skies. Saw two oyster catchers mating on beach in front of us.

Friday 13/11/09
New Harbour to Hidden Bay, with Mt Melaleuca side trip

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Awoke early. Land fog rolling out to sea, clearing into a beautiful day. Islands coming into view in the morning light as the fog moved out to sea was magic. Breakfast then pack up camp 8:30 am. Walked up through forest with a number of fallen trees to negotiate a way through for a while, came to an open view of New Harbour, nice. Continued on, stop to check for Mt Melaleuca turnoff (according to Chapman’s SW book), approx 600 metres back. So we make our own way. Ditched packs in bushes near the track and took essentials with us. Across open buttongrass and melaleuca for approx 500 metres, heading for a ridge. Came to the creek, crossed – very thick scrub including fallen logs, cutting grass and bauera that took some pushing through. Not wide, but dense. Got on to the open ridge and continued climbing, to within 400 metres of Mt Melaleuca summit. Impenetrable scrub, we retreat feeling not at all bad about being beaten. By now wind was very strong, 60 to 100 kph, pushing at our backs as we head down. Made it back to packs 4PM having left them at 10:30 am. After that climb without packs, they felt very heavy, and we both agreed it felt more like 4km than the 2 it was to Hidden Bay. Set up camp there, explored to eastern end of beach. Big waves, wind blowing the spray off the waves quite dramatically. Returned to camp, I was feeling quite spent. Entree instant noodles with added dried vegies. Main was Back Country Beef Teriyaki. Retire to tent 8:30 pm.

Saturday 14/11/09
Hidden Bay to Ketchem Bay

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Sleep in, up about 7:30 am after listening to light rain on tent overnight. Fine morning but overcast, looks like it could clear. Great soil to dig in...... Packed up camp, headed to beach then west along beach. Left packs at track junction and continued west along beach for photos. Found baby oyster catcher hiding in rocks, which explained the behaviour of the two adult birds on the beach. Took quick photos of it then promptly left the area, went back to track junction to watch parents return, saw two babies following them around learning to look for food, very special! Climbed up through forest then open plains, track here is in excellent condition and only a gradual climb. Great views from many spots, carried camera and tripod in hand most of the way. View down to Ketchem Bay magnificent. Track down very steep with some big steps, but great condition. Another beautiful beach, this one with more rock formations. Found great campsite, set up, then cooked cous cous lunch. Water from just above the waterfall. Spent the afternoon exploring beach including a really cool sea cave. Many amazing rock formations, great seas. Weather fine and sunny, had to apply sunscreen while on track. More overcast as afternoon progressed. Rock formations on beach jagged and very sharp!! Dinner at camp – cuppa soup then more exploring then Thai Chicken Curry. A couple more hurried photos with fading light then back to camp for cuppa tea & bikkies, into tent 9pm. One of the real features of all the campsites so far is the amazing display of bird calls in the morning.

Sunday 15/11/09
Ketchem Bay to Wilson Bight

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Awoke early, up taking photos before sunrise. Biggest seas ever, difficult to cross beach. Both enjoy taking photos then watching waves at camp over breakfast. I explored creek with camera, Tania packed stuff. Then vice versa. When I was standing still at the creek with tripod set up waiting for the light to change, a family of 4 birds fed and played all around me, a real moment! Finished packing – one last look at huge seas before departing. Waves are half filling the cave and coming up the beach level with the campsite, very impressive. Left camp 10:20 am. Beautiful forest to walk through, some views of coast, some patches of thick scrub, pushing through bauera etc that has overgrown track significantly in some patches. Pleasant climb, some patches steep. You know you’re doing something physical but it’s still enjoyable. First view of Wilson Bight was great, made good time to start of beach. 2 hours 10 mins including breaks. Due to EXTREMELY big seas covering entire beaches and some of the rocks above them as well, and having to time our run across many sections between sets of waves, it took 1 and a half hours from the start of the beach at Wilson Bight to the campsite. Set up camp, had lunch and were welcomed by pink robin. Went off exploring, photographing, struggling with negotiating big waves again. Saw sooty oyster catcher on nest on top of perilous rock. Waves that are coming in are as big as 5 metres, water very turbulent, currents going in all directions at great pace. Thunderous sounds. Return to camp for a cuppa tea & bikkies. Inquisitive quoll looking for a cheap feed comes sniffing by, came right up to us. Got photo with wide angle lens, unfortunately wrong lens but still ok. Shooed it away without a feed – did not want it to associate our tent with easy food. Left for more exploring and photos, I was on the beach with the tripod when a quoll walked right past me on the beach then climbed some rocks. Quickly got camera off tripod and changed settings, got great Quoll photos. Sat on beach for a while watching and listening to HUGE seas. Returned to camp, got dinner stuff, went to beach. Adjusted large log for a seat, started to cook. Rain started. Returned to camp, dinner, prepare packs for tomorrow, then bed.

Monday 16/11/09
Day walk to South West Cape

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Up early again, breakfast then pack up & prepare for walk to SW Cape. Weather is semi-overcast but fine and still. Climbed up to Mt Karamu – steep but easy enough. Great views, though lots of sea mist, amazing effect on distant mountains and islands, which there are plenty of. Locate and commence journey on SW Cape track, weather is turning. Light shower starts, japara and waterproof pants on. Continue on down as increasingly heavily overgrown track. Approaching cape, scrub is so thick in places it was necessary to resort to climbing on hands and knees to get through a number of sections. The cape is right in front of us, one last hill to climb it seems, but the rain is now heavier and the scrub is some of the most difficult we have encountered. So we stop, took a few quick photos in the rain, then retreated. As we were approaching the cape we could see a few fishing boats sheltering in the bays. Having turned around, within 15 minutes the cape had been consumed by thick fog / mist / cloud, so no regrets in turning back, somewhat satisfied in our achievements at getting to see as much as we did. Returned to camp, quite wet. Rain has stopped, put dry gear on, sat in tent for a while then after rain had stopped fully we had a cuppa tea then explored beach some more. Seas nowhere near as high, though still quite turbulent and loud. We were able to get back to the first beach to explore due to the low tide and co-operative waves. Return to camp, take down our wet clothes that are hung on a rope. Tania removing many leeches from herself, not biting but crawling on boots, pants etc. Retire to tent for dinner & bed. Returning to tent from first beach took 35 minutes with many photos and dawdling along the way, while scaling the cliffs and rocks with packs on when the seas were huge the day before took 1 and a half hours.

Tuesday 17/11/09
Wilson Bight to Window Pane Bay

(Writing this on the evening of this day)
What a day! Both up by 5:30 am. Fine morning, sun not up yet. Packed up some gear then went to beach to watch sun rise. Quoll on beach, walked right past us. Finished packing up & left camp 8:40 am. Soon took off waterproof pants, sun shining brightly. Climbed Mt Karamu – fantastic views 270 degrees coastline. Continued on to South West Cape Range. Climbed & traversed range then north to old track. Descended into forest & came out on beach after sunset. Set up camp, cooked dinner, then to bed 11pm, totally stuffed.

Tuesday 17/11/09
Wilson Bight to Window Pane Bay

Take two. (This day deserves much more comment than our tired first account)
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Awoke at 5:30 am. Down to beach to check weather – day looks promising. Had breakfast on beach while watching the sun come up. Inquisitive Quoll appeared on beach some distance away and slowly made its way toward us, sniffing and scouraging along the way. Came close to us, noticed us so it showed its teeth, then it continued. It was now between us and our camp so we headed back to the tent. Hung our clothes which were wet from previous day on bushes on beach to dry in the sun. So we packed up rather slowly. Waterfall at creek is flowing really well due to extra rain. Gathered our gear, got dressed, and headed off at 8:40 am. Passed the rock out to sea where the sooty oyster catcher has an egg or more, certainly a nest, and in an amazing place. Climbed over short rise then down to stony beach, west end of Wilson Bight. Got water from creek and hydrated (had big drink).Started our climb up to lower summit of Mt Karamu, made good progress but here we hit a bit of a delay – perfect weather and amazing views means out with the cameras, which did seem to slow us down a bit. Amazing views down to Wilson bight, over to the islands, down to south west cape. Get to top of Mt Karamu, had a break, again with camera. 270 degree views of sea from here, most amazing summit even though it isn’t as high as so many others. We select our route to the knoll to the north where we need to go, untracked section. Sidle to east of this knoll then down and up on to another ridge. Stopped here for lunch which Tania had prepared that morning. From here, continued east down into another gully then up the main ascent to the southern summit of South West Cape Range. The terrain thus far has been covered by a wide variety of native wildflowers, very pretty and a feature of all the open plains since Melaleuca. The views kept getting better and better – mountains, forested gullies, islands, sea views. Vegetation up until lunch mostly not higher than knee high and included buttongrass with all the wildflowers, climbing the ascent the vegetation turned more to typical alpine, pineapple grass, pandannis beside a tarn and scattered among the low bushes, nothing grows high up here due to the wind. Only tall vegetation we saw was growing behind the shelter of tall boulders around Mt Karamu. On top of the undulating range, we followed a good track (though still rough), north 1.5km approx, then NW 2.7 km approx toward the main summit. Alpine plants growing on what look like the end of dead sticks, all twisted, evidence of a hard and windy life, some more than a metre long, are quite common along sections of the range. Approaching the climb to the highest summit of the range, we stopped for a sustagen and took photos of rocks that jut out of the ground looking like tombstones. The last section of the climb was quite steep, very scrubby and muddy. Tania saw a white lipped snake here. Stopped on track near summit proper for a snack and some photos, felt rejuvenated enough to climb actual summit. Took photos from there as well, including our shadows on a rock from the highest point. Beautiful views all round. Continue north to tarn then see the view of the coastline to the north where we are heading - simply breathtaking. Many islands, Port Davey, rocks jutting out from the sea, some fishing boats, and the beaches we will be going to – Stephens beach in the distance, Noyhener beach, and Window Pane Pay, our destination today, still quite some distance away. Begin our descent to the north, a good track to follow. Some sections of the track are quite steep, which made tough going after all the climbing today with heavy loads. Tania really felt it in the knees, me mainly back muscles. Breaks on the way down for summer roll, and ginger nut biscuits. Took about 2 hours from the summit to finally reach the forest behind Window Pane Bay. Prior to this forest on the latter stages of the descent were some scrubby sections, difficult going. Cross a creek then reach another creek in the forest about 30 – 35 mins later supposed to be about 20 minutes but forest has many obstructions – fallen trees etc. Cross creek – straight across to a red oil bottle hanging in the tree (miss the red oil bottle and you might be tempted to follow a false lead before crossing the creek). Continue along track for another 20 mins. Beautiful sunset which we can see glimpses of through the forest, finally reach the top of the massive sand dunes. Admire the sunset, some photos, then head down the dunes to the rocks then the sandy beach, happy to be out of the forest before dark, as the trail was not easy to follow in fading light, and forest was fairly thick of off-track. Walked along beach admiring red glow of sunset and swirly cloud formations. Some difficulty finding dry way across creek, me lucky, just went for it across rocks. T not so lucky, wet boots. Selected best flat ground, set up tent, had dinner about 10pm and finally to bed 11pm, totally stuffed. Very happy to be here, and amazed by stunning views throughout the day – to have weather like that on this day has to be a once in a lifetime experience. Brilliant!!

Wednesday 18/11/09
A day at Window Pane Bay

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Camped at Window Pane Bay. Awake 7:30, slowly up & breakfast. Took our time relaxing around camp enjoying the remoteness. Lots of birdlife here – Boobook owl heard overnight, Yellow throated honeyeater, New Holland honeyeater, Pied Oyster Catcher, Sooty Oyster catcher, Hooded plover (the little ones that run flat out), Pacific gull, sea eagle, the dark brown bird like the tame ones at Melaleuca, swallows, currawong, numerous unidentified calls. Gathered our cameras, hung our clothes and Tanias boots in the sun, wandered south along beach and beyond. Feeling tired, few sore muscles, enjoying not carrying a pack today. Broken sunshine but clearing as the day progresses. Amazing rocks, lots of colours, lichens, moss, seaweed, kelp etc. Meandered back along beach to camp for lunch. Watched hooded plover defend territory by rousing away 3 pied oyster catcher and one sooty. Assumed due to nest, took a wide berth. Salmon packet and amazingly indestructible biscuits for lunch, on beach sitting on a large log. Lazed in sun on beach for a while, then snoozed in tent. Up at 4pm, cameras and explored north along beach to end. Saw 2 birds, possibly albatross, chasing a sea eagle which landed in a tree not far from us, where it stayed for about 4 hours. Massive sand dunes and pristine beach, then at north end an island and some tall rock masses with vegetation (trees and shrubs) growing on top. Small caves in rock walls, lots of kelp, some shells, pink opaque stones, etc, really nice. Heading back along beach, the sky has turned quite grey, threatening, swallowed the sun. Back to camp, gathered stuff for dinner and back to our log. Fishing boat in the bay, setting pots then dropping anchor. Delicious roast lamb dinner. Sat for a while then rain started so back to camp to finish preparing cuppa tea. Into tent before dark, relaxing, listening to occasional light rain and numerous bird calls, mainly owl and currawong. And rolling waves. Remembered seeing tiger snake and water rats on the rocks at the southern end of the beach on our earlier walk along the beach. Rain has stopped, went out to see many stars in sky.

Thursday 19/11/09
Window Pane Bay to Noyhener Beach

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Awake and up before sunrise. Tania saw 2 sea eagles in the tree where one was yesterday. Saw them both fly off. Took sunrise photos, nice cloud patterns. Back to camp & breakfast and pack up. During breakfast, Snowgum wide mouth bottle could not handle the pressure and blew its lid, spraying milk over the tent and a camera. Not happy with cheap inferior Snowgum bottle, it makes a good rubbish container now. Left Window Pane Bay 8:45 am. Steady climb up to Island Bay lookout, rest and photos. Quite warm with sun out. Look about Island Bay but cannot see a way of getting down without some serious scrub so don’t bother. Continue along and around the west side of a large hill. Views of islands from here are great, by now it’s quite windy, vests back on. Had a sustagen – great stuff. Getting more cloudy as the day goes on. Closer to beach, enter forest, track very difficult to follow, many false leads where people have had all sorts of trouble with the thick Teatree. Following compass, found a way out of the forest and picked up the main trail, thankfully. Entered more forest and followed a taped route to the coastline. Having had enough of forest, decided to take the rocks around to the beach. Ordinarily would not have been possible but tide was very low and little swell. Stopped on rocks for a cooked lunch of pasta and a side dish of peas and corn. Took photos here, then continued around coastline, camera didn’t stay away for long – ended up carrying it out coastal caves, kelp, other seaweed some looked like great masses of beads. Corals too, and a crab. Rocks here are very old. Made it to sand, passing some small coastal caves and around a deep hole in a rock that you could see straight through. Crossed pristine flat beach to creek, followed then crossed creek to track that leads to camp, great campsite in the forest of celery top pines, laurel, Tas. Pepper berries, etc. Camp furniture a highlight here due to the various fishing crates etc that have been gathered by those before us. We have table, and a seat, and many mozzies here. Set up tent, had cuppa tea and a couple of ginger nut bikkies. Gathered water in bladder. Went to beach but only briefly due to light shower. Returned to tent, got into comfortable clothes, rested in tent then cooked dinner in vestibule. Cuppa soup beef & vegies, followed by Chefsway Beef Curry & rice. Good feed. After dinner we went back to where track descends to beach. A decided worth a photo so back to camp to get camera and tripod. T walked along beach a bit and upset some resting birds. Returned to the tent for chocolate and bed.

Friday 20/11/09
Noyhener Beach to Spain Bay

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Awoke at 4am to distant rolling of thunder. Thought it a good idea to get up now for toilet before rain starts. Look outside, starry sky, so decide to go to end of track at beach to attempt lightning photo. Very successful, one exposure. Can make out dark cloud getting close, stars all gone, so retreated to tent. Good call – started raining on way back to tent. Watched flashes for a while then back to sleep. Awoke again 7 – 7.30 am. Tania to beach to check weather, breakfast & cuppa tea, then took cuppa and camera to track at end of beach. Back to camp, pack up and set off for Spain Bay. Along Noyhener Beach, wind in our face, very strong. Got to Chatfield Point, tide is high, no way round. Took photos of water being picked up by wind with Mutton Bird Island in distance. Must be more than 40 knot gusts. Climbed sand bank then had to bush bash for ¾ hour to get to start of Stephens Bay. More difficult scrub than Frog Flats to Leonards Tarn. Headed down steep bank to rocky beach, jack jumper bit my hand. Found a cave to shelter in, found a better cave around the corner. Starting to rain. Had lunch in cave – tuna pack and indestructible biscuits. Geared up and sidled round rocky coast to sand beach. Amazing rocks around north side of Chatfield Point. Traversed Stephens Bay passing large midden – much bigger than we expected – it’s more like a hill. A little difficulty finding the start of the obvious track at the end of Stephens Bay – a good wooden and chain ladder climbing up from the beach. Good walking from here to Spain Bay, though did stop for a sustagen to give us an energy boost. Arrived at Spain Bay – two fishing boats are moored in the bay. Walked to one end of the first beach, then the other end looking for enough flat ground to squeeze a tent into. No established camping here. Wind has got up again, and just the occasional light shower. Went to beach to cook – made soup, then weather threatening to shower again so back to tent and cooked main course in vestibule. Rested a while, then had cuppa tea. Checked boats in bay, now 5, with lights on. Looks good, but not worth a photo. Back to tent to sleep, awoke during night to strange sounds – a ringtail possum in a tree not far from us. Wind has eased, rain has passed, a comfortable nights sleep.

Saturday 21/11/09
A day at Spain Bay

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Awoke to overcast and threatening skies. Breakfast on beach then gear up wearing everything, and begin walking with cameras to far end of beach. Weather slowly getting better. Rounded rocky point along rocks – took a while, but very scenic. Got to start of second beach, left shellwear and other layers under a log, walked to far end of beach. Lots of photos along the way, very scenic. Changing colours and conditions – blues, greens, glassy, rippled. Very pretty. Some sunshine, lots of clouds hanging over distant hills and mountains looks great. Islands out in the bay in full sun illuminate beautifully. On the way back, the cliffs on the left of the bay came out in full sun. Great moment. Gathered our gear from under log and took track over rocky point, much quicker and easier. Back to camp, gathered lunch and cooked on beach. Creamy bacon carbonara with side dish of peas and corn, cuppa tea. Washed up then relaxed on rocky beach. Watched large Pacific Gull walk past us in water to end of beach, turn, and walk back again. Big black and white bird with orange beak and a red tip on its beak. Decided to walk along rocks at other end of beach. Tide is very low. Beautiful coastal jagged rocks, lots of seaweeds, colourful starfish etc. Lots of photos. Tania watched some large fish. Sun is out – a lovely afternoon. Came back to camp, had nibbles of cheese and salami, then gathered a pack with everything for dinner and photos, went to rocks at point. Fantastic evening watching the sun go down. Lovely food of Moroccan Lamb with cuppa tea. Return to camp, spy possum again. Took a few photos of it, then some of the starry sky. Saw a flock of black cockatoos and a sea eagle while having dinner. Going to sleep listening to gentle waves lapping at the beach, and the occasional ringtail possum call.

Sunday 22/11/09
Spain Bay to Noyhener Beach

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Got up about 3AM, went to beach with camera and tripod and cable release for a few starry photos. Back to bed, set alarm for 4:50 am. Awoke to alarm, grey skies, no sunrise, back to sleep. Up about 7:30 am, breakfast on the beach. Grey skies but still great views, peaceful feel. Finished breakfast and packed up. Sky now looking threatening. Started raining just after finished packing all gear – good timing. One last walk along beach to rocky point in the rain, then say good bye to Spain Bay. Made good time to Stephens Bay. Regarding Spain Bay – lots of Kauri shells, pumice stone, great view of islands, most peaceful sound listening to the waves gently breaking on the shore. Explored far end of Stephens Bay then made our way along it heading south. Stopped at midden to admire. Still raining. Continued to southern end of Stephens Bay, sheltered in one of the caves for lunch. Tuna and indestructible crackers and cuppa tea. Rain now very light, looks like stopping. Took cameras back along beach toward midden and massive sand dunes with many twisted dead logs. Still amazed by the size of the midden, and the size and number of abalone shells. Got our packs then continued around Chatfield Point as far as we could, then tried climbing up the steep bank. No good, had to retreat as rocks are all loose and very dangerous especially with full packs. Back to beach, climbed sand dune and started our way through thick scrub. Too thick, returned to beach. Saw another lead and followed it, headed up and into thick forest on top of Chatfield Point. Followed compass bearing and made it down to rocky beach on Noyhener Beach side of Chatfield Point. Weather now looking threatening, headed along Noyhener Beach to Murgab Creek campsite. Saw baby seagull on sandy strip near camp. After setting up camp and making cuppa soup, took cameras along track to beach, saw amazing sun rays streaming out from behind clouds, surrounding the islands in a majestic aura. Took photo, then another shower so back to camp to get wet weather gear. Back to beach, made our way along Noyhener Beach to a nice place to view sunset. Wind quite strong, sun beaming behind clouds with passing shower over the islands making a beautiful scene, lucky to witness it and happy to have cameras in operation. A heavy shower approaches so we made good time back to camp, started raining along the way. Had dinner and cuppa tea in the tent, campsite very comfortable, listening to very loud seas rumbling and crashing in the distance, with the pitter patter of another light shower falling on the tent.

Monday 23/11/09
A day at Noyhener Beach

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Awoke at 6am, to what sounded like rumbling thunder in the distance. Sure enough, not long after there were some close flashes, one of which was a count of less than 3 before the BANG. Eventually the rain eased, but still windy and cold. Cooked breakfast in the tent vestibule, peeling back the inner of the tent. Enjoying cuppa tea with enough milk for another one later. Birds are starting to get active, sun occasionally breaking through the speeding clouds, so hopeful of a clearing in the weather. Now 9:15am. Geared up and headed to southern end of beach, sat for a while watching the disturbed seas, a large swell brought on by the strong winds e are having. Sitting in a small alcove in the rocky shore, beautiful to watch from our somewhat sheltered vantage point. Returned to camp for morning tea at lunchtime, scroggin, dried apple, dried banana, cuppa tea. Geared up and went back to beach with pack full of camera gear, sky looks unkind so return to camp for some chill time. After a rest, went across creek to explore area around where walk out starts. Massive sand dunes. Took photos as we explored along dunes then back down to the beach. Dark clouds once again approach us on this most fickle of days, so we decide to head back to camp. A few minutes after arriving back at camp, another shower is upon us, so we retreat to the tent. While we were out we saw over the dunes a family of 3 sea eagles. The wind blowing the waves into a great plume of sea mist in the late afternoon sun as it intermittently breaks through the clouds is quite a sight, rather large waves with all this wind. Found our tent covered in sand at one stage, such is the power of the wind bring it in from the dunes. Sat in tent for a while then I went to the end of the track with camera to see if there is a sunset. Took a few photos then again forced back to the tent by another approaching shower. Cooked dinner in vestibule – beef stroganoff, then a cuppa tea with the last of our chocolate. Heard boobook own early in the evening, the occasional oyster catcher in the distance, and the constant pounding of the rough seas in the distance, sometimes rumbling to the point that we aren’t sure whether it might be thunder again. Wind is still strong, though the night sky contains a few stars and a very bright quarter moon with a halo.

Tuesday 24/11/09
Noyhener Beach to Horseshoe Inlet

Gallery (link)
It’s now 6:30pm and we are in our tent, fair to say that the best way to describe today is “successful”. Which would be a good thing, considering the alternative..... Got up at about 5:30am, sky is grey and it is still very windy, blowing in from the west again. As it wasn’t raining, that was enough to make a decision to give it a go to get to Horseshoe Inlet from our camp here at Murgab Creek. Finished breakfast, packed up and we were on our way at 8:05 am. Again crossed the creek, then climbed the massive sand dune en route to South West Cape Range. And then it started drizzling and raining. And it didn’t stop. Cloud cover was thick and visibility at times was well below 50 metres. Managed to navigate, sometimes by following the pad, always by following the compass, and a few times double checking our location with the GPS. Found our way over the hills, down through the creek, then up and over the SW Cape Range. Down again, through a very thick band of scrub across a creek, then up and over the Pasco Range. At times the pad would disappear. Hard to relocate, but easy enough to keep going in the right direction. You have to put a lot of faith in the compass in such situations. The ground on some of the steeper sections was extremely slippery, being wet. Mud would give way under a boot and send the bottom to the ground. Or going down some very steep hills, the grass being wet would make us slip and we would slide down the hill a bit. We had two sustagen, two bags of scroggin, and boy did we need them. After climbing over and down the Pasco range, we headed along a good track towards the inlet. The track would disappear, and we would carry on for a while before coming across it again. Entered some forest near a creek crossing not far from the inlet and stopped for lunch, a late but welcome feed and a short rest, being short from necessity due to being soaked to the skin. Earlier, the wind on the highlands was easily over 100kph with horizontal rain. We were being buffeted about significantly. Made it to the shore of the inlet, and not long after, we came to a creek that needed to be swum. So off with the packs, out with the large orange garbage bags, and carefully immerse the packs into these bags, sealing it up well with a rubber band. Into the creek as we were – boots, waterproof pants, japaras. We swam across, rather difficult would be an understatement. It felt warmer when we got out. Put plastic bags away and continued, not far and there was another creek to swim across. Out with the bags again. Same technique, except this time Tania swam across, then I pushed the packs across the creek, the wind still being very strong and helping their packs on their way. Then I swim across, very difficult. Out we get, and continue on our way, hoping to come across evidence that a campsite was near. Instead, we came across a third creek that needed a swim. Same technique as creek 2, really felt like after that crossing we couldn’t do another one. Rounded a point, then after some searching, located some evidence of a campsite – a bit of a trail and enough flat ground for our tent. Good enough for us, out with the tent and up in record time, then out of our saturated clothes and into our dry clothes, and into the sleeping bags for a while. Made a cuppa soup, then I went for a walk to find water, also found a paddle for a kayak. Back to camp, yes it is still drizzling and the winds are still ferocious. Laid in the tent getting a warm and having a snooze. All our wet gear – boots, pack, clothes hanging from branches around the tent. After snooze made cuppa tea then dinner, Thai Chicken Curry, very warming and satisfying. Brought some gear into vestibule, now ready for bed, reflecting on all we did and saw today. On the range there was an amazing mauve/brown miniature Iris in flower, being totally hammered by the wind. Beautiful, but not possible to photograph in that weather. Only 3 photos for the whole day, all of Horseshoe Inlet and the waves coming in.

Wednesday 25/11/09
Horseshoe Inlet to Melaleuca

Gallery (link)
Awoke to strong winds, still, and the occasional shower. Laid in for a while. Get up, had breakfast in vestibule, took a couple of photos of the view with approaching showers and fast winds. At least the winds are not as strong as yesterday. Got into our wet clothes which have been hanging in the wind and showers all night, not too bad. Gear packed and on our way after one last look over the inlet. Picked up a route through the scrub then made good time to meet up with the Port Davey track. This track is very muddy, quite sapping on muscles. Stopped on track for lunch, about an hour from Melaleuca and saw a plane fly out. Made it to Melaleuca about 3:10 pm. Relaxed, cuppa tea, dry clothes, looked about the inlet, the bird hide, and the jetty. I met the people looking after the OBP’s, Geoff and Mary, turns out the plane was our pilot looking for us as the weather will be no good for flying on Friday. So now we are relaxing in the hut, cooking tea, and reflecting on what has been a magnificent, demanding, beautiful and a very satisfying walk.

Thursday 26/11/09
Melaleuca and the flight to Hobart

Gallery (link)

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 8:28 pm

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 9:28 pm
by flyfisher
Well done to both of you, sounds like something you'll remember and dream about and relive forever.

Nice to hear of an unhurried trip with lots of exploring.Love it. Well done again. :D :D


Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 13 Dec, 2009 9:55 pm
by Son of a Beach
I'm looking forward to the photos! But I know this is something that will take a while.

Sounds like a fantastic trip. I hope I can get down here one day, but haven't even done the SC track yet.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 7:55 am
by bluewombat
Great trip notes, particularly liked your descriptions of bird and animal life. Another trip I need to coax my ageing knees around by the sounds of things

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2009 8:20 am
by frank_in_oz
Great stuff Adam...really enjoyed reading this trip report and looking forward to the photographs!

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 9:04 am
by Phil
Fantastic report Adam, thanks for sharing that with us!

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 9:06 am
by tasadam
Thanks for the replies. Still sorting photos, a huge job.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 10:30 am
by Nuts
Pheww.... a treebeard size post :D ... well done.... the photos will be worth many more words i'm sure :wink:

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 11:03 am
by tasadam
Nuts wrote:Pheww.... a treebeard size post :D ...

Yeah, hence my breaking it up into obvious days, so that it can be read in a number of sittings!
A copy & paste from the word document I created.

Photos - been through the first 5 days reducing and have got those 5 days down to 160 photos...
So more culling to do.
Think I'll make a separate gallery post for each day.

Something to get you excited perhaps? One quick look at Ketchem Bay...

Ketchem-Bay.JPG (61.68 KiB) Viewed 41798 times

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sat 19 Dec, 2009 4:54 pm
by tasadam
I've added gallery links to the days entries, see the first post above for links.
Some of these gallery links are large, so if you are on dialup or a data limit, go to the Gallery forum and have a look at the size to decide whether you want to open each entry, they have the file count and size in the titles.

A note about the photos - all of the images I have uplaoded are straight out of the camera as a basic jpg and resized, then a watermark added. No editing, no cropping or rotating (I think the first image on day 1 is a crop, as are the two Pigmy Possum photos), no adjusting brightness or colour balance or anything. I have all the RAW data from the camera for all these photos, so lots of post processing to do.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 20 Dec, 2009 4:13 pm
by tas-man
Thanks Adam for your comprehensive trip report and photo links. It brought back so many memories of my similar trip in January 2003 which we did in reverse to you. We avoided the creek crossings along Horseshoe Bay by keeping to the higher ground to the south of the shoreline. The surprise of the trip was the last two days out from Wilson's Bay to Melaleuca when we discovered the newly constructed tracks that dramatically reduced our expected walking times, and so allowed much more time to explore the beaches and take lots of colour slides. I chuckle at the recollection of deciding to use a whole 36 exposure roll of slide film while enjoying an rare hour of sunshine at Ketchem Bay. I had allowed one 36 exp roll per day plus one extra! How many digital images did you say you took on your trip :lol: It's a reminder of how rapidly photography has changed in the past six years. My iPhoto library now on a separate external HDD has almost 50,000 images from the past 5 years :!:

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 6:01 pm
by lexharris
Interesting read Adam and some very nice photos. You guys certainly did it hard from Noyhener to Horseshoe. I was extremely lucky to have a fine sunny day in Feb09, it took just 6 leisurely hours with very little scrub (the difference was I could see where I was going and could pick a route!) and dry, relatively easy ground. Horseshoe Creek needed a swim (it was very pleasant though) but the other two creeks were an easy wade. The inlet was beautifully calm. ... temId=6472

We avoided the creek crossings along Horseshoe Bay by keeping to the higher ground to the south of the shoreline.

You won't want to do that now Ian! A Hobart Walking Club party came through on the same day in Feb09. They tracked south of the Inlet after Pasco R summit hoping to take a more direct route back to the Port Davey Track. I and two other walkers went down the long ridge straight to Horseshoe Inlet and we'd just stripped to swim the creek when we heard a rustle behind us - it was the HWC, they'd encountered very heavy scrub, aborted their plan and returned to the ridge route to Horseshoe Inlet.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 22 Nov, 2010 9:50 am
by azzatas
I loved the South west Cape. Ketchem bay was a personal favourite, with an extra day spent here to swim and relax.

Great trip report. Well done on an enjoyable walk.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 11 Jan, 2011 9:59 am
by gregm
Really enjoyed the trip report. Just discovered this great site. A great walk through another beautiful part of Tassie. We did it in other direction early 2010. We had perfectly fine & warm weather so walk was relatively comfortable. Would no doubt be very challenging country in foul weather. Caught boat from Melaleuca to Schooner Cove for start of hike, wading down Hannant Inlet to Stephens Bay for day 1. Favourite moment - sitting on top of Going Hill with 360 degree views north to Port Davey, NE over Spain Bay to Bathurst Harbour and SE across Stephens Bay towards SW Cape. Heading down from Briz in next couple of days to enjoy some more of your great hiking opportunities. Only long day hikes & perhaps one nighters but it is all good.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 9:55 am
by ranger-jules
Just fantastic knowing all this stuff. We are off on Monday March 10th if weather permits. Hoping to complete the circuit, but may not be able to do all you did. Would love to do Spain bay, but I think we just want to do what we can. Did South Coast track last year, loved it(except the mud on the cape) however that is all part of it I guess. We have some good track notes from others who have done it recently. I am only really concerned about crossing Wilson's as I am a slow rock hopper or boulder hopper! I also am not sure about the swim across Horseshoe bay. I have heard it is quite short, but I have a cold issue. Maybe thermals should be worn. Also horseshoe bay is prone to flooding and not just tides but barometric pressure?? So I have been told. Just want to do this and have a rest day at Window pane bay. My husband thinks we should just keep moving like the south coast track. I want to enjoy it a bit more slowly. Of course if weather is bad we will keep moving if it is sensible.
Julie S

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 06 Mar, 2012 10:08 am
by tasadam
Google Satellite view will give you a better idea on the route through the 3 creeks at Horseshoe Inlet,

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2012 12:16 pm
by tas-man
ranger-jules wrote:Just fantastic knowing all this stuff. We are off on Monday March 10th if weather permits.<Snip>
Julie S

What a fantastic day today to be in SW Tassie with this unusual weather pattern currently over the state! But we know that tomorrow will be different as it always is in the SW :D
Have a great trip and enjoy the experience whatever the weather - look forward to your trip report and photos.

Picture 2.jpg
Tasmania Satellite photo on Thursday 7th March 2012 showing effects of easterly air flow.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Fri 09 Mar, 2012 8:34 pm
by norts
Just got back from 8 days down there, what a great experience.
Didnt have to swim in Horseshoe, waded to about mid thigh, and I am short. When we got there( we did the circuit anti clock wise) we saw the tide was low and werent going to risk it next day so went for it and then camped on Pascoe Ridge.
We have just had some glorious days at Ketchem and Hidden Bays, only disappointment was it was just too horrible to go into Island Bay.
I would also note that we had some navigation issues leaving Noyehener Bch, took us awhile to find the track and only found it when we bashed our way out onto the more open ground.


Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 19 Mar, 2012 12:30 pm
by tas-man
Another great day to be in the south west, instead of stuck inside working :?

Picture 5.png
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Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2012 4:23 pm
by tasadam
I'm getting itchy feet. I'm missing this fantastic place. Hard work, but I want to go again!

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Fri 28 Dec, 2012 10:48 am
by tasadam
tasadam wrote:I'm getting itchy feet. I'm missing this fantastic place. Hard work, but I want to go again!

The feet are no longer itchy. They're not sore either.
My wife and I just did a repeat of this trip, git back a couple of days before Christmas. 15 days again, didn't see anyone, had a great time, took a zillion photos.
Another trip report and photos will be coming.

For now, a couple of interesting weather moments.
Visibility when traversing SouthWest Cape Range towards Window Pane Bay (why you need navigation skills, and we used them) -

Leaving Spain Bay, heading back to Murgab Creek, nearly getting blown over. Not the strongest wind I've been in, but it was up there -

A fairly friendly Long Nosed Potoroo at Murgab Creek -

A seagull in the creek at Hidden Bay, and a photographer that doesn't know too much about video settings (yet) -

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sun 30 Dec, 2012 4:10 pm
by tasadam
I put a calendar together featuring some of the photos I took from my most recent trip - ... st-tasmaia

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 07 Nov, 2013 2:20 pm
by Ranger-Jules 1
Hi Adam, I spoke to you earlier this year when we attempted the circuit. We had to pull out at Wilson's with weather concerns. We are presently enroute by car to attempt this again starting Monday! Now we have terrible weather predictions with big swells by Sunday week. Going by your experience would it be wise to do this walk in reverse starting at schooner cove and going in the anti clockwise direction? This way we avoid swells at horseshoe bay on Sunday? We know we will get a low and some rain, but after reading your blog wonder if it is still possible? If you think it really dumb to do this with present weather predictions please say so! We got inside weather forecasting from meteorologist son!!

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2013 4:44 pm
by naturelover
I have only just read this and looked at all the photos. I REALLY loved it. The report was great, but the photos were even better. The landscape is beautiful, and you have taken fabulous photos to depict that. Great work.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Sat 23 Nov, 2013 4:19 pm
by Onestepmore
Really great report and pics

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 14 Apr, 2015 2:48 pm
by FranklinBen
Thank you Tasadam for introducing me to this website and I am in the process of enjoying your trip report, all the photos and also the photos on Redbubble. Am also in the process of reading Deny King's history of the SW and Melaleuca, laying out the maps and prepping for a trip in the not too far distant future. You are some photographer! FranklinBen

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 08 Mar, 2016 10:19 pm
by tasadam
I really miss this place. I am glad I took so many photos.
I should post more. I've got one special photo from South West Cape Range looking up the coastline toward Port Davey, this is my "happy place" when I am in the dentist chair etc.

Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Thu 20 Sep, 2018 10:16 pm
by tasadam
Just one of the many photos taken on our second walk here.
Basic JPG straight from the camera, no editing.
It's a rather large file, from a Nikon D800E.


Re: Trip report - South West Cape circuit

PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2019 1:02 am
by kahtadin
Last there in February, 2009. Repeatedly blown off my feet by squalls coming in off the ocean while traversing the top of the range. Further on lost what there was of a track pad and ended up along the shore where sea caves blocked my advance, had to "swim" over the top of the coastal scrub to where I could stand and resume navigating onward. Stuck at Windowpane for three days by continued miserable weather.

Heading back next week for more abuse...